Assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla, who has been widely criticised for inaction over the Panama Papers investigations, has been suspended by police commissioner Angelo Gafà.
The former Economic Crimes Unit head was summoned by Gafà on Monday and put on suspension on half pay, days after the damning findings of a public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, sources told Times of Malta.
Replying to questions, police said: "The Malta Police Force has suspended an MPF official in line with the Public Service Commission Disciplinary Regulations, pending investigations."
According to Article 43 of the Police Act, officers can only be dismissed from the corp following a review by the public service commission.
The inquiry was scathing about police inaction into allegations of government corruption and financial crime.
It found that the police "did hardly anything" to investigate media reports and that there was "direct and suspicious interference" by the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri into police investigations.
Abdilla could not be reached for comment.
Abdilla was sidelined to an operational role last year by police commissioner Angelo Gafà, after his lack of will to investigate former government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
The former ECU head, who retained his rank as an assistant police commissioner, was mentioned dozens of times in the inquiry report.
“How could you not do anything about the Panama Papers! How could you not send for Keith Schembri and the rest? We seem to be living in a parallel universe,” one of the judges on the inquiry board told Abdilla during a heated sitting last year.
Police 'did nothing'
The ECU’s probe into the Panama Papers stopped before it even began in April 2016, as the police decided that seizing the servers of offshore service providers Nexia BT would be too intrusive.
Instead, the police decided to wait upon the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit to provide more information before pursuing further investigations.
Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of the assassinated journalist, has accused Abilla of having spent years sitting on multiple reports of high-level corruption.
Abdilla was in charge of the probe into 17 Black, the company owned by Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.
The former ECU head had told the public inquiry that he held off from questioning Fenech in November 2018 after Times of Malta and Reuters exposed him as the owner of the company linked to government corruption.
From inspector to assistant commissioner in two years
Abdilla skyrocketed from the post of police inspector in 2015 to head of the ECU and assistant commissioner within the space of two years.
Abdilla also admitted during the inquiry to twice being summoned to the Prime Minister’s office by Schembri to brief him about confidential FIAU reports which implicated the OPM chief of staff in money laundering.
Abdilla took the lead on the Egrant inquiry, which concluded there was no evidence linking former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's wife to the Panama company.
Abdilla has also admitted that he aborted a meeting with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in November 2018 to discuss a Times of Malta and Reuters report revealing Fenech owned 17 Black.
He said the Portomaso meeting was called off because his superior Silvio Valletta told him Fenech was “sick”. Fenech was never questioned and no raids were ever carried out.
Instead, under, Abdilla’s tenure, the ECU put together a botched request to obtain information from the United Arab Emirates about 17 Black.
In 2020, Incoming police commissioner Gafa' announced that Abdilla would be replaced by Alexandra Mamo as head of the ECU during his inaugural press conference.
"In no way am I saying Ian Abdilla did anything wrong," Gafa' said, "but at this point we must send a clear signal that things will change. We need to address shortcomings immediately.”
Despite his 2020 demotion, Abdilla was listed as a recipient for a medal for "long and efficient service" within the police force in February of this year.