Case closed? Not quite

There can be no justice for Caruana Galizia if the alleged involvement of the PM’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri, through his assistance to one or other players in this plot, is not thoroughly investigated

The arrest this week of three more men suspected of involvement in the Caruana Galizia assassination, as well as the 2015 Carmel Chircop murder, was undeniably a major breakthrough for police. 

It also stemmed from the decision of one of the original suspects – Vincent Muscat – to accept a plea bargain. This has, in fact, been the pattern of the investigation: Muscat had already pointed out Melvin Theuma, the assassination middleman, to investigators; and Theuma in turn accepted a Presidential pardon to tell police all he knew about the assassination.  

But without European pressure, a money laundering investigation might not have led to Theuma’s arrest, and his subsequent revelations (which led to the arrest of alleged mastermind, Yorgen Fenech). 

Moreover, the arrest of the Agius brothers and Jamie Vella – long associated with other gangland murders, as well as drug trafficking charges – resonates with an earlier point this newspaper had made editorially: that a resolute prosecution of the criminal parties named in the Caruana Galizia investigation, also merited criminal investigation of all the preceding murders and assassinations that are linked to the same protagonists.  

As with the murder of Carmel Chircop, and his links to the More Supermarkets fiasco, these arrests are a twitch on the thread that runs deep into the Maltese underworld and its possible links to Malta’s political class.  

All the same, however, one must still tread with caution on certain statements. In the first place, Vincent Muscat’s knowledge of past crimes deserves to be treated with judiciousness; in part because of the sheer breadth of crimes his career may have stumbled on; in part because of the hearsay evidence that some of his claims represent.  

From this perspective, more prudence would be warranted from all sides. Misrepresenting this information, or turning it into a battering ram for political manoeuvres, could actually endanger the work of the police force.  

Not to mention that, in the unenviable position Muscat now finds himself in, this prisoner still must be protected by the State: while detained in the same building that houses his co-conspirators, and all the other people accused in the Caruana Galizia assassination.  

A second consideration relates to the suggestion by Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafà, to the effect that everyone involved in the entire conspiracy – from the ‘mandante’ to the executioners – has been apprehended.  

This might be premature. A lot that has emerged from Theuma’s testimony, and the public inquiry into the assassination of Caruana Galizia, raises the fear of political interference in the investigations that led to the Theuma arrest.  

There can be no justice for Caruana Galizia if the alleged involvement of the PM’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri, through his assistance to one or other players in this plot, is not thoroughly investigated.  

A number of previous allegations may also amount to, at minimum, an attempt to obstruct the course of justice: for instance, that former Police Commissioner Lawrence had alerted middleman Melvin Theuma of his impending arrest. 

Even more worryingly, these allegations, among others, were not even investigated by the police until recently: i.e., after a change to the helm of the Police Force.  

Yorgen Fenech himself alleged with the police – in November 2019 – that the plan to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia had been hatched by, or with, none other than Keith Schembri himself; that he [Schembri] allegedly paid €80,000 for its execution; and that Joseph Muscat himself could be one of only three people – outside Keith Schembri, Yorgen Fenech and the others already implicated – who was allegedly aware of these details (even if only after the murder was committed).  

While these claims still remain to be proven – and the presumption of innocence remains a key principle here – there can be no question as to why the general public rages for justice on this heinous assassination.  

Belittling those who avail themselves of this right, as Labour TV boss Jason Micallef did this week, betrays the absolutist pretensions of partisan politics, where the public is expected to be quiet or take its lead from those in power.  

But ‘Justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia’ is not the sole prerogative of the Nationalist or Labour Party, or even of the growing civil society movement that has arisen in the wake of the murder itself. It is justice for Malta. Because the factors that made this murder possible in the first place – and which can be seen to have hindered, or at least tried to hinder, the subsequent judicial process – are also institutional shortcomings that affect the entire justice system: and not this particular case only.