A man suspected of the 2017 murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Tuesday. The journalist blogger, 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, had died in a car bomb attack on October 16, 2017. She was aged 53 years.
Considered to be simple executors, three men with a heavy criminal record were arrested and charged the next day on suspicion of having manufactured, planted and detonated the deadly bomb. They had since pleaded not guilty. Until Tuesday’s rebound, which occurred during a preliminary hearing to lead to a dismissal or their referral to a criminal court. While his alleged accomplices continue to claim their innocence, one of the three men has turned around.
Cooperation with justice
“What are you pleading to the charges?” Asked the Valletta court clerk. “Guilty,” he replied. “These are serious charges, murder, conspiracy, he risks life imprisonment,” Judge Edwina Grima told Marc Sant, the accused’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 prosecution’s indictment and relatively lenient under the Maltese Penal Code. The court took into account the fact that the accused had waived his appeal against the judgment and had cooperated with the courts.
A businessman accused of being the sponsor
The journalist’s family, disappointed by the verdict, nevertheless said they hoped that this conviction “would pave the way for total justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
A fourth man, businessman Yorgen Fenech, was arrested in 2019 on his yacht off Malta, while he was trying to flee. A taxi driver suspected of having been an intermediary accuses him of having been the main instigator of the murder, but hearings against him have not yet started.
It was by digging into the Maltese shutter of the resounding Panama Papers that Daphne Caruana Galizia unearthed the links between Yorgen 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, and Konrad Mizzi, the Minister of Tourism. The quid pro quo for these alleged bribes is not known.
Yorgen Fenech was charged with complicity last Saturday. He himself implicated several senior government officials, in particular Keith Schembri, naming him as the “real sponsor” of the assassination.