Every person involved in the 2017 murder of the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been apprehended, Malta’s national police chief has declared.
Commissioner Angelo Gafa was speaking before a court hearing on Wednesday evening at which two new suspects were arraigned.
So far, seven men have either admitted to or been charged with complicity to kill Caruana Galizia. They include the property and energy tycoon Yorgen Fenech, who is pleading not guilty to masterminding the murder, and a taxi driver who has already confessed to being the middleman in the alleged contract killing of one of Malta’s most prominent journalists.
“With the evidence we have, we are in a position to say that every person involved, be it mastermind or accomplice, is under arrest or facing charges,” Gafa announced at a press briefing.
The comments may cause some controversy, as Fenech has given evidence to police that accuses senior political figures of having prior knowledge of the plot.
At 11pm in the courts of justice of Malta’s capital, Valletta, Robert Agius and his associate Jamie Vella pleaded not guilty to complicity in the killing of Caruana Galizia. Vella, who has tested positive for Covid-19, appeared in a hazmat suit in the heavily guarded courtroom. Vella and Robert’s brother Adrian Agius were also charged with involvement in a second murder, the 2015 shooting of a lawyer called Carmel Chircop. They pleaded not guilty.
George Degiorgio, who is already facing trial as one of the hitmen suspected of executing the murder of Caruana Galizia, was also charged with and denied carrying out Chircop’s murder.
Raids on homes and vehicles belonging to the Agius brothers and Vella, who were arrested on Tuesday, uncovered cash worth €70,000, firearms, 350g of heroin and two sachets of cocaine. At one of the residences, police found 10 cars, which are expected to be confiscated.
Europol, which has been assisting since the beginning of the murder investigation, has been tasked with extracting data from 25 mobile phones and two laptops seized during the swoop.
Fenech was arrested in 2019 as he was attempting to leave Malta onboard his yacht. He is in custody awaiting a decision on whether he will face trial. A taxi driver has secured a presidential pardon in exchange for his evidence against Fenech. A former friend of the tycoon, Melvin Theuma is now living in a safe house, under police protection.
The latest developments came after a key witness secured a plea deal, which was approved by Malta’s prime minister and his cabinet on Monday. Three years after first coming forward with crucial evidence about the case, Vincent Muscat secured a measure of clemency in exchange for his testimony.
After pleading guilty to his involvement in Caruana Galizia’s murder, he was immediately sentenced to 15 years, although his prison time could be commuted to allow his release in 2027. Muscat was also given a presidential pardon for admitting his involvement in the murder of Chircop, in exchange for evidence against his alleged accomplices.
Caruana Galizia, a columnist and investigator whose blog on political corruption in Malta earned her a reputation as a “one woman WikiLeaks”, was almost as well known in her home country as those she exposed in her scoops. Her violent murder, which took place near her home in the village of Bidnija, has embroiled Malta’s ruling Labour party in political scandal.
The country’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat (no relation to Vincent Muscat), was forced to resign in 2019 after allegations that members of his administration had tried to sabotage the police investigation.