The questions that went unanswered

An independent inquiry would have been better off with truly independently-minded members of the judiciary, who would have given the findings of the inquiry more substance and credibility

A year ago, the country was facing a political crisis that left us in a state of paralysis and shock. Retail outlets came to a standstill, plagued by a sense of uncertainty and fear. Protests rocked Valletta and Malta’s one-time ‘star’ politician announced he would stand down (but not before visiting Dubai and Bethlehem on a ‘vacation’ paid partly by the State and so called ‘inconsequential donors’).

Friends and businessmen of Yorgen Fenech looked on in disbelief as they saw one of Malta’s richest, young and promising businessman go down in a murder plot that left us with more questions than answers.

The Labour Party elected its new leader and prime minister in an attempt to move on, after the upsetting revelations about Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri. Needless to say, the country remained without some very important answers about who, how and why Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered.

The public inquiry led by Justice Michael Mallia has failed to impress when it comes to separating fact from fiction. It has digressed from the crux of the matter and at times has shown itself concerned over minutiae best suited to a dinner-table conversation. The whole process has unfortunately been enhanced by a strong political bias of the lawyers representing the family, which at times has pursued a line of questioning that misses the wood for the trees.

An independent inquiry would have been better off with truly independently-minded members of the judiciary, who would have given the findings of the inquiry more substance and credibility. The lack of participation by the State Advocate to proffer an intellectually-curious and critical line of questioning on certain assertions made during the inquiry, is equally disheartening.

The questions that need answering, or at least explored through some clear-headed reasoning, would probably be these:

Is the murder plot wholly the design of Yorgen Fenech, or are there more individuals?

Were the plotters or plotter motivated by vendetta over some disparaging invective, or was it linked to revelations published or unpublished, or was it both?

Did Muscat and Keith Schembri and others intentionally drag out the arrest of Yorgen Fenech to buy themselves time?

Are the police privy to more details which would widen the culpability of this murder?

The answers to these questions are not too difficult if one where to sit down and carefully sift through the material in the public domain and ‘facts’ in the hands of some investigative journalists.

The first thing that we are still not too sure about, is whether Caruana Galizia had irked someone so badly that they had willingly accepted to be part of this execution. We know that apart from being a journalist with a serious eye for good journalism backed by hard facts, she was equally merciless in her poison-pen invective, vexing many, high and low. Her role as a publicist for influential people and businessman tends to be grossly underrated. One of these clients had been indeed been a businessman who met his untimely demise at the hands of a car bomb, probably the same type used in the Bidnija assassination.

It is also certain that she had more information than met the eye about 17 Black, and one that linked Yorgen Fenech with Keith Schembri directly. And it was news of the Dubai-based 17 Black that coincided with so many incidents and strategically leaked news stories which originated from Castille itself.

The motive is the hardest thing to establish here. 17 Black was identified as a target client of the Panama companies, all shrouded in secrecy and away from prying eyes. It is far worse that we now know that Joseph Muscat lied when he said that he did not know who owned 17 Black. And though politicians can get with a lie or two, 17 Black was no laughing matter. It has far more significance than most news stories.

Beyond the scandals of the Panama Papers, a secret company in Dubai which linked Muscat’s chief of staff with one of Malta’s richest businessmen, an Electrogas shareholder, and who way back in 2019 was suspected of being a person of interest in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, is clearly the most worrying thing of all. Muscat knew all, or most of this, or had a clear outline of the links and networks. He knew Schembri and Fenech were partners. And then he lied to the press about 17 Black.

If confirmed, there is plausible evidence in the hands of the police that could lead them to others sources of the finance that was pooled to to kill Caruana Galizia, and that it did not come from one source – that Yorgen Fenech might have been one of the contributors to this plot. There could have been others, with the executioner, the bomb-makers, and financial backers all working on some level towards the same goal.

The other consideration is to see to what level (and this something that many members of the Cabinet believe to be a probability), did the people who administered the country could have influenced the Security Services to delay the course of justice.

Last but not least, the Maltese police. There can be no argument that piecing the information together is not an easy task. That putting the jigsaw puzzle together has been a grim challenge marked by numerous technical and legal hurdles.

But there are many unanswered queries that make the police appear weak, predisposed to one theory and inclined to protect those who are surely culpable in one form or another.

This case cannot be closed and sealed if part of the truth is covered up or set aside. Sooner or later the truth will have to surface; only when the whole truth is known will this incubus come to an end.

Everyone is eager to see this case closed. And hopefully, 2021 will not only serve to rid us of COVID but also of this nightmare that has changed our lives forever.

A Merry Christmas to everyone!