The board of inquiry investigating the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has pointed its finger to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, arguing that while it could not hold him directly responsible, his actions had led to a culture of impunity that allowed the murder to take place.
The inquiry also noted that while it could not state with confidence that the Maltese government was being run by the mafia, the happenings leading up to the assassination were leading the country in that direction and would have done so had the murder not happened.
The inquiry into the assassination was launched in December 2019 shortly after the arrest of alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech, who has since been shown to have enjoyed a very close relationship both with Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri.
While it did not find the state to have been involved in the murder plot, the inquiry did conclude that the state, through a small group of bad apples, had created an environment that ultimately led to it.
The inquiry can be read in full here.
Joseph Muscat indirectly responsible
In its conclusions from the inquiry, the board identified two instances through which it said Muscat had contributed to the murder. The first was his failure to act against Schembri and disgraced Minister Konrad Mizzi after the Panama Papers leak. The second was his failure to remove them from office after revelations emerged about the ownership of 17 Black.
“While Muscat could have justified his decision with regards to the Panama Papers by qualifying it as a mistaken political decision – something the board rejects – he certainly couldn’t do the same about 17 Black, where there were allegations of serious criminal activity by both [Schembri and Mizzi],” the board noted.
It said that while it could not at this stage say that the country was being led by a mafia organisation, it did conclude that the events leading up to the murder were taking the country in that direction, and would likely have succeeded had the murder not taken place.
Cabinet failed in its responsibility to safeguard the rule of law
The board of inquiry also had harsh words for the Cabinet of Ministers who it accused of inaction and giving its tacit consent to Muscat and the culture of impunity is said had been created.
The board noted that while Cabinet could have been forgiven for not taking action against Schembri after the Panama Papers, given that Muscat assumed responsibility for them, the same could not be said for its lack of action after the 17 Black revelations.
“It is certain that at this stage, no member of cabinet can exonerate themselves from the obligation they had to insist that anyone involved should no longer be a part of cabinet,” the board noted.
It added that the fact that the Cabinet appeared to be more interested in wealth creation than ensuring Caruana Galizia’s protection and ensuring that the rule of law was respected was to be condemned.
Furthermore, the board said that by allowing power to be concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister, Cabinet had given its silent approval to the culture of impunity that had been created.
Impunity spread like octopus from Castille to regulatory entities
The inquiry found that a culture of impunity existed not only within the highest levels of government but also among a small circle of politicians, businessmen and criminals.
It said that while these links had always existed, the Labour government’s ‘business friendly’ approach to politics had allowed them to flourish, adding that it was clear that impunity that originated in Castille had spread to various other entities, including the Police, FIAU, MFSA and Malta Security Services
“Being business-friendly should never mean being money friendly. The public administration is obliged to safeguard the rule of law and should never allow the desire for money and profit for businessmen or government officials to tarnish correctness and good governance,” the board observed.
The proximity between business and politics is evidently clear from the fact that most major projects undertaken by the Labour administration have ended up before the National Audit Office, the board said.
It added that while good governance principles existed on paper, they did not go beyond that.
The inquiry stressed that it was clear that the murder was linked to Caruana Galizia’s criticism of both the political and business centres of power citing efforts to neutralise the journalist before she was actually killed.
Not only had the state failed to protect Caruana Galizia when it should have known her to be at risk, but it also contributed to creating a climate of hostility towards her through the actions of some people working within the public service.
This was especially of the Police and the Malta Security Services, the board noted.
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