This country needs to learn the truth and the only reliable sources are a bunch of amoral liars. Alfred and George Degiorgio were people one would turn to if one needed someone killed. Vince Muscat was someone killers or bank robbers turned to when they needed a grunt.
Melvyn Theuma was an underground bookie. Yorgen Fenech was a major player in the business scene but any “respect” he enjoyed rubbed off on him from his father. His money spoke for him and people sucked up to him because the crumbs he dropped made for a hearty meal. But he was no angel of peace.
These people are pointing upstairs to politicians they say hired them, paid them, pressured them and covered for them. Without much shared interest except the obvious pattern of not wanting to go down for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, they have, at different times, implicated Chris Cardona, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat in the murder.
On yesterday’s Malta Today Matthew Vella quoted extensively from the interview Yorgen Fenech gave to the police soon after his first arrest in November 2019. It went up on their website this morning and cannot be missed.
The statement from 18 months ago corroborates in places information that Melvyn Theuma would provide. I have not seen anything in those quotes that has been factually disproven or contradicted elsewhere. Except of course by Keith Schembri who denies all of it. Joseph Muscat also denies everything that can be denied. He cannot deny the meetings and the gifts and the phone calls and the text messages because all of those could be and were independently verified. He denies what was said in damning private conversations.
If Joseph Muscat does not deny what Yorgen Fenech says was said, he’d be guilty of undermining a police investigation and helping a suspected murderer dodge justice.
Then there are the many levels that mention Chris Cardona. We’ve covered those elsewhere. But in summary, there’s the link through Melvin Theuma who said Mario Degiorgio had told him about a separate plot to kill Daphne commissioned by Cardona. Then there’s Vince Muscat who is turning State’s evidence speaking about driving Alfred Degiorgio to meet Chris Cardona. And now the Degiorgios themselves want to point at Chris Cardona.
Chris Cardona’s conduct does not help him. He lies and he lies and he lies. And he gets caught every time. There was the lie about the meeting at the Ferdinand’s Bar just before the Degiorgios were arrested. Then the lie about not knowing the Degiorgios, emphatically disproven by journalistic investigations. Just this weekend Newsbook verified with two independent sources that Chris Cardona was lying when he denied being interviewed by the police the day of the HSBC heist in which Vince Muscat was a soldier.
Yorgen Fenech’s police statement drags Keith Schembri down deep. Very deep. Yorgen Fenech says Keith Schembri pushed him to commit the murder and had been planning it and conspiring to achieve it since before Yorgen Fenech got into it. Much of this, matches with what Melvyn Theuma said. And at the time, and up to now, Melvyn Theuma and Yorgen Fenech are on hostile fronts. They have little incentive to fit their story to accommodate each other’s.
Keith Schembri’s behaviour doesn’t help him. The police accidentally or on purpose bungled the forensic trail of it but the letter, allegedly written by Keith Schembri and delivered to Yorgen Fenech in hospital by their shared doctor, put him in a bad place. It seems a pity that it is said the letter cannot be used as evidence against him. He denies writing it. But if not he, who?
Then there’s the missing phone. And there’s all the lying about the corruption and the money laundering and the tax evasion. All the things he had so much reason to lie about, some of them the subject of the prosecution he is undergoing. Much else still to be acted upon by our institutions.
There’s only one thing to say about Joseph Muscat’s behaviour. He stuck by Keith Schembri through thick and thin. Even as he was being arrested in November 2019 on suspicion of involvement in the murder, Joseph Muscat used his residual influence as prime minister to speak for his erstwhile right-hand man. He still speaks of him as some sort of national hero.
And then there’s the fact that through Keith Schembri he was still communicating with Yorgen Fenech until hours before the tycoon tried to abscond on his yacht. He can’t deny that. He would if he could.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is so much time was allowed to pass since all this must have been obvious to the police because it was obvious to the rest of us out here holding up a candle in the dark at a lonely, frigid Great Siege Square vigil in January 2018. In the long time since, stories have been fixed, evidence has been destroyed or made ambiguous and unusable, backroom deals have been made.
In that time people charged early have had their defence funded by people still on the outside, creating obligations that skew stories in the direction that is convenient to the person paying it.
In that time the politicians involved were and continue to be permitted to negotiate deals to save their skin in exchange for pardons, immunities and reduced sentences.
In that time, the national realisation that gripped the country in November 2019 that Daphne was killed because of what she revealed and what she was about to reveal, grew cold again and her murder has stopped being about the killing of a journalist and once again became a matter of political inconvenience that supporters of Joseph Muscat and Robert Abela are happy to ignore.
And now, in a desperate pursuit that someone, some court, independently confirms what we know to be true about the politicians that openly mocked Daphne and continue to openly mock those who want justice for her, we are being blackmailed by the killers themselves to support their release in exchange for their testimony.
We are asked to choose between injustices. We either insist murderers are not given immunity so the murderers don’t walk away or we insist they are given immunity to testify against the politicians so the politicians don’t walk away.
