The police could not inform the people about each and every case being probed, including those of public interest, Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar said on Sunday when asked whether the 17 Black case was being actively investigated.
“Every case that is referred to the police, both by individuals as well as by other entities, is investigated. Most of the time, reports that we receive from the FIAU and other entities are just intelligence reports on which we would then need to start collecting the evidence ourselves,” Mr Cutajar told the Times of Malta.
By law, the police must obtain information about cases independently from the anti-money laundering unit – whose intelligence reports cannot be submitted as evidence in court.
The Commissioner’s comments were the first since it was revealed in November that the owner of the once-secret Dubai company 17 Black was local power station businessman Yorgen Fenech.
The company was named in leaked e-mails as the entity that would pay money into the Panama companies of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
According to Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, a magisterial inquiry has since been launched.
The Sunday Times of Malta reported last month that police investigations would only turn the spotlight on Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri once formal confirmation from foreign jurisdictions was obtained about the ownership of 17 Black.
Asked whether the two men were being investigated as part of the case, the Commissioner refused to give details, insisting instead that the police did not comment on specific cases and reiterated that every case referred to the force is always probed.
When it was pointed out that the 17 Black case was of public interest and asked if the public deserved to know that the case was being actively investigated, the Commissioner insisted that “the police work in silence”.
“I am saying that every case is being investigated. In some cases, you cannot go in front of the public, comment, say what you have in hand and prejudice the case. The police work in silence,” Mr Cutajar went on, complaining that he was “always being asked the same questions”.
The police chief’s comments echo similar ones by the officer responsible for the 17 Black case investigations, the head of the police economic crimes unit Ian Abdilla.
Last month, he told the Times of Malta that he was not accountable to the public when asked about the apparent lack of progress in the investigation.
Approached as he was leaving court, the officer told off the Times of Malta for chasing him, saying that he was not answerable to journalists or the public but only accountable to his boss – the Police Commissioner.