We depend on the judicial system, now more than ever

So we have to believe that the judicial system will see through all this, and that it will deliberate according to the law, not according to the ploys and games constructed in the corridors of power, structured to enrich the few and manipulate the weak and naive

Muscat and Schembri: Labour bros...
Muscat and Schembri: Labour bros...

We were discussing as editors the implications of what came out in the law courts this week about the names implicated in the Caruana Galizia assassination. “Nothing seems to stick,” I said, as we looked back on stories we had published on the people implicated in the murder, and why little outrage had been stoked or moved politicians and law enforcement to take action.

We looked each other in the eye and then one of us fidgeting with his papers in his hand mumbled: “Well, Muscat could well have destroyed his own legacy but he ate into our credibility as agenda-setters,” he said, referring to the media as a whole. Yes, it was true. Muscat did fall from grace but in doing so he pulled us all down with him. After all it was civil society that brought him down in November, not the media alone. Perhaps only us here could understand the unstoppable Labour machine and why it was trashing everyone at the polls. But, just like the rest of our colleagues, we were also shocked that the public could not be motivated by stories about corruption and clientelism. Instead they were more interested in their own financial well-being and purchasing power.

Muscat could not have done this without his smooth operators. They were Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. Beyond the unknown stories we are now learning about, they were effective captains and, in the case of Schembri, the machine operator who had his finger on every important decision.

Today Schembri, like Muscat, makes it a point to remind everyone of how benevolent he was to the needs and requests of every little man and woman (and great businessman and businesswoman). Loyalty to him is measurable according to the attention he showered upon those who requested an audience, given the overweening influence he wielded as field marshal of Muscat’s government (that particular story will come in a forthcoming draft for a second installation of my memoirs…).

There were many decisions taken with the connivance of Muscat but were also created, controlled and implemented by Schembri and Mizzi. Vitals, Electrogas and others are the better examples. And in all cases, there are still more questions that need to be asked.

But one last decision taken by Muscat should not go unnoticed. It’s not the far-from-secretive support given to Robert Abela in the campaign to be elected leader, or the ill-timed travels of the Muscat family as he exited from power.

It is the unilateral decision taken by Joseph Muscat to issue a pardon to lowlife Melvin Theuma.

It was clear that Theuma’s recordings, and his knowledge and involvement, had a direct impact on Muscat’s standing and that of his most loyal men – Keith Schembri and Chris Cardona, and their obedient serfs like Lawrence Cutajar, Kenneth Camilleri and Cardona’s underlings.

On the 28 November 2019, the Cabinet met to discuss a request from Yorgen Fenech for a presidential pardon. They decided against it. It was a biased decision at that moment in time, because Fenech’s accusations were pointed right at the heart of the Labour government (Muscat had not resigned at that point), and Keith Schembri in particular. No minister in their right mind at that point would have chosen to unleash Yorgen Fenech against all them.

Yet days before, Muscat had already gone ahead and given a pardon to Theuma. It was even more austere than the pardon given to Joseph Fenech ‘il-Hafi’, or George Farrugia – two pardons which, as we know, were grave political mistakes.

From recordings, many of which have not been (purposely?) presented by the police as evidence, it is abundantly clear that Melvin Theuma was primarily revealed as the assassins’ contact – the ‘middleman’ – when triggerman Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’ mentioned him sometime in April 2018 in a bid to obtain a pardon by revealing all he knew about the assassination, as well as potential information on past murders and heists.

That information did not surface at the time, because it was then that the police got the breakthrough on Theuma and of course, Yorgen Fenech. Consider that, from testimony and recordings we know of, it was clear that Theuma was being kept abreast of what the police knew from Castille and what Castille knew from top police brass all throughout the last years. That’s because when Muscat spoke to police in 2018, this information was leaked onwards and upwards, and even downwards, to the other lowlifes who learned that Muscat could shop the other culprits.

So if this is not diabolical and shameful, what is? It seems that without that initial suggestion of Theuma’s involvement, the police would have had nothing in the first place.

Consider also that, towards November 2019, when Theuma is fearing he will be arrested in a money laundering raid that was unavoidable, Vincent Muscat’s brief was dropped by his lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, a one-time freemason mentioned a few times in the Theuma tapes. One asks: why had the lawyer dropped this brief at a time when it was revealed that Muscat had requested a pardon back in 2018?

And keep in mind that Yorgen Fenech himself is key to, perhaps not just the murder, but to many corruption scandals that could throw some light on the Vitals, Electrogas and Montenegro deals – cases which could be forensically difficult to prove.

There is little doubt that Fenech is not an innocent party. But it appears clearer by the day that he is not a singular character in this plot, which is why this murder has many ramifications and go beyond the omnipotence of one of Malta’s richest young men.

It is very possible that Melvin Theuma’s own testimony is peppered with contradictions and inconsistencies. And that is why we must look deep into the role that the police have played in serving Castille before Muscat fell from power. Looking at Fenech only would be a mistake – we have to look elsewhere too.

And while the Caruana Galizia family has more rights than all of us in seeing justice being made, society cannot have a judicial process that is disjointed or prejudicial. Yorgen Fenech will have to pay for his criminal acts when found guilty, but he cannot be denied the rights that others have. This is about justice as a whole.

And even more than all that, this is a story about the ugly, ugly, ugliness of Maltese politics and society, the unfairness of it all, our own House of Cards, and the nexus of the criminal and political world.

So we have to believe that the judicial system will see through all this, and that it will deliberate according to the law, not according to the ploys and games constructed in the corridors of power, structured to enrich the few and manipulate the weak and naive.