Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà is not the first to refuse to answer questions by members of the parliamentary public accounts committee (PAC) on the infamous Electrogas power station deal. Former cabinet minister Konrad Mizzi and businessman Paul Apap Bologna have done the same before him.
However, Gafà is neither a politician nor an entrepreneur. The police force he heads is bound by law to prevent, detect and investigate offences, to collect evidence and to bring offenders before the judicial authorities.
It is the only law enforcement authority tasked with the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, including money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Still, when the Nationalist members of parliament sitting on the PAC wanted to find out whether the police were looking into the blatant abuses raised by the auditor general in a damning report, they were stonewalled by Gafà.
The government representatives on the committee had already blocked him from testifying before them. So the opposition members sent him a letter listing a number of questions, in which they asked for general information rather than details on any police investigations.
Here is what they wanted to know: whether the police probed or did anything about the Electrogas contracts and, if so, is such action still ongoing; whether present or former parliamentarians, people involved in politics, public officials, civil servants and other government employees were interrogated or questioned; whether any of those approached refused to answer questions, did not collaborate or invoked the right to silence; whether he would be willing to appear before the PAC; and whether he or any of his officers had received a copy of the auditor general’s report.
So, mainly, what the opposition members wanted to know is whether the police are doing anything about the report findings and whether any politicians and people employed by the government have been approached.
However, rather than putting people’s mind at rest that all allegations of wrongdoing are duly investigated, as, indeed, the police are bound to do by law, Gafà tried to find a way out.
He cannot answer questions, he replied, because police investigations are, by their nature, confidential and his replies would prejudice the evidence. “It would, therefore, not be wise to publish that which is confidential,” he concluded his four-line letter.
Practically all the press releases issued on a daily basis by the police communications office invariably end saying investigations into the subject matter continue. When crime conferences are held – sometimes addressed by the police commissioner too – journalists are briefed about investigations without, of course, going into detail.
Even in sensitive, high-profile cases, the police had accepted to say investigations were in progress.
It was Gafà himself, for example, who, in early August 2020, had spoken about “sensitive investigations” when referring to the Pilatus Bank case, though he did not mention it by name.
And, a few months later, he felt he could speak about investigations in progress when more arrests had been made in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
In a case before the constitutional court about a request made by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers, the state advocate had no problem last summer speaking about ongoing police investigations.
So it does not appear the police are barred by law from speaking about ongoing investigations in general terms.
The stand taken by Gafà can only serve to raise more doubts that certain people in high office give more weight to appeasing their political masters than fulfilling their oath of office.
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