Heirs demand government compensation for 1982 political murder of Lino Cauchi

Lino Cauchi’s dismembered body was found in a well in 1982 during turbulent years of political upheaval

Heirs of an accountant killed in 1982, in what is widely believed to be a political murder, have given the Prime Minister one week to liquidate and pay damages for “grave shortcomings of the State” or face legal action.

Widow Anna Cassar and her son Paolo Cauchi filed a judicial letter addressed to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Justice on Monday, calling on them to pay compensation for the murder of Lino Cauchi, whose dismembered body was found in a well in 1982 during turbulent years of political upheaval.

Although nobody has ever been charged with his violent death, the case has always been widely considered to have had political connotations.

As an accountant, Cauchi’s clients had included powerful people, some with connections with the late public works minister Lorry Sant. He had disappeared at the same time as the opening of Parliament after the 1981 election. Despite the passage of almost 40 years, nobody was ever charged with his murder.

Cassar had been expecting her first child at the time of her husband’s disappearance.

Lino Cauchi had been a successful and well-connected auditor at audit firm Diamantino Manfre. “In the late 1970s and early 80s, our nation was going through a turbulent political period, the government of the day being seen as corrupt, abusive and violent and there was rampant property speculation using dubious development permits,” reads the judicial letter.

Cauchi would give advice on tax and related issues to the former Public Works minister Lawrence (Lorry) Sant and his associates. In the general elections of December 1981, the opposition party had promised a general cleanup of the violent and corrupt elements in Malta as soon as it would be elected. In September that year, one of the partners at Diamantino Manfre was found dead in mysterious circumstances at St. Luke’s hospital, although his death was listed as natural. This had spurred Cauchi to leave the firm and set up business on his own. “Despite this, he was still called to provide services to this violent political clique which was known for its violence and he had no choice.”

The accountant had been threatened after objecting to testimony being gathered before Silvio Meli – a magistrate at the time, says his lawyer, Peter Fenech. “Cauchi was known to be a person who could bring to light abuses being committed by the clique.”

On the day of his disappearance, on 15 February 1982, Cauchi had left home for an appointment. He didn’t return. His briefcase was found, forced open and empty, in Chadwick Lakes.

But Cauchi had a second briefcase at home, which he had instructed his wife not to let out of her sight if something ever happened to him, said the lawyer. The day after his disappearance, a person claiming to be an official from the Tax Department had knocked on the door at Cauchi’s home and demanded his widow to hand over the briefcase. Such was her state of confusion that she complied.

Despite having been reported missing, the police had not investigated or opened any inquiry into his disappearance, Fenech claims.

The accountant’s dismembered remains were later found in plastic bags buried at the bottom of a well near Buskett forest on 15 November 1985.

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