It’s been a whole day now since we’ve read on The Sunday Times the police are conducting a criminal inquiry into 17 Black. The Sunday Times did not explicitly say so, but it did imply the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and a government Minister are suspects in a criminal investigation in a major corruption scandal of a scale yet unknown in Malta’s history.
That puts paid to Konrad Mizzi’s bold declaration of 23 July that the Egrant inquiry cleared him and Keith Schembri and that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s “lies had been exposed”. We knew there and then this was rubbish. But now we know it was also wishful thinking. Konrad Mizzi reads in the newspaper today that he and Keith Schembri are suspects in a criminal investigation. No doubt he’s known it for some time.
Joseph Muscat tried to dodge the political bullet this morning. Speaking the obvious usually comes in handy when nothing else would fly and he tried it this morning as well telling us it is not his job to determine Keith Schembri’s and Konrad Mizzi’s guilt.
No, it isn’t. That’s for judges to do after the police and the attorney general prosecute them.
Only last May, the bar for Keith Schembri’s resignation was, according to Joseph Muscat himself, far, far lower. On 5 May Joseph Muscat said that if an investigation into Keith Schembri found that there were grounds for criminal steps to be taken he would “have to shoulder responsibility and resign”.
In June, right after the general election, when announcing his Cabinet, Joseph Muscat is quoted speaking fare more explicitly. “Dr Muscat said Keith Schembri would resign if there was a formal police investigation”. Ding dong.
All day there has been no denial, no confirmation, no comment from our police on whether it is true Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi are suspects in a criminal investigation. All day we have just had unstoppable speculation fed by Joseph Muscat’s evasiveness and the police’s gaunt quiet.
It has really come to a point of complete and utter insanity.
In the meantime the ‘we have almost got them’ story, also on the front page of The Sunday Times about the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination has also got no confirmation, no denial and no comment from the police.
What madness is this?
All day I have been fielding calls from journalists from all over the world who saw the story on The Sunday Times. They expected me to tell them names, the location of arrests, motivations and quotes of police spokesmen about the crime of the century. There was nothing but the quote from Daphne’s sister Corinne Vella that said they were reading The Sunday Times like the rest of us but no one had briefed them in any way before this story broke.
Stephen Grey of Reuters, who broke the 17 Black story last week and is one of the journalists who has been following Malta closely tweeted a few minutes ago his own sources tell him The Sunday Times have been misinformed and the police still do not know who commissioned Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
An authoritative source tells me this report that masterminds who ordered killing Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have been identified is NOT TRUE: “We haven’t found who’s behind it yet…all leads are being investigated” https://t.co/tqy4FXbC5m
— Stephen Grey (@StephenGrey) November 18, 2018
Why are we being left hanging like this?
Because Joseph Muscat holds all the cards. And he knows better than anyone that clarity ensures that the facts emerge out of all the noise. The police’s ability to wrap up their Daphne Caruana Galizia investigations can only be measured once they bring someone to book and present the evidence against them.
In the meantime the evidence against Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in respect of 17 Black is public domain. You know, I know, they know, everyone knows Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi set up structures to receive massive amounts of money from Yorgen Fenech of Electrogas.
The ‘revelation’ that the police are investigating this as a crime would be comical in any other context. It’s like saying a doctor has decided that a 3 inch knife wound to the chest requires medical attention.
But here, two years after we’ve learnt of their secret Panama companies, six months after we’ve known of their plans with 17 Black, a week after we know the owner of 17 Black, the fact that the police are conducting a criminal investigation is a matter for unidentified investigators to reveal in confidential briefings to a journalist.
And what’s more, once the story has broken, no official source tells us if the information is true or not.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on here. The people investigating Keith Schembri are afraid of him. His incumbency in the most powerful room of the country is ensuring these criminal investigations do not reach their conclusion which in any other circumstance would have been inescapable.
Which as far as we can see means that Joseph Muscat might very well be effectively harbouring a fugitive from the law in Castille. By keeping him there he is seen as obstructing the course of justice.
I have spoken about this to people who unlike me are lawyers and they tell me that they can’t point to specific provisions in our law that have the exact meaning of ‘obstruction of justice’ in the sense discussed about Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to name some famous examples.
Which feels to me, as an amateur, rather absurd. Our Constitution, in its opening verses, declares this to be a democracy. If our elected officials can use their office to shelter their favourites from the equal application of the law, and that is not itself a criminal offence that can be prosecuted, then this is not a democracy.
A democracy is not merely defined by whether there are elections. A deeper, deeper meaning of democracy is that the law rules, equally for everyone, without exception, however powerful.
Now that we know Keith Schembri is the subject of a criminal investigation into 17 Black — as well he should be — and as we see Joseph Muscat keep him in office while this goes on, here now is the answer to Joseph Muscat’s challenge.
It rather looks like Joseph Muscat is implicated in 17 Black. There can be no justice while Joseph Muscat stays in Castille.