On TVM last Wednesday, Manuel Mallia, Labour MP and veteran of the criminal justice system, was explaining to me the difference between “judicial justice” and “popular justice”, between “judicial truth” and “popular truth” and between “suspicion” and “proof”.
Every cell in my bone marrow rejects the notion of multiple truths. There’s only one, though there are different paths to reach it. But I’d like to think I understood, even before Mallia’s Cliff Notes, that it is perfectly possible to be fairly sure someone has done something though one is unable to be prove it.
On June 1, 2020, Melvin Theuma was asked in court a question by Jason Azzopardi. Had anyone ever mentioned to him a payment made by Chris Cardona to Alfred Degiorgio ‘il-Fulu’? Theuma replied in the affirmative.
He said the information came to him from Mario Degiorgio, who is the brother of George ‘iċ-Ċiniż’ and ‘il-Fulu’, who have been in custody awaiting trial since December 2017, charged with killing Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Theuma testified that Mario Degiorgio told him that Cardona had paid his brother, Alfred, the sum of €350,000 to kill Daphne and used an intermediary for this purpose.
Now remember, that this was far from the first time Cardona’s name had been mentioned in connection with the murder. In November 2019, a letter purportedly written by Keith Schembri gave Yorgen Fenech instructions on how to pin the murder on Cardona.
If you’re going to ‘frame’ someone for murder, you’re not going to point at a potential suspect whose alibi is obvious. Whoever wrote that letter – Schembri, rather glibly, denies he did – did not suggest to Fenech that he should blame Patrick Stewart or Nelson Mandela. The suggestion was to blame someone who would struggle to clear his name.
Cardona’s law office partner and protégé, David Gatt, was charged with the 2010 HSBC bank heist. Vince Muscat, ‘il-Koħħu’, who has since been arrested, charged and convicted on admission for murdering Caruana Galizia, was in the gang that committed that botched robbery. Gatt was eventually acquitted.
The witness in the case against Gatt, a former police officer, was another policeman, Mario Portelli, who had testified in court that he had been initiated in an organised crime clan headed by Gatt who behaved as if he was a cinematic mafia don.
Gatt’s acquittal means that the court did not believe Portelli. He did not take that well.
In January 2019, Portelli made the very public accusation that Cardona was involved in Daphne’s murder.
Before Fenech was outed as the owner of 17 Black and a strong case was forming around the Electrogas and the Panama scandal as the motive for the crime, Cardona was deemed a likely suspect.
Unless the public shows its anger, justice will not be served- Manuel Delia
The debacle over his lawsuit after his reported brothel visit in January 2017, the viciousness with which he reacted and his inability to substantiate his denials did not look good on him.
What looked worse was a report on France 2 in April 2018 that placed him at the Ferdinand’s Bar speaking with Alfred Degiorgio days before the alleged assassin was arrested along with his brother and Vince Muscat. Cardona denied the meeting ever happened, forcefully, saying he never met Alfred Degiorgio.
Labour’s TV station helped, running a story that the CCTV footage from the bar “proved” the meeting never happened. Though it’s hard to prove a negative.
The following October, Italy’s La Repubblica contradicted Cardona’s denial he ever knew Degiorgio, finding he met the alleged assassin at a private poolside bachelor’s party.
Things got worse for Cardona. In February 2020 – by now, Theuma was already testifying in court and Fenech had been charged with complicity in Daphne’s murder – the state’s witness said Cardona’s number was the only one found on a burner phone discarded by the Degiorgios. “Sources” would later tell The Malta Independent that was not true.
Then, in April 2020, a series of smartly put parliamentary questions (Jason Azzopardi again using the tools available to him to eke out the facts) revealed that, in the summer of 2017, in the weeks before Caruana Galizia was killed, while her demise was being planned by her executioners, Alfred Degiorgio’s daughter got a summer job within Cardona’s ministry.
Il-Fulu’s daughter started her job around the time Cardona and Alfred Degiorgio met at a bachelor’s party and finished her position a few days before Caruana Galizia was assassinated.
Now, another witness for the prosecution, Vince Muscat, says he often drove Alfred Degiorgio to Valletta to meet Cardona the summer before Daphne was killed. He says Degiorgio told him that Cardona was helping with the murder plot and adds that he once saw him walk into the ministry.
That’s two state witnesses, relied upon by the prosecution to say the truth, pointing at Cardona.
You’d think they’re hard to ignore.
Is this “judicial truth”? Perhaps not. However, we must be assured someone, somewhere is trying to find it.
It doesn’t help us believe that when we see a prime minister and a police chief singing from a hymn sheet that tells us they’re not looking at politicians.
The fact that they tried to fudge it when they perceived the public’s anger shows that we’re still where we were in October 2017: unless the public shows its anger, justice will not be served.
Tomorrow, at 5pm, join us in front of parliament and show your anger.
For Daphne. For Malta.
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