The politics of murder

The politics of murder

Yesterday I asked whether government has offered one or more of the three hoods accused of executing the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia immunity to turn state’s evidence.

There obviously has been no official response.

But some colleagues who work the beat have told me of conversations they had on just the subject with senior government officials and investigators involved in the case.

Investigators were not too sure an offer of immunity would make any difference to the complete silence of the three accused. But, they said, “in any case, it’s something Castille decides”.

This is one of the horrible ambiguities in our system. Only Ministers can decide on the granting of immunity to turn state’s evidence. For crimes unconnected with anyone or anything in politics, that’s relatively harmless. But politicians that are themselves possible suspects in a crime should not have any say on whether witnesses who could testify against them get any incentive or any protection to do so.

Take the case of the oil ‘scandal’ that Malta Today broke on the eve of the 2013 election. There was only one way to find out if any politicians were on the take and that is for the government to have allowed the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General to offer immunity to their witness provided he turned state’s evidence. That is what they recommended but the prime minister of the time had every discretion to refuse them that permission and protect his Ministers and himself on the eve of an election.

That is not what Lawrence Gonzi did. Our constitution presumes that the incumbent of the office of the prime minister would likely do the right thing and he did.

Back to today. As the investigators say, whether any of the three accused of killing Daphne Caruana Galizia is offered and granted immunity to reveal who commissioned the crime is in Minister’s hands.

Senior spokesmen of the government told my colleagues in the press the government was “not in favour of” immunity in exchange of state’s evidence. “Politically, it would not work”.

I’ll keep this simple. As Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, himself a politically exposed person, recently put it quite succinctly in court, politically exposed persons cannot be excluded from suspicion that they commissioned the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. One or more of those ministers in Cabinet may very well have a vested interest in ensuring possible witnesses who could point to them are given no incentive to do so and granted no protection from any possible consequences.

This situation is unbearable and intolerable. What advice on the matter will the Police Commissioner give to the Cabinet? What will his Deputy advise when he knows the advice will be going for the consideration of his own wife? Will the Police be obliged to reveal to Ministers their lines of inquiry when clearly at least some of those lines of inquiry necessarily include one or more of their number?

How can justice ever be done in a context where due legal process is conditioned by what would or would not “work politically”? Consider how on 4th December, the police, on what must clearly have been Castille’s orders, fell down on these three people and arrested them. Since technical evidence gave the police such confidence in their likely responsibility and that evidence concerned their communications, would it not have been much smarter to follow these 3 for a while and see if they would lead the police to the big fish? They would have to be paid at some point.

Arresting them prematurely served a political motivation. The first motivation was the government wanting to get international pressure off its back and wanting to show it was serious about finding the culprits. But if such motivations came into play how can we not fear that other more sinister political motivations — such as intentionally disturbing any chance of finding the bosses behind the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia — may have played a role in this?