When justice is not granted, it must still be demanded. We can’t just give up. Unlike what the Labour Party and its many bedfellows in the Nationalist Party think the pursuit of justice is not a game. It does not have winners or losers. If justice is not served on criminals because they are powerful and effectively above the law, the country we live in is overrun by banditry. We are today less safe in this country than we were yesterday.
Think about it. It’s not just about Konrad Mizzi’s stupid grin. This is not about wanting to have the satisfaction of seeing him scowl. Nor even just about the restraint of Keith Schembri who is running amok with our livelihood and grasping this small land we share into his personal fifedom not merely for the term his creature serves as prime minister but for generations to come.
It is that too but that’s only part of it.
Yesterday’s judgement by Giovanni Grixti has in one fell swoop crushed two basic aspirations we should all have the right to expect from our legal framework.
The first is theright to seek redress when for whatever reason the institutions entrusted with the responsibility to investigate crime fail to do so. It is a matter of basic fairness. You can almost hear yourself as a child smarting and seething because one of your parents seems to prefer another sibling over you and treats them with more advantage. When you get caught doing something wrong you’re shouted at and punished. When they are, the matter is overlooked or shooed off with a stern warning. Not fair.
Demanding fairness is one of the most intuitive needs we grow up with even as children. And here we are as adults being told that if the police and the prosecutors do not treat us all equally and favour some of us over others, we cannot complain to the courts without first having done the police and the prosecutor’s job ourselves. Without their powers.
It’s a bit like Rameses telling us we must produce more bricks but without the benefit of straw.
Yesterday’s court decision has upgraded the institutional status of the rule of delinquency that Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri described days before his retirement just over a year ago. He spoke as if he assumed we could get redress in court and his complaint was about other institutions failing to do their job. Now we realise our hopes of finding justice in our courts are dashed as well.
The demise of rule of law has come to pass.
You might think the second catastrophic consequence of Judge Grixti’s decision of yesterday must necessarily be less dramatic than this. It isn’t. It has formalised Malta as a jurisdiction where it is impossible to convict anyone for money laundering. Here now that sort of thing is well and truly welcome.
We used to be a jurisdiction that closes an eye on money laundering when it was convenient to do so. But we used to tell the world we’re a white-list jurisdiction with sophisticated European laws to combat money laundering. No criminals ought to be able to pass through here to siphon or stash their ill gotten gains. We would not cover for corrupt politicians or drug lords or arms dealers or human traffickers. Because our laws are solid, our police are keen and our courts are fierce and independent.
Everyone knew that was rubbish and the Pilatus scandal told everyone that. Then Daphne Caruana Galizia got blown up in the midst of telling everyone just how bad things are.
That would not have been necessary (not that it ever was) if we could have the benefit of Judge Giovanni Grixti’s judgement before yesterday. Now both our eyes are wide shut.
Please realise we have not gone down the road of Panama now, we have gone several notches below that.
Before the Mossack Fonseca leaks Panama closed an eye on money laundering too. But when the leak broke and the secrets were revealed in all their gory details, Panama did not say what Judge Grixti said yesterday: “ah but that’s a hack. That information cannot be used by law enforcement. Actually that’s just Simon Busuttil speculating”.
The hell they did.
They fell down on Mr Mossack and Mr Fonseca and on the Jacquiline Alexanders and the Luis Quenelles and used handcuffs and jail bars and extraditions and letters rogatory and investigative and judicial processes to move from the findings of that “hack” and upgrade them to prosecutions and convictions and punishment. They cooperated with the police forces of the world so put handcuffs on the gilded wrists of the dodgers that used them to stash their money.
When Panama got caught they rushed to show the world that was not the way things were going to remain.
When Maltese politicians got caught using the same illegalities in Panama, our police ignored the evidence, our prosecutor ignored the evidence and after our lower court ruled the evidence should be looked at, our higher court decided no one should do that.
What to do? Give up? If we do we don’t just let Joseph’s Panama Gang get away with their crimes. We do worse than that. We cooperate in the irreversible supulchere of the rule of law in Malta. We can’t do that.
Judge Giovanni Grixti’s decision is not subject to appeal but no one has been prosecuted here. There’s no double jeapordy. The courts must again be asked to order that an inquiry is started. The judicial consensus before now has been that indications of a crime are more than enough grounds to start an inquiry. Magistrate Aaron Bugeja referred two of these cases submitted by Simon Busuttil and two Magistrates opened inquiries on these grounds that are still ongoing.
So we must knock on that door again and keep knocking until we get an answer that makes sense, until we’re given justice.
Also we must not let up on the political work. Adrian Delia and his coterie have said nothing about the decision, not publicly at least. Privately they likely celebrated the decision because they can present it, as they had done with the Egrant inquiry, as an opportunity for the new way to trample on the old. We’ve long accepted that it is pointless to knock on that door.
Court order or not, the responsibility for Lawrence Cutajar to start a police investigation on the basis of the evidence that is in the public domain was and remains there. He continues to neglect that responsibility. We must continue to demand that he lives up to it.
Same goes for Peter Grech, the eternally dormant Attorney General.
The police have failed us. The prosecutor has failed us. The political parties have failed us. Parliament has failed us. Now the Courts have failed us.
We can give up and get the hell out of dodge – which remains, sadly, an option – or keep knocking on that door.