The Malta Independent 18 September 2021, Saturday

Muscat’s inaction against Schembri, Mizzi ‘strengthened culture of impunity’ – inquiry board

Neil Camilleri Thursday, 29 July 2021, 13:31 Last update: about 3 months ago

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s inaction against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri further strengthened the culture of impunity, the Daphne public inquiry has concluded.

The inquiry board said it had identified a responsibility by Muscat over his decision to keep Mizzi and Schembri by his side.

While Muscat could try to justify his inaction agaist the duo on the Panama Papers by saying he made the wrong political decision – something the board cannot accept – the same certainly cannot be said for the 17 Black revelations, where both men were implicated in allegations of serious crime.

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The board said these decisions taken by the PM, together with the backing he received from Parliament, strengthened the culture of impunity in which the people Daphne exposed operated.

This impunity certainly facilitated the assassination and was relied upon by organised crime, it said.

 

The Cabinet

The Cabinet also has a collective responsibility to shoulder, the board said.

While they can be excused in the case of the Panama Papers, since Joseph Muscat had assumed all responsibility over that incident, the same cannot be said for other cases like the 17 Black revelations.

“Surely at this stage, no ministers can be exonerated for not stating that those who were involved had no place in the Cabinet.”

It seemed, the board said, that the Cabinet was more interested in economic growth led by a restricted group of people, some of whom were implicated in the allegations that were coming out, than about protecting a person who was in grave risk for the reason that she was carrying out her duty. Neither did they prioritise the rule of law and good governance.

Despite the criticism by some of their colleagues, including Evarist Bartolo, the Cabinet still gave its backing to those who were implicated in wrongdoing. The fact that they looked the other way means that all Cabinet members backed the Prime Minister’s decision to let these things slide.

 

The police

The board also said that the police failed in their duty to protect the journalist. They should have been well aware of the risks the journalist faced, particularly after the Panama Papers publications.

It said the “rudimental” and “unprofessional” protection measures had been withdrawn and were only limited to elections and other similar events.

This behaviour was “inexplicable and unacceptable” given the dramatic circumstances that the journalist was going through. “It is certainly a certificate of inefficieny and incompetence, if not worse.”

 The board noted that no protocol exists on how the police should act to protect persons facing personal risks from criminal acts.

Everything falls under the discretion of the Commissioner of Police. The chief of police of the time Lawrence Cutajar, certainly failed to act in this regard, the board said.

 

 

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