Malta's former PM questioned over Daphne Caruana Galizia murder inquiry

Joseph Muscat formally interviewed for first time in connection with investigation

Malta’s former prime minister Joseph Muscat has been questioned by police in connection with the investigation into the murder of the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Muscat resigned as leader of the EU member state in January after the widening political scandal surrounding the journalist’s death threatened to bring down his government.

The interview on Friday marks the first occasion on which he has been formally questioned by investigators in connection with the case.

In a statement released after he left police headquarters in the capital, Valletta, Muscat said officers had “confirmed to me on the record that I am not under investigation in connection with the case, which was concluded under my watch”.

The decision to question him was prompted by a statement made by the chief suspect, the business magnate Yorgen Fenech, Muscat confirmed.

In June, Muscat denied claims made by Fenech that the two men discussed sensitive details of the case, including the existence of secret recordings made by a middleman, on two occasions while Fenech was under investigation.

“I have today answered questions by the police regarding a statement made by Yorgen Fenech with regards to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and which according to the media was given only after Mr Fenech was refused a pardon,” Muscat said. “While I am not at liberty to divulge details, the questions regarded points that are already in the public domain and which I also replied to publicly.”

Fenech’s arrest last year led to the resignation of Muscat’s chief of staff and two of his ministers, and ultimately to the prime minister’s decision to leave government.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Malta's best-known investigative journalist was killed in a car bomb as she left her home in October 2017. 

Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat

Three men in their fifties arrested in December 2017 and then formally charged in July 2019 with Caruana Galizia’s murder, criminal conspiracy and the criminal use of explosives.

Melvin Theuma

A taxi driver from Birkirkara and suspected middleman in the Caruana Galizia case, he was arrested on 14 November 2019 in a separate money laundering case. He has offered to provide information he says he has on the journalist's death in exchange for a pardon.

Yorgen Fenech

A prominent businessman arrested onboard his yacht as a person of interest in the Caruana Galizia investigation on 20 November 2019. One of the journalist's final investigations was a leak of data from his businesses. He has previously denied any wrongdoing. On 28 November his lawyers deposited a letter in court to Malta’s president formally asking for a pardon in return for information relating to the case. On 29 November the request was turned down.

Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi

The Maltese PM's chief of staff and the tourism minister resigned on 25 and 26 November 2019 respectively. Caruana Galizia reported that they had taken control of secretive Panama shell companies soon after entering office. They deny any wrongdoing. Schembri was arrested on 26 November and released on 28 November. Police said that after an 'intensive investigation' they no longer felt the need to hold him.

Joseph Muscat

Malta’s prime minister who served between 2013 to 2020. He was criticised by opposition politicians for allowing Schembri and Mizzi to stay in their posts. Having said on 29 November 2019 that he would stay in the job until the investigation into the murder was complete, on 1 December in a televised address he instead announced that he would stay on until a new leader of his ruling Labour party was elected in January. The prime minister expressed “deep regret” for Caruana Galizia’s murder and spoke of the need for a “fresh page”.

The businessman, whose interests range from hotels to casinos and a government-sponsored power project, has pleaded not guilty to charges of complicity to murder Caruana Galizia. He has also denied allegations that he conspired to bribe members of Muscat’s cabinet. Those named in connection with the allegations deny all wrongdoing.

Muscat led his Labour party to a landslide victory in 2013 after two decades in opposition. His term in office was marked by both economic expansion and political scandal. The country’s property and financial services markets boomed thanks to a lucrative “golden passports” scheme – now being wound down – which allowed wealthy investors from Russia, China and the middle east to buy Maltese citizenship and easy access to the EU.

The Labour leader was returned to power in June 2017 despite Caruana Galizia’s revelations that his energy minister and his chief of staff had acquired secretive shell companies soon after entering office. The journalist was assassinated in a car bombing near her home a few months later, in October 2017.

Three men accused of planting the bomb were arrested shortly afterwards. Police suspected Fenech’s involvement in the case as early as 2018, when Muscat signed a warrant ordering the tapping of his phone. However, investigators did not move against the alleged mastermind until late 2019, when he was arrested at sea while sailing away from Malta on board his yacht.


Juliette Garside

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Malta’s PM quits in crisis over Daphne Caruana Galizia murder
Joseph Muscat says he will stay on until January but journalist’s family calls for his immediate departure

Juliette Garside

01, Dec, 2019 @9:32 PM

Article image
Daphne Caruana Galizia murder: prime minister's aide released
Malta police say they carried out ‘intensive investigation’ into claim Keith Schembri was behind killing

Juliette Garside in Valletta

29, Nov, 2019 @1:05 AM

Article image
Suspect in Daphne Caruana Galizia murder says he got tipoffs from official
Yorgen Fenech tells court Malta PM’s former chief of staff gave him updates on investigation

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, and Reuters in Valletta

05, Dec, 2019 @5:02 PM

Article image
Ten arrested over murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
Malta’s PM, Joseph Muscat, offers ‘personal commitment’ that those responsible for the killing will be found

Jon Henley, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Jamie Grierson

04, Dec, 2017 @1:29 PM

Article image
Malta's new PM has only days to prove himself, says Andrew Caruana Galizia
Son of murdered journalist says Robert Abela is ‘continuity candidate’ and must break with ‘corrupt legacy’

Jennifer Rankin

13, Jan, 2020 @2:22 PM

Article image
Daphne Caruana Galizia murder: officials 'seeking to stall' inquiry
Top EU official flies to Malta as authorities accused of seeking to delay attempts to find those behind journalist’s killing

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

13, Jun, 2018 @3:16 PM

Article image
EU parliament calls on Malta PM to resign now over Caruana Galizia
Resolution questions ‘integrity and credibility’ of murder investigation

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

18, Dec, 2019 @2:42 PM

Article image
Caruana Galizia family demand investigation into Malta PM's role
Embattled Joseph Muscat will quit in January, but provoked anger by refusing to go now

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

02, Dec, 2019 @6:24 PM

Article image
EU mission tells Malta PM to quit immediately over Caruana Galizia case
Joseph Muscat has made serious errors over investigation into journalist’s murder, says Dutch MEP

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and agencies

03, Dec, 2019 @2:42 PM

Article image
New claims emerge about Daphne Caruana Galizia murder plan
Confession claimed original plan was to shoot Maltese journalist, Reuters reports

Juliette Garside in Valletta

28, Nov, 2019 @5:06 PM