One of three men accused of carrying out the murder of Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia pleaded guilty on Tuesday and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
When the judge handed over the verdict to Vincent Muscat, she said that she took into account the fact that he had cooperated with the police in the case that shook the island nation of the Mediterranean.
Muscat was arrested in December 2017 along with two others due to the case that shook Malta and triggered a chain of events that led to the resignation of Joseph Muscat (no relationship) as Prime Minister.
Muscat and brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio were all accused of acquiring, planting and detonating the bomb that killed the Maltese journalist on 16 October 2017.
In a dramatic interrogation, Muscat’s lawyer Marc Sant told the court that his client wanted to register an assumption.
When asked how he wanted to appeal, Muscat replied: “Guilty.”
Judge Edwina Grima told the lawyer: “These are serious charges. Murder, conspiracy … he (Muscat) may face a life sentence.”
But Muscat reiterated that he pleaded guilty.
Spotlight on corruption
Caruana Galizia’s death from a car bomb threw a spotlight on corruption in the EU’s smallest nation.
A fourth person, multimillionaire businessman Yorgen Fenech, who had high political ties, is suspected of having committed the crime and has been accused of being an accomplice to the murder. He has denied wrongdoing.
The owner of a Dubai company, 17 Black, which Caruana Galizia had reported on, Fenech was arrested in November 2019 when he sailed away from Malta on his boat.
France launched an investigation into Caruana Galicia’s murder in January 2020 after journalists’ families and the French media reporter Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accused Fenech in a French court of being an accomplice to murder and corruption.
Fenech owns a hotel and a competition horse stable in France that may have been used to make payments in the case, according to justice officials.
‘WikiLeaks for a woman’
Caruana Galizia, 53, was known for investigating high-level corruption, including by contributing to data leaks from the Panama Papers 2016.
She has been described as a “WikiLeaks with a woman”, after revealing chronism and sleaze in the country’s political and business elite.
Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb aimed at her vehicle not far from her home in the northern part of the island.
One of her sons accused Prime Minister Muscat of being involved in turning Malta, a former British colony that joined the EU in 2004, into a “mafia island”.
Muscat resigned in January 2020 after the investigation into the murder involved some of his closest associates.
Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and his tourism minister Konrad Mizzi had both been accused by Caruana Galizia of involvement in corruption – which they denied.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)