It was a trap... and Adrian Delia walked right into it

Whose interest does it serve, to cast doubt on the only testimony that might actually bring closure to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case… if not the people who actually murdered her, or the people who have an interest in covering the murder up?

Well, it looks like one of my worst fears is about to be realized. In October last year, I wrote that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder was shaping up to become “Malta’s umpteenth unsolved crime”… because “there are just too many forces, too hard at work, to unwittingly see to it that it remains a mystery forever”.

And what do you know? The week’s events have conspired to take that possibility one step closer to becoming a reality. For the process of discrediting State witness Melvin Theuma – on whose testimony everything hinges – has now begun in earnest; and it was started by (of all people) the leader of an Opposition party that has been calling for ‘justice for Daphne’ since August 2017.

OK, let’s rewind a little. For the past few weeks, the Nationalist Party media has been trumpeting allegations, made by Melvin Theuma in court, to the effect that Chris Cardona was all along the real mastermind behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder (note: for the rest of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve been following the recent developments in court).

So far, no hard evidence has been produced to substantiate that claim… which, in any case, consists of hearsay: for Theuma himself was merely repeating what he was told by Yorgen Fenech; and even if most of Theuma’s testimony can be backed up by recorded telephone conversations, it still boils down to ‘what he was told by others’… which (as any lawyer can easily confirm) makes it entirely inadmissible as evidence in a murder trial.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that Cardona is innocent; but it does mean that the legal case against him is very, very weak. Theuma’s testimony, on its own, cannot even stand up in a court of law: still less be considered sufficient to convict a man on homicide charges.

Nor has anyone, it seems, even considered the fact that Yorgen Fenech (being the main suspect) has a clear, self-evident motive in widening the net of suspicion as much as possible. The more people he successfully implicates in this case, the less his own culpability – and with it, the sentence he will receive – when (or if) it ever comes to a guilty verdict.

And Fenech is not the only one who would benefit from an inconclusive murder trial, either. It is now painfully apparent that Daphne’s murder was linked to government corruption before 2017… and there is already prima facie evidence that public officials (including Keith Schembri and former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, both of whom were named by Theuma as possible sources of ‘leaks’) may have obstructed the course of justice, once the investigation was under way.

Meanwhile, it is obvious that the court case against Yorgen Fenech will only reveal more details of the Muscat administration’s shady dealings as it goes along – just on Friday, a Times/Reuters report suggested a link with the Montenegro wind-farm deal, for instance – so it should be equally obvious that anyone involved in any of that corruption, at any level, will likewise have a vested interest in throwing a spanner into the works (as, indeed, some already have tried to do).

But of course, none of that actually matters. The only important consideration, so far, has always been that Theuma’s testimony reflects popular suspicion: and as long as his unsubstantiated claims were limited to Chris Cardona – and therefore, by extension, to the Labour Party (of which Cardona was deputy leader until earlier this week)… then as far as all the political opponents of Labour were concerned, everything Theuma uttered in court was automatically going to be received as ‘Gospel Truth’.

Until, that is, the inevitable happened… and Theuma departed from the script, by making allegations about Opposition leader Adrian Delia instead: this time, that Yorgen Fenech had attempted to bribe the PN (to the tune of either €50,000 or €250,000, depending whose version you believe) into engineering an electoral defeat for David Casa in the MEP elections.

And just like that – from one second to the next – ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ are no longer enough to confirm guilt (as they were until just a few days ago). Suddenly, the same people who have been calling for Chris Cardona’s head on a plate, on the basis of entirely unproven hearsay, came out guns blazing to demand ‘proof’ of allegations against themselves: made by the same witness, in the same case, as the ones against Cardona.

I could almost stop right there, because already the sheer nakedness of the hypocrisy is plainly visible for all to see. Unfortunately, however, there is a lot more to this than mere hypocrisy by Maltese politicians (which, in any case, is not exactly ‘new’).

There is also the small matter that the entire case against Yorgen Fenech depends exclusively on the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness: as, incidentally, does the Presidential pardon which made this murder trial possible in the first place.

And it is this very credibility that Adrian Delia is now undermining, with his insistence on ‘proof’ of the bribery allegation ‘within 24 hours’.

That ultimatum has not yet expired at the time of writing; but already there are indications that no such proof will be forthcoming... not in 24 hours, nor even 24 years.

Nationalist MP David Thake (who was the first to call for an investigation) has so far refused to disclose the identity of his informant to the police… and without that all-important piece of the jigsaw puzzle, investigators can only be expected to hit a brick wall.

It also bears mentioning that Delia’s challenge was not directed at Melvin Theuma himself; but rather, at Karl Stagno Navarra (who repeated the allegation, with a little embroidery, on the Labour-owned One TV).

So unless Stagno Navarra can produce anything resembling ‘evidence’ of this bribery claim… within the deadline, or beyond it… it looks destined to fizzle out into yet another dead-end lead.

This brings me to the truly astonishing aspect in all this: it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Adrian Delia that it is not at all in the interest of the Labour Party’s media to prove the allegation against him.

Quite the contrary, in fact: One TV – just like its Nationalist counterpart, Net – views its sole raison d’etre as defending the political party which owns it. And for reasons already outlined, the Labour Party has motives of its own for wishing to derail a murder trial that is likely to expose more (and more, and more) of its own past misdeeds.

It is therefore more than likely that Karl Stagno Navarra’s intention was precisely to bait Delia into publicly rebutting that same allegation… by forcing the PN leader to claim (as he already did, in different words) that Theuma was trying to ‘frame’ him… which, by an extraordinary coincidence, is exactly the same line adopted by Chris Cardona in his turn.

And given that both these allegations originate, not from Melvin Theuma himself, but from Yorgen Fenech – who, as already indicated, has an interest in muddying the waters of the murder investigation – well, why on earth should we believe one claim, but not the other?

To put that another way: if Theuma proves to be an unreliable witness – either because he’s lying, or repeating the lies of others – when it comes to his claims about Adrian Delia… why should the rest of his testimony be regarded any differently? Not just about Cardona’s involvement, but also about Yorgen Fenech himself?

And whose interest does it serve, to cast doubt on the only testimony that might actually bring closure to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case… if not the people who actually murdered her, or the people who have an interest in covering the murder up?

What Adrian Delia has just done, therefore – or rather, what he was tricked into doing – is effectively make the possibility of Fenech’s eventual acquittal that much more realistic.

And I’m still not sure what astounds me more: the fact that he clearly didn’t weigh the long-term implications of his own actions… or that he would walk so blindly into such an obvious trap.

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