Mur­der of Malta’s top in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist pro­vokes shock and out­rage

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia, Malta’s top in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist, was killed on Mon­day when the car she was driv­ing ex­ploded shortly af­ter she left her home.

Caru­ana Gal­izia was a top gun when it came to ex­pos­ing cor­rup­tion in Malta and EURACTIV re­peat­edly quoted her ar­ti­cles and was in touch with her. Her blog, Run­ning Com­men­tary, was con­sid­ered by many col­leagues as the best source of in­for­ma­tion about her coun­try.

The force of the blast that killed her re­duced the car she was in to pieces and cat­a­pulted the jour­nal­ist’s body into a nearby field, wit­nesses said. She leaves be­hind a hus­band and three sons. Lo­cal me­dia say one of her sons heard the blast and rushed out­side.

She was killed min­utes af­ter post­ing her last blog­post, fol­low­ing up on her in­ves­ti­ga­tions based on the Panama Papers.

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat, whom Caru­ana Gal­izia ac­cused of wrong­do­ing ear­lier this year, de­nounced the killing.

“I con­demn with­out reser­va­tions this bar­baric at­tack on a per­son and on the free­dom of ex­pres­sion in our coun­try,” he said in a tele­vised state­ment.

“Every­one knows Ms Caru­ana Gal­izia was a harsh critic of mine, both po­lit­i­cally and per­son­ally, as she was for oth­ers too.”

Malta Tele­vi­sion re­ported that Caru­ana Gal­izia had filed a com­plaint to the po­lice two weeks ago to say she had re­ceived threats but gave no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Caru­ana Gal­izia’s death comes four months af­ter Mus­cat’s Labour Party won a re­sound­ing vic­tory in a gen­eral elec­tion he called early as a re­sult of scan­dals to which Caru­ana Gal­izia’s al­le­ga­tions were cen­tral.

Mus­cat, leader since 2013, went to the polls a year early af­ter his wife, Michelle Mus­cat, was ac­cused of be­ing the ben­e­fi­cial owner of a se­cret Panama bank ac­count.

Caru­ana Gal­izia had al­leged the ac­count was used to stash kick­backs from Azer­bai­jan’s rul­ing fam­ily linked to an Az­eri bank gain­ing a li­cence to op­er­ate in Malta.

Mus­cat called the claims the “big­gest lie in Mal­tese po­lit­i­cal his­tory”, asked a mag­is­trate to in­ves­ti­gate and has vowed to quit if any link is es­tab­lished be­tween him and hid­den off­shore ac­counts. He has not ap­plied that prin­ci­ple to two of his clos­est al­lies.

Chief of staff Schem­bri and gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi were both re­vealed last year to be own­ers of un­de­clared shell com­pa­nies es­tab­lished through Panama law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca. Mus­cat has stood by both of them.

There are also sus­pi­cions in other EU coun­tries that Malta’s fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor is fa­cil­i­tat­ing tax avoid­ance. Ger­man tax author­i­ties are cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing some 2,000 Malta-reg­is­tered com­pa­nies with links to Ger­man cor­po­ra­tions.

Daphne Caru­ana’s mur­der was con­demned by many Euro­pean politi­cians. Com­mis­sion First Vice Pres­i­dent Frans Tim­mer­mans said he was “shocked and out­raged”. “If jour­nal­ists are si­lenced, our free­dom is lost,” he tweeted.

Leader of the Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul called her “an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist of the high­est cal­i­bre” and praised her work on the Panama Papers for hav­ing made “the world a more trans­par­ent and a fairer place”.

The GUE/NGL group also ex­pressed shock. MEP Fabio De Masi (Die Linke) re­called how Caru­ana Gal­izia used to be an in­ter­locuter of the Com­mit­tee of In­quiry into Money Laun­der­ing, Tax Avoid­ance and Tax Eva­sion (PANA).

MEP Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA group), an ac­tive mem­ber of the PANA Com­mit­tee, said Caru­ana Gal­izia “played a vi­tally im­por­tant role in un­earthing se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing and cor­rup­tion in Malta, in­clud­ing those in­volv­ing se­nior fig­ures in the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment”.

“It is too early to know the cause of the ex­plo­sion but we will ex­pect to see a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion”, Giegold stated.

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