What’s whores for Cardona is cocaine for Casa…

The burden of proof is supposed to work exactly the same way in both scenarios: just like Cardona before him, Casa is now expected to ‘prove’ his innocence… when that should really be the sole responsibility of the person making the claim

Nationalist MEP David Casa
Nationalist MEP David Casa

A lot of retrospective articles appeared this week, looking back on the first year since the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. I’ll leave both the hagiography and the demonisation to others: what I can safely affirm is that the event seems to have had an immediate, irreversible impact on Malta’s ability to ever think rationally about anything again. It is as though, along with so many other things, the explosion in Bidnija last October also destroyed part of our national capacity for logic; or what little was left of it, after decades of erosion by partisan fundamentalism.

You could start with reactions to the murder itself: polarised as they were along the inescapable binary reasoning that holds a suspect automatically ‘guilty’ or not ‘guilty’, depending only on whether you agree with their politics or not. And you could almost stop there, too; because in all their other manifestation, the same thought-processes always unfold along the exact same pattern.

No shortage of examples, but let’s start with a recent one: the immediate fall-out from the Daphne Project allegations published in La Repubblica last week.

Among the details that emerged was one concerning a man who had called Daphne to complain about an entry in her blog; and immediately afterwards went on to call first Economy Minister Chris Cardona, and then Alfred Degiorgio (one of the three arrested suspects in the murder case) in quick succession.

One millisecond later, the social media was in an uproar. Occupy Justice called for Cardona’s resignation, arguing that “It is clear that the close relationship between Mr Degiorgio and Dr Cardona makes his position as minister untenable”… significantly adding that: “Even if someone was convicted of murder, we will continue to suspect government involvement.”

Erm… what was I just saying, a few lines above, about how ‘innocence’ or ‘guilt’ depends only on… but hey, let’s not repeat ourselves. The really striking thing is that, before even getting to the small matter that this particular allegation (like so many others before it) has yet to be proven… there is already a contradiction is staring us all in the face.

The phone-calls themselves (and the blog-post they were reacting to) were actually connected with the Malta-Libya-Sicily fuel-smuggling racket: itself one of the leads being followed by the police investigation into Daphne’s murder.

Before this latest twist, most of the people who suspected Cardona’s involvement in that crime – or at least, who publicly argued that he should be treated as a prime suspect – had based their suspicions on the case concerning his presumed visit to a brothel in January 2017. It was Daphne’s exposition of this escapade, they argued, that was supposed to have triggered the alleged homicidal impulse… just as it had clearly triggered a desire to silence her, evidenced by the garnishee order with which Cardona later froze her bank accounts.

Interestingly enough, some of the people arguing this way also tried to minimise the fuel-smuggling connection as a potential lead, or even to portray it as a smokescreen to conceal the true nature of the crime. After all, something as distinctly apolitical as that – involving both the Sicilian and Libyan criminal underworlds, no less – couldn’t be made to fit into their chosen political conspiracy theory… so it could be safely discarded as an unreliable hypothesis, right?

Wrong! No sooner does an Italian newspaper forge a possible link between the Malta-Sicily-Libya fuel smuggling racket and Chris Cardona, than… hey presto! Not only does the previously discarded fuel racket link cease to be a ‘government-concocted smokescreen’, but suddenly it becomes de facto the actual motive behind the murder. And not because of any new discovery boosting its own plausibility, either… but only because it now appears to somehow involve Chris Cardona, where it never did before.

Only it wasn’t long before even that suddenly became questionable. This time it fell to another newspaper – the Malta Independent – to reveal that… um, no, actually: there are no records of any phone calls between Cardona and the man in question. This ‘close relationship’ between Cardona and Degiorgio has not been proven after all. So… where does that leave all those who argued that it not only existed, but even proved Cardona’s presumed connection to Daphne’s murder?

I guess they’ll just revert to their original position, and continue undermining the fuel racket link – which no longer offers any political mileage – in favour of the previous presumed ‘brothel’ motive (provided, of course, that no new ones get concocted in the meantime). After all, what do those two otherwise contradictory positions have in common, anyway… apart, naturally, from the fact that Chris Cardona emerges as automatically guilty from both, no matter what? Yes, that’ll do nicely. In fact, it echoes the sentiment behind that Occupy Justice statement almost to the letter.

