The key to a bigger web of corruption

The truth is that Yorgen Fenech is certainly no saint, but it is equally true that he could be the key to a more sinister web of corruption that is at the heart of a political dream that went badly wrong and turned criminal

Alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind, Yorgen Fenech
Alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind, Yorgen Fenech

Yorgen Fenech had offered police investigators information on what he described as the ‘masterminds’ in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and valuable information related to corruption. The decision to issue a pardon or not was the sole prerogative of the Cabinet.

On that fateful night on the 28 November the Cabinet met to decide upon this. They had a choice, a yes or a no. But if they had opted for yes, they would have waved the greenlight for a deluge of accusations that would have derailed the whole Labour project.

As they deliberated, civil society camped outside Castille and drowned their discussion with their justified noise and calls for them to resign. In the end they opted not to issue a pardon, nor ask the Attorney General to enter into negotiations on the nature of the information he was willing to give.

For it was obvious that any revelation would eventually create an even bigger political tsunami and open up more problems in a political tragedy that no one had ever imagined.

Fenech told the former Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar that he was willing to divulge details on the other ‘masterminds’, and on corruption related to the Electrogas contract, the Montenegro scandal and an obscure kickback from a Hong Kong transaction, apart from all the other cases.

The big question facing anyone who decides on such a pardon is whether someone who is culpable or partially culpable should be allowed to go scot free, as was the case with Joseph Fenech (Zeppi l-Ħafi). The answer should be a no, which is why perhaps there should have been a consideration of a commuted sentence or a partial pardon.

I am not the one to say, for everyone is innocent before being found guilty. However in my view, the reluctance to go down this road, was not only limited to Cabinet but to the police. Two of the police officers in the investigation – Cutajar and Keith Arnaud – were on good terms with Keith Schembri and traditionally only a phone call away if something needed to be said or communicated.

The kid gloves’ approach to Keith Schembri was ever-present in the way the whole investigation has progressed.

The truth is that Yorgen Fenech is certainly no saint, but it is equally true that he could be the key to a more sinister web of corruption that is at the heart of a political dream that went badly wrong and turned criminal.

Sooner or later, the truth will surface.

Those who argue that Robert Abela was part of the problem are obviously motivated by a perfectly understandable drive to score political points. But the vast majority of those in Cabinet and the thousands who blindly supported Labour never subscribed to the corruption racket that now seems inherent to this project, nor to the cover-up of the Caruana Galizia murder.

Abela will obviously have to live with the tremors and the cracks his administration now has to endure, but his actions until now are commendable.

He will also have to accept that the ‘supremacy’ of the Muscat years was driven by hopes and compromises that could not be realised in the long-term. Fenech holds the key to secrets that surely present a clearer picture and can join the dots when it comes to the level of corruption inside this new chapter of Maltese ‘tangentopoli’.

The decision to revisit a Fenech pardon is not an easy one, and it cannot be an open pardon.

Fenech surely is culpable.  But beyond the culpability of a thoughtless and reckless young man who could not see the limits of power and crime, it is clear that he has the key to unravelling a deception that went beyond our wildest dreams and was rooted in greed and criminality.

 

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When I decided to speak up in early December and hit out at Keith Schembri’s and Joseph Muscat’s deception, I did it consciously of the corollaries of such a statement.

This was a time to swallow my pride and speak the truth. And nothing – not even a veiled threat from a disgraced, greedy, former fixer – would stop me from speaking or doing what is right or important.

In 2013, I believed we needed a political change and I have no regrets about that. But nothing prepared me for this greed and this sham of a political charade. The infamy of seeing individuals using their power base to enrich themselves and use their political party to get to the driver’s seat and control and manipulate our political destiny was the hardest part.

This week, a man was acquitted of drug trafficking charges dating back to 2012. That man is 36-year-old Robert Agius, known as il-Maksar. In December 2017, Agius, along with his brother Adrian and several other people, was arrested by police in connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder.

The Agius brothers were released and never charged but court testimony given by murder middleman Melvin Theuma shows how he had been sent by Yorgen Fenech to the Maksar brothers, to allegedly procure the bomb that assassinated Caruana Galizia.

Within the parameters of this week’s case, Agius pleaded not guilty to involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy, simple possession of cocaine and keeping an unlicensed firearm or ammunition, as well as recidivism. The police had identified Agius as a suspect after apprehending a woman who had arrived in Malta on a flight from Cairo with two plastic blocks filled with heroin.

During questioning, the woman had told the police that she had agreed to smuggle the drugs into Malta for Agius. He had paid her €500 for this and promised a further €1,000 upon delivery of the drugs. The police drugs squad set up a controlled delivery, replacing the drug-filled blocks with slabs of wood.

The woman waited at her rendezvous point until a car, driven by a third party, pulled up next to her. Agius was in the passenger seat and the driver’s brother was at the back. As the car passed in front of her, the woman pushed a paper bag containing the dummy drugs through the passenger window, receiving cash in return. The car was stopped further up the road by a police van. The accused was arrested and his home was searched. There, police found a suspicious substance believed to be cocaine and a live round from a .38 revolver.

But as criminal proceedings rolled on, the woman refused to testify as separate criminal proceeding were still pending against her. The proceedings dragged on for years as a result. Agius’s lawyers filed a constitutional application, arguing that their client’s right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time had been breached. This was upheld, ruling as unacceptable the prosecution’s insistence on summoning the woman as a crucial witness, despite her exercising her right not to testify while her appeal had yet to be heard.

Following that judgment, the criminal case resumed, six years after Agius’s arraignment.

Delivering an acquittal on Wednesday, the court, presided by magistrate Neville Camilleri, noted that the driver of the vehicle had testified how the woman had pushed a bag through the open window and how his passenger, Agius, had immediately tossed it back out onto the road. The court concluded that the drug-trafficking conspiracy charge remained unproven.

Citing a raft of previous court judgments, the magistrate declared that the prosecution had not proven the accused’s intention to sell or traffic drugs, nor his alleged agreement with other co-conspirators nor any plan to complete the crime. It even observed that the substance suspected of being cocaine at Agius’s home was never tested and hence, was not proven to be cocaine.

The court dismissed all the charges, save that regarding the unlicensed round of ammunition found at the accused’s home – for which the man was ordered to pay a €500 fine! Of course, the lawyer was none other than Arthur Azzopardi. I have no further comment to make!

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