One of the men accused of detonating the car bomb that killed the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has confessed to the crime and said he would have asked for a bigger fee for the murder had he known more about her.
George Degiorgio, who along with his brother Alfred and an associate, Vince Muscat, has been charged with murdering Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017, also said he would implicate others in the plot to kill her.
“If I knew, I would have gone for 10m. Not 150,000,” Degiorgio said, referring to the sum in euros he was allegedly paid to carry out the killing, in an interview with Reuters for the Who Killed Daphne? podcast.
“For me it was just business. Yeah. Business as usual.” He later added: “Of course I feel sorry.”
Degiorgio said he had not known much about Caruana Galizia or her family before he agreed to take part in her murder, and did not know they were ordinary people and not criminals. “Of course,” he said, “I never met her in her life.”
Degiorgio’s admission came after several attempts by his lawyers to secure a pardon for him in return for testimony about his role in Caruana Galizia’s murder and other alleged crimes involving prominent figures on the island.
Last month, Malta’s appeal court rejected remaining legal challenges by Degiorgio to the murder charges against him and his brother, clearing the way for a trial.
Degiorgio told Reuters he would plead guilty before any jury trial and indicated he would provide testimony to implicate others in the murder and in a previous unrealised plot to kill the journalist.
His motive, he said, was to seek a sentence reduction for himself and Alfred and to ensure that “we’re not going down alone”.
Until now, both Degiorgio brothers had denied involvement in the killing. Muscat pleaded guilty to the murder charges in 2020 and was sentenced to a reduced term of 15 years in jail in return for testifying about the case and some other crimes.
Alfred Degiorgio has pleaded not guilty to murder charges but has not presented his case. He has also made several applications to be pardoned of the charges in return for testifying about what he knows.
In a statement given to Reuters on Tuesday afternoon, the Degiorgio brothers said they would seek a deal similar to the one Muscat had obtained, adding: “We are willing to divulge everything we know about other murders, bombs and crimes providing we receive a pardon. We emphasise that the families of other victims should be served justice, too.”
One of the island’s richest businesspeople, Yorgen Fenech, was also charged in November 2019 with commissioning Degiorgio and his two accomplices to carry out the hit. Fenech has denied the charge but has not yet presented his defence.
His lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran, said in a statement that Fenech planned to prove in court “he at no point wanted, actively searched for or sponsored” Caruana Galizia’s killing.
He added: “While strongly protesting his innocence, Mr Fenech maintains that with the evidence available, independent and serious investigations are capable of leading to the arrest and arraignment of the true perpetrators behind the assassination.”
In the interview, Degiorgio said he was willing to testify that a top Maltese political figure had tried to arrange a hit on Caruana Galizia in a separate plot two years earlier. Degiorgio also said he would offer to testify about the involvement of two senior former ministers in an armed robbery.
Malta police and the prosecutors handling the murder case did not respond to requests for an official comment on Degiorgio’s remarks.
Caruana Galizia was killed after she levelled a series of corruption allegations against prominent people, including ministers in the island’s Labour party government. Her murder raised suspicions that some of the people she was investigating could be involved in plotting her death.
Asked about Degiorgio’s comments, Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew said: “George Degiorgio’s own words show he is a stone-cold killer undeserving of any reprieve.”
Reuters contributed to this report