The Malta Independent 12 December 2018, Wednesday

Caruana Galizia murder investigation has reached ‘a very delicate stage’ - police chief

Friday, 16 November 2018, 14:31 Last update: about 25 days ago

Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar told the Rule of Law mission that visited Malta in September that the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has reached a “very delicate stage.”

According to a draft report by the MEPs, Cutajar said the Malta Police Force is working closely with Europol, in particular on technical expertise, adding that he was confident that the investigation will lead to results.

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He told the MEPs that every step is done under the supervision of the inquiring magistrate, adding that Europol has access to all the findings of the investigation.

Asked whether the police are interviewing persons mentioned in Caruana Galizia’s blog, in a bid to find also the mastermind behind the murder, Cutajar said that the fact of being only mentioned in a blog it is not enough for a police interview and that the inquiry magistrate continues the work on this.

Cutajar said the number of people working in the Economic Crimes Unit has doubled to 14. The unit, which also includes an anti-money laundering unit, will be further strengthened by 2020, depending on larger premises.

When asked about Caruana Galizia’s laptop, which was handed over to the German police, Cutajar asked for strict confidentiality, the report says.

The MEPs also met with Attorney General Peter Grech and asked him about his lack of action after the FIAU reports were leaked. The AG acknowledged that he has the power to launch magisterial enquiries, however this has to be done on the basis of solid proof and investigative powers are in the hands of the police. “In his view, Article 4 of the Maltese Prevention of Money Laundering Act did not enable the Attorney General to issue an investigation order to the police, as evidence was not sufficient,” the report reads.

The AG was then asked about the Egrant inquiry and the refusal to publish it. Grech said such reports are very rarely published, being drawn up for the purposes of criminal investigation and then presented in court.

He stated that in general, his office abides by this rule, because publishing could hinder further investigation.

The Attorney General justified the transmission of the full report to the Prime Minister by the fact that the case involved the highest political person in the country. He felt that the public interest was satisfied with the conclusions.

Asked about the perceived lack of judicial action, including for appeals, on a number of cases that arose in the last year, including cases of money laundering, humanitarian and golden visas, journalist’s murder, Panama papers etc, the AG did not see any systemic issue in the reactions of the law enforcement system.

Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi told the MEPs that he had full confidence in all members of the judiciary, adding that he was not aware of any case of political interference.

He underlined the general problem of resources and that magistrates work very hard because of these inquiries.

The Chief Justice said that in Malta the Attorney General “has too many powers”, which creates a difficult situation for any person holding that office.

He expressed reservations as to whether a public inquiry could bring a result in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case, he considered that the magisterial inquiry in this case was in safe hands.

 

Henley and Partners

The MEPs also spoke with a representative from Henley and Partners, the concessionaire for Malta’s golden passport scheme.

Juerg Steffen said that most clients are from Russia and the Middle East. The rejection rate for Russians is increasing.

Asked about the fact that people who were on the black-list related to EU sanctions to Russia obtained citizenship through their programme, Steffen insisted on the “very reliable” due diligence process applied by the company, talking about the ‘gold standard’.

He stated that “such people could not have been granted citizenship through their programs.”

He underlined that the whole process is extremely serious and rather lengthy, so that it is not easy to get citizenship rapidly.

Steffen said Henley and Partners does not make donation to political parties, as this would be against strict anti-bribery rules as applied in the UK which is the standard followed by the company.

He said that OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri is the company’s main contact in the PM’s office but they do not have any contractual agreement with him personally.

He acknowledged that company chairman Chris Kalin had sent an email to the PM in relation to a possible libel case against Daphne Caruana Galizia, and said this was “in line with common practice in the industry.”

“The company knew that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigations were a political issue in the country, so since they had a contract with the government they felt it logical to consult the Prime Minister on a possible legal action against the journalist. They had to react since the journalist was, according to them, publishing false statements about the company, hence damaging its reputation and that of its staff members. Asked about the number of such legal cases brought to the courts by the company, its representative acknowledged that it was the only one,” the report reads.

Asked about the familiar tone of the email communication between Kalin and the PM, the company representative referred to the international business practice at such high level, where the use of first names is very common, especially in the case of important contracts with governments.

 

Malta deserves better - Metsola

Reacting to the report MEP Roberta Metsola, who was part of the EP mission, said: "Exactly 13 months since the vile assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the European Parliament has released a report on the situation in Malta which must be taken seriously. There are some key findings including the need to significantly step up the fight against corruption and a call for the linked politically exposed persons to be investigated. 

We call for action on SLAPP lawsuits and a publication of a stand-alone list of anyone who has purchased Maltese citizenship. Through the report the Parliament has endorsed the call to immediately publish the EGRANT enquiry report in full and underlines that that Minister Konrad Mizzi remains the only EU minister to be exposed by the Panama Papers and ran away from the delegation's questions on 17 Black. Significantly, the Parliament also calls for the hate campaign against the family and memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia to end and a solution to be found for the makeshift memorial in Valletta. 

It is obscene that Konrad Mizzi remains in Government and continues to cast such a dark shadow on an entire population. It is disgraceful that he continues to act with total impunity. There can be no place in politics for him.  Malta deserves better. Our voices will not fade."

 

 

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