Daphne Caruana Galizia’s silencing has resounded this month. She cannot react to the Egrant inquiry, nor can she face up to its consequences, leaving both sides of this story still without the closure they need.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s voice is conspicuously missing from the post-inquiry analysis, which leaves her thousands of followers unsure of how to react. Should they accept the findings? Should they dismiss them as inadequate?
They could hang onto what Caruana Galizia said before she was killed. In comments to Lovin Malta in May 2017, she had said: “My view is that the inquiring magistrate has been given a poisoned chalice. A massive money-laundering inquiry involving an entire bank and a corporate services provider like Nexia BT is not something for a duty magistrate who is there to handle inquiries about traffic accidents, workplace accidents, or suicides. He will do the best he can, but he is up against a brick wall and not helped by the fact that Superintendent Ian Abdilla of the Police Economic Crimes Unit is a hovering presence in the inquiry. He is the man who has covered up at least three Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports involving Keith Schembri and linked persons over the last year.”
But what would she say now? What would she say to the 1,500-page inquiry (of which we have so far seen a categorical executive summary) compiled by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, lauded to be a thorough piece of work that leaves very little to the imagination?
Perhaps her family’s statement is something to go by. They concluded the magistrate was unable to prove the identity of Egrant’s ultimate beneficial owner, just as the journalist had predicted, therefore the crucial questions remain.
But that’s of course a toned down version of what Caruana Galizia would have said.
It’s safe to say she would have been on overdrive right now, questioning every single aspect of the report, finding every weakness and reporting with great authority why it was plain wrong and should be redone by a team of international investigators. She would be breaking big stories at the early hours of the morning, her pageviews through the roof as people refresh her blog for more.
She would have investigated all of the companies who helped the magistrate in his investigation. She would have found ways to connect them with key people in her line of attack. She would have questioned how much they were paid and who made the introductions.
She would have called the magistrate’s commentary superficial and naive, showing how this investigation was beyond him. She would have deplored how quick he was to label the documents forged when all he knew was that the signatures on the documents did not match those of a Mossack Fonseca director. “He clearly doesn’t know how Mossack Fonseca works,” she would have said.
She would have dismissed the contradictions that came up in her testimony and that of the whistleblower. “Mhux ovja,” she would have said. “If you keep asking questions to the people you want to trip up – as opposed to the ones you should be investigating – you’re going to find trivial inconsistencies. And anyway, what does the exact date I first met the whistleblower have to do with the price of eggs?”
If we know anything about Daphne Caruana Galizia, we know she would not have let the story die here. She would not concede that her story was fabricated and the Muscats were victims of a devious scheme.
She’d sooner launch a scathing attack on the magistrate, now that she no longer needed to keep up the pretence of respect. “Aaron Bugeja was after all the first man to be appointed magistrate by Joseph Muscat’s government,” she would say, “alongside other Tagħna Lkoll judiciary appointments such as the husband of Labour’s MEP Marlene Mizzi being appointed judge.”
She would have concluded with something like this: “It’s surreal and beyond pathetic that an investigation into whether there is prima facie evidence of corruption and money laundering at the highest echelons of power instead looks certain to recommend criminal action against a journalist, a whistleblower and the former leader of the Opposition. Unbelievable, were it not so predictable.”
What’s certainly surreal is having to discuss Daphne Caruana Galizia’s biggest story in the unusual context of a detailed magisterial inquiry, without her being able to utter a word in her own defence.
The Prime Minister’s wife, Michelle Muscat, said she was sorrier than the Caruana Galizia family that the blogger was killed. More so now that Caruana Galizia is not able to own up to the charges being laid at her feet by this damning inquiry. And if you are able to look beyond Michelle Muscat’s horrific choice of words, you can understand her sentiment. There is a lot that Daphne Caruana Galizia should be answering for in this context of this inquiry.
Who gave her the first tipoff about Egrant? Was it Maria Efimova or a mysterious third source? Did Daphne Caruana Galizia find out at some point that her story was false? Is that why she never published the documents? Is that why the PN changed its narrative during the electoral campaign?
Did she rush to publish details she could not corroborate just to make the story more convincing? Was she trying to help Simon Busuttil win a fast-approaching election which he was ill-prepared to contest? Was she duped? Or did she become the duper?
We will never know her answers to these questions. Her cowardly killers have made sure she cannot have the last word.
Yet they also immortalised her final warning: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” Her assassination fulfilled that prophecy, making it all the more difficult for us to question her work, even in light of this stern magisterial inquiry.
Her murder has left us all without closure. That’s why we must find out who killed her and why.
Despite the media frenzy of the past few days, this inquiry changes very little.
Those who always thought Daphne Caruana Galizia was a threat to real journalism, democracy and basic human decency, have simply reinforced their beliefs. On the other hand, those who thought she was the most high profile victim of a state captured by a sinister clique will simply frame this inquiry as part of that conspiracy.
So where does that leave the rest of us? The ones who knew she was an imperfect journalist but also a fearless voice that often made our national discussions richer? And the ones who see Joseph Muscat as a fundamentally competent Prime Minister whose tolerance of corruption tainted his work but who could have – in this case at least – been the victim of a very real frame-up?
Nothing much has changed for us either. We can only wait for more information, keep asking questions and suspend our judgement until history can be written.
Only this time, we have to do it without hearing Daphne Caruana Galizia’s side and that’s going to take a while to get used to.
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