Right. A witness for the prosecution tells an open court that a sitting minister helped out his gang in a criminal action. I suggested yesterday he may have been referring to the 2010 HSBC heist and to Minister Carmelo Abela who at the time was an Opposition MP and a Manager at HSBC.
Predictably, microphones rush in the general direction of the prime minister. ‘Is it true a government minister helped out the criminals in a major crime?’ ‘Do you know who it is?’ ‘Who is it?’ ‘What are you doing about it?’
Robert Abela does a poor act of pretending to be surprised. He’s known for months this would be coming out, probably from before he became prime minister. Robert Abela, remember, was the lawyer to the Maksar gangland bosses, for crying out loud.
Parenthesis. I know everyone is entitled to representation and all that. But when did we become so jaded that nobody flinches when they realise that serial killers with cross-border links with the mafia of other countries, who import specially-kitted bombs and AK47s, and use them to kill people, had our prime minister as their lawyer? Can you imagine this happening elsewhere? Can you imagine Germany having a Chancellor with a personal record of representing full-blown deadly mafia killers in court?
Robert Abela gets asked what he did when he heard that a witness pardoned as a result of his own vote for the murder of a lawyer, testified in open court that another member of his cabinet helped him in a criminal act. Remember the working theory is that we’re talking about an armed robbery of a bank.
Robert Abela stands 8 feet tall in front of cameras and socially distanced extended microphone handles and declares that he has asked the police chief to establish who Vince Muscat is talking about.
Why did he do that?
Is the prime minister suggesting this was the first time the police chief heard that Vince Muscat could identify a cabinet minister in this context? If that’s the case than the prime minister must truly believe the police have done very shoddy work of establishing what it was that Vince Muscat knew or did not know before agreeing to a reduced sentence for one murder and a full pardon for another. Remember that the pardon was granted by cabinet’s decision, so surely ministers, starting with Robert Abela, must have been reasonably confident the police knew what they were on about before authorising the pardon.
Or is the prime minister suggesting that though the police chief knew for some time that Vince Muscat was pointing at the criminal involvement of a sitting cabinet minister, he did nothing about it before yesterday? In that case the prime minister is throwing away even the semblance of police autonomy suggesting instead that instead of chasing the truth wherever the evidence takes them, the police prefer to wait for the prime minister to tell them whether it is convenient to do so.
The fact of the matter is that the bellowing and very public demand by Robert Abela to Angelo Gafà was completely hollow and again showed just out of his depth our prime minister has waded. Robert Abela is not Angelo Gafà’s boss. He doesn’t get to order him who to investigate and who not to.
On the other hand, Robert Abela is the boss of every “sitting cabinet minister” and therefore not only in a position but in duty bound to bellow orders in his cabinet’s direction instead. Has he asked all his ministers to explicitly declare they have no reason to believe Vince Muscat may have been referring to them? Has he asked Carmelo Abela? Is he comfortable with the response?
That is what Robert Abela should have told us yesterday: that the moment he saw reports of what Vince Muscat said he asked all ministers, who we’re told where in the room and shared in the decision to pardon Vince Muscat for killing Carmel Chircop, he called all his ministers and got from them an explicit declaration that they have no reason to believe Vince Muscat may have been talking about them.
He didn’t do that. And one must suspect he didn’t do that because even he expects not to believe one of his ministers if he showed up with a flat denial. After all there must be some awkward advantages about being a prime minister who in the past represented Vince Muscat’s accomplices and underworld bosses.
What will Angelo Gafà reply to Robert Abela? That the police have no admissible evidence in hand to fill the gaps left by what Vince Muscat testified. He will also say that the only way to get Vince Muscat to finish his sentence is to pardon him for the crime concerned, possibly the HSBC heist. But that the police are not recommending that happens because in any case we are nearing the statute of limitations for that incident and because the police still have not looked for, let alone found, the evidence they will need to corroborate Vince Muscat’s claim about this sitting Minister.
And once again we reduce a very serious political case of mafia infiltration in government to forensic niceties that have no place in deciding what sort of moral standing must be expected from people entrusted to govern the country.
As Carmelo Abela put it last November after remarks Jason Azzopardi made at a radio interview: these remain “allegations”.
Do you remember Joseph Muscat facing “allegations” in February 2016 that a minister and his closest aid committed financial crimes? He didn’t carry his responsibility as their boss, challenge them, and when he got less than satisfactory answers, fire them. Not having done that in the first place he kept them in office until he had to go down with them in November 2019. Of course, that’s his side of the story. We also drew our own reasonable conclusion that Joseph Muscat was neck deep in their shit as well so he couldn’t fire them if he wanted to.
Now watch Robert Abela facing “allegations” that one of his ministers was the inside man in a violent bank heist. Is he challenging him, assessing the answers he’s getting from him, and firing him? No. He’s throwing this on Angelo Gafà’s shoulders. But Angelo Gafà doesn’t hire and fire ministers. Robert Abela does.
Or does he?