The writing was on the wall

There are many other cases in which criminal and business associates were killed and murdered by bombs; a lot of those leads are connected to the world in which the Degiorgios and the Agiuses moved in

From left: Adrian and Robert Agius being led out of court after their arraignment (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
From left: Adrian and Robert Agius being led out of court after their arraignment (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Surely everyone is over the moon in witnessing the determination of the Commissioner of police Angelo Gafà in the arrest that could bring some of Malta’s most feared criminals to justice. Surely his resolve is more than a breath of fresh air in comparison to the wilful lethargy of former years.

It is more than needed after decades of tolerating the most inexcusable lacunas in our laws, and to finally see the prosecution of the villains who broke the law.

Gafà was prevented from acting and prosecuting before because police officers before him failed to act and piece the much-needed evidence that was needed. Surely, one has to be very clear that this problem did not start in 2013. It started way before this.

The culture of nonchalance in the police did not change in 2013, even though, it should be said that someone in power pounced upon this culture to save their own skin.

Robert Abela has to be credited with these reforms and more so after having inherited the good and bad of the Muscat administration. In my piece today for Illum, I call on Abela not to abdicate those powers that can allow him to hand-hold in the much-needed reform of police and criminal justice. Similarly the police should appreciate that political direction in security and enforcement issues is a must, not only an obligation. They are there to serve, after all, not to rule.

Before their arrest, the Agius ‘tal-Maksar’ brothers – sons of the murdered car dealer Ray Agius – were long known in the criminal world. They were said to be untouchable, even with their low media profile. Journalists felt that the police were reluctant to take them on.

Last year MaltaToday and The Times carried an exposé about the Maksar brothers and their connection to the Caruana Galizia assassination and the perpetrators. One evident link was also the motive behind the killing of lawyer Carmel Chircop, which was revealed in early 2020 by MaltaToday; and before that, the connection with their former associate, now disappeared, Terence Gialanze.

There are many other cases in which criminal and business associates were killed and murdered by bombs; a lot of those leads are connected to the world in which the Degiorgios and the Agiuses moved in.

Take Carmel Chircop, a lawyer shot four times in the morning of 8 October 2015 in Birkirkara. Before Vincent Muscat confirmed what happened on this murder, MaltaToday had discovered that Adrian Agius had been the guarantor for a €750,000 loan Chircop passed on to More Supermarkets, the chain that eventually went bust, with its boss Ryan Schembri, a cousin of former PM chief of staff Keith Schembri, leaving the island. In 2014, Chircop had entered into a contract with Schembri, as director of Erom Limited, and loaned him the sum of €750,000. The other debtors in the contract were Schembri’s business partner Adrian Agius and Etienne Cassar. Schembri, Agius and Cassar also owned shares in another joint company called Interaa Holdings.

Adrian Agius was the guarantor on this €750,000 debt, presenting his grand villa property on Engineer Street, Madliena heights. When Chircop was gunned down in cold blood in it appears he did not get his money back. Six months after the murder, Adrian Agius asked his willing and notorious lawyer Arthur Azzopardi to ask the courts to cancel the deed that had blocked his property as a guarantee for the €750,000 debt.

Carmel Chircop’s widow first refused the claim claiming Adrian Agius had informed Chircop “to take his villa in Madliena as repayment for the loan to Erom. If what he now claims is true, [Agius] would have not put the villa up… the business that was to take place with Carmel Chircop never did happen because the agreement was that either Erom or the loan guarantor, pay back the money loaned to them.”

In September 2017 the villa Agius put up as a guarantee was sold for €1.8 million. The notary was the same Malcolm Mangion, who set out the deed for Chircop’s loan. In January 2018, Agius’s lawyer Arthur Azzopardi told the court Agius was renouncing the case after an out-of-court settlement with the Chircop heirs.

Now all this is just the tip of the Iceberg. For the investigations carried out by journalists could have easily have been carried out by the police, in far more detail. But the story-line was that stepping on the toes of powerful criminals, without the guarantee of immediate police action, or protection, could face journalists with an unwanted fate.

Indeed, at the time of the More Supermarkets bust, Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote this in October 2014, no doubt having been fed an informed view of Malta’s gangland by a police source. It went like this.

“Adrian Agius, who is in his early 30s, is a member of the Ryan Schembri (there are others, but more of that later) gang who financed their ‘meat imports from Brazil’ using loans of undeclared cash from tax-evading businessmen who were promised interest of between 20% and 40% a month. His father, Raymond Agius – the family nickname is Tal-Maksar – was a smuggler who used a car dealership and real estate business as cover for the real source of his income. He was shot in the head by contract killers at the Butterfly Bar in Birkirkara in April 2008. He was 49. The contract killers – two – entered the bar where he was drinking at 9.15am, wearing crash helmets, and shot him point blank. They got away on a motorbike. Nobody has been charged with the murder. Adrian Agius’s friend and close associate, the drug-dealer Terence Gialanze, vanished in November 2012 after telling his family that he was going fishing. His car was found parked and locked, and his yacht was still at its usual mooring. None of his bank accounts have been touched since. He is presumed dead. He was 24 when he vanished. At 23, Gialanze owned a top-of-the-range BMW SUV and a Bentley, a yacht, and he lived with his Romanian girlfriend in a large villa which he rented for thousands every month.”

The inference that Adrian Agius was behind the murder was clear. Abundantly clear to Agius at least. Later in her last blogs, she refers to the two brothers in her typical scalding fashion. The Agius brothers were willing executioners and the only thing that kept them from implementing their dark desire was only a simple encouragement.