Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent investigative journalist and blogger who reported on government corruption and the Panama Papers, was killed in a bomb attack in Malta in October 2017. As of November 2023, seven people admitted to or were charged with complicity in her killing.
In 2019, a suspected facilitator of the killing received a presidential pardon in exchange for naming those responsible for the murder. In 2021, one man pleaded guilty to taking part in the killing and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In October 2022, two men were sentenced to 40 years each for executing the murder. As of November 2023, no trial date had been set for the alleged mastermind and two alleged intermediaries.
Caruana Galizia was killed on October 16, 2017, when the car that she was driving exploded near her house in Bidnija, in northern Malta. Her killers detonated a bomb under the driver’s seat by remote control. The journalist had told police two weeks earlier that she had received death threats.
Her blog, Running Commentary, which included investigative reports and commentary on local politicians, was one of the most widely read websites in Malta. The then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat condemned Caruana Galizia’s murder as a “barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country.”
Caruana Galizia reported extensively on alleged corruption linked to Malta’s elite, both in government and the opposition. Her reporting on Muscat’s alleged connection to the Panama Papers corruption scandal forced the prime minister to call early elections in June 2017. Caruana Galizia’s last blog, which was critical of the political opposition, was posted a few minutes before she was killed, according to Malta Today.
CPJ joined with other rights organizations and the journalist’s family to repeatedly call on Maltese authorities to ensure the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s killing was independent and free from political interference. A public inquiry was set up in 2019 to investigate the circumstances that led to her death.
In 2021, that public inquiry concluded that the journalist’s death could have been avoided if Maltese authorities took steps to fight the official corruption that Caruana Galizia reported on, instead of creating an “atmosphere of impunity.”
On December 5, 2017, police arrested three men—Vince Muscat (not related to the prime minister) and two brothers, George and Alfred Degiorgio—for alleged murder, criminal use of explosives, involvement in organized crime, and criminal conspiracy. In July 2019, they were formally charged.
On November 14, 2019, authorities arrested Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver whom police described as a suspected middleman. Theuma offered to name those responsible for ordering the murder in exchange for a pardon, which was granted.
On November 20, authorities detained the alleged mastermind, Yorgen Fenech, a businessman with close ties to senior government officials, as he was trying to leave Malta by boat. On November 30, police charged Fenech with complicity in the murder, membership of a criminal gang, and conspiracy to cause an explosion. Fenech pleaded not guilty.
On August 18, 2021, prosecutors indicted Fenech on charges of complicity in murder and criminal association, and said he must stand trial within 30 months; following the court’s rejection of his bail request in 2022, he remained in detention with no trial date set as of November 2023.
Several months before her death, Caruana Galizia reported on a company in Dubai that she alleged was connected to Maltese politicians; a Reuters investigation in 2018 found that Fenech owned that company, but he declined to comment on their findings.
On February 24, 2021, police charged Robert Agius and Jamie Vella with complicity in the killing for allegedly supplying the bomb, according to news reports. Maltese National Police Chief Angelo Gafa said that “every person involved, be it mastermind or accomplice, is under arrest or facing charges,” The Guardian reported. As of late 2023, Agius and Vella were in detention and no date had been set for their trial.
On October 14, 2022, a court sentenced Alfred and George Degiorgio to 20 years each and fined them 50,000 euros (USD$49,000) after they both pleaded guilty, according to media reports. On November 22, 2023, the Court of Criminal Appeal upheld the original verdict, according to media reports.