UPDATED: Assistant Commissioner Abdilla gives details of investigations about Pilatus and 17 Black
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ian Abdilla, who until some time ago headed the economic crimes unit, has given evidence in the public inquiry which is looking into whether Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder could have been avoided. Mr Abdilla stated that the unit, which had only two Inspectors, carried out hundreds of investigations on money laundering, many of which are still ongoing. It resulted from evidence that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi had not been summoned by the Police in regard to the Panama Papers.
On the witness stand, Assistant Commissioner Abdilla faced a barrage of questions put by the three members of the Board of Inquiry as well as by lawyers for the Caruana Galizia family.
Asked about the Pilatus Bank, Mr Abdilla reiterated that the Egrant Inquiry, which he described as the biggest ever inquiry conducted in Malta by foreign experts, had shot down reports that Bank Chairman Ali Sadr had taken a suitcase full of documents from the bank. Mr Abdilla further stated that the continuous unbroken footage from security cameras shows that no documents had been taken from the bank. The witness also explained that the inquiry by then Magistrate Bugeja had taken all measures to ascertain that no information had been erased, and all servers had been retrieved.
Asked by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia why the Police had not acted immediately, Mr Abdilla replied that Ali Sadr, as owner of the bank, could not be suspected as stealing documents. Mr Abdilla added that Keith Schembri had an account at the Pilatus Bank, but Konrad Mizzi did not. The witness added that when they investigated the reports they had received about Keith Schembri, they had found nothing of a criminal nature in his transactions.
Regarding the Panama Papers, Mr Abdilla stated that no assistance had ever been requested from Europol to investigate the implicated persons. Asked by the Board whether he had sent for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in connection with the FIAU reports, Mr Abdilla replied that they had never been summoned to Police Headquarters. Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino asked the witness about advice by the Attorney General in a file about the Panama Papers for the Police to tread carefully in order to avoid unrest in the country. Mr Abdilla replied he did not recall there had been this advice.
On the Montenegro project and the involvement of 17 Black, Mr Abela stated no cooperation had been forthcoming from the authorities in Dubai. The witness explained that the Police and Magistrate Charmaine Galea had been about to leave for Dubai for meetings with the authorities in that country, but their trip had been postponed three times and had eventually been cancelled. Mr Abdilla added that for every step forward made by the Maltese Police, the authorities in Dubai would move them one step back. The witness further stated that they had then requested the French authorities for information about Cifidex and 17 Black. He added that the Police are trying to build a full picture of Yorgen Fenech’s interests in Dubai.
Questioned about when the Assistant Commissioner had met with Yorgen Fenech at the latter’s office in Portomaso, Mr Abdilla replied that he had gone to meet with him after a report had emerged which implicated him as the owner of 17 Black. Mr Abdilla added that his superior officer, former Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, had informed the Police not to go to Portomaso as Yorgen Fenech was not there. Assistant Commissioner Abdilla said he had not asked Mr Valletta how he had got to know, as he was angry about this instruction.
Part of the Assistant Commissioner’s evidence was given behind closed doors, in order not to prejudice ongoing investigations.