Former prime minister Joseph Muscat has been singled out by an inquiry board for enabling a culture of impunity in the lead up to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

The board attributed indirect responsibility for the circumstances leading to the murder to Muscat.

It cited his inaction against his chief of staff Keith Schembri and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi in the wake of the Panama Papers and 17 Black scandals.

Decisions taken by the prime minister strengthened the culture of impunity in which people the assassinated journalist used to write about operated, the inquiry said.

The board said those involved in criminality felt protected by this impunity, which facilitated Caruana Galizia's assassination. 

Muscat’s entire cabinet was also found to be "collectively responsible" for their inaction in the lead up to the assassination.

The board slammed cabinet for failing to protect those at risk and assuring good governance and the rule of law.

It also latched on to a post-Panama Papers declaration by minister Evarist Bartolo in May 2016 about there being “a law for the Gods, and another for animals”.

The board described this as a “shocking assertion” by a cabinet member about a collapse in the rule of law.

“Not only did the government fail to take any action to remedy the situation, but cabinet and the parliamentary group gave its support through votes of confidence to those involved.”

Prime minister Joseph Muscat protected his chief of staff Keith Schembri and energy minister Konrad Mizzi in the wake of the Panama Papers and 17 Black scandals, with the pair only resigning following the arrest of 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech in November 2019. 

Cabinet’s decision to “look the other way” meant its members were effectively endorsing the decisions by the prime minister to led everything slide.

“A decision which politically was a strong message that the sense of impunity being created at the heart of the administration had silent approval, if not the blessing, of the entire cabinet”.

The board said at the very least, cabinet’s inaction was a “grave omission” that in a democratic society should have consequences.

Cabinet’s and the parliamentary group’s failure to strengthen institutions and ensure the rule of law must also hadbeen within the context of the deregatory campaign mounted against Caruana Galizia, which was coordinated by people within the prime minister’s office. 

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