Gordon Debono has also been charged with money laundering in connection with the fuel smuggling scandal we’ve known about for some four years. I became vaguely aware of this when Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote about the mother-in-law of Gordon Debono’s business partner Darren Debono, calling her to bully her because she had been covering the fuel smuggling business.
We had gangsters blown up in cars. We had limbless survivors refusing to talk. We had arrests and trials in Italy. We watched as our country turned into the turf for a mafia war. And yet our law enforcement agencies did nothing to stop it.
As gangsters bombed gangsters the police stood back and allowed it to happen. We can only speculate about the reasons: complicity, complacency, incompetence. Who knows?
When the Italians found Malta’s foreign office was helping smugglers switch certificates of origin for the fuel, the police stayed out of it and the foreign office cleared itself of wrongdoing after “an internal investigation”.
The Americans put pressure on Malta to act because allowing the smuggling to happen undermined the effort to restore security in Libya. Instead of using our own laws to arrest our own citizens in our own territory, we asked the United Nations to intervene and impose sanctions. That’s a mystery never fully explained. The Russians wouldn’t have it. Again, I have nowhere near the sort of access or knowledge to do more than speculate on their reasons. Perhaps they just didn’t like the Americans gaining more influence in Libya.
What ultimately got the police to put handcuffs on the Debonos and their associates was, as Times of Malta and others report today, the fact that action, in this case, was on the Moneyval checklist of things we must do if we are to avoid greylisting.
It’s when we realise that there are consequences we would have to suffer that we move to enforce the law. We never cared about the fact that allowing the smuggling to happen prolonged the war and suffering in Libya. This was blood oil, like blood coltan from the Congo or blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. The smuggled oil was a mineral extracted from a country in order to pay for civil war within that country.
The militiamen that were siphoning the oil off Libyan refineries to ship it on the Debonos’ “fishing boats” used the profits to consolidate their military power. People, soldiers, rebels, innocent civilians, were killed by bullets paid for by the smuggling we tolerated.
The short-sightedness of these policies is blinding. While the Debonos pocketed more millions than their accountants could keep up with, hundreds of businesses and workers in Malta who could have thrived in a peaceful Libya watched on the sidelines as that land of opportunity destroyed itself.
As we allowed the oil to switch boats or merely certificates of origin in the waters we are responsible to patrol, we allowed Cosa Nostra to get richer. We could care less about Italian public revenues lost in the process. We could not even care that we were enabling crime syndicates run by bosses serving life sentences to amass bigger war-chests for their clans, increasing their influence, their profits and the control of their territory.
The short-sightedness of these policies is blinding. Their territory did not stop at Pozzallo. They came here, laundering their money in our gaming industry and our financial services industry, jeopardizing both, putting the livelihoods of thousands of families at risk. They cemented networks with local families, supplying them with arms and bombs when they needed them, connecting them to opportunities of exporting their crimes, turning our country into the turf for their wars and their wins.
We could never see for ourselves that we needed to put a stop to this. We needed the Americans to chew at our heels. We needed Moneyval to threaten grey-listing. We needed to be shown the yellow card, warning us that we were flirting with pariah status.
It is supremely ironic that this level of impunity was used in order to help the culprits of Daphne’s murder go free. The week that Daphne was killed, Silvio Valletta briefed journalists that the police worked on the assumption that fuel smugglers killed her.
That same week Castille briefed Italian journalists that fuel smuggling was the hottest lead, not least in view of Darren Debono’s fresh arrest in Lampedusa two days after the murder.
It is supremely ironic that they used fuel smuggling as an alibi for the motive and conspiracy that killed Daphne. Because she threw light on the illegal trade and highlighted its risks when she had been alive.
Through his mouthpiece Simon Mercieca, Yorgen Fenech is now at it again seeing to it that the murder of which he stands accused is pinned on the smugglers. He doesn’t need to prove his point. All he and his mouthpieces need to do is create enough reasonable doubt in his own guilt to get away with murder.
This is helped by the delays in bringing the smugglers to justice. Their impunity, or the impunity they have heretofore enjoyed, is exploited to justify the impunity of those that formed the conspiracy to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia.
What the Fenechites are doing here is using the smoke from their arson to cover their escape. The police and the government lied to shift attention away from the bastards that killed Daphne to the bastards that used our waters, our state structures and our country’s permanent law enforcement weakness to get rich and enable Libyan militiamen and Sicilian mafiosi to reach their criminal ends.
It is reasonable, having suffered those lies and having discovered them when Silvio Valletta and Keith Schembri were exposed, not to believe anything the police and the government say. Ever.
Our loss of confidence in our institutions is entirely reasonable. It was brought about to allow corruption and the murder to happen. And now, that reasonable loss of confidence is being exploited by the perpetrators to get away with it.
It has come to the point that now we are being called gullible chumps whenever we stand back to watch policemen, prosecutors and magistrates do their job, however properly they seem to be doing it. Surely, we’re told, we must believe they’re all rotten. Surely, we’re told, everyone is compromised. Surely, we’re told, there’s no one we can believe or trust to be acting in good faith and saying the truth.
We are having our own healthy lack of deference, our cautious scepticism, our anger and determination to pressure institutions to do their job and to refuse to follow anyone on blind trust, thrown back at us. We are being gauded into cynicism, a dejected sense that no one is eligible to cast the first stone. We are being reminded of our doubts and pressured to refute even the evidence we see with our own eyes. If there are no good guys, there’s no one to jail the bad guys. That’s what they’re trying to sell to us now.
We have chased them down this road for three years and now they’re seeking to convince us we’re the ones being chased. This is how they escape justice.
It will be hard but let’s not be the ones to confuse issues.