A high-ranking police official who has been widely criticised for sleeping on the Panama Papers investigations into government officials is to be awarded a “long and efficient service” medal.

Former Economic Crimes Unit head Ian Abdilla features second on a list of serving police officers to be given the award.

The medal is given based on a number of criteria, taking into consideration the limited number of disciplinary measures.

Abdilla was sidelined to an operational role last year by police commissioner Angelo Gafà, after coming in for scathing criticism about his lack of will to investigate former government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.  The former ECU head, who retained his job as an assistant police commissioner, has been put through the wringer by the public inquiry into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

“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 last year.

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.

[Abdilla’s] leadership of the unit will be remembered for its incompetence

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.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation welcomed his removal last year.

“His leadership of the unit will be remembered for its incompetence, lack of initiative, and blindness to the crimes of people involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia,” the foundation said.

Abdilla was in charge of the probe into 17 Black, the company owner 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.

Abdilla said it was his superior Silvio Valletta who told him not to question Fenech that day, as the businessman was feeling sick.

Valletta has since been exposed by Times of Malta as being a close friend of Fenech. Valletta received his own medal for long and efficient service three weeks prior to Fenech’s arrest.

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