A man suspected of the 2017 murder of Maltese corruption-investigating journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was sentenced to fifteen years in prison on Tuesday, the first conviction in a sordid case that shocked Malta and the rest of the world.
Blogger journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who denounced in her blog Running Commentary the endemic corruption in this Mediterranean archipelago, a former British colony that entered the European Union in 2004, was killed in a car bomb on October 16, 2017. She was 53 years old.
Considered to be simple executors, three men with a heavy criminal record – the brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio as well as Vincent Muscat – were arrested in December and charged, suspected of having manufactured, planted and detonated the deadly bomb.
They had pleaded not guilty since, until Tuesday’s rebound occurred during a preliminary hearing to lead to a dismissal or their referral to a criminal court. While his alleged accomplices continue to proclaim their innocence, Vincent Muscat has turned around.
He was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years in prison, a sentence in accordance with the indictment of the public prosecutor and relatively lenient under the Maltese penal code. The court took into account that the accused had waived his right to appeal against the judgment and had cooperated with the courts.
The journalist’s family, disappointed by the verdict, nevertheless said they hoped that the sentence “would pave the way for total justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
The family’s lawyer, Jason Azzopardi, said his clients had agreed to the prosecution’s proposal for a 15-year prison sentence for Vincent Muscat.
A fourth man, businessman Yorgen Fenech, was arrested in 2019 on his yacht off Malta as he tried to flee.
It was by digging into the Maltese shutter of the resounding Panama Papers that Daphne Caruana Galizia unearthed the links between Yorgen Fenech and senior Maltese politicians.
She had notably revealed that a Dubai company, 17 Black, had paid two million euros to Keith Schembri, at the time the chief of staff of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (not related to Vincent Muscat), and Konrad Mizzi, Minister of Tourism. The quid pro quo for these alleged bribes is not known.
The Daphne Project journalist consortium, which has resumed its investigations, revealed that 17 Black was owned by Mr Fenech. And the head of government, accused of having interfered in the affair and of having protected his collaborators, his chief of staff as well as the Minister of Tourism have since resigned.
Yorgen Fenech was charged with complicity last Saturday.
He himself has implicated several senior government officials, most notably Keith Schembri, designating him as the “true sponsor” of the assassination.