Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Former Economic Crimes Unit Head, Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Abdilla, continued to testify in the public inquiry into the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, on Friday morning.
- Former ECU Head Ian Abdilla told the board that more persons of interest were identified after the raid carried out in connection to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech’s arrest
- Then Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had told then ECU Head Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla not to go to the Police Headquarters the night Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was caught on camera leaving Pilatus Bank
- It was only after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat through his personal lawyer Dr Edward Gatt filed a criminal complaint that the police started investigating.
- Abdilla told the court that he had sought advice from various magistrates on the situation
- Abdilla testified that the Police found nothing suspicious that Nexia BT would give the name of the UBO of Egrant over Skype to the Panamanian company
- While the Police often used the Running Commentary as an open source, none of the Police investigations were initiated
The public inquiry board is tasked to determine whether the state did all it could to prevent the murder.
The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and composed of board members Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia, and Peter Caruana Galizia appeared for the family.
Abdilla says that there are many places to go to search but did not specifically reply on the presence of Nexia BT at the Ministry and the lack of seizure of the server by the Police.
"Yes… I thought you were going to mention OPM," Abdilla chuckled nervously.
"They used to say OPM, but it was the Justice Ministry," Azzoaprdi remarks.
"I think some computers of Nexia BT were seized from a ministry building in the Egrant inquiry," Abdilla says.
After explaining that it is a long process, he said that they are sending the rogatory letters all the information at hand.
"You've said that the website was used an open source. How many investigations were triggered by her writings?"
"None, I think."
"There was a national protest at the time. Why didn't the police investigate?" Azzopardi says. He continues, "If I put out an advert in the Sunday Times announcing that I will be carrying out a hold up, wouldn't the police pick me up?"
Abdilla looks stunned. "Hi mistoqsija antipatika" he replies.
"I would have arrested him or put him on police bail or something," Madame Justice Lofaro remarks on the hypothetical scenario.
"I don't think that enforcement is only a police issue. The MFSA, the FIAU, etc, were not pari passu with the industry which was growing rapidly," the former ECU head said.
He says that he met Schembri twice. Then he says that he has never met Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat. He only saw them at the inquiry.
He is asked about Montenegro.
On Cifidex, he explains that they came across it from a transaction with 17 Black. More evidence emerged from seized electronic equipment.
Rogatory letters were sent to other countries, Abdilla says.
"Had we had the expertise and the resources we have now, then, we could have functioned better," Abdilla remarks.
There are about 82 officers at the ECU by the time he left. In 2016, it was at 36 officers.
"The amount of work there is to do. I've pushed for 22 police inspectors at ECU. Currently there are 4 and 8 training," Abdilla says.
The documents were sent to Dubai for authentication. "I cannot take a document that I had never seen the likes of before and say this is genuine."
"As a consequence, a number of people were identified for questioning," Abdilla tells the board.
"I find it hard to believe that the head of the Economic Crimes Unit was not involved," Madame Justice Lofaro remarks.
"I was not informed." he says again.
"If it were me, I wouldn't have discussed it with you. We're not there for advice. It's not ethical." Madame Justice Lofaro remarks.
"Get a warrant," Abdilla replies.
"From who?" Azzopardi asks
"The duty magistrate" Abdilla replies.
"So we're in early May and despite all this evidence, you didn't feel the need to go to the duty magistrate and ask him for a warrant?" Azzopardi asks.
"We would be careful to make sure we had all the evidence," Abdilla says.
– the shredding of the papers at Nexia BT
– In March 2016 there was already a breach of Mossack Fonesca's servers and there were the riots in Brazil
– April 2016 there's Caruana Galizia's blog post.
– In early May, they had sought AG's advice.
Abdilla mumbles something.
Azzopardi refers to another blog post by Daphne Caruana Galizia on Nexia BT on 11 March 2016 [he's referring to this; https://daphnecaruanagalizia.com/2016/03/the-large-number-of-rubbish-bags-containing-documents-were-picked-up-by-a-kasco-van/]
You and other witnesses said that you've used the Running Commentary as an open source. Did the police investigate then [in April 2016]? Azzopardi asks,
'No. No,' Abdilla says.
He says he called Cutajar at 8.30-9pm. He was instructed not to go to the Police Headquarters. Abdilla says that he had understood that the Commissioner was going to seek legal advice. It was around 10pm when he then went to the police headquarters.
"Did you ask whether the advice was sought? And who gave it?" Comodini Cachia asks.
Abdilla sighs saying he was not sure. "At one point advice was mentioned. But I wouldn't know".
Abdilla says that yes it was mentioned. "At the time we did not consider Egrant."