Naturally, however (how could it be otherwise?) the same basic perversion of logic works just as well in reverse. Though the report was published in this newspaper, I have no qualms about expressing deep misgivings about the more recent allegations concerning David Casa: i.e., that he is said to have a cocaine habit to the tune of 6-700 euros a weekend. And my misgivings today run along exactly the same lines as those I had expressed about the original Chris Cardona brothel allegations.

There are admittedly one or two differences: mainly, that the Casa allegation arises from a sworn affidavit by a former (unnamed) member of his staff.  Not that this in any way affects the veracity or otherwise of the claim itself: but a sworn affidavit does have all the legal weight of a witness’s testimony in court; it is therefore well within the realms of the printable.

Other than that, however, you need only substitute ‘prostitution’ with ‘drugs’ to find that even the individual details are almost indistinguishable. Both allegations stem from a single, unidentified source; and both could just as easily be interpreted as naked, undisguised political character assassination attempts. Indeed, it would almost be shockingly naïve not to do so: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s political biases are too well known to even bother mentioning here; and in David Casa’s case, the accuser freely admits that he/she is motivated by a concern for the Nationalist Party, “[which] should be represented by exemplary individuals of high moral integrity.”

Again, it is a detail I would have chosen to omit, if I were the one pointing fingers at David Casa. What does it tell us about the nature of this accusation? If you ask me, only one thing: that if this person happened to admire and respect David Casa, or felt that he was a great asset to the PN… the allegation itself would never have surfaced at all. On the contrary, Casa’s alleged drug problem would no doubt have been dutifully covered up: as such allegations always (allegedly) are.

No, what we see quite clearly is that both cases involve politically motivated accusations, and as such have to be regarded as equally and automatically suspect. I did not believe the Cardona allegation without proof – nor the Egrant ones, for that matter – and there is no reason under the sun why I should apply any different reasoning to David Casa.

Ah, but that’s the whole issue right there. Just like the Cardona-fuel smuggling link, most of the people now defending Casa seem to have forgotten that they themselves had used the very same arguments against Cardona – and others – over the past year alone.

Where was their new-found concern with ‘innocence until proof of guilt’, when they themselves demanded Joseph Muscat’s resignation, over equally unproven allegations, before the last election? Where was all this insistence on the ‘burden of proof’, when Chris Cardona was the one they themselves expected to prove his own innocence, in subversion of the most fundamental legal principles known to man?

It seems a strange thing to have to still be pointing out in 2018, but… legal principles don’t change according to the political implications of the case at hand. ‘What’s whores for Cardona is cocaine for Casa’, and all that. The burden of proof works – or is supposed to work – exactly the same way in both scenarios; and in all others, too.

But this only raises awkward questions of how such allegations may be proven. Just like Chris Cardona before him, David Casa is now expected to ‘prove’ his innocence… when that should really be the sole responsibility of the person making the claim. But while all Cardona had to do was submit his mobile phone to scrutiny by the law-courts… David Casa is actually expected to piss into a little bottle, just to prove to the world that he doesn’t do drugs.

And yes, I mean that quite literally. He is expected to whip out his weener on demand, and empty his bladder into a test tube… just to gratify public curiosity about his personal lifestyle habits.

Ok, at this point I shall have to concede it feels somewhat strange to be sticking up for David Casa, of all people, but… how can I put this? Piss in a bottle, my eye! I mean, honestly. There are, I’ll grant you, specific instances when someone might justifiably be expected to submit himself to a mandatory drugs test: if he were participating in the Olympics, for instance… or had just run over and killed around a dozen people on the pavement.

But since when can ‘because someone, somewhere made an allegation’ ever possibly justify that sort of intrusive demand? Why, if that were the case… anyone could conceivably force anyone else to go through all the humiliation of a full-body cavity search… just by claiming that he was ‘walking around with half a kilo of heroin stuffed up his ass’.

The only difference is that everyone would instantly see (and feel) the injustice, if it was their own ass being invaded by latex-gloved fingers in search of those alleged heroin sachets. It’s only when the ass belongs to someone else – especially a politician we happen to dislike – that we would describe such an outrageous procedure as sterling an example of Malta’s criminal justice system in action.

Ultimately, however, all this could be avoided if we just stuck to a few simple rules of (ahem) thumb. Like, for instance: you’ve got an allegation to make? Go right ahead. Just remember that the anus… I mean, onus… of proof will lie on you afterwards, not on the person you’re making the allegation about. No, with no exceptions of any kind. And yes, actually: it really is that simple.

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