Daphne: the five-year wait for justice

Most of us remember what we were doing five years ago slightly after 3pm on Monday October 16, 2017, when the news flashed that a car had exploded in Bidnija. The possible connection with Daphne was immediate, even then, at that critical moment, when nothing else was yet known.

Slowly we got to know what had actually happened. 

The first reactions, then, five years ago were, and still are, significant.

Everyone was shocked, five years ago, when the Magistrate on duty, Consuelo Scerri-Herrera turned up on site at Bidnija. She failed to realise that this specific investigation was a no-go area for her!  I had then commented that Scerri-Herrera’s reluctance to abstain from leading this magisterial investigation was testimony to the fact that some members of the bench still need to master much more than the law.

Five years later, matters have not changed a bit as is evidenced by the behaviour of another Magistrate. Magistrate Nadine Lia is refusing to accept that she has an obvious conflict of interest and must hence withdraw from the consideration of another case currently under her consideration. Some things never change! The ethical behaviour of the judiciary is indispensable, now more than ever. How can the judiciary expect to be respected if it does not even respect itself?

Five years ago, we even had a Police Sergeant posting his comments on social media on his being overjoyed at the day’s happenings in Bidnija! Much worse was however in store. In fact, the then Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta took overall charge of the police investigation into the assassination, only for it to be revealed much later that he was literally in the pockets of Yorgen Fenech, currently undergoing criminal proceedings on charges of having commissioned Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. Remember Uncle Silvio?

How could the Police carry out its duties adequately with Silvio Valletta, then Deputy Police Commissioner, hibernating deep inside criminal pockets, and leading the investigation into the assassination of Daphne?

Following the evidence in the multiple cases in our law courts dealing with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was in itself a documentation of the failure of the state. This was even confirmed by the public inquiry into the assassination. It is a failure of the institutions which have been hijacked into servicing the criminal world.

Daphne’s investigative journalism, as it unfolded over the years, was a threat to all this. She exposed the ineffective institutions. She shone a light on the men and women of straw who think they are running the state when in fact they are puppets on a string controlled by various lobbies, including the criminal lobby.

Her last published words were significant as they spelled out her fears. “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”  She was commenting on Keith Schembri, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s Chief of Staff with reference to libel proceedings against Simon Busuttil as he had taken offence to being labelled a crook, and corrupt.  In her last article published minutes before she was blown up Daphne had spelt out that “The crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook.”

The developments over the past sixty months are proving without a shadow of doubt “that crooks are everywhere”.  It has resulted that the Office of the Prime Minister was run by crooks: as a result, Joseph Muscat had no option but to resign. He had been protecting the crooks around him for far too long!

With all these obstacles it is no wonder that after five years the end of the investigations into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is not yet in sight. No one is certain yet whether there was one mastermind plotting the assassination or else whether there were two or more.

We do not have an answer yet, as to whether any politician was in the know, or worse, directly involved, even though there have been a number of public references to former Labour Cabinet Minister, Chris Cardona in this respect.

We have been witnessing the exposure of a web of criminality which has infiltrated and infected all sectors of society. The investigations which we have witnessed developing over the past five years have revealed an intricate network which pervades practically all institutions. Just like the octopus which with its eight long tentacles seeks to control all from a distance. It is no wonder that after sixty months the end is not yet in sight.  The octopus is still in control.

published on The Malta Independent on Sunday: 16 December 2022

Abusive continuity

The distribution of multiple cheques to every household by the Labour Government on the eve of the general election is more than abusing the power of incumbency. Through the said distribution, the power of incumbency is being transformed into a corrupt practice, specifically intended to unduly influence voters.

What, in normal circumstances should be a simple administrative act is being transformed into blatant political propaganda, at public expense, straight into your letterbox. A covering letter signed by Robert Abela and Clyde Caruana says it all. A Banana Republic in all but name!

Why should such handouts be distributed on the eve of elections if not to influence voters?

Even if one were to accept that such handouts are acceptable, it is certainly not in any way justifiable to plan their distribution specifically on the eve of an election. This goes against the basic principles of good governance.

The power of incumbency is the executive power of a government seeking re-election. Incumbents always have an advantage. The manner in which they handle it defines their governance credentials.

This has been a government characterised by bad governance throughout its term in office. Right from the very beginning, on 13 March 2013. I consider the full 9 years as one continuum. This was reinforced by Robert Abela himself who emphasised that his leadership of the Labour Party seeks to continue the “achievements” of his predecessor and mentor Joseph Muscat. Continuity was his declared mission.

On its first days in office, Labour started off on its Panama tracks. The secret Panama companies set up by Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and someone else, known as the (mysterious) owner of Egrant, went on to rock Labour over the years.

The Electrogas saga and its link to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia intertwined with the Panama debacle.

