Europol warns of hurdles in Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case

EU’s chief law enforcement body raises concerns about Maltese authorities’ cooperation in investigation of journalist’s killing

The investigation into the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is “highly complex”, involves a number of EU member states and requires better cooperation by authorities in Malta, according to a new assessment by the EU’s chief law enforcement body.

Europol, which has offered its assistance in the investigation since Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb near her home last year, said in a letter to a top MEP that it was still working closely with Maltese authorities but there was “some room for improvement” in this cooperation.

“We are actively seeking to address this,” said Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, in a letter to MEP Ana Gomes.

He suggested that Europol was following a new lead in the case. “This investigation is highly complex and now involves a number of EU member states. New concerns have arisen which are now the subject of further, high priority investigation by Europol,” he said.

Gomes, a Portuguese socialist who led a fact-finding delegation to Malta in the wake of the murder and has expressed serious concerns about the rule of law on the island, said allegations that there was not full cooperation between Europol and Maltese authorities were “extremely serious”.

“To me the letter is very important because it confirms that Europol has been involved with limitations and that here we are facing a government that has obviously been stalling the investigations,” she said.

Three men have been arrested on suspicion of detonating the bomb that killed the journalist. They have all pleaded not guilty and the Maltese government has said the investigation into the murder has continued. Questions about the motive remain to be answered.

Kurt Farrugia, the head of communications for the Maltese government, said: “Malta is cooperating with Europol at every level to get to the bottom of this case. If there is room for improvement, we will make any improvements necessary.”

In a recent letter to the Guardian, Farrugia said the Maltese government had pursued the investigation with the “utmost rigour” with the assistance of the FBI and Europol.

“To suggest that her murder must be connected to her criticism of government is to wilfully ignore the nature of her work and its impact on large numbers of her targets,” Farrugia wrote.

The letter from Europol was sent to Gomes and obtained by the Daphne Project, a consortium of 18 media organisations, including the Guardian, which is investigating the murder and the stories that Caruana Galizia was reporting on at the time of her death.

Wainwright did not offer specific new details about the focus of the Europol investigation or the nature of new developments, but he said the investigation bore some similarities to the murder of Slovakian journalist Ján Kuciak. He was shot alongside his fiancee Martina Kusnirova near Bratislava last month in what is being regarded as a contract killing.

The victims in the Slovakian and the Maltese cases were not only investigative journalists, but both cases touched on allegations of high-level corruption, Wainwright said.

“This situation has highlighted, in my view, a limitation on the Europol regulation, which obliges Europol to rely on the information provided by the designated national competent authorities and to report developments in the case, including any matters arising of concern, solely to those authorities,” he said.

Gomes said she believed Caruana Galizia’s killing was linked to organised crime, which represented a problem not only for Malta, but for all of the EU.

Europol declined to comment.


Stephanie Kirchgaessner

The GuardianTramp

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