Getting all excited about unconfirmed press reports again, are we?

But let’s not get too lost in speculation. In what seems to be a frequently recurring pattern, people like Casa, Azzopardi et al simply pick and choose whichever detail best suits their own preconceived notions… and to hell with anything that can’t be made to fit

Traditionally, the definition of a ‘fool’ is someone who consistently makes the same mistake, over and over again. And if there is any truth to that… well, it would make right royal dunces of us all, wouldn’t it?

How many times, over the last two years alone, we have all been successfully duped by one unverified allegation after another: all masquerading as ‘news stories’, and all instantly embraced as Gospel Truth?

And yet, no matter how often the same old ploy is used… it just keeps working, time and time again.

Last Sunday, for instance, The Sunday Times carried a frontpage story claiming that “a major businessman is among three potential key suspects behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, according to two sources close to the investigation.”

The same article claimed that “investigators are also focusing on at least two other men who could have been involved in the commissioning of the murder. One is believed to be connected with the gambling scene, the other suspected to be linked to the smuggling underworld”; and that “the murder was commissioned in early 2017 and was initially postponed, before the final go-ahead to kill the journalist was given in August that year.”

I suppose you can already guess what happened next. Instead of reacting with just a little bit of extra caution – which is kind of warranted, given how often ‘news stories’ have turned out to be a tonne of unadulterated bullshit instead – this latest unverified media report acted as a starter-pistol for the usual ‘mad scramble to join the dots’.

So Jason Azzopardi and David Casa (‘in all their unmatched wisdom’, no doubt) felt they had to tweet their own reaction before the ink even dried on the paper.  

And what do you know? Immediately (and exclusively) they seized on only the ‘early 2017’ detail: pointing out that Daphne had first mentioned the company ‘17 Black’ on February 2017… thus pole-vaulting to the conclusion that there must be a connection between Daphne’s murder, and the alleged kickbacks paid to 17 Black (which was also the target company of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s secret offshore companies, etc.)

A couple of small problems with that hypothesis, however. For starters, Daphne Caruana Galizia blogged about an awful lot of other stuff apart from 17 Black in early 2017.

Most of her blogs entries for January and February that year were actually about Chris Cardona and his (yet again alleged) visit to a German brothel the preceding month.

This complicates matters somewhat, as – for a while, at least – Chris Cardona himself was also presumed to be a suspect: there were even press reports suggesting that he had met with one of the three men later charged with Daphne’s murder, in a Siggiewi bar, on the eve of her assassination.

Ah, but guess what? That story - which incidentally was first broken by the (now presumably defunct) ‘Daphne Project’ – turned out to be a dud. First it emerged that Cardona was only seen at the same bar on the same night… and not, as reported, having a conversation with a key suspect in Daphne’s future murder.

Later, the source of this claim would confess to the police that he had made it all up, specifically to damage Cardona’s reputation further.

(Note: to date, I haven’t seen any retraction or apology in any of the international papers that reported the Daphne Project’s fake story as fact. I wonder why…).

Naturally, this didn’t stop the Council of Europe’s intrepid rapporteur Peter Omtzigt from including it among the conclusions of his damning CoE resolution earlier this year.

The report described “the failure of the police to interrogate economy minister Chris Cardona, despite claims that he had had contacts with the suspects” as one of its ‘serious concerns”.

Excuse me for asking, but… shouldn’t the Council of Europe be more concerned with the real facts of the case… instead of just eagerly swallowing every morsel of fake news it ever reads, hook line and sinker?

But more on Peter Omtzigt later.

Back to last Sunday’s article now, which also claims that: “Investigators have so far found no evidence linking politicians or persons holding political office to the murder, though a potential connection has not been ruled out.” (Funny, isn’t it, how Casa and Azzopardi would just happen to overlook that particular detail, of all the available options…?)

Then there’s this: “the victim and the potential suspect were never engaged in any legal battles or public wrangles”… which automatically excludes not only Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and everyone else connected with Panamagate  (who were all up to their eyeballs in ‘legal battles’ with Daphne); but – incredibly - pretty much anyone else Daphne Caruana Galizia had ever crossed swords with in public at all.

