A delegation of MEPs to Malta were left “even more concerned” about the state of the rule of law at the end of a two-day visit to the island following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes, who chaired the delegation of MEPs, gave a damning initial assessment of the country – with particular condemnation reserved for the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader and the police force.
This is what we learned at the end of the MEPs’ two-day visit to Malta.
1. Joseph Muscat believes the visit had a vengeful taste to it
Gomes, a Socialist MEP, quoted Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as saying he believes the current focus on Malta is a political move by the European People’s Party to counter criticism of the rule of law in Hungary – whose Prime Minister Victor Orban is a member of the EPP.
“Muscat believes the EPP is trying to compensate the attention on Hungary with attention on Malta, but this is not our vision,” she said. “We want to investigate Malta and Hungary too. However, here there was a very tragic and singular event where a journalist was assassinated by a car bomb, which suggests a purpose to install fear in the public as well as the present of the organised crime in Malta.”
2. MEPs believe Caruana Galizia assassination could be linked to Egrant
On two separate occasions, Gomes said she cannot rule out the possibility that Caruana Galizia’s assassination was linked to her reports that the Prime Minister’s wife owns the offshore Panama account Egrant.
“The police investigations into her murder cannot be disconnected from the cases she exposed, which include the Egrant story,” she said. “There could be connections between her assassination and the Egrant story.”
She said MEPs are open to speaking to Maria Efimova – the Russian whistleblower who gave Caruana Galizia the Egrant story.
“We may speak to Efimova if she wants to meet us and if she has anything to say,” Gomes said. “What I can say right now is that while people aren’t being prosecuted for corruption in Malta, the whistleblower was prosecuted very quickly.”
An international arrest warrant has been ordered for Efimova after she repeatedly failed to turn up for a court case instigated against by her former employer Pilatus Bank, who is accusing her of misappropriating funds.
3. MEPs questioning links between Joseph Muscat and John Dalli
Former European Commissioner John Dalli
Gomes said she was stunned by the fact Jospeh Muscat had appointed disgraced former European Commissioner John Dalli as an adviser a few years ago.
“I was confronted by the fact that a former Commissioner who was forced to resign in disgrace was actually taken in by Muscat as his adviser even though he wasn’t from his political family,” she said. “What’s the link?”
Dalli is no longer Muscat’s adviser.
4. MEPs want Adrian Delia to be investigated by tax authorities
MEPs did not speak to Opposition leader Adrian Delia or anyone from the Nationalist Party on this visit. However, asked by Lovin Malta, Gomes said she was concerned at reports Delia had not paid his taxes on time.
“We heard that the Opposition leader hasn’t been paying his taxes for a number of years…we believe these allegations are extremely serious and that there should be an investigation into him by Malta’s tax authorities.”
5. Chief Justice sees ray of hope in reaction to Caruana Galizia’s assassination
Malta’s Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri had a “substantive” chat with the delegation of MEPs and will travel to Brussels in the near future for a follow-up meeting.
“The Chief Justice said that investigations must not only take place but must be seen to take place,” Gomes said. “However, he had an optimistic view of the aftermath of Caruana Galizia’s assassination and said it had a galvanising effect on civil society to realise the rule of law isn’t an abstract thing but something that impacts us all.”
Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes led the European Parliament delegation to Malta
6. Caruana Galizia family wants more info on murder investigation
Gomes confirmed that Caruana Galizia’s family spoke to MEPs in Brussels, where they aired their concerns that the police were not giving them any information about the ongoing murder investigation.
“They were particularly disturbed that they have no information at all about the investigation and we relayed that concern to the police commissioner,” she said.
Later, MEPs Sven Giegold and Monica Macovei said the visit to Malta left them with serious concerns on the competence of police commissioner Laurence Cutajar.
“He showed a high degree of unwillingness to investigate cases and a demonstrated incompetence,” Giegold said.
7. Jonathan Ferris passed on documents to MEPs
Gomes confirmed that former police inspector and financial intelligence gatherer Jonathan Ferris, who has recently gone on a rampage against the Labour government, passed on fresh information to the MEP delegation.
“We received documents from Jonathan Ferris,” she said. “He doesn’t feel safe here, and we insist that he receive police protection day and night.”
8. MEPs have flagged Malta’s partisan politics problem
Maltese people’s commonly tribal approach to politics did not go unnoticed either, and indeed Gomes brought the problem up when a L-Orizzont journalist asked her why the delegation only spoke to three journalists – from the Times of Malta, the Malta Independent and the newly-launched The Shift News.
“I did not choose the people we met, but the list was drawn up by our secretariat following suggestions by different MEPs,” she said. “We don’t have a partisan approach, although we noticed this approach somehow seems to permeate the lenses of many people in Malta. We need to address the substance and not focus on which party people belong to.”