[WATCH] MEPs concerned about rule of law in Malta following fact-finding mission

Ana Gomes, the head of the delegation noted that the Police Commissioner and Attorney General’s ‘interpretation’ of their powers was preventing them from investigating

MEPs on fact-finding mission about the rule of law in Malta said they were leaving more concerned than when they arrived
MEPs on fact-finding mission about the rule of law in Malta said they were leaving more concerned than when they arrived

The head of the European Parliament delegation, Ana Gomes to Malta has said that MEPs on a fact-finding mission to Malta were concerned about the perception of impunity, which she said appeared to be widespread in Malta.

Futhermore, it was noted that that both the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General’s interpretation of their roles was preventing them from investigating.

The delegation, which is in Malta after the adoption of a European Parliament resolution on the rule of law in Malta, which was sparked by the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, said that while the killing that had a chilling effect on the population, it also represented a “galvanising moment for society to understand that the rule of law affects all of us”.

Gomes said the delegation had met with a  number of the countries institutions, civil society activists, as well as representatives of private entities in Malta.

“This has led us to realise that the perception of impunity is very wide here and the fact that serious revelations coming from the Panama papers and particularly involving two cabinet members have not yet led to prosecutions,” said Gomes.

Gomes said that despite requests, OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had not agreed to meet with the delegation but had instead accompanied the Prime Minister where he read a statement indicating that he could not answer questions because on the ongoing judicial inquiry.

“We still want to have these questions answered and we made this point to the Prime Minister,” stressed Gomes.

She added that the fact that both Schembri and Tourism minister Konrad Mizzi were still government officials further fuelled the feeling of impunity in the country.

The socialist MEP also expressed the delegations concern on Malta’s cash-for-citizenship scheme, which was described as “extremely problematic”.

Having requested a copy of the contract and a list of the people granted citizenship, Gomes said the delegation would be “studying all these elements, and making concrete recommendations”.

Additional meetings with Maltese personalities were not being excluded, she said.

Responding to a question from the media, Green MEP Sven Geigold said that the delegation’s meeting with the Police Commissioner showed a high degree of unwillingness to investigate and partially demonstrated incompetence to do so.

“We learnt a great deal, gathered important evidence and were promised even more.

“The police and the attorney general have demonstrated an unwillingness to investigate and failure to prosecute corruption and money laundering. Publically available information and even reports by Malta's anti-money laundering body FIAU have repeatedly not triggered investigations. Individuals and financial institutions involved were not searched, evidence not gathered. This protected high government officials such as prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi from prosecution as well as financial institutions such as Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT.”

Giegold said Malta's judiciary system had demonstrated “systemic problems rooted in Malta's constitution” because of the power of the prime minister to appoint top officials.

The MEP also said sacked FIAU official Jonathan Ferris had provided important evidence. “He fears for his personal security. Ferris deserves whistleblower status and full police protection for himself and his family.”

Asked for a reaction to the fact that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had described the visit as “useless”, Gomes said the delegation did not feel the same way, having had a number of very “substantive” meetings.