The Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry conclusions included detailed recommendations for Malta to adopt specific anti-mafia laws. The recommendations, studiously ignored by the government, were drawn up because the inquiry found that the absence of such laws is part of the state’s failure and, consequently, the state’s responsibility for the atmosphere that allowed a journalist to be killed. The failure persists. The atmosphere has not cleared.
The inquiry specifically refers to the anti-mafia law in the Italian criminal code. Its first version was introduced in 1982, which means the Italians needed 80 years of parliamentary debate examining whether the mafia exists outside gothic movies and left-wing rhetoric until enough people were killed to shake them into doing something about it.
You start by defining what it is that makes a criminal outfit mafioso. The definition says nothing about bombs, or guns, or killings. It’s about an organisation that is capable of intimidating outsiders as a group using any form of subjugation and hiding behind omertà, the code of silence. These capabilities would be mobilised to commit crimes but these would not necessarily be spectacular armed robberies.
Italian law focuses on the more typical reason for the existence of a mafia organisation: to acquire or control economic activities, concessions, authorisations, contracts and public services.
In other words, corruption, market capture and land grabs, matters that make weekly news in our country.
Under Italian law, anyone proven to be part of such a group faces up to 12 years in prison for that fact alone; longer if the organisation is armed or if some of its profits come from re-invested proceeds from crime.
The anti-mafia criminal law in the Italian model that the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry told us to look at as a template for our own law includes two more activities it fully expects mafia organisations to do: to corrupt the electoral process and to mobilise votes in elections.
Let’s draw some observations from that. There should be little doubt that we have needed anti-mafia laws for some time.
Consider the case of one Romeo Bone. On February 20, 2017, the car he was driving in broad daylight on the Msida waterfront exploded. He lost both his legs in the incident but survived. He refused to give the police any information that may have led them to the perpetrators. At the time, the police knew Bone well. They had prosecuted him and failed to secure his conviction for armed robbery. And he had also been cleared for stalking a police investigator who was due to testify in a separate case.
They had also investigated Bone for involvement in the killing of businessman Joseph Baldacchino in 2010 and they suspected he had killed Raymond Agius. Agius’s surviving heirs are Adrian and Robert, both charged with complicity in the killing of Caruana Galizia. The Agius brothers are also charged with the killing of Carmel Chircop, apparently over a business deal gone awry. They have also been investigated for the disappearance of Terence Gialanzè in 2012. Four weeks before he vanished, he got rid of his shares in an import-export business he had with the Agius brothers.
Italy has evolved its laws to combat the relationship between criminals and politicians- Manuel Delia
An alleged accomplice in both the Caruana Galizia and Chircop murders is George Degiorgio. He used to be in business with John Camilleri, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in 2016.
You have all the elements there. An organisation set up to profit from economic activities using intimidation and the protection of secrecy as business tools. Their activity, which would be deemed mafioso had no one been scratched, is further aggravated by the use of weapons and acts of public terror and it is childish not to suspect that their business is, at least in part, financed by the proceeds of crime.
There’s no doubt Malta has a mafia. There’s even greater certainty we don’t have laws to fight it.
Then there’s the consideration of corruption. Italy has evolved its laws to combat the relationship between criminals and politicians. The original 1982 law limited the prosecution of politicians to situations where they could be found to have been mafiosi themselves, an unlikely prospect.
But over time the doctrine of ‘external participation’ evolved largely from the thinking of entrepreneurial prosecutors and the judges who agreed with them. They combined anti-mafia laws with the separate principle that, when a person is complicit in a crime, they are subject to the same punishment as their accomplice. To simplify, if you drive a getaway car in a bank robbery you should expect to get the punishment of a bank robber. If you drive a getaway car in a cold-blooded murder, the same action of driving the car carries a heavier penalty.
On this basis, a politician who helps a mafioso, even if they are not mafiosi themselves, make themselves liable to the harsh penalties applicable to mafiosi.
The principle is not without controversy because it is not expressly spelled out in the law but, obviously, the solution to that would be to revise the law to enshrine it. Because it’s been useful in shutting down town councils infiltrated by the mafia and to lock up mayors and councillors who have exchanged public contracts, secret information and other favours with mafiosi in exchange for political support and the mobilisation of voters.
Those WhatsApp messages to Yorgen Fenech from Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Edward Zammit Lewis, Adrian Delia and Rosianne Cutajar and those (alleged) meetings mafiosi held with Chris Cardona and Carmelo Abela would have greater significance if we had the laws to do something about them.
And, right about now, Joseph Muscat would not be quite as serene.
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