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If there is one complaint I could make about Daphne Caruana Galizia, it’s this: try as we might, filling up the void she left in the field of journalism is impossible.

After yesterday’s political earthquake, all I can think of is what she would have said had she still been alive to see her assiduous work come to fruition in its full glory. Make no mistake: every major victory that civil society has managed to clinch in the fight against the mafia state owes its origins to Daphne’s work.

She was the tip of the spear that was thrust straight into the heart of the beast. It just took a while for the bastards to start bleeding out.

“There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.” Would she still have thought that the situation is desperate now, or would she have channeled that indomitable spirit of hers and let rip on that disgraced, desperate former prime minister and his tuna fondling lawyer?

I imagine she might have felt some measure of satisfaction to see that dynamic duo snarl at their own shadows in a bleak hotel room. The work it took to expose the fraudulent nature of the hospitals concession must have been nothing short of extraordinary. Perhaps she would have poured herself a well-earned gin and tonic, blasted some Bob Marley, and danced the night away.

She would have probably torn her hair out at the timidity of the questions that were asked at the end of Muscat’s press conference, though she would have probably acknowledged that a room full of mostly inexperienced journalists were no match for a seasoned liar like Muscat. She would have known exactly what to ask and would have thrown that question out there for anyone who dares ask it.

When this is over, the first order of business should be to let the record show that she was the heroine we needed, but certainly not the one we deserved. Gratitude, and nothing but gratitude, to her and her family, who have sacrificed so much to keep her legacy alive. I’ll get to Muscat and the tuna fondler in a minute. The roll call of the people who deserve praise for securing yesterday’s crucial victory is more important.

To begin with, magistrate Gabriella Vella really brought this one home. Though I’m no legal historian (feel free to let me know if you know any better), I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that there is no other magistrate in Maltese history who’s faced down a more momentous occasion than she did. An entire mafia state bore down on her with all its might and she delivered right when we needed it.

I sincerely hope there will be some point in which the judiciary breaks its quasi-monastic code of silence to speak about this tumultuous downward spiral in our collective history. Posterity must know of the intimate details of such a historic moment in order to fully understand the destruction that corruption leaves in its wake, and people like magistrate Gabriella Vella will be the ones who are best placed to tell that story.

Robert Aquilina and Jason Azzopardi did most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the multitude of court cases which were filed by Repubblika, one of which forced the office of the attorney general to confirm that the Vitals inquiry was handed in by the magistrate on 25 April.

Criminal lawyer Jason Azzopardi (left) and honorary president of Repubblika, Robert Aquilina (right). Photo: Alessandra Dee Crespo

Love them or hate them, it is beyond undeniable now: Repubblika is the de facto mafia watchdog of the country. They have consistently managed to pull off one important victory after the other despite the government’s decade-long siege on the courts. Together with the formidable ladies at Occupy Justice Malta, they were a lifeline for the cause of justice for Daphne, for her legacy, and for the crimes she exposed.

Alright, now back to the scumbags.

I will not bother going into the merit of what Joseph Muscat said in his press conference because there is no merit to the words of a proven liar. The constitutional case he filed is a bogus delaying tactic which ran out of steam because the magistrate wrapped up her proceedings before Muscat’s attempts at taking her off his case went anywhere, and so any arguments which are put forward in relation to it are equally bogus.

The starting point of the conversation isn’t whether Muscat’s rights were breached or not. The starting point is that Muscat is a crook, and we’re about to find out just how much of a crook he is if and when the conclusions of this inquiry report are made public. With someone like him, it’s what’s between the furrowed lines on his brow that matters.

The effort to present a calm, unperturbed aura was immediately noticeable. I’ve never heard anyone tell a whole country that he is sure he’s done nothing wrong so many times in just thirty minutes. He is serene, he said, lingering on the enunciation of every word as if he was lounging at the beach on a deckchair. He even threw in a couple of weak jokes about how he hopes the police will investigate the millions he’s got stashed away so he can ‘claim’ them.

While wearing this disguise of absolute tranquility, he threatened practically every single activist, journalist, and member of the judiciary who’ve ever said or done anything related to Joseph Muscat.

“My family and I are ready – we’re coming out fighting.”

“The institutions are working – against the Labour Party.”

“I am in the ring and I am ready to fight.”

“There is political prejudice involved (in the inquiry). Whoever broke the law must shoulder responsibility.”

Throughout the whole press conference, he repeatedly referred to unspecified plans to hit back at “everyone who lied” about him. What he really means, of course, is the exact opposite: he will try to do whatever he can to intimidate and harass anyone who speaks the truth, just like he did to Daphne.

Muscat’s refusal to admit that it’s time to begin a strategic retreat is what led him to his downfall. Ironically, what he thinks is his best strategy – die with the lie and remain defiant until the very end – is actually accelerating his political demise rather than slowing it down. Most importantly of all, his belligerence eroded his last line of protection: his standing within the Labour Party. With this inquiry, Muscat went from asset to liability overnight.

Look at how Robert Abela didn’t hesitate to say that he believes the results of this magisterial inquiry should be made public. This is Robert Abela we’re talking about, the tyrant who almost derailed a public inquiry into Jean-Paul Sofia’s death, the yacht-riding despot who treats the independent press like an annoying pest and has made a hobby out of trying to have the judiciary’s guts for garters anytime the name of someone from the Labour Party crops up in a courtroom.

In other words, even a prime minister who has done whatever it takes to prevent compromising information from being revealed to the public has finally given up on trying to protect Muscat. The cost-benefit ratio of defending Muscat has now shifted towards the negative.

