Updated 8.50pm, adds Daphne Foundation statement

Assistant police commissioner Alexandra Mamo will be replacing Ian Abdilla as the head of the Economic Crimes Unit, police commissioner Angelo Gafà said on Tuesday.

Addressing his first news conference after being appointed commissioner, Gafà said: “In no way am I saying Ian Abdilla did anything wrong but at this point we must send a clear signal that things will change. We need to address shortcomings immediately.”

Asked by Times of Malta why his first act will be to remove Abdilla if he truly believed him to have done nothing wrong, Gafà said that in the face of “insinuations and allegations” the public had started to raise suspicions. 

“We are at a juncture and because he was such a target, there could be some doubts in people’s minds and so we will be removing all doubts by appointing Mamo. 

“The message is clear – we want to take things seriously. We know how much Mamo has the people’s support and that is what we want. We need someone who has people’s trust heading this department,” Gafa said. 

Commissioner Gafa on his decision to replace Abdilla with Mamo. Video: Chris Sant Fournier

The new commissioner said he believed his first day should be a reflection of the future. “I know there are certain areas that we need to focus upon and that is what we are doing,” he said.

Mamo was one of the applicants for the post of commissioner.

Abdilla has faced controversy during his time at the helm of the unit, which has been accused of being unable or unwilling to investigate and press charges in major cases of alleged white-collar crime. 

Former FIAU official Jonathan Ferris had told the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in January that he had in the past clashed with Abdilla and did not trust him

Replying to questions by Times of Malta a few days ago, Abdilla said he was only informed  Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech wanted to speak to him about major corruption scandals after the businessman had already been charged and was no longer willing to speak.

Daphne Foundation welcomes Abdilla's removal

In a statement, the Daphne Foundation welcomed the news saying Abdilla will be remembered for his incompetence, lack of initiative, and blindness to the crimes of people involved in Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

“We hope that the appointment of Alexandra Mamo in his stead is the beginning of a new era in fighting financial crime. During Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri’s term at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Malta Police Force failed to prosecute the multiple and interrelated crimes which Daphne Caruana Galizia exposed, suggesting it was captured by organised criminal interests.

“As a result, Mamo now has to fight crime on two fronts: investigating the possible complicity of her former colleagues, including Silvio Valletta and Ray Aquilina, while investigating and bringing charges against Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Yorgen Fenech, Turab Musayev, and many others.”

The foundation said Prime Minister Abela must be proactive in giving Mamo all the resources necessary for her and her team to do their job properly, without waiting for anyone to ask for them, and ensuring that there is proper separation of powers to prevent direct interference in police work.

This includes starting a Europol Joint Investigation Team, allowing Mamo and her team to freely pursue money trails across borders with the speed, efficiency and professionalism that has always been missing.

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