It is now clearly established that the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was directly linked to her investigative journalism. Her investigations led her to identify the governance credentials of various holders of political office and their links with big business. Defining their relationship as being too close for comfort would be a gross understatement.

As emphasised in the investigation report on the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, over the years, a culture of impunity has developed in these islands. This has led to misbehaviour in public office being normalised. It has also led to considerable resistance in the shouldering of political responsibility by holders of political office, whenever they were caught with their hand in the cookie jar! Rosianne Cutajar and Justyne Caruana being the latest examples, as amply proven by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler.

To add insult to injury Cutajar and Caruana were the recipients of generous termination benefits, notwithstanding that their term of political office ended in disgrace. Caruana received terminal benefits twice in the span of a short time, as she established a national record of resigning twice from Robert Abela’s Cabinet!

With this track record one should not have expected otherwise from the Muscat/Abela administration. With the abusive distribution of cheques on the eve of the general election Labour’s current term is approaching a fitting end.

The Labour Party in government has consistently acted abusively. Robert Abela has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and mentor Joseph Muscat. Continuity has been ensured, as promised.

published in Malta Today : Sunday 20 March 2022

Loyalty and integrity

“Without a fundamental commitment to the truth – especially in our public institutions and those who lead them – we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don’t tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve.”

This was written by James Comey in 2018 in his book A Higher Loyalty. Truth, Lies and Leadership.

Comey, was fired as FBI director by Donald Trump. At a bizarre dinner at the White House, Trump had demanded Comey’s personal loyalty, putting aside his duties as FBI Director. Trump pressured Comey to let go of Michael Flynn – his National Security Advisor for 22 days – then under investigation by the FBI. Comey reflects on Trump’s demands for personal loyalty and emphasises that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives “………….. not to a person, not to a party not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth.”

All this came to mind when reading through Ivan Martin’s encounter with Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer earlier this week. Unfortunately, some know the price of everything but they do not have an inkling on the value of anything.

When the chips are down, our true values emerge. If the real values have been carefully camouflaged, the impact when they emerge in such circumstances may be shocking. What has been carefully hidden from view, all of a sudden emerges in full public view.

Offering money to an investigative journalist to “remunerate him for his services” has switched on many red lights. The attempt at bribing the journalist is bad enough. It also raises the inevitable suspicions that bundles of €500 notes could also possibly be used to influence the judicial process. Only time will tell whether the possible becomes a probable.  Most of us would remember when, in 2002, the then Chief Justice together with another Judge, were bribed to reduce a prison sentence at appeal stage. The then accused who directed the bribery of the judiciary had insignificant wealth when compared to today’s accused.

We must be vigilant. It has happened and it can happen once more.

There is a common thread running through most of the bits of information forming the developing jigsaw puzzle linking all those mentioned in the Caruana Galizia assassination: money and loads of it. It is becoming clearer that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigation of the corrupt power station contracts is what led to her assassination. Tainted money was used to purchase access to influence and people that matter. The indications arising are too numerous to be ignored. This is nothing new, however, in the present scenario it is of the utmost significance.

Kudos to Ivan Martin who had the presence of mind not to accept a wad of €500 banknotes. His loyalty to his values as an investigative journalist was automatic. He did not pause to consider whether it was worth sticking his neck out. All of us should be proud of him.

Ivan’s integrity will be remembered for many years to come. His loyalty to his values will undoubtedly reinforce Maltese journalism in these testing times.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 8 November 2020

It-tieġ f’Venezja: kien hemm regolaturi preżenti?

Wara li dak kollu li ġara mill-bank Pilatus u dawk kollha li missew miegħu, kemm dak magħruf kif ukoll dak li s’issa għadu mhux magħruf, bla dubju hemm tħassib serju dwar il-familjarita żejda ta’ Ali Sadr Hasheminejad ma dawk fil-poter kif ukoll ma dawk fid-dellijiet tal-poter f’Malta.

Huwa ġust li intwera tħassib kbir għal din il-familjarita, bla dubju żejda u ta’ ħsara.

Issa bdew ħierġin ukoll ismijiet ġodda, dawk attivi fis-settur finanzjarju li ukoll kellhom din il-familjarita mas-sid tal-bank Pilatus. Anke hawn hemm lok għal thassib u jkun interessanti ħafna kieku kellna nkunu nafu l-istampa kollha biex nifhmu iktar dak li fil-fatt ġara u li fil-parti l-kbira tiegħu għadu mhux magħruf. Hemm min bla dubju jixtieq li dan kollu jibqa’ mhux magħruf.

Min kixef biċċa, u min kixef biċċa oħra. Min kixef, kixef dak li qabillu. Tat-Times qalulna dwar il-presenza ta’ Joseph Muscat u Keith Schembri u ħbewlna ismijiet oħrajn li kienu preżenti għat-tieġ f’Venezja ta’ Ali Sadr Hasheminejad. Il-Malta Today ippubblikat tweġiba ta’ Joseph u kixfet il-presenza tal-Avukat Austin Bencini u martu Juanita Bencini l-konsulent tal-KPMG, l-awdituri ta’ Pilatus.

