British prime minister Harold Wilson is supposed to have said in the mid-1960s that a week is a long time in politics because so much can change. The Malta police appear to differ, judging by a brief statement issued in reaction to a front-page article published by the Nationalist Party daily, In-Nazzjon.

In a brief telephone interview during a Net Television chat show the Police Commissioner was asked, among other things, whether Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s closest aide, Keith Schembri, were being investigated about their secret companies in Panama. He kept insisting he was precluded from speaking about the matter by article 112 of the Police Act and the Nationalist media interpreted that as meaning he confirmed that the two public persons were considered as suspects and investigated.

The police were quick to react: “The spirit of article 112 of the Police Act is not to allow specific cases to be discussed in the media… As was already declared on March 24, 2016, there is no indication of any reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed that could give rise to an investigation...”

A year ago, The Malta Independent had asked the police whether they acquiesced to the Opposition’s requests to investigate all contracts Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri were involved in. This followed allegations made by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The police replied that up to that point there was no reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed and which would legally bind them to initiate investigations.

The police have now repeated this, oblivious of the developments that have taken place since, most notably the Panama Papers and the leaked e-mails containing so many details.

Werner Langen, chairman of the European Parliament’s committee loooking into the Panana Papers, said in regard to Dr Mizzi: “The facts and the situation as we see them would point to a potential case of money laundering but we do not have any documentary evidence… We will have to dig deeper into this.”

The police, however, do not seem to see anything untoward that would require them to dig deeper too. They say nothing has changed since a year ago and that, in any case, the law does not allow them to speak.

Yet, the law seems to be bar the police from (1) speaking to journalists on the identity of an arrested person and (2) giving information on the identity of a person about to be arraigned or on any investigation involving a suspect. Which can mean that nothing stops the police from saying an investigation started in the wake of the Panama Papers allegations without giving details.

There were instances, even  recently, where the police did speak about investigations. Crime conferences were held in the wake of serious crime, like murders and car bombs. In February 2014, the police confirmed to this newspaper that a number of Enemalta employees were under investigation and, late last November, they informed the Times of Malta they had investigated corruption allegations (involving an individual and the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools).

Even if the law gagged the police – which it does not – public interest would demand that the government would step in to publicly declare that the police were looking into the very serious implications resulting from what Panama Papers have revealed about Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

But accountability and transparency do not feature high in the agenda of a country where governance has been corrupted.

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