Open a bottle of wine baby!

The developments over the past week in the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Bidnija have been substantial.

At this point in time, it appears that, as a result of the Malta Police having been assisted by more experienced investigators, they have possibly started mastering the technological divide which, until fairly recently seemed unbridgeable. Searches, arrests and arraignments have followed in quick succession. Other hitherto unsolved crimes involving bombs in the past few months may now possibly be on the verge of being solved too.

The systematic and detailed leaks to both local and foreign news outlets are apparently a celebration of this new technological mastery, although those master-minding the leaks may also be sending messages to those who can still spill the beans as to who commissioned the assassination.

“Open a bottle of wine, baby!” Feeding the press with titbits as to the celebratory bottle of wine requested by the same fingers which triggered the bomb through an SMS may send shivers down our spines as to the carefully planned assassination and the ruthlessness of the perpetrators. This precise detail was then followed by the information that the mobile phone used to trigger the bomb had exceeded its credit limit which led to a hitch, as a result of which an essential €5 mobile phone credit top-up served to unmistakeably identify the fingers operating the deadly phone.

A detailed examination of the conversations and messages exchanged through the deadly mobile phone has, most probably, revealed much more information which -rightly- has not been yet released. Even this information may be ultra-sensitive, at this point in time, in the exercise to identify those who may have commissioned this murder.

Undoubtedly, police investigators will have identified a multitude of possibilities, some realistic, others far-fetched, as to who could have had an interest in commissioning the assassination. Some of those arrested during the large-scale police operation in Marsa, Ħaż-Żebbuġ and St.Paul’s Bay earlier this week, are, in fact, indicative of this investigative line of action, even though seven of those arrested were eventually released on police bail.

Among the leaked information is the fact that the assassination has been planned for two months, meaning that the police have detailed information of electronic messages and phone conversations spanning this long. This undoubtedly will be the source of much more information that has so far been withheld. It could point towards other leads of crucial importance to understanding the still unknown elements of the plot.

The leaks are undoubtedly sourced at the nerve centre of the investigation. They reveal  uneasiness on the part of the police with regard to the local media, opting to leak substantial information to the foreign press. The local media also demands information, even though at times to make this available would clearly be counterproductive. The police would do well to invest substantially in some professional training on how to deal with the press. The top brass of the police force (starting with Commissioner Cutajar) clearly need it.

Notwithstanding these developments, basic misgivings about the investigation itself remain. The bad move on the part of Magistrate Consuelo Scerri-Herrera, who rushed head-on into the investigation when it was ethical to have stayed miles away from it, as well as the involvement of Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, are serious mistakes that should have been avoided. The results obtained so far in the investigation do not cancel out these basic mistakes.

The arraignments made so far are a step forward. The case will, however, only be solved when those commissioning the assassination, as well as their motives, are known. It is only then that Daphne will rest in peace.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 10 December 2017

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