Abela’s attacks on the judiciary need to be seen in this light. While his outrageous remarks against the judiciary continue unabated, there is a marked difference in tone: it is now about ‘defending’ the Labour Party, not about Joseph Muscat. Now that the cat is out of the bag, there is no point in trying to stuff it back in.

While both of their talking points hinge on the same baseless, conspiratorial plot points, it is ultimately not about what Abela says, but what Abela does, and what he did was throw Muscat under the bus, possibly in the hopes that the inquiry’s conclusions will focus largely on former Cabinet members rather than current ones.

The fact of the matter is that whichever way you slice it, the Labour Party’s days are numbered. No one, not even the artful dodger, can escape from 78 boxes of evidence collected during a four-year inquiry which initially focused on key government executives who held extremely important positions within his administration: Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona, and Edward Scicluna.

Bear in mind that the investigation was focused on figuring out whether any of the individuals above – including Muscat himself, who was identified as a person of interest in the investigation at a later stage – committed a range of extremely serious crimes. We are talking about fraud, money laundering, bribery, conspiracy to commit a crime, participating in and financing of organised crime, trading in influence, and falsification of documents with the intent of defrauding the authorities.

Given the extent of the corruption which surrounded the hospitals concession and the fact that Muscat and his cronies spearheaded every aspect of it, it is virtually impossible that at least one of those very severe charges won’t stick.

The biggest question of all, of course, is whether the notoriously compromised offices of the attorney general and the police commissioner will dare to as much as lift a finger in Muscat’s direction. Ultimately, the power to prosecute and arraign Muscat belongs to them. Technically speaking, the attorney general isn’t legally obliged to publish the magisterial inquiry’s report, and it may well be the case that she chooses not to without even needing to disclose why she did so.

Even if both the attorney general and the police commissioner decide to rest on their laurels, it is only a matter of time until someone with a conscience finds out that the secrecy is just too much to bear and the country needs to know about it. This inquiry is too sought after for it not to come out in the open one way or the other, and the fact that the prime minister has called for it to be published means the government will find it very difficult to explain why it wasn’t if that turns out to be the case.

It is so disturbing to hear Muscat talk about such brave acts of dissidence with open contempt. As he went on and on about information leaks from the probe into his affairs, talking about them as if they were one of the tools being deployed by “the Establishment”, I thought of every source I ever met who took serious risks to expose the truth and help journalists like myself piece it together.

If it weren’t for brave people who risked their livelihoods (and sometimes, their lives) to expose all this corruption, Daphne wouldn’t have been able to give us the first big stories about this concession. If it weren’t for that one mysterious whistleblower who handed over terabytes of data to investigative journalists, we’d be completely in the dark about those shell companies which Schembri and Mizzi had set up to funnel kickbacks from the power station deal. The same applies for all other major scandals we’ve witnessed in the past decade.

Muscat can alternate between claiming to be serene and haranguing everyone who says he isn’t until the cows come home.

Yesterday was one of the most crucial moments in the development of this story, one which brought us a step closer to what we all want to see: whether Muscat’s smug grin will remain on his face once he is imprisoned for his crimes.

Meanwhile, seven years after they killed her, Daphne continues to haunt them in their sleep.

A Facebook post shared by Mandy Mallia, Daphne’s sister.


  • saviour mamo says:

    Serene you said? Those 78 boxes of documents will keep Joseph Muscat awake at night for a a very long time.

  • Philip incorvaja says:

    An unmissable article. Kudos to the author for saying it all. If nothing else qaxxarhom, and he confirmed we are very much a mafia state with headquarters at Castille. Hopefully we are seeing the light on the horizon. The end is nigh ‼️

  • Peter Vella says:

    Both the AG and the police lack the will and, let’s face it, the resources, to push through a successful prosecution. Who will be tasked to wade through those 87 boxes of evidence. Some minion without a clue of what he should be look for I bet. Sadly, I am not hopeful, and Muscat’s confidence shows that he knows he can get away with it.

    • Julian Delia says:

      Peter – it is unfair to paint every single police officer and lawyer in the AG’s office with the same brush. It is true that the police commissioner and the attorney general are compromised. This is visible in their lack of willingness to prosecute high-ranking members of government who were actively involved in major acts of corruption. But Angelo Gafa’ is not the entire police force, and Victoria Buttigieg is not the only person who works at the AG’s office, either.

      However, we are talking about two separate entities with very distinct identities. Angelo Gafa’ owes his career to Joseph Muscat, and is largely perceived as loyal to him and his associates, even within the police force. Victoria Buttigieg, on the other hand, is a clueless civil servant who follows orders. Currently, the orders from the top seem quite clear: Joseph Muscat and co. can be tossed into the frying pan.

      You are right to point out that both of these branches of law enforcement are lacking in resources and expertise and that their track record (whenever they did take some form of action) leaves a lot to be desired. Magistrate Gabriella Vella did not gather those boxes herself – throughout these four years, she would have been working with police officers whose job would be to gather that evidence and assist in her investigation. They would have had to have an active role in this process and will be able to attest to the contents of its outcome.

  • watcheroftheroad says:

    Reading the indictment rap sheet, with Joseph Muscat’s name heading the list, I could not not see Daphne’s sons in my imaginative view feeling a sense of closure and hope of justice being done.

  • Margaret Cox says:

    Breathtaking analysis of the man and the events of recent years which have led him to believe in his invincibility. Beautifully-written (albeit sickening) chronicle of an arrogant narcissist who took ruthless advantage of the paucity of political nous of Labour Party followers, ruining his own country of birth to feed the frenzy of greed. ,

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