Australian journalist Neil Chenoweth, who worked with Daphne Caruana Galizia on the Panama Papers, described her murder plot as “a story of brutal incompetence that begins with three men – career criminals in their 50s – huddled in the dark around Daphne’s home in the tiny village of Bidnija in northern Malta.”
In a lengthy article on the Australian Financial Review, Chenoweth said Caruana Galizia’s murder in October 2017 caused a public uproar in Europe as Malta is embroiled in “a swirling mess of corruption scandals, a disgraced bank, links to dirty tricks group Cambridge Analytica, passport sales, sanctions busting and death threats.”
The assassination, he added, gives “a glimpse of the dark lines of power and money that cross international borders.”
Recounting how the bomb was placed under the driver’s seat in Caruana Galizia’s rental car in the early hours of the morning, Chenoweth said that two of the charged men, Alfred and George Degiorgio forgot to top-up the prepaid “burner” mobile phone SIM.
“Genius George, trapped on a boat and short of time, was a killer who couldn’t think straight. His solution was to pull out his regular mobile phone to ask a friend to put €5 ($8) on the burner’s account,” he wrote.
Chenoweth added that “Caruana Galizia had no time for stupid enemies. ‘Don’t ever get lost in the jungle with these folks, because you might have to eat them to stay alive,’ she wrote on her website, Running Commentary, six weeks before, of someone else who exasperated her.”
The journalist said no one is suggesting the three men charged with Caruana Galizia’s murder were the brains of the operation, adding that “Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi told Malta’s parliament this week that a police sergeant tipped off the three killers before they were arrested six weeks after the murder – a claim the police commissioner has vehemently denied.”
He said the murder was made possible by what the European Parliament delegation investigating the rule of law in Malta described as a “perception of impunity for criminals” in the aftermath of the Panama Papers revelations two years ago.
“The ugly calculus goes like this: Caruana Galizia’s killers must have thought no one would call them to account, because no one else had been.”
Recalling his collaboration with Caruana Galizia on the Panama Papers investigations, Chenoweth said it is clear that unlike anywhere else in the world, Malta’s anti-money-laundering investigators were across all of the Panama Papers revelations within days of the worldwide release in April 2016.
“By the end of April, all of the pieces were there, ready to put in place. But the government investigators’ findings went nowhere. They were betrayed by the system.”
He went on to write about “the shadow players who created Malta’s shame” including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, minister Konrad Mizzi, Pilatus Bank owner Ali Sadr and Henley and Partners chief Christian Kalin.
Touching on the links between Kalin and Cambridge Alaytica’s parent company SCL Elections, the Australian journalist said “A former SCL operative emailed Kälin on June 2, 2012, about ‘interesting developments’ in Malta: ‘I can introduce you to the opposition leader, if that helps, he’s young, very purposeful and open to international investment, and many say he’ll win.’… ‘Good idea,’ Kälin emailed back.”
Within months from his landslide victory in 2013, Muscat announced that Henley and Partners would run a citizenship by investment programme for Malta, and Chenoweth said that following a speech at the programme’s launch in London in October 2013, Kalin introduced Muscat to Ali Sadr.
In March, Ali Sadr was arrested in the US over charges of breaching US sanctions and since then the Malta Financial Services Authority froze the bank’s assets although most of the money had been shipped out long before the owner’s arrest.