MALTA AND THE ACCUSED

by Joe Mifsud (e.mail: [email protected])

When the Lockerbie trail continues it will most likely focus on the Malta connection. I want to examine the relationship between the two accused, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, and their connection with Malta.

Both worked at Libyan Arab Airlines, which had its Malta offices in both in Malta's Capital Valletta, and at Luqa Airport.

LAA operated scheduled flights to Malta. On two occasions within weeks of each other the sales office in Valletta was the target of terrorist bomb attacks. The first was detonated by a timer at 2.45 AM on Monday the 7th July 1980. The blast was so strong that debris was thrown was thrown to the other side of the square. Investigation showed the explosive was TNT. Another attempt to bomb the same office on 5th August 1980, was foiled when an observant police officer on patrol, spotted a suspicious package, an Air Malta bag containing the bomb and immediately called in the bomb disposal unit who disarmed the device avoiding major damage.

Fhimah’s connection with Malta is deeper as he was the station manager of LAA and had his own apartment in St. John’s Flat, Spring Street, Mosta. Although he worked hard for the company he was known as a charming person, got on well with the Maltese people and would often wind with them in local pubs. A barman told me how Fhimah used to frequent his pub with his colleagues, even once with Giaka, the Libyan defector, now in the witness protection programme in the United States and cited as Crown witness number 684. The barman told me that he never so anything suspicious.

In September 1988, Fhimah left Libyan Arab Airlines, but kept his connection with the island and along with Vincent Vassallo, made plans to form a travel agency in Mosta at Eucharistic Congress Road.

The company Med Tours Service Limited was officially registered as a commercial company on the 5th June 1989. But in the indictment the prosecution claims that Fhimah used the company as a front for the Libyan Jamaharija Secret Service (JSO) from September 1988. Through this travel agency Fhimah has organised the Paris-Dakar 1990 race.

I have a business card of Fhimah, showing him as managing director of the company.

He distributed these cards, with the phone number 498931, throughout the Island.

From Med Tours office in Mosta, Lockerbie investigators took Fhimah’s diary along with other documents which the Crown hope to use in its case against the accused.

Vincent Vassallo, Fhimah’s partner in Med Tours Services Limited, after consulting on the phone with Fhimah, gave everything to the investigators. Fhimah told Vassallo to give the investigators anything they wanted.

The prosecution will attempt to show that an entry in Fhimah’s diary is connected to the bombing of Pan Am 103. This particular entry is alleged to have been written by Fhimah reminding himself to get Air Malta "Tags". The prosecution is claiming that this is the tag that was used to send the bomb on flight KM180 to Frankfurt.

It is surprising that the prosecution thinks it would have been necessary for Fhimah to acquire luggage tags in Malta as the Libyan Arab Airlines offices in Tripoli and Benghazi acted as agents for Air Malta and would have had access to several thousand such tags The defence will claim that the entry in the diary was referring to a business proposal the two accused where having with a Maltese printer at San Gwann. They were trying to secure an order of tag printing for Libyan Arab Airlines.

Maltese citizens are asking if Fhimah is a terrorist, (They do not think so), is he so stupid that he writes in his diary what he was going to do? Is he so stupid to consent so that the investigators take his diary to be used against him?

Al Megrahi was Fhimah’s superior, in charge of the Libyan Arab Airlines security. Megrahi was a member of the Libyan Intelligence service, the JSO and he had two other passports under false identities, one in the name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad and Nasser Ahmed Salam.

In the world of Intelligence officers this would be commonplace in any country. These people travel under aliases in the same way that terrorists will do. The Leader of Islamic Jihad, Fathi Shqaqi was killed in Malta in October 1995, while using a Libyan passport in the name of Ibrahim Ali Shawesh.

Megrahi and Fhimah spent a lot time in each other's company, both in Mosta and in other places. But Megrahi is not known as well known as Fhimah. Megrahi's favourite hotel when he used to visit Malta was the Holiday Inn in Sliema but the prosecution is going to connect him also with Central Hotel in Mosta with statements from two Maltese woman that used to work with Libyan Arab Airlines and then with Air Malta.

One should look carefully when the prosecution is going to refer to a particular telephone call that Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad is alleged to have made at 7.11 in the morning on the 21st December 1988, the day when a terrorist attack downed Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

This phone call was alleged to have been made from room 514 to the telephone number 414570. Later the prosecution is going to present proof that this phone number was of Fhimah’s residence in Mosta.

Abdusamad was the false identity of Al Megrahi. He stayed on other occasions at the Hotel Inn. The dates are, 22-23 August, 9-10 October, 18-20 October, 7-9 December and 20-21 December 1988.

The prosecution is claiming that it was Megrahi that bought cloths from Mary ’s House in Sliema, that later fragments of them were found in Lockerbie months after the Pan Am explosion. They say that these clothes were bought on the 7th December 1988. Their main witness for this is Anthony Gauci owner of Mary’s House cloths shop.

He has made some 19 different statements about the case. He said that he resembled Gaddafi, and was >his early fifties “6 foot tall, Arab looking, about 50 years of age and

heavy body” But Megrahi during that time was less than 6 foot tall, he is

Arab looking, about 34 of age and he was slim. The defence is claiming that the clothes were both on the 23 November 1988 by another customer. This customer of Palestinian origin is in Swedish Jail. He was given a life sentence in connection of terrorist attacks in Denmark.

Abu Talb, now serving a life sentence in Sweden was in Malta, at least twice. He was here in October and November 1988 and he had connections with the PFLP-GC, a Palestinian faction, originally implicated in the Lockerbie Case, before fingers pointed to Libya. Talb can be linked both in Malta and Cyprus to Ahmed Jibril's man, Hafez Dalkamoni

People in Malta, including me are still waiting to see solid evidence linking these two Libyans to this terrible crime.

Joe Mifsud is a Maltese Journalist accredited to cover the trial at Camp Zeist for the Maltese media. He can be contacted by E-mail.

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