‘If Malta cannot or will not correct its weaknesses, European institutions must intervene’ – CoE

Luke Zerafa

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A draft report prepared by the Council of Europe about the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, concludes that if Malta cannot or will not correct its weaknesses, then the European institutions must intervene.

The draft report which was seen by Newsbook.com.mt concludes that the rule of law in Malta is seriously undermined by ‘the extreme weaknesses of its system of checks and balances’. The draft will be debated and voted upon on Tuesday during the Legal Affairs committee of the Parliamentary Assembly. Sources within the Council of Europe remarked to Newsbook.com.mt that they cannot remember another Report in the CoE on an existing EU member State with such damning language. “This is not Russia we’re talking about”, remarked our sources who insisted on deep cover.

In its conclusion, the Assembly warns that Malta’s weaknesses in its checks and balances, poses vulnerability not only to the country itself but also to the European bloc, reminding that Maltese citizenship is also European citizenship and banks licensed in Malta are given access to the European banking system. The report calls for ‘fundamental, holistic reform’, saying that such reform would need to include subjecting the office of the Prime Minister to a system of effective checks and balances. After it concluded that the rule of law in Malta is ‘seriously undermined’ due to Malta’s ‘extreme weakness’ in its system of checks and balances.

Total impunity

The report states that the police have consistently failed to investigate persons such as Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, both of which were frequent subjects of Caruana Galizia’s investigations. Noting that such individuals (Schembri, Mizzi and also Brian Tonna of Nexia BT) ‘seem to enjoy impunity’ under the Prime Minister’s ‘personal protection. The report further says that Schembri and Mizzi refused to shoulder political responsibility by resigning, noting that there is compelling evidence on both being involved in several serious cases of abuse of office, corruption and money laundering.

The draft report urges the law enforcement bodies in Malta to end the prevailing climate of impunity by investigating and prosecuting those suspected of being involved or benefiting from the scandals exposed by Caruana Galizia and other journalists in Malta. It further continues that an investigation should be launched to prevent impunity, describing the Panama Papers as credible information, which indicate that a criminal offence may have been committed, a criminal investigation should be launched as evidence is not a precondition for the possible result.

Allegations of rampant corruption to fester; Authorities must ensure that investigations are expedited

The draft report in its conclusions, says that the Maltese authorities must implement all the recommendations put forward by the Venice Commission and GRECO, as well as those of MONEYVAL once made.

READ: Venice Commission calls for revision of constitutional roles

READ: Venice Commission delegation to scrutinize law enforcement in Malta

READ: Malta faces “prevailing ‘law of Omertà’” – Venice Commission

The report notes that in their conclusions, the Venice Commission opinion and GRECO had concluded that Malta’s government institution, criminal justice system and enforcement bodies do not comply with European standards on the rule of law. It warns against a pick-and-choose approach in the implementation of the recommendations put forward, saying that such an approach will not achieve the necessary results.

READ: Update (2): Effective action against corruption in the government and police needed – GRECO

Further the report concludes that the Maltese authorities must ensure that the police and magisterial inquiries into the cases of corruption and money laundering concerning prominent public figures, and into the wider circumstances of the murder of Caruana Galizia are expedited.

About the ongoing police and magisterial inquiries, the report notes that the investigations are proceedings slowly warning that if the three suspects, Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat are not indicted soon, they will have to be released without having ever to given evidence in court. Further the report observes that no one has been arrested for ordering the assassination.

Full draft report may be found here.