A criminal network indicted

There is a big cultural gap between the world of the criminal network involved and the world Caruana Galizia inhabited

Vincent Muscat (Il-Kohhu)
Vincent Muscat (Il-Kohhu)

The dramatic events last week that led to Vincent Muscat (Il-Koħħu), one of those accused with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, admitting the charges made against him and being given a 15-year jail sentence have led to the indictment of what is probably Malta’s most horrendous criminal network.

According to the Commissioner of Police, now every person – from mastermind to executioners – involved in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, has been apprehended.

When the assassination took place, many started to conjure stories of foreign involvement, speculating that this was the first bombing in Malta involving use of semtex and other such creative rumours.

The real story was much different. Everything was organised and carried out locally by people for whom elimination of one human being was no different from the elimination of another human being – or so they thought.

Vincent Muscat admitted his guilt in the Caruana Galizia murder after a plea bargain. For ‘spilling the beans’ Muscat was given a pardon for his involvement in another assassination – that of lawyer Carmel Chircop who in 2015 was shot in the Birkirkara garage complex where he normally garaged his car. The conditions of this pardon obliged Muscat to identify the persons who commissioned and executed Chircop’s murder; to give details of money paid and to indicate what happened to the gun and the car used in the assassination.

Three people have now been charged with the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop. Two of the arraigned men are also accused of being involved in the Caruana Galizia assassination, together with a third one.

This lawyer’s involvement with the criminal world is at this moment, a matter of speculation. The Commissioner of Police refuses to divulge whether a €750,000 loan Chircop had given to More Supermarket – which was run by Ryan Schembri – was a matter of interest in the investigation. That plot must thicken some more, before everything becomes clearer.

Malta has experienced 19 bomb attacks since 2010, with five people targeted in the last 11 months. Several of these cases are still unsolved, with many cases linked to a criminal network that thrives on diesel smuggling, drug trafficking and usury. Some six persons were murdered but public outrage was scarce – many considered these bombs as criminals settling scores between them. As rumour has it, one might have even been a Police informer. In all cases, the Police hardly did anything, of course.

Car-bombing someone who falls out with the others in a criminal network is quite different from carrying out the assassination of a high-profile person such as Daphne Caruana Galizia. The score being settled was of a different type and the person who is accused of ordering the killing was not an established criminal ‘boss’.

It seems to me that those who accepted to carry out the Daphne Caruana Galizia job did not realise the importance of this difference. They seem to have expected the usual Police investigation leading nowhere.

It was nothing like that.

In this case, public pressure for justice was intense. The FBI was asked to help and its input was vital. Now the whole sordid story seems to have been revealed, although I would not be surprised if there are still some unknown facts.

What intrigues me is the assassins’ failure to realise the difference between the settling of scores between criminals, and murdering a widely followed blogger to “shut up her mouth”, so to speak.

There is a big cultural gap between the world of the criminal network involved and the world Caruana Galizia inhabited. This was not the case of the other car bombs.

The criminal network that thought this was just another ‘job’ was completely wrong.

They failed to realise that their victim did not belong to their social milieu and do not seem to have expected the public outcry that the murder provoked.

Why? Does their background and environment exclude awareness of the other ‘Malta’? This issue deserves a thorough social and anthropological investigation.

Criminality, after all, does not exist in some bubble cut off from the rest of society.

Vaccination ‘passports’

The EU is working on the idea of introducing certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who have had an anti-COVID vaccination.

This follows pressure from southern EU countries that depend heavily on tourism and who cannot afford to lose another summer holiday season.

With the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 now gathering pace, some governments, like those of Greece and Spain, are pushing for a quick adoption of an EU-wide certificate for those already inoculated so that people can travel again.

Other countries, such as France and Germany, appear more reluctant, as officials there say this would be discriminatory in the case of those who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is particularly strong in France where the government has pledged not to make them compulsory.

Vaccination “passports” – or other forms of COVID-19 status certificates – will enable people to present proof of vaccination and so skip quarantine protocols when arriving in a another country.

Some countries have already introduced such policies, with Iceland becoming the first European nation to issue vaccine certificates.

Greece did not wait for an EU decision and introduced a digital vaccination certificate for those who have received two doses of the vaccine.

In the UK, Boris Johnson sought to allay fears that certificates could marginalise those unable to receive the COVID-19 injection, saying a UK government review would be, “mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discrimination and privacy”.

There are still some decisions to be taken. Will the certificates be in digital form? Will they be accepted globally? At what stage in the two-step inoculation process should the certificates be issued?

The EU is working on these issues with the International Air Transport Association, which is keen to revive air travel, and with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization.

More important is the fact that there is no guidance yet from the WHO and EU agencies as to whether people who have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine can still carry the virus and infect others, even if no longer vulnerable themselves.

Moreover, it is not clear how long people remained immune after having been infected and fought off the coronavirus.