Inquiry board amazed at police inertia on Panama Papers

Ian Abdilla outside depot

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The former Economic Crimes Unit chief, assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla testified today in the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The inquiry is to determine whether the state and authorities could have done more to save Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life.

Highlights from today’s court sitting:

  • Former ECU chief confirmed the police did not investigate the Panama Papers
  • Public inquiry board asks if the Attorney General instructed for investigations to go slow
  • Ian Abdilla confirms that some of Pilatus Bank directors reside in Malta
  • The Police do not exclude extraditing Pilatus Bank owner to Malta
  • Ian Abdilla confirms he had information connecting Yorgen Fenech to 17 Black in March 2018
13:08 The next court sitting will be held on Friday at 9:30 am.
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12:08 Thank you for following this blog.
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12:07 Today's court session ends here.
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11:23 Abdilla's testimony will continue behind closed doors.
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11:21 Azzopardi is once again asking the witness on the information published by the assassinated journalist on the cigarettes smuggling and why the police again did not investigate when Daphne had published names and even photos on this case.
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11:20 He confirms again that Daphne's blog was an open source for the ECU.
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11:20 Ian Abdilla was evasive in his reply.

The inquiry board asked if he was aware that Dr Peter Grech told the Police (ECU) to go slow on the investigations because it will cause trouble to the country.
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11:19 Was it on the basis of the advice given to the ECU by the Attorney General that you did not investigate? asked the board.
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11:18 The board is noticing that Abdilla is trying to justify why the ECU did not investigate Panama Papers.
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11:16 Before the media was asked to exit the courtroom, Abdilla said that the police was investigating other huge cases not only the Panama papers.

The board said that this does not justify why the Police did not investigate Panama papers where politically exposed persons were mentioned.
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11:14 Abdilla's testimony will continue behind closed doors.
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11:13 Auditor General, Charles Deguara, expressed his doubts on the regularity of the tender issued by Projects Malta to transfer the Institute of Tourism Studies building to the DB Group. The tender was issued five years ago.

In the report by the National Audit Office which said that Projects Malta failed to obtain the authorisation from the contracts department before the offer was issued in November 2015, to build, design and operate the project which is to be built on the site occupied by ITS in Pembroke.

The Auditor General also stated that the sense of urgency that drove Government to dispose of the ITS site was of concern given the fact that no alternative premises had been secured for the ITS. The NAO also said that the government failed to develop a masterplan for the area which was also a great concern.

The report said that “no information supporting this decision or who was involved was provided, with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Tourism each assigning responsibility to the other.”
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11:12 Asked if the ECU had investigated the report by the NAO Office on the ITS land transfer to the db Group, Abdilla said that the NAO office did not refer this report to the ECU to investigate.
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11:09 Lawyer Azzopardi is asking on information revealed by Daphne Caruana Galizia on the owner of the db group and allegations of cigarette smuggling, Abdilla replied he is not aware of it.
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11:07 Regarding his feelings towards Silvio Valletta knowing certain things on Fenech which Abdilla did not, Abdilla said that he wished to explain this behind closed doors.

He also said "Kont maħruq" it is being understood Abdilla is referring to Valletta.
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11:05 Ex-deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta had called Abdilla to not go to Fenech's office because he was not there as he is unwell.
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11:05 He excluded that he ever communicated with Yorgen Fenech.
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11:01 Lawyer Comodini Cachia is asking questions regarding the decision taken by the police to visit Fenech at his office at Portomaso.
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11:00 The ECU became actively involved in the murder investigation in August 2019 when they started to investigate Melvin Theuma, confirmed Abdilla.
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10:59 Abdilla said he is not involved in the murder investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia but confirmed he attended meetings on updates on the investigations.
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10:57 When was the first time you knew there was a connection between Yorgen Fenech and 17 Black? asked lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia.

Abdilla replied, March 2018.
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10:57 Ian Abdilla wants to answer certain questions behind closed doors.
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10:53 The inquiry board is referring to the book 'Secrecy World – Inside the Panama Papers'.

Abdilla said he never heard about this book until now.
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10:52 The inquiry board has once again asked Abdilla about the Panana Papers.
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10:48 The Egrant inquiry has also investigated all forms of transactions but at the time Azerbaijan had a non-functional FIAU so no co-operation was provided by the Azeri.

Lawyer Azzopardi was asking on the connections between Michelle Muscat and Leyla Aliyeva.
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10:46 One of the directors is also a managing partner of another financial institution. How is this possible? asked lawyer Azzopardi.

The board instructed Azzopardi to ask this question to the MFSA representatives.
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10:45 Some of Pilatus Bank directors reside in Malta confirmed Abdilla.
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10:41 Lawyer Azzopardi asked Abdilla if the Police will ask for the extradition of the owner of Pilatus Bank Ali Sadr.

Abdilla said that an investigation is still ongoing and that they do not exclude Sadr's extradition.
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10:38 Asked why on the Montenegro Scandal he had asked his subordinates to put aside the investigations, Abdilla looking confused replied that he does not remember saying this.
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10:35 "We were using the Panama Papers as a means to investigate other cases," said Abdilla.

