European Federation of Journalists

Malta: Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect pleads guilty

Credit: Ricardo Gutierrez/EFJ

Vincent Muscat, one of the three presumed murderers of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail after pleading guilty at the latest hearing into her killing in 2017. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) welcomed the decision and urged the authorities to continue to pursue others involved in her murder.

Muscat, an alleged hitman in a contract to kill the journalist, is believed to have negotiated a more lenient sentence in exchange for supplying state prosecutors with information on others involved.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reporting focused on high-level corruption, including investigations into the Panama Papers in 2016. She was murdered in a car bombing on 16 October 2017 not far from her home in northern Malta. Almost two years later, on 16 July 2019, brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, and Vincent Muscat were charged in connection with her assassination. All of them have previous criminal records.

Muscat pleaded guilty after his request for a full pardon last month was unsuccessful.

Besides them, Maltese tycoon Yorgen Fenech was also alleged to have been involved in the murder due to an investigation Caruana Galizia was carrying out into his company ’17 Black’ located in Dubai, UAE with links with the Maltese government.

On 20 November 2019, Fenech was arrested while he was leaving Malta on his private yacht. Three days later, he demanded legal immunity before revealing what he knew about the case, according to AFP. While his case hasn’t been heard by the court yet, Caruana’s family considers him as the mastermind behind her murder. He denies involvement in the murder.

On 23 February 2021, Maltese police also arrested brothers Adrian and Robert Agius, and associate Jamie Vella, three men suspected of having supplied the bomb used to kill Caruana Galizia. They had previously been arrested and released without charge in 2017.

After Muscat’s conviction, Caruana Galizia’s family expressed their hope that his decision to accept his part in the journalist’s murder means further steps to achieving total justice can be achieved, taking into account that her murder was intentional and could have been prevented.

In a statement read by her family’s lawyers, they claimed that “a person who has admitted his involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has denied her right to life and has denied her right to enjoy her family, including her grand children who were born after she was killed”.

EFJ General Secretary, Ricardo Gutiérrez, said: “We hope that this step in the right direction will be confirmed by the identification of the real instigators of the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The credibility of the Maltese authorities is at stake.”

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “This conviction is an important step to end impunity in Daphne Caruana’s murder and we call on the Maltese justice to punish all those who are behind her murder. We call on Maltese authorities to provide the necessary safety environment so that journalists are no longer subject to threats and intimidation while carrying out their duties”.