Lino Cauchi 1982 murder: Former PMs, politicians, police commissioners, summoned to testify in constitutional case

Widow and son of murdered accountant Lino Cauchi seek compensation from the State for 1982 assassination which they claim was facilitated by the political climate of the time

A police forensic expert elevating Lino Cauchi's remains from a well in Buskett in 1985
A police forensic expert elevating Lino Cauchi's remains from a well in Buskett in 1985

The widow and son of murdered accountant Lino Cauchi will summon former prime ministers, ministers and police commissioners in a Constitutional case demanding compensation from the State.

Cauchi went missing in February 1982 and his dismembered body was found three years later in a well in Buskett. Nobody has ever been charged with the murder.

Cauchi’s widow, Anna Cassar and her son Paolo Cauchi filed an application before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional jurisdiction this morning, addressed to the Prime Minister, just over a month after filing a judicial letter calling on the Prime Minister and the Justice Minister to pay compensation for the murder.

A comprehensive list of witnesses is indicated to the court together with the application. Government representatives, active and retired police officers, the Commissioner for Inland Revenue, MPs including Louis Galea, the chairperson of the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, journalists and newspaper editors, Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff and retired members of the judiciary, Silvio Meli and David Scicluna and all the Attorney Generals since 1981 are to be summoned.

Despite the passage of almost 40 years, nobody was ever charged with Cauchi’s murder, in a case widely considered to have had a political aspect.

READ ALSO: Revisiting a Maltese mystery: Lino Cauchi, the accountant who knew too much

As an accountant, Cauchi’s clients had included powerful people, some with connections with the late public works minister Lorry Sant.

His family insist this work was done out of fear, claiming that he was pressed to provide professional services to this dangerous political group “known for its brutality and absence of all conscience and scruples” and which did not serve the national interest.

Cauchi had been so worried and aware of the danger to his life, that he had increased the value of his life insurance policy shortly before his murder.

The application alleges that in December 1981, a meeting had taken place at Joe Pace’s (known as Joe Pace tal-Magic Kiosk) office, which a group of persons close to Sant had attended. Cauchi had been told to draft a promise of sale for properties which those present were “exchanging.”

But in previous Constitutional proceedings in 2017, this contract was declared vitiated by “threats and violence which took place in the framework of corruption.”

During this meeting, it appears that Cauchi had objected to what was happening and had left. In testimony gathered by magistrate (now judge emeritus) Silvio Meli, it was said that as Cauchi left the meeting, somebody had made a serious threat against his life.

Cauchi had disappeared at the same time as the opening of Parliament in February 1982, after the hotly contested election held the previous December.

After his disappearance, a briefcase he had been carrying was discovered, opened and empty, at Chadwick Lakes.

But Cauchi kept a second briefcase at home. He would tell his wife to never let it out of her sight if anything ever happened to him.

The day after his disappearance, a certain Charles Zammit had knocked on the door of Cauchi’s home, identifying himself as a tax department official. He had demanded the briefcase from Cauchi’s wife, who being bewildered and confused at the time, had complied.

This fact had never been seriously investigated by the police, argued lawyers Peter Fenech and Stanley Portelli and no inquiry was ever set up into his disappearance.

In July 1986, forensics expert Ian West had declared that dismembered remains, found in Buskett in the previous November, belonged to Lino Cauchi. Despite this information, the authorities did nothing, argued the lawyers.

The day the remains were found, a magisterial inquiry was set up under Mr Justice emeritus David Scicluna, then a magistrate. “At the time, Scicluna had reprimanded the authorities for the cover-up that was taking place,” states the application.

Nothing came of the magisterial inquiry and when Scotland Yard were called in to investigate the three political murders of Karen Grech, Raymond Caruana and Lino Cauchi, the government had stopped them from investigating the latter case.

The lawyers claim that even if the State had not commissioned the murder itself, it had still failed in its obligation to protect the life of those in its jurisdiction.

The Cauchi family had seen no progress in the investigation and much less received any compensation in the 38 years since the murder, reads the application.

It was clear that Lino Cauchi was murdered because of what he knew and that politicians and violent members of their retinues had acted knowingly, without restraint, due to the failure of the organs and institutions of the State, they said.

In various other cases where people had suffered damages as a result of political violence, there had been compensation, pointed out the lawyers.

Yet, in this case, despite the human tragedy suffered by the Cauchi family, again, nothing had happened – something which “only served to accentuate further the tremendous sense of injustice” they felt.

The First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction was asked to declare the homicide to have taken place due to the political climate at the time and that the government had failed to protect Lino Cauchi’s life or properly investigate his death.

These caused a “perpetual and catastrophic” effect on their life and psychiatric health and amounted to a breach of the right to life and to private and family life, said the lawyers, demanding compensation.

MaltaToday had published an extensive investigative series on the Cauchi murder in 2002:

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