The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Three ministers under criminal investigation and nothing happens

Friday, 8 November 2019, 09:35 Last update: about 28 days ago

On Wednesday a British minister resigned over allegations about a former aide's role in a trial - not his role but that of a former aide - because of ‘speculation’ surrounding a sensitive matter which is under investigation.

Alun Cairns, the UK’s Secretary of State for Wales, insisted he was confident he would be cleared of wrongdoing and denies allegations that he knew his former staffer had made claims about a victim's sexual history when he was a witness in a 2018 rape trial.  That was not allowed, and the trial collapsed.

The judge accused the former aide of having deliberately sabotaged the trial, and Cairns later endorsed the aide as a candidate for an upcoming Welsh Assembly election.

So here we have a matter of a minister of the British government falling on his sword in the lead-up to an election because he may have known something that one of his aides said in a trial in which he was a witness.

We will not go into the merits of this particular case as they matter little to our own domestic trials and tribulations, what we will speak of is the point of principle being employed here - a point of principle to which all politicians must be beholden but for which almost the whole of the Maltese parliament failed to receive the memo.

We have a situation in which three government ministers – Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna - have slipped and slid their way through the courts for months on end, delaying proceedings and dragging matters on ad infinitum as they try to wrangle their way out of what is very clearly going to be the inevitable.

Now the three ministers have not only been exposed as having had illicit access to the infamous Egrant magisterial inquiry, but new evidence presented in court on Wednesday has now convinced a magistrate to open an inquiry into possible money laundering and corruption.

The magistrate was the second to have ordered a magisterial inquiry into the three ministers into possible criminal complicity in the privatisations of St Luke’s Karen Grech and Gozo General hospitals.  That first decision had been appealed by the ministers, and which a judge, Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, upheld with the twisted reasoning that journalistic investigations were not suitable material for the initiation of inquiries.

Enter yesterday’s magistrate, Doreen Clarke, to set the matter straight by stating that the Ministers’ arguments that there had been no bribery and corruption proven were unfounded at law. Citing a raft of case law and legal texts, the Magistrate ruled that the law gave private citizens the right to request an inquiry, but not to collect evidence, which was the point of an inquiry.

The whole affair is an utter mess but in the face of all of this, the ministers concerned have not once, even now, felt the need to hold a press conference, joint or otherwise, where questions can be asked and answered, as is befitting a government minister.

We have three ministers who are acting as guilty as a child caught red-handed with his fingers in the cookie jar.  They delay court proceedings, they drag things and when faced with the fact that they are now under criminal investigation they simply choose to make known their intentions to appeal the issue further.  That, and not much else of any substance at all.  No explanations, just a terse statement.

They keep relatively quiet and choose their words very carefully when what they should really be doing is proclaiming their innocence from the rooftops.  But the problem with that is that it would be drawing too much attention to this nasty affair when all the government wants, in reality, is for this whole thing to go away and to not be held accountable...for anything.

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