"We got to know that Sadr Hasheminejad the day after we questioned him. The day we questioned him he went to sleep over at a friend," Abdilla explains.
Abdilla says rogatory letters were sent to Panama.
"When we sent rogatory letters to Panama, it was not only about Egrant. It was about Hearnville, Tillgate, and others," Abdilla says, adding that a lot of time had passed since then.
She points out that a year before the criminal complaint, there was a report by the FIAU suspecting money laundering a year before. How do you explain that the police took action only as soon as the prime minister made a criminal complaint.
Abdilla says he already explained.
Lofaro tells the witness that now he is being to compare the situation and why no action was taken then.
'I have already explained this last time. The police investigates
according to the evidence at hand,' Abdilla says.
'You are not replying to the question and not even addressing the question,' Madame Justice Lofaro remarks.
Did the police ask Brian Tonna whose name he had given over Skype? Mallia demands. "It is a simple direct question."
Abdilla says that Tonna insisted that Egrant it was his. He continues giving a long winded answer and avoided answering. He says that it was normal to communicate over Skype.
Mallia says but did you ask for the name and why was Skype used?
Abdilla says it is explained in the Egrant report.
"He would either stay in a hotel. Then we had found out he has a home in Malta. I can't recall if it was registered on him or his wife," Abdilla replies on Sadr Hasheminejad.
"You had to be living in the situation," Abdilla says.
Cutajar, Valletta, were there.
On the day, Magistrate Bugeja was duty magistrate.
A police officer was stationed outside the door of Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT.
Why didn't the AG sign the criminal complaint? Lofaro asks
Gatt was Joseph Muscat's personal lawyer, he explains.
He says that the Commissioner had told him not to go back to work yet. He says that the police had sought legal advice on what action to take and the advice was to not intervene.
"Yes. The journalists were summoned to testify and explained during the inquiry," Abdilla says. He was informed by others about the video. He had just arrived home when he saw the video of Sadr Hasheminejad leaving Pilatus Bank.
Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro asks what time did they go to Pilatus Bank following the video.
Abdilla says he had a long day. He had called Silvio Valletta and that he called Commissioner.
Egrant, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Hearnville, Tillgate were given as keywords to the forensic experts.
"Egrant took 18 months, we tried to close on these allegations."
"Brian Tonna insisted it was his, that he bought off the shelf for a possible client. We found no more evidence which contradicted that fact. This includes all the information we got from Panama and from the Panama Papers," Abdilla says. He notes that the scope of the in genere inquiry was narrow.
"Due to the passage of time, I can't be precise and am not in a position to confirm all the details we've discussed with Rivera. But we would have definitely looked into it," Abdilla says.
"I can't really tell," Abdilla says.
"You are telling me that you've ignored it completely!"
"I can't really tell. There were two inquiries one by then Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera and Magistrate Doreen Clarke," Abdilla says.
"We spoke to many people during that inquiry. More than likely, during Egrant he was spoken to about it."
Abdilla says he was not hands on involved at the time and had delegated to an inspector. "I'm not 100% sure but he could be talking about the compliance report and correspondence," he replies.
"No they hadn't," Abdilla says.
Asked if the statement was given to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, Abdilla replies "I don't think so".
Abdilla reaffirms that the Pilatus Bank statement was not given to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja who was tasked with the conducting an in genere inquiry into Egrant, when asked once again if this was exhibited before the court presided over by then Magistrate Bugeja.
Rivera had filed a police report on the "leaks". The "leak" in the statement refers to the compliance visit by the FIAU to the now defunct bank.
"Pilatus Bank on May 8, 2017 has commenced legal actions in the USA for defamatory actions. The bank will pursue all parties and individuals all legal action…" Mallia is reading out.
"The Bank will actively pursue all parties and individuals, directly and indirectly involved in making such harmful allegations being broadcast on national television, radio, and published in national newspapers as well as online news sites in all international competent courts for commercial and punitive damages due to irreparable harm to the Bank and its stakeholders."
"The Bank has also filed a criminal complaint with the Maltese police for the leak of confidential documents and information from documents of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) about the Bank to third parties not privy to such information, that were subsequently published. The Bank takes matters of confidentiality extremely seriously and will pursue all individuals and parties who have disclosed information that the law considers as confidential, as well for misappropriating confidential information of the Bank including trade secrets with swift international and local legal actions for all damages."
"There are laws that prohibit the Bank from discussing FIAU or any regulatory agency reports and their contents and thereby prevent it from being able to respond directly to statements published alongside the "leaked" alleged FIAU report. Those laws also require that such reports, their contents, and conclusive findings are treated with utmost confidentiality."