Justice of Daphne. And justice for Malta. That’s what the conclusion of the Panama Papers inquiry might mean. That’s what it should mean. Though many people will do all they can to prevent that from happening.

I don’t have a clue what the inquiry contains. I heard it was finished like everybody else from social media posts by Jason Azzopardi and later David Casa. I’m as impatient as anybody to know what it found. I know I’ve thought about it over the last several years more than most people are likely to have done. Most people haven’t given a thought about the Panama Papers for some time. I give talks sometimes about Daphne’s story and the way I introduce the Panama Papers these days is with the quip, “remember them?” That story has faded out of memory.

Here it comes again.

I don’t know what the inquiry concluded. But I know why it started. It started with those naughty posts on Daphne’s blog about New Zealand lamb and Panama hats. And how Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri said she was lying when she reported they set up illegal structures to hide money they should not have had.

With the publication of the Panama Papers, we had the confirmation that what Daphne had written was all true. I should say, if any were needed. It should not have been needed. Because the evidence contained in the reporting was devastating. But there we were fielding repeated and uninformed jibes like “where’s the evidence?” One would hope the just concluded inquiry can answer that question.

People will believe what they want to believe, and they’ll misbelieve a huge wet lampuka if their arses were smacked blue with it.

The fierce lampuka was certainly not believed when Joseph Muscat kept Mizzi and Schembri in office. The police did not believe the lampuka. Lawrence Cutajar did his “there’s nothing to see here” act and remarked one more time how remarkably shiny Muscat’s brass balls were and how heavy they felt in his hand, and refused to go where the Panama Papers should have taken him.

The Panama Papers made a different, in the rest of the world. Iceland’s then prime minister Gunnlaugsson resigned in disgrace. Politicians in Mongolia, Spain and several other countries fell. Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and sent him to prison. But Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were “too important” for Joseph Muscat to remove.

There had been a third company with a nameless owner set up in Panama at the same meeting as Schembri and Mizzi had set up theirs. Muscat’s behaviour when the Panama Papers came out put on him the suspicion.

Simon Busuttil, later, on different fronts, David Casa, and Repubblika did not accept the police’s inertia and chose to defy Muscat’s auto-absolution. They went to court and battled vigorous objections to get an investigation going. That’s how the inquiry started.

What happened in it is a mystery so far.

But what happened out in the real world is very well known. Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote a cryptic post in February 2017 about a mysterious Dubai company called 17 Black. She said nothing more except that it existed. We wondered what she meant. Someone knew more than she did what it would mean to them if she understood the depths reached by the iceberg she had just skirted. In October of the same year Daphne was killed by car bomb.

Six months after her death, thanks to the work of Daphne’s family, some of the leading news organisations in the world exposed the link between 17 Black and Schembri and Mizzi’s Panama companies. The former was due to pay millions to the latter.

Six months after that one of those leading organisations revealed the owner of 17 Black was Yorgen Fenech, the man Schembri and Mizzi contracted to sell Malta energy for the next 18 years.

A year after that Yorgen Fenech was arrested. In his computers the police found evidence of layers upon layers of corruption of the highest level. Not just the power station: there was the swindle of the Montenegro windfarm; irregular development permits for skyscrapers in low intensity sites; compromised oversight of casino operations; and on and on and on. Daphne’s murder had allowed for the documentation of a level of institutionalised corruption until then not alleged, and barely imagined.

We found that our state had been captured by a criminal conspiracy made of a triad of politicians, self-described entrepreneurs, and gangland thugs. Around them they built an infrastructure of compromised bureaucrats, a partisan propaganda machine, complicit journalists, and a network of international criminal connections that provided them with capital, political access, and guns and bombs.

They had it all: economic monopolies, a grip on public procurement, money laundering facilities, access to currency they used to buy the loyalty of the community, obliging law enforcement unworthy of that name, the implicit, sometimes explicit, threat of violence, and a mute deafening omertà. There’s a word for that: mafia.

We should have said it when Matthew Caruana Galizia said it, when the car his mother died in was still smouldering. We didn’t have the wherewithal to see it as clearly as he did when he did: this had become a Mafia State.

The Panama Papers inquiry likely didn’t go into all that. We did. The world’s media did. A public independent inquiry did.

We drew political conclusions from what we learned. Those conclusions weren’t followed by anything like proportionate political consequences. They went as far as removing Muscat, Mizzi, and Schembri from office. But the three, and their protectors in the political sphere, continue to enjoy disproportionate political influence, even hero status if we’re to judge by some of the scenes outside the courtroom when the three were charged with corruption in a separate case, the hospitals privatisation case.

The Panama Papers inquiry’s business does not include drawing political conclusions. If it found anything to conclude it would have had to be that a criminal act or multiple criminal acts has or have occurred. The inquiry would have hopefully documented evidence of that criminal act or acts and identified the persons that it would be reasonable to suspect have perpetrated it.

The inquiry lasted several years. As these processes go in this country that is a very long time and this has been a very slow process. Though we don’t know what it found, it certainly has taken enough time to think that whatever the conclusions may be, they’re not nothing. Something is there.

I don’t know what the inquiry has found. But I know why it started and I know what we’ve learned since. The greatest injustice of this story is that a woman has been killed for doing her work and her relatives have been deprived of her life and her love. The second greatest injustice is that the corruption she was killed for exposing has gone unpunished. It is inconceivable to me that even now Yorgen Fenech remains the owner of the lucrative Electrogas deal. The exposure of the larceny he is alleged to have committed and the murder he is alleged to have committed to cover it up have not interrupted his rewards from that deal. Not even murder charges have slowed down the profits for the boss.

Perhaps this inquiry could have the effect of changing that state of affairs.

The other awful reality this inquiry might lead to the change of is the impunity enjoyed by Mizzi and Schembri and whichever other associates of theirs the inquiry might have identified. I say this out of hope, not out of knowledge. I say this because like Daphne assumed when she first exposed them for the Panama companies, the mere news that they had tried to get away with it should have finished them. Instead, they were made into perverse heroes, victims even.

It still goes on. In 2017 Muscat told voters to vote Labour to slap the value and usefulness of journalism. In 2024 Abela is telling voters to use their votes to discredit magistrates and the judiciary. In 2017 Muscat, through his Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, hid behind the Attorney General. In 2024 Abela, through his Justice Minister Jonathan Attard, is threatening the Attorney General for not protecting Muscat quite as well as he expects her to.

The Labour Party has been fighting a war with reality since before the Panama Papers came out in those innocent days of April 2016. For eight years they struggled with truth, and for all that time they mostly had truth pinned down. Muscat et al still appear to have the upper hand, apparently invincible.

What might this inquiry mean? It might mean that might change. Truth is down, but not out.