The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

Rule of law concerns ‘even stronger’, say MEPs following meetings with major parties

Helena Grech Friday, 1 June 2018, 20:29 Last update: about 4 years ago

Concerns about Malta's rule of law are "even stronger" say MEPs Ana Gomes and Sven Giegold following a day of meetings with the major political parties and civil society on the state of Malta's institutions and the progress about several investigations including the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Gomes, Giegold and PN MEP David Casa spent the day in Malta meeting with the relevant stakeholders as a follow-up into a rule of law report penned last January which included several recommendations. Report which emerged on high ranking officials through a consortium of journalists known as The Daphne Project also prompted the MEPs to inquire about why no police investigations were enacted as a result of the reports.

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Gomes said the MEPs are primarily concerned with why Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri remain in power despite the mounting hard evidence that they were involved with illicit practices by setting up secretive offshore structures.

Gomes expressed particular concern that, despite Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's remarks that no stone would be left unturned to find out who commissioned Caruana Galizia's brutal murder last October, the magistrate tasked with investigating is overburdened with hundreds of other cases.

She said the same can be said for the other magistrates who are tasked with investigating Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and the Prime Minister's wife.

Giegold described his "shock" that despite the numerous revelations made known through the Daphne Project, such as documents about Mizzi's offshore Panama companies and the contradictory explanations he provided were not followed up by investigative committees at a Parliamentary level.

He delivered a stark warning that Malta's booming economy could be seriously risked if the perception of impunity continues to strengthen by a lack of investigations or prosecution.

Another bone of contention is the fact that there are very few investigations into money laundering in Malta, fewer prosecutions and in the event of a guilty verdict the penalties are relatively light when the financial sector represents such a major portion of Malta's economy.

Last Thursday, Parliament held a discussion on the recommendations from the rule of law report produced last January by an MEP delegation with Labour MPs saying criticising the report of being biased.

Gomes boldly said that not one single fact produced in the report has been disputed, but it was the interpretations that have been called into question.

 She highlighted how it was the MEPs who questioned how Pilatus Bank, the controversial entity at the centre of numerous allegations, was granted a license to operate in the first place. Months later the owner of Pilatus Bank was arrested in the USA and investigators stated that the bank was set up with criminal proceeds.

More damning are the statements made by Giegold and Gomes that Moneyval, a highly reputable committee from the Council of Europe which evaluates money laundering legislation is "seriously concerned". Finance Minister Edward Scicluna once sat on this committee.

Asked whether Gomes and Giegold believe there has been some form of state or police 'cover up' into the murder of Caruana Galizia, Gomes said she could not say but reports of the three suspect charged with carrying out the murder would indicate that they were tipped off and that this should be investigated further. 

 

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