Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
The rule of law NGO Repubblika has said that one of the government’s selections for the public inquiry, Professor Ian Refalo, will not be impartial.
While not disputing the Professor’s professional suitability to be part of the inquiry, they do not believe that his selection is correct given his connections with the Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit (FIAU) and how Caruana Galizia herself had identified questionable connections.
‘He represents the FIAU, the reputation of which has been utterly destroyed by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s formidable journalism. She has exposed that agency’s ineptitude or wilful reluctance in fighting against pervasive money laundering and has forced the agency to buckle under the scrutiny of the European Banking Authority and other international agencies and institutions,’ Repubblika writes.
The NGO also pinpoints the Professor’s connection to the case involving the whistleblower Jonathan Ferris. Professor Refalo represented FIAU in the case presented by Ferris, Ferris himself having been dismissed by Professor Refalo’s client agency.
Thirdly, Repubblika also points out the Professor’s clients Adrian Hillman, who was allegedly involved in corrupt dealings with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Karl Schembri.
‘This is another case where a member of this inquiry board is acting on the brief of someone who cannot be ruled out a priori from involvement in this case.’
Finally, Repubblika outlines the Professor’s connections to Technoline which are understood to have, ‘made a killing from the suspect transactions around the privatisations of the hospital and that is believed to have direct connections with the interests of the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.’
Repubblika’s comments on Professor Refalo come just after the government announced the creation of an independent public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The inquiry has been something called for from various quarters of Malta’s civil society and from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), whom published a report into Caruana Galizia’s murder and her reporting.
Back in June, Malta’s Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela announced that the government would be launching the public inquiry as requested by PACE. With the deadline for the public inquiry approaching (September 26th), the Prime Minister explained that the inquiry was coming soon.
We want to talk to the PM about our concerns
The family of Caruana Galizia has today requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss their concerns over the independence and impartiality of the public inquiry board.
In their statement, they say that, ‘a Public Inquiry chaired by a respected former judge is what all right-minded people have been calling for since our mother’s and wife’s assassination.’
However, ‘given the gravity of its purpose and its mandate to investigate state institutions, justice demands that the Board’s wider members have no financial or political links to the current political administration,’ the family adds.
For this reason, public doubts could creep in should their independence and impartiality be questioned. Thus, the board would be, ‘unfit for purpose.’
Serving at the pleasure of the PM
Continuing their assessment of those currently named for the public inquiry, Repubblika also bluntly states that the appointment of Dr Anthony Abela Medici, is ‘marginally relevant to the inquiry.’
According to the NGO, the forensic expert Dr Medici, is the Commissioner for the Voluntary Sector under a government contract that comes without security and subject to the interests of the Prime Minister.
‘He serves quite literally at the pleasure of Joseph Muscat and while he is at his mercy, he cannot be considered in any way independent, let alone impartial.’
Paralysis of inquiry
Going further, Repubblika outlines that the government’s pick of retired judge Michael Mallia to investigate content on Caruana Galizia’s computer for the inquiry, technically conflicts with his other work involving other on-going criminal investigations.
Repubblika explains, ‘that there must be no cross-contamination between the present public inquiry and the criminal investigations the government insists are still ongoing in this case.’
Therefore, ‘his involvement in both inquiries is conflicted and by the rules of engagement set out by the government itself yesterday a paralysis for the proper conduct of either inquiry.’
Urge the government to meet the family
While outlining their criticism of the process leading to this point, the NGO stresses that if the government is genuine about carrying out the inquiry, they should grant the family’s request to meet with them.
‘we would urge the authorities to accept the family’s request for meetings to discuss terms of reference and choices for the composition of the inquiry that adequately fulfill the expectations of the European Convention on Human Rights for a truly independent and public inquiry into this case.’