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MALTATODAY 29 January 2023

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12 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 29 JANUARY 2023 End November 1981 A meeting is held at the Valletta office of Joe Pace, the owner of the Magic Kiosk in Sliema. Pace was a director in Terry Ltd and a shareholder with Piju Camilleri in Tor Ltd. The people present for this meet- ing are Pace, Camilleri, business partners Joseph Borg and Victor Balzan, notary Joseph Saydon and accountant Lino Cauchi. Borg and Balzan jointly want to develop land they own in Fgu- ra but Camilleri is asking for 22 plots to be transferred to his company in exchange for the building permits to be issued. The meeting is intended to final- ise the transfer of plots but Borg plays for time and another meet- ing has to be scheduled. 8 December 1981 A contract is signed for the transfer of 22 plots in the Ta' Belinja area in Fgura from Borg and Balzan to Camilleri. Howev- er, at the last minute, Camilleri decides that Pace should appear on the contract in his stead and the plots are transferred to Terry Ltd. During this meeting, a separate private agreement is drawn up between Borg and Camilleri in settlement of another dispute between them involving their joint company Luqa Develop- ments Ltd. When testifying in court in a case he later instituted against Pace and Terry Ltd, Borg said the private agreement was drawn up by Lino Cauchi. The agreement would see Camilleri transfer 30 plots back to Borg. In exchange, Borg would drop a court case he had instituted against Camilleri. The agreement is held by Cauchi but goes missing when he dis- appears two months later. 12 December 1981 A general election sees the Malta Labour Party returning to power after winning a majority of seats but a minority of votes. This gives rise to a turbulent pe- riod that lasts until 1987. 15 February 1982 Lino Cauchi returns home in Santa Venera for lunch at noon. An hour later he leaves for work at his office in Old Bakery Street, Valletta. At around 5pm two of Cauchi's clients ask for him at home but his wife Anna tells them he is not there. They point out that his car is parked outside. Cauchi never returns home. The last recorded sight- ing is at 6.30pm in Valletta. Timeline CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Documentation seen for the first time shows that a Homicide Commission set up in 1996 between the Malta po- lice force and the Specialist Operations Organized Crime Group from Britain's New Scotland Yard was tasked to inves- tigate unsolved murders, particularly those of Karen Grech and Lino Cauchi. The commission had only started re- visiting the Cauchi case when it was disbanded after the Labour govern- ment came to power later that year. However, the commission did manage to talk to Cauchi's widow and retired judge David Scicluna, who was the du- ty magistrate tasked with the inquiry when the butchered corpse was found in 1985. Laundering money for people in high places An internal report compiled by In- spector Jeffrey Rees from New Scotland Yard referred to what the magistrate told the commission in a meeting held in October 1996 and the revelations are indeed shocking. "He [then magistrate David Scicluna] described himself as sceptical of the contents of the police files dealing with case. Indeed, there was real suspicion that police officers were involved in the murder," Rees wrote in this report. Although suspicions of a police cover up have always been floated by Cauchi's relatives, this is the first time that such a shocking statement can be attributed to the magistrate dealing with the case. But it does not stop at that. Rees's re- port also refers to the magistrate's be- lief that Cauchi could have been "laun- dering money for people in high places and the police protected them". "Apparently, police had seized the papers from Lino Cauchi's office but he [the magistrate] had never been able to gain access to them. He had no knowledge of what had happened to the briefcase found or to the demand letters," Rees reported. Indeed, Scicluna told the commission that "Lino almost certainly died be- cause he knew too much about some criminal activity". "He would have become aware of the information through his employment as an auditor, and he audited accounts for a number of influential people in- cluding Labour clients," Scicluna is re- ported telling the commission. The reference to 'Labour clients' was most definitely former public works minister Lorry Sant, the only politician to ever be charged in court with cor- ruption, and his henchmen, particular- ly developer Piju Camilleri. Camilleri had been a member of the Planning Area Permits Board (PAPB) and was notorious for extorting lands from developers seeking to acquire building permits. Cauchi had been his accountant and was also present for a stormy meeting on 8 December 1981 between Camilleri and other land own- ers. At that meeting, Cauchi had inad- vertently presented plans, showing how Camilleri sold plots of land for one price but declared a lower price on contract, hiding the true value from his business partners. Camilleri rebuffed Cauchi and eyewitnesses at the meet- ing interpreted some of his statements as a death threat towards the account- ant. Scicluna concluded his inquiry in 1989, focussing primarily on the dis- covery and identification of Cauchi's butchered body. The inquiry was re- opened under a different magistrate years later to hear the testimony of oth- er people involved in the 1981 meeting. Failure to preserve evidence Judge Depasquale expressed incredu- lity that police failed to ask for a magis- terial inquiry when Cauchi disappeared in 1982 despite the man "not being a habitual absentee". An inquiry would have preserved cru- cial evidence at the time of Cauchi's disappearance that could have led to the people who murdered him. The Cauchi case was being investigat- ed by Inspector Anġlu Farrugia, today's Speaker of the House, who had even arrested Cauchi's wife a year after the man disappeared, on suspicion that she knew of his whereabouts. The judge said the discovery of Cauchi's briefcase at Chadwick Lakes two days after he went missing, should have been reason enough for the police to seek a magisterial inquiry. The brief- case was found empty and forced open. Police did send the briefcase to foren- sics but no report on the findings is to be found in the Cauchi police file. Similarly, it remains unclear wheth- er police carried out forensic tests on Cauchi's car, which was found parked outside his house. Cauchi had last been seen in Valletta, where his office was, at 6:30pm, while two people who visited his house at 7:30pm had seen the car outside. The police file also contains missing information on what police may have found when they searched his Valletta office. Indeed, the inquiring magistrate confessed to the Homicide Commis- sion that he was unable to get his hands on the papers and files police had col- lected from Cauchi's office. Furthermore, when Lino Cauchi's brother had found blood on his car in what he interpreted as a threat, no fo- rensic tests were carried out. In this way, crucial evidence was not collected with police insisting on treat- ing Cauchi's case as that of a missing person until the gruesome find in 1985. By then, potentially incriminating evi- dence had long been lost. KURT SANSONE 'Real suspicion' police involved in Lino Cauchi 1982 murder

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