Now: if this story is indeed factual – for that’s something else: there is no reliable reason to suppose it is – this, to me, is by far its biggest ‘revelation’:  i.e., that the prime suspect in Daphne’s murder is someone completely unknown to the rest of us, with whom she herself had never ‘publicly wrangled’.  

It suggests we may all have been barking up the wrong tree these past two years…. and that is not exactly a very comforting thought for the Maltese media, now is it?

But let’s not get too lost in speculation. In what seems to be a frequently recurring pattern, people like Casa, Azzopardi et al simply pick and choose whichever detail best suits their own preconceived notions… and to hell with anything that can’t be made to fit.

So they not only contradict the article’s claim that that there is no evidence linking Daphne’s murder to local politics… but they also spectacularly overlook all the other tantalising possibilities it separately raises: such as the far more plausible Malta-Libya-Sicily fuel smuggling connection (one of the suspects is ‘linked to the smuggling underworld’, remember?)

This is doubly anomalous, because the Times had also reported (in October 2017) that: “sources close to the investigation into last week’s fatal car bombing said yesterday the journalist/blogger had been looking into the involvement of Maltese parties in a fuel-smuggling operation that included Libyan traffickers and Sicilian organised crime…’.)

But in any case: before even getting this far, there is also the teenie-weenie detail that last Sunday’s frontpage Times article is, in reality, just a rehash of another Times article from around a year ago… and which has since been disputed by (of all entities) the ‘Daphne Project’.

On November 18 2017, the Times had reported that “Malta’s top criminal investigators say they have identified a group of ‘more than two’ Maltese nationals who they believe masterminded the killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia…”

Sounds familiar already, huh?

There is, however, a small difference. Within a day of publication, Reuters journalist Stephen Grey (also member of the Daphne Project) tweeted that “an authoritative source tells me this report that masterminds who ordered killing Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have been identified is NOT TRUE.”

Almost a full year later, it remains impossible to ascertain whether this November 2017 Times story was, in fact, true or false.

So – million-dollar question coming up, folks - what makes people like Casa, Azzoprardi and now Peter Omtzigt (See? Told you I’d come back to him) so utterly convinced that this latest Sunday Times article is beyond all earthly suspicion or reproof… when similar details, from a similar story published in the same newspaper, were dismissed as ‘NOT TRUE” just eleven months ago?

Omtzigt even went as far as to describe the latest unverified claims as ‘revelations’ in a tweet. Leaving aside that this article doesn’t even ‘reveal’ very much that hasn’t been common knowledge for at least a year (and which, for the umpteenth time, remains only unconfirmed hearsay)… well, I suppose this shouldn’t really surprise us, coming from a man who has already included at least one entirely false allegation within the text of a Council of Europe resolution (and, incredibly, got to keep his job).

Honestly, you’d think people like Peter Omtzigt would have learnt their lesson by now.

Sorry, but this is Malta: a country where literally everyone feels perfectly justified in lying through their teeth… so long as their lie can help to further ‘their’ side’s political cause.  

In fact, you’d have to be a walking, talking embodiment of childlike naivety, to just (selectively) believe anything you ever read or hear like that… especially when it comes to stories that are replete with explosive political implications.

But again, this is hardly surprising… because people like Peter Omtzigt behave precisely as if they already know ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’ behind this murder… even though they know nothing else of any substance, either about Daphne Caruana Galizia herself, or the country in which she was murdered.

But while I am more or less resigned to this sort of thing when it comes from Maltese politicians like David Casa and Jason Azzopardi – who have a clear vested interest in destabilising the Labour government, in any way they possibly can – I do find it a whole lot harder to digest coming from a rapporteur for the Council of Europe, who is supposed to be ‘monitoring’ the criminal investigation.

In that position, Peter Omtzigt has an obligation to at least try and bring the true facts of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder to light…. instead of muddying the waters of the entire investigation, by picking and choosing which unverified media allegation to endorse in a tweet; and which to simply ignore (presumably, on the basis that it doesn’t fit in with his own, ill-informed and preconceived opinions.)

And this, I fear, is what will ultimately turn the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia into Malta’s umpteenth ‘unsolved crime’.

There are just too many forces, too hard at work, to unwittingly see to it that it remains a mystery forever.