For people living and breathing the political game, as people who are deeply engaged in this issue often tend to be, convicting politicians is more important. Seeing Keith Schembri or Joseph Muscat go down vindicates us. It gives us bragging rights for having been right about them even before they came to power. When we chant that Daphne had been right, it is a gratification we give ourselves because we had been right about Daphne.
We feel that handcuffs on the politicians – on Chris Cardona, on Keith Schembri, on Joseph Muscat – are a reward we deserve for all the slapping around we’ve had to face for not worshipping them or not shutting up about it.
It’s an entirely different feeling when we see iċ-Ċiniż or il-Koħħu serve time. Daphne did not know them, so neither did we. It’s almost as if their role in the killing does not matter all that much for us. Their punishment does not gratify us. On the contrary, it’s almost more grating than if no one had been charged at all, like what had happened to Karin Grech all those years ago.
It’s worse when the low-life assassins, the dirty bomb-wielders and the half-blind cliff-watchers, and the moronic triggermen who call their mates on their open line to ask for a top-up for their phone, are charged and convicted and punished. Because it allows the politicians we know have a responsibility in this to gloat and to wag their fingers at us to tell us that they’ve secured justice under their watch and that we’re mad to complain when they’ve thrown the killers in jail.
The point I’m trying to make is that being made to choose between injustices is an injustice in itself. The State’s first option would have been to allow everyone to get away with this murder. The evidence shows they sure tried that first. Under the pressure of protest and the terrifying moral force of Daphne’s sons, they needed to resort to a messier way of getting away with it. Throwing the gun-wielders under the bus, compensating them and in the meantime placing themselves – the political criminals – if not beyond the wide realisation of what they’ve done, beyond the possibility of any legal consequence to them.
In doing so, Joseph Muscat and the others, seek to drive a wedge between the right of Daphne’s family to secure justice for her and the expectation of the rest of us that politicians pay for what they’ve done. People have been falling over themselves to take sides in this artificial contradiction. It is incredible that with his back to the wall and his “chief strategist”, as he calls him, remanded in custody at Kordin’s Division 6, Joseph Muscat still finds ways of dividing and ruling.
We’ve now come to the point where it is almost incumbent on us to choose which side of the symbiotic embrace between the criminal underworld and the Labour Party’s leadership gets to be punished while the other side walks away scot-free. They’ve shifted the State responsibility on us.
We can’t accept that. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure justice. Daphne’s right to life was obviously crushed when she was killed. But everyone else’s right to life requires the State to make sure that people who kill are caught and punished. That obligation does not come as an a la carte menu. And what’s more, they don’t get to poll on which criminals should be punished and which shouldn’t.
It is for the State to solve it. It is for the State to live up to its responsibility of ensuring both justice for Daphne and justice for the stories she was killed for writing or working on. That was our demand the day she was killed and back then we knew nothing about the Degiorgios, or Melvyn Theuma. We knew nothing for certain about who was or might have been involved. We did not wait for arrests or testimonies or police statements or requests for pardons before we were angry and went out in the streets to protest for justice.
We can’t allow ourselves to lose that spirit of the hours and days after the 16 October 2017. We never meant to take up ourselves the responsibilities of police officers, prosecutors, magistrates and judges. We marched in the street because we wanted them to live up to those responsibilities themselves.
We can’t let them dump those on us now. They need to get on with it. Anyone and everyone involved in killing Daphne must pay for what they’ve done. Don’t ask us. More importantly, don’t ask her family to have to choose who of their mother’s killers gets to walk away.
And then we must recall our responsibilities. We say we are the people of this country and we deserve better. And yet, even as we say that, we know in our heart of hearts that the Labour Party continues to enjoy the support of a considerable majority. For years we hoped that someone else would settle the matter for us.
We nudged Daphne to come up with “more”: more scandals, more shocking revelations, in some vain hope that there would be a scandal big enough to destroy the political prospects of Joseph Muscat’s party. When she was killed we turned to international journalists of the Daphne Project. We got excited when they came close to yet another revelation. And inevitably we would say we were disappointed it just wasn’t big enough to embarrass the government into admission.
Then, as still now, we expect the European Union to save us from our government.
These are the consequences of the absurdity we would never confess: that we gave up on our own people realising they do not need to support those who steal from them and would be prepared to kill those among us who would try to stop them from doing it. We do not want to admit that most of us are happy to renounce our democratic rights merely for the thrill of celebrating our party’s election wins.
We do not want to admit that we not only live in a grabbing, greedy, unjust tyranny. But we are living in a tyranny of our choice.
We are not policemen, prosecutors, magistrates and judges. But we are voters. We do get our turn to pass a verdict. We do get our turn to pass judgement. And we have given up on challenging ourselves to live up to our responsibility as citizens because we dare not think that as a people we are capable of choosing to bring justice upon ourselves.