Malta’s pentito?

Malta needs to start breathing fresh air that is not polluted by the type of foul and wicked culture that has been exposed

Vince Muscat
Vince Muscat

In his testimony this week in the compilation of evidence against brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia, Vince Muscat – nicknamed il-Koħħu – revealed the workings of a criminal gang that was based at the potato shed in Marsa and had connections to Robert and Adrian Agius, known as Tal-Maksar.

Undoubtedly, this insight into Malta’s criminal underworld has left many people shocked and dismayed – more so as to the why and to the how the Police left this underworld to flourish. Its origin and development precedes the Joseph Muscat administration: those who wanted to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia, in fact, utilised an existing criminal network to do the job for them.

Vince Muscat’s revelations remind me of Italy’s foremost pentito, Tommaso Buscetta – a member of the Sicilian Mafia, who became one of the first of its members to turn informant and explain the inner workings of the organization.

His contributions included testimony at the so-called ‘Maxi trial’, which became the biggest anti-Mafia trial in history. Even after judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were murdered, Buscetta continued to provide testimony to the Anti-mafia Commission in Italy.

The ‘Maxi trial’ lasted from February 1986 to January 1992 and was held in a bunker-style courthouse specially constructed for this purpose inside the walls of the Ucciardone prison.

Sicilian prosecutors indicted 475 Mafiosi, most of whom were convicted. It is considered to be the most significant trial ever against the Sicilian Mafia, as well as the largest trial in world history. Throughout and after the trial, several judges and magistrates were killed by the Mafia, including the two who led it – Falcone and Borsellino.

Of course, the scale of Malta’s criminal network is puny compared to the Sicilian mafia; but otherwise there is an uncanny parallel.

In both cases, it is obvious that these are circumstances whereby the State has to give pardons in return for damning evidence about an entire criminal network. Muscat’s testimony, in fact, is shedding new light on other crimes that are not really connected with Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

It has also led to many speculations. Former Economy Minister Chris Cardona has dismissed Muscat’s claims as “utter lies” that can easily be confirmed, or otherwise, by checking official records. This after Muscat testified that he used to drive Alfred Degiorgio to Castille to meet with Cardona, claiming he would drop him off and go. Muscat said that subsequently Degiorgio would call him about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s whereabouts. According to Muscat, Alfred Degiorgio once told him: “Cardona sent me a message. He mentioned the €150,000.”

One can say that some of Muscat’s evidence does not refer to his direct experience but to what he was told – ‘detto del detto’, as lawyers put it.

Yet his allegations cannot be taken lightly. They seem to fit in with a plausible narrative about the proximity of some leading high-profile politicians with hardened criminals.

Vince Muscat even referred to a “big job” allegedly involving an incumbent minister besides Chris Cardona, provoking the Prime Minister to urge the Police Commissioner to investigate the allegation. Subsequently, the PM said that Vince Muscat had refused to divulge the sitting minister to the police; apparently forgetting that last year – before being given a conditional pardon on yet a different murder – he had told police that he can name a sitting Labour politician whom, he believes, had helped plan the HSBC heist in 2010.

Much hinges on whether Muscat is saying the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If Muscat is caught lying, his privileges as a state witness benefitting from state pardons and bargain pleas will end up in smoke. He will then find himself in a very big mess.

It is very difficult to try to envision how this sad episode in Malta’s history will end up. Many hope that Muscat’s testimony will not be a futile experience and that it will serve to bring all guilty people to justice and rid the country of one of the most shocking and gruesome criminal networks in its modern history.

Malta needs to start breathing fresh air that is not polluted by the type of foul and wicked culture that has been exposed.

The trust in vaccines

So far, only 9.8 percent of E.U. residents have been vaccinated, leaving the bloc far behind Britain and the U.S. Figures for Malta show that the number of Maltese that were vaccinated far exceeds the EU average and, using this yardstick, Malta is in the top league.

Even so, there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason as to who in Malta is getting the vaccine and who has been left waiting.

The recent concern about the AstraZeneca vaccine has led to millions of Europeans becoming more hesitant about vaccination.

Providing vaccines for the EU’s 450 million people was never going to be a simple task, especially as the union hardly had a coordinated health policy before the pandemic. But bureaucratic delay and confusion in procuring vaccines from pharmaceutical companies, followed by slow authorization, followed by delivery problems, followed by the sudden panic over the AstraZeneca shot, has left European governments on the defensive.

The European Medicines Agency and the WHO have both said that there is no evidence of a link between increased risk of blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine, after 10 EU member states temporarily stopped using it,

In France, the government has swerved from praising the AstraZeneca inoculation a few days ago to suspending it. The reaction to this confusion was swift, even if the government insisted there is no established medical cause for fear. A poll published last Tuesday showed that only 20% of French people now trust the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 58% sceptical, and 22% undecided.

Meanwhile, large parts of Europe are at the start of a third coronavirus wave and experts have said that the decision to pause the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over health concerns will likely lead to a rise in cases and in a high number of deaths.

In a news conference in Brussels the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen declared: “I trust AstraZeneca, I trust the vaccines”

But reassuring words now may not persuade many Europeans, especially after the contradictory messages that they have been getting.