Min jaħseb li huma l-ismijiet tal-politiċi biss li jista’ jkollhom relevanza għall-istorja li qed tiżviluppa m’għandux idea tal-gravitá u l-implikazzjonijiet serji ta’ dak li ġara. Biex l-istampa tkun ċara hemm bżonn li toħroġ l-informazzjoni dwar jekk kienx hemm persuni mill-istituzzjonijiet regolatorji li kienu preżenti għal dan it-tieġ.

Dan ikun daqsxejn ġurnaliżmu investgattiv kif imiss, kieku jkun hemm min għandu l-kuraġġ li jagħmlu.

S’issa kellna battibekki politiċi, dwar min jirnexxilu joskura l-iktar lin-naħa l-oħra. Imma hemm bżonn li tkun magħrufa l-istampa kollha. L-informazzjoni li s’issa għadha nieqsa hi l-iktar informazzjoni inkwetanti: kien hemm persuni konnessi mal-awtoritajiet regolatorji Maltin li kienu preżenti għat-tieġ f’Venezja? Min kienu?

Meta inkunu nafu dawn l-ismijiet jibda jkollna idea ta’ uħud minn dawk li ma jidhrux u huma l-ikbar theddida għal dan il-pajjiż.

Skanska u Tonio Fenech dwar il-konkos f’Mater Dei

Mater Dei.under construction

Fi stqarrijiet diversi li saru mill-Ministru Konrad Mizzi u s-Segretarju Parlamentari Chris Fearne konna infurmati bid-dettalji dwar li l-konkos użat f’Mater Dei ġol-blokk  li fih it-taqsima tal-Emergenza. Ġejna infurmati li l-konkos hu dgħajjef b’mod li ma jiflaħx illi jerfa’ l-piz ta’ iktar kostruzzjoni.

Bħala riżultat ta’ din l-informazzjoni kellna lil min stagħġeb, kif ukoll kellna lil min ma stagħġibx.  Dan tal-aħħar, l-ex-Ministru Tonio Fenech kien ikkwotat li qal li ma kienx sorpriż b’din l-aħbar.

It-Times ta’ Malta fil-fatt tikkwota lil Tonio Fenech hekk: “The structures were never designed to carry such loads and Skanska had refused to build beyond two additional floors for safety reasons”.

Ikun interessanti ħafna kieku Tonio Fenech jispjega “ftit” iktar x’irid jgħid b’dan il-kumment.

Għax jekk Skanska irrifjutaw li jibnu iktar minn żewġ sulari għal raġinijiet ta’ sigurta’ probabbilment li f’xi żmien kienu mitluba jew ġew  ippressati dwar dan u Skanska kellhom jiġġustifikaw il-għala kienu qed jirrifjutaw. Nifhem li Skanska jkunu ippreżentaw raġunijiet dettaljati għalfejn kienu qed jinsistu li ma setgħux jibnu iktar fuq il-blokk tal-Emerġenza. Possibilment li dan huwa wkoll dokumentat b’xi mod f’xi rapport jew xi minuti ta’ xi laqgħa.

Il-kumment ta’ Tonio Fenech hu ċar ħafna. Jgħid li (skond Skanska) l-bini qatt ma kien iddiżinjat biex jiflaħ iktar minn żewġ sulari u li allura jekk dan jitgħabba b’iktar milli hu ddiżinjat biex jerfa’ jkun hemm problemi ta’ “safety”.

Dan ifisser li probabbilment  x’imkien hemm xi dokument li jispjega l-posizzjoni ta’ Skanska liema dokument, meta jinstab x’aktarx li jwieġeb il-parti l-kbira tal-mistoqsijiet li għandu quddiemu l-Imħallef (irtirat) Philip Sciberras.

Issa jekk il-posizzjoni hi kif qed jgħid Tonio Fenech għaliex donnu ħadd ma kien jaf biha? Xi ħadd donnu li m’għamilx il-homework sewwa qabel ma fesfes f’widnejn Konrad Mizzi u Chris Fearne. Ikun interessanti ħafna kif dan il-punt bażiku li qed jagħmel Tonio Fenech ser jiġi indirizzat mill-inkjesta immexxija mill- Imħallef (irtirat) Philip Sciberras.

L-aħħar ħaga: għadni ma fhimtx kif il-ġurnaliżmu investigattiv kollu li għandna madwarna, minn dan kollu jidher li ma xammew xejn. Dak li qal Tonio Fenech, jekk veru, għandu jpoġġi l-argumenti kollha dwar l-inkjesta rashom l-isfel!