"So you are saying that what was revealed on money laundering in the Panama Papers was not investigated, was ignored and that instead the Police was investigating other matters through this international scandal" – said Madame Justice Lofaro.
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10:34 On Panama Papers the ECU did not investigate said Abdilla.

The inquiry board said "How is this possible. It is unacceptable."
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10:33 "This hurts us," said Abdilla because we cannot just go to Dubai because there are legal procedures which we have to abide by.
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10:31 Lawyer Azzopardi is saying how is it possible that the police has not yet been to Dubai to investigate Yorgen Fenech and 17 Black.
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10:29 Abdilla said that institutions in Dubai are not co-operating in the investigations.
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10:24 The first time Abdilla heard of Cifidex was from an FIAU report on 17 Black. This was in March of 2018.

Cifidex is a company mentioned in the Montenegro scandal.

Investigations on Cifidex started to intensify when Yorgen Fenech was arrested last year, in November 2019.
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10:24 The board is surprised by this reply.
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10:23 Azzopardi is asking why the police, after 2 years is still investigating perjury by Karl Cini.

Abdilla said that the investigations are soon to be concluded and that there might be a possibility that there is no case of perjury.
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10:22 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking the questions.
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10:21 "How can you not investigate a politically exposed person on allegations revealed on an international level? You have no answer," said Madame Justice Lofaro.
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10:20 Abdilla said that he did not feel he had to question Keith Schembri on what was revealed in Panama Papers.
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10:19 Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro has repeatedly warned Abdilla to answer the questions.

Lofaro also said that the police cannot not investigate until an inquiry is ordered.
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10:15 The former ECU chief said that the first time the name of Michelle Muscat was when Ali Sadr left Malta.
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10:13 The board has mentioned how nowadays banks keep all data stored on computers.

Abdilla said that no data was removed by the bank.
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10:11 Ian Abdilla has now mentioned Maria Efimova and how investigations on what Efimova had alleged was handled by the Sliema Police Station.
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10:09 Abdilla said that the blog of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was used as a source by the Police in certain investigations.
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10:08 Abdilla is continuing to explain what happened after Ali Sadr left Malta and the investigation on Egrant but the board wants Abdilla to answer the questions on why the police did not intervene to stop the owner of Pilatus Bank from leaving Malta.
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10:07 The Board said that by mentioning this it is useless because despite these investigations a journalist was assassinated.
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10:06 Ian Abdilla said that the Police has conducted one of the best investigations on Pilatus Bank.
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10:05 Pressed to answer questions on the reports where the name of the former prime minister, Michelle Muscat, Abdilla said that today he did not come prepared to answer related questions.
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10:03 Ian Abdilla stressing on the point that the ECU cannot close down banks whenever suspicious reports are received.
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10:00 When the names of Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna cropped up in relation to Pilatus Bank the Police did not see any form of connections to criminal activity, said Abdilla.
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09:57 Ian Abdilla is saying that he did not get into certain details of the reports on Pilatus Bank.
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09:56 The board highlights how the name of Keith Schembri was also mentioned in the FIAU report amongst other politically exposed persons.
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09:52 Asked about the report by FIAU on Pilatus Bank and how many times was the bank mentioned in the report. Abdilla replied that it was mentioned many times.

Abdilla said that the first report received by the FIAU on Pilatus Bank was in July 2016 and November 2016.

The assistant police commissioner replied that no they did not take action because they cannot take actions every time the FIAU files a report on some sort of illegal practices.
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09:51 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is asking Abdilla the exact date when the Police ordered for the closure of Pilatus Bank.

Abdilla says it was the 20th of April 2017.
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09:50 Abdilla is saying that the footage aired by Net News was not live.
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09:49 Abdilla is saying that Ali Sadr is the owner of the licenced bank and it was not like he was stealing something from the bank since it is his.
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09:48 The board of inquiry is continuing to press Abdilla why they did not act immediately and let him leave with the possibility of carrying documents on the secret Panama company Egrant.
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09:47 The board is asking why did the police not act immediately to stop Ali Sadr who was carrying a hand suitcase.
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09:45 Asked about the case of Pilatus Bank and when his owner Ali Sadr was filmed live leaving the bank late at night on one particular evening, Abdilla said that he received a call from the Police Commissioner at around 9 am.
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09:43 Abdilla said that he has and is still investigating hundreds of cases.

The board asks Abdilla that they are asking on the investigations in relation to Pilatus Bank, the Montenegro scandal, the Panama Papers etc.
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09:42 The board is asking Abdilla what cases he has investigated in relation to money laundering.
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09:41 Ian Abdilla takes the witness stand.
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09:41 The board has entered the court room.
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09:39 The newly appointed Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa has replaced Abdilla with Alexandra Mamo as the chief of the Economic Crimes Unit.
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09:34 Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi assisted the Caruana Galizia family.
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09:33 The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.
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09:32 The public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with determining whether the state did all it could to prevent the assassination.
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09:29 Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla is present in courtroom 20.
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09:28 Today's court session is expected to start at 9:30 am.
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09:26 Welcome to Newsbook.com.mt live blog.
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09:26 Good morning.
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