Vincent Muscat hints that Keith Schembri may have blocked his pardon

Vince Muscat had written to the President of the Republic asking for a pardon in return for ‘all the information he knows on various facts’

Vincent Muscat, one of the three men accused of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has written to the President of the Republic asking for a pardon in return for “all the information he knows on various facts,” and hinting that former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri had been decisive in the failure of an earlier pardon attempt.

Muscat, who is currently being detained at the Corradino Correctional Facility, wrote to President George Vella today through his lawyer Marc Sant, with a formal request that he exercise what is known in legal circles as “the prerogative of mercy,” subject to Muscat providing all the information he knows on various facts. 

The letter continues: “Vincent Muscat would also like to express his following preoccupations.”

“Back in April 2018 Vincent Muscat had met with and spoken to the officer in charge of the investigation of this case, Inspector Keith Arnaud. This can be confirmed by the Inspector himself.”

“Following this encounter a number of other meetings were held with Inspector Arnaud where Vincent Muscat had provided information that is turning out to be crucial for substantial progress being made towards solving this case.”

“For example, thanks to the information provided by Vincent Muscat the investigations narrowed in on, followed and subsequently arrested a certain Melvin Theuma. This arrest took place during November of this year.”

“In the past days, Your Excellency has accepted the recommendation of the Honourable Prime Minister to grant a pardon to Melvin Theuma.”

“The irony in this is that this same person that Vincent Muscat mentioned to the investigators is now being brought by the prosecution to give evidence against Vincent Muscat himself.”

Vincent Muscat maintains that the information he provided to Inspector Arnaud was what, in fact, led to the arrest of Melvin Theuma. So much so, that Melvin Theuma was not one of the witnesses brought by the prosecution during the lengthy compilation of evidence before the Court of Magistrates.

The prosecution had only requested that Melvin Theuma testifies before the Court of Magistrates on 26 November 2019 – that is almost four months after the Attorney General had issued the Bill of Indictment against Vincent Muscat and the other co-accused and when the preliminary pleas before the Criminal Court had been submitted and the oral submissions were nearing their end.

Vincent Muscat, through his previous lawyer, had already started co-operating with Inspector Arnaud and working towards obtaining the prerogative of mercy in return, reads the letter.

He implies that Keith Schembri had worked to have his pardon denied: “ view of the revelations emerging in the past days, Vincent Muscat is deeply concerned that his first request to be granted the prerogative of mercy might not have been handled in the proper, correct and just manner. This concern results from the possibility that a person or persons having a possible direct or indirect interest in diverting or delaying these investigations was being updated on the investigations and also on the request for mercy made by Vincent Muscat.” 

This possibility amounts to the exposing of a lacuna (an unaddressed shortcoming) in the Constitution of Malta, says lawyer Marc Sant, who is representing Muscat in the proceedings. 

“It is of the essence that a person requesting a prerogative of mercy has the absolute certainty and serenity of mind that his request is examined and decided upon by a person that has (or persons that have) no direct or indirect interest whether this mercy is granted or not granted and the conditions that may be attached to said mercy.”

The letter highlights a statement made by former ECHR Judge Giovanni Bonello: “If the immunity from prosecution is being recommended by somebody close to the person suspected of or charged with being a criminal wrongdoer, it starts not to make sense. The Constitution never envisaged such possibility”.

“Although Vincent Muscat is not implying that there was undue pressure or interference on the Honourable Prime Minister when deciding whether or not to recommend to Your Excellency the granting of the prerogative of mercy to Melvin Theuma, Vincent Muscat strongly insists that the situation seems to be far from ideal and proper. Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.”

The President was reminded that the Prime Minister had gone on the record, publicly saying that the decision to recommend that the mercy be granted to Melvin Theuma was taken by the Prime Minister as this authority was delegated to him by Cabinet.”

Vincent Muscat’s fears were strengthened by the fact that during the night between Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November 2019 the whole Cabinet was convened to discuss the request for a Presidential pardon made by a person of interest in this same case, namely Mr Yorgen Fenech.

“The extremely contrasting approach taken vis-à-vis the requests made by Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech does not provide Vincent Muscat with the required serenity, peace of mind and trust in the modus operandi adopted.”

“This goes manifestly against one of the fundamental principles of natural justice – nemo judex in causa sua, namely that no one can be a judge in their own case – and so infringes upon the rights of Vincent Muscat.

Vincent Muscat is requesting that his application for the prerogative of mercy this time is considered “without any possible intervention or influence from a person (or persons) that might have a direct or indirect interest in the decision whether his request is acceded to or not.” It is essential and it is the right of Vincent Muscat that his request is evaluated in an objective and impartial manner and at the same time “without the possibility of there being any political and/or personal considerations,” he said.

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