Panama Papers - The Maltese Farce - Liberal Resistance

Panama Papers – The Maltese Farce

By Peter H. Salus

Most people, I guess, associate Malta with either Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet pursuing a “black bird,” or a small dog.  Perhaps a few know that it’s the smallest member of the European Union, with 436,000 citizens on a few islands south of Sicily totaling 122 sq. Miles.
But Malta has long been known as the most corrupt member of the EU.

Last May, Norbert Walter-Borjans, the finance minister in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, singled out Malta as “the Panama of Europe”.  Two weeks later, on 19 May, a network of journalists released their findings after digging into more than 150,000 documents. Calling the collection, the “Malta Files,” the group said they showed how international companies were taking advantage of the Maltese tax system. They also claimed Malta had become a target for firms linked to the Italian mafia and Russian loan sharks.

The politicians and the police were “shocked, shocked,” at these claims.

But Daphne Caruana Galizia persisted.  And on 16 October, the car she was driving exploded after she left her home in Bidnija, near Mosta.  Officials say she was killed by a remotely detonated car bomb.At 53, she was Malta’s most notable blogger, one who had accused the island’s government of corruption .  She had relentlessly accused various Maltese politicians and other officials of corruption, even naming the wife of the prime minister of Malta as complicit in criminal activities.

The assassination caused alarm that organized crime and political vendettas may have spiraled out of control.  On 22 November, her family filed suit against the police for failing to carry out an impartial investigation, pointing out the that the senior officer overseeing the investigation had to be removed.They say there is a potential conflict of interest because Silvio Valletta is married to a government minister.  “A government and a police force that failed our mother in life will also fail her in death. The people who for as long as we can remember sought to silence our mother cannot now be the ones to deliver justice,” Caruana Galizia’s three sons posted on Facebook.

Caruana Galizia was known for her blog accusing top politicians of corruption. Her reporting had targeted Mr. Valletta, the officer in charge of the investigation into her killing.  He is the current deputy police commissioner and is married to Justyne Caruana, who was appointed minister for the Maltese island of Gozo earlier this year.  The Superintendent of the police has said there is no conflict.

Well, on 4 December, the Maltese police arrested 10 “nationals” over the “car-bomb murder.”  (Twice the usual suspects?)  And the next day, “Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, aged 55 and 53, and Vincent Muscat, 55, all pleaded not guilty.  They were also accused of possession of bomb-making material and weapons.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who is not related to Vincent Muscat, said some of the 10 detainees were already known to the police while others had criminal records.
The “Times of Malta” reports that the three men who have been charged were among those arrested.A close friend of Caruana Galizia told Reuters news agency that she did not think the journalist had ever investigated the men.

The editors of eight of the world’s largest news organizations, including the BBC, called for the European Commission – the EU executive – to investigate the murder. In response, Frans Timmermans, vice-president of the commission, urged the authorities to leave “no stone unturned” in the case.

On 6 December “The Independent” reported: “A spokesperson for the Maltese police said: “The FBI, Europol and the National Investigations Bureau of Finland provided important assistance, which led to the arrests and arraignments by the Police. The police force thanks the foreign services for the important assistance offered.”

The other seven individuals arrested have been released on bail.

“The New York Times” remarked: “While welcomed, the arrests have done little to dispel doubts that whoever ordered the killing of Daphne Caruna Galizia will see justice.”