Journalist blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, who denounced in her blog Running Commentary the endemic corruption in this Mediterranean archipelago, a former British colony that entered the European Union in 2004, perished in a car bomb attack on October 16, 2017. She was 53 years old.
Considered to be simple executors, three men with a heavy criminal record – brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio as well as Vincent Muscat – were arrested in December and charged on suspicion of having manufactured, planted and detonated the deadly bomb.
They have since pleaded not guilty. Until the rebound of Tuesday, occurred during a preliminary hearing to lead to a dismissal or their referral to a criminal court. While his alleged accomplices continue to proclaim their innocence, Vincent Muscat has turned around.
“Vincent Muscat, what do you plead to the charges?” Asked the clerk of the court in Valletta. “Guilty,” he replied.
“These are serious charges, murder, conspiracy, he risks life imprisonment,” Judge Edwina Grima told Marc Sant, Mr. Muscat’s lawyer, but the latter repeated that he was pleading guilty.
He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison, a sentence in accordance with the indictment of the public prosecutor and relatively lenient under the Maltese penal code. The court took into account that the accused had waived his right to appeal against the judgment and had cooperated with the courts.
Ms. Grima said that the main person responsible for the investigation into the murder of the journalist, Inspector Keith Arnaud, had assured that Vincent Muscat had been collaborating with the police since 2018.
This sentence “represents one more step towards justice. One more step to establish the truth in this dark chapter for Malta and the family of Caruana Galizia”, assured the Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela in a statement in the evening.
The journalist’s family, disappointed by the verdict, nevertheless said they hoped that Mr. Muscat’s conviction “would pave the way for total justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
The family’s lawyer, Jason Azzopardi, said his clients had agreed to the prosecution’s proposal for a 15-year prison sentence for Vincent Muscat.
A fourth man, businessman Yorgen Fenech, was arrested in 2019 on his yacht off Malta as he tried to flee.
A taxi driver suspected of having been an intermediary accuses him of having been the main instigator of the murder, but the hearings concerning him have not yet started.
It was by digging into the Maltese shutter of the resounding Panama Papers that Daphne Caruana Galizia uncovered the links between Mr Fenech and senior Maltese politicians.
She had notably revealed that a Dubai company, 17 Black, had paid two million euros to Keith Schembri, at the time the chief of staff of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (not related to Vincent Muscat), and Konrad Mizzi, Minister of Tourism. The quid pro quo for these alleged bribes is not known.
The Daphne Project journalist consortium, which has resumed its investigations, revealed that 17 Black was owned by Mr Fenech. And the head of government, accused of having interfered in the affair and of having protected his collaborators, his chief of staff as well as the Minister of Tourism have since resigned.
Yorgen Fenech was charged with complicity on Saturday.
He himself implicated several senior government officials, in particular Keith Schembri, naming him as the “real sponsor” of the assassination.