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Investigative Journalist murdered for ‘exposing corruption’ in Malta

BIDNIJA, Malta: Police and forensic experts inspect the wreckage of a car bomb believed to have killed journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia close to her home in Bidnija yesterday. – AFP

VALLETTA: The son of a slain Maltese journalist yesterday described finding his mother’s body in pieces after a car bombing and accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of being “complicit” in her grisly killing. Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a journalist involved in digesting the Panama Papers, said his mother had been assassinated for doing her job in investigating alleged corruption. In an emotional post on his Facebook page, the son of whistleblowing blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia accused Muscat of filling his office with crooks and creating a culture of impunity that had turned Malta into a “mafia island”.

His mother was a veteran journalist, once described as a “one-woman Wikileaks”, who used her widely-read blog to make a series of detailed allegations of corruption in Muscat’s inner circle, some based on the Panama Papers data leak. Her killing has triggered an outpouring of grief on the island of just 430,000 people, with thousands turning out to an overnight candlelit vigil in her memory in the fortress capital Valletta. Further “Justice for Daphne” demonstrations were scheduled yesterday.  The journalist was the fourth person to die in a Malta car bombing in just over a year but previous attacks were all linked to criminal feuds and did not generate anything like the shock created by Caruana’s death.

The inferno

“I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it,” Matthew Caruana wrote. “They stared at me. ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do”, one of them said. “I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realized they were right, it was hopeless.” Muscat described the killing as “barbaric” and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.  That pledge was dismissed by the victim’s son, who said even one of the police officers involved in investigating the murder had celebrated his mother’s death online.

“A culture of impunity has been allowed to flourish by the government in Malta,” he wrote. “It is of little comfort for the Prime Minister of this country to say that he will ‘not rest’ until the perpetrators are found, when he heads a government that encouraged that same impunity. “First he filled his office with crooks, then he filled the police with crooks and imbeciles, then he filled the courts with crooks and incompetents.  “If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate – and my brothers and I would still have a mother.”

Assange reward

The judge in charge of investigating the murder stepped aside from the case yesterday following objections from the Caruana Galizia family that she was too close to the Labor Party administration. Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera had been accused of misconduct by the blogger and had threatened her with libel proceedings. Caruana Galizia’s death came four months after Muscat won a landslide victory in elections that were called early after she accused his wife of taking kickbacks from Azerbaijan’s ruling family and hiding the cash in a secret Panama bank account. The claims, which Muscat fervently denies, were the latest in a string of scandals on the island based on information leaked from the records of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The so-called Panama Papers revealed how wealthy individuals around the world, including a number of politicians, used shell companies based in the Latin American state and other tax havens to hide cash. Among those exposed were Keith Schembri, Muscat’s chief of staff, and Konrad Mizzi, a government minister. The premier resisted pressure to fire the pair, insisting their accounts were related to their private business and they had done nothing illegal. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a 20,000 euros reward for anyone who provided information about the attack leading to the conviction of those responsible.- AFP

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