The two brothers accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia were granted bail on Friday in a separate case in which they stand charged on money laundering.
Judge Giovanni Grixti has granted bail to Alfred Degiorgio and George Degiorgio, “even though the Attorney General remains concerned about the untrustworthiness of the accused”, according to the ruling. Judge Grixti argued that such concerns “need to be substantiated”.
The two brothers, together with Vincent Muscat, stand accused of the murder of Caruana Galizia on 16 October, 2017. They were arrested in December 2017, but the trial has not yet commenced. The compilation of evidence is still ongoing, with the brothers filing a number of constitutional cases in the process.
The Degiorgios were each granted bail against guarantees of €70,000. This was their second attempt at bail in the money laundering case – Magistrate Joseph Mifsud had granted them bail in October 2018, which was then revoked by Magistrate Edwina Grima.
Judge Grixti has now accepted the accused’s request for bail arguing there was insufficient proof of their untrustworthiness, in a case in which they are accused of a series of money laundering offences.
The same judge had made a similar argument of ‘insufficient evidence’ in another ruling three months ago that prevented the opening of an inquiry requested on the basis of evidence in the Panama Papers.
The court decision led to the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt pointing out during a public hearing in Strasbourg last week that Malta “is the only country where the Appeals Court closed an investigation on the grounds that the Panama Papers are not evidence”.
The Degiorgios will not be released as they face proceedings in the compilation of evidence in the Caruana Galizia case. Yet, they have the option of requesting bail in this case too, which they have done countless times already, each time being turned down.
Yet, Friday’s ruling raises the question of what would happen if they chose to file their application for bail on a day when a judge who favours their trustworthiness gets to make that decision for the Caruana Galizia case too.
All three of the accused will be granted automatic bail in any case, if they are not charged for the journalist’s murder before summer.
The rules for the compilation of evidence in court stipulate that it must close within 20 months or the accused get automatic bail. In those 20 months from the first date of arraignment (December 2017), the bill of indictment must be filed.
Show us the money
The Degiorgio brothers would have to pay €70,000 each in guarantees for bail. Unless third parties provide surety, this raises questions on how the two brothers who claim to have been unemployed for years while claiming social benefits, according to court records, could justify paying these sums of money – for bail in a case where they stand accused of money laundering.
Jobsplus testified in court that the last employment history of George Degiorgio was in 1983, when he was a construction worker. Alfred Degiorgio is also unemployed, with no job history other than working for a bar in Paceville as a security guard years ago.
Yet, the court heard details of the lavish lifestyles they led, where Alfred Degiorgio could afford to gamble €570,000 over the years, according to casino records. He also owned three cars, including a Mercedes and a BMW.
His brother, George, owned an Audi A4, a Mistusbishi and a BMW, apart from his boat. His partner, Adelina Pop, who is also one of the accused in the case but had been granted bail earlier, owned a Corvette C7 and an Audi Q7, as well as a Mercedes Benz.
Despite the couple’s unemployment, George Degiorgio transferred €25,000 overseas in four years using Western Union, while Pop did the same with around €17,000. Her bank account had thousands coming in as cash deposits, which she had used for wire transfers amounting to thousands of euro – two mentioned in court amounted to over €60,000 alone.