Suspect confesses to killing Maltese journalist

Suspect confesses to killing Maltese journalist
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  • George Degiorgio confesses to having committed a crime in an interview from prison
  • Says he’ll implicate others in murder plot
  • Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in 2017

VALLETTA, July 5 (Reuters) – The man accused of detonating a car bomb that killed a prominent Maltese journalist has confessed to the crime in an interview with a Reuters reporter and says he will soon implicate others in a plot to assassinate her.

Speaking from jail in his first comment on the case, George Degiorgio said if he had known more about Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist he and two others are accused of killing in 2017, he would have asked for more money to carry out the case. blow. .

“If I knew, I would have gone for 10 million. Not 150,000,” he said, referring to the sum in euros he said he was paid to kill the journalist.

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“For me it was just business. Yes. Business as usual!” she told a Reuters reporter. He later added, “Of course I’m sorry.”

The interview with Degiorgio was conducted during the investigation for a podcast on the Caruana Galizia case, entitled “Who killed Daphne?

His admission came after several attempts by Degiorgio’s lawyers since 2021 to obtain a pardon in exchange for testimony about Degiorgio’s role in the murder of Caruana Galizia and other alleged crimes involving prominent figures on the island.

On June 22, the Malta Court of Appeal rejected Degiorgio’s remaining legal challenges to the murder charges against him and his brother Alfred, who is a co-defendant. The sentence paves the way for the trial to take place.

The car bomb murder of the investigative journalist and blogger caused shock across Europe. Maltese authorities accused Degiorgio and two other men, his brother Alfred and an associate, Vince Muscat, of murdering Caruana Galizia in October 2017 at the behest of a prominent island businessman.

Degiorgio told Reuters he would plead guilty before any jury trial. “I’m going to talk to the magistrate,” he said. He indicated that he would provide testimony to implicate others in the murder and an earlier unrealized plot to kill the journalist. His motive, he said, was to seek a reduced sentence for himself and Alfred and to make sure “we won’t go down alone!”

Until now, the two Degiorgio brothers had denied their involvement in the murder. Muscat pleaded guilty to the murder charges in 2020 and was sentenced to a reduced sentence of 15 years in prison in exchange for evidence in this case and certain other crimes.

One of the richest businessmen on the island, Yorgen Fenech, was also accused in November 2019 of commissioning Degiorgio and his two accomplices to carry out the attack. Fenech has denied the accusation but has not yet presented his defense. In a statement, his lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran, said Fenech planned to show in court that he “at no time wanted, actively sought or sponsored” Caruana Galizia’s murder.

“While vigorously protesting his innocence, Mr. Fenech maintains that with the evidence available, independent and serious investigations can lead to the arrest and prosecution of the true perpetrators of the murder.”

Fenech was identified as the mastermind by an alleged intermediary, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, who escaped prosecution for his role in the case in exchange for testifying. Theuma said that he arranged the murder with the Degiorgio brothers on Fenech’s behalf. He proved that he never told Degiorgio’s gang of Fenech’s identity.

In the interview, Degiorgio said he was willing to testify that a major Maltese political figure had tried to stage a coup against Caruana Galizia in a separate plot two years earlier. Degiorgio also said that he would offer to testify about the involvement of two former high-ranking ministers in an armed robbery.

Reuters is not currently publishing further details of those allegations or naming the people accused by Degiorgio, who deny any involvement in any crime.

Malta Police and prosecutors handling the murder case did not respond to requests for an official comment on Degiorgio’s comments.

In a new statement to Reuters through their lawyer, George and Alfred Degiorgio said they are seeking a trial on the admission “in line with the one that has already been handed down to Vincent Muscat. We are willing to divulge everything we know about other murders, bombs and crimes whenever we receive a pardon. We emphasize that the families of other victims must also receive justice.”

Caruana Galizia was assassinated after filing a series of corruption charges against prominent figures, including ministers in the island’s Labor Party government. Her murder raised suspicions that some of the people she was investigating might be involved in plotting her death.

Fenech, who is accused of ordering the successful 2017 coup, was first identified in connection with Caruana Galizia in November 2018 articles by Reuters and the Times of Malta. The report named him as the owner of a company known as 17 Black which, according to Caruana Galizia, without citing evidence, was being used to bribe politicians. Fenech was also the head of a controversial power station project in Malta.

According to prosecution evidence presented in court at multiple preliminary hearings since 2018, George Degiorgio and his gang had tracked the journalist throughout the summer of 2017 in her car.

That afternoon, Degiorgio was allegedly on a yacht in the island’s Grand Harbor when his brother Alfred, who was watching the house, called to say that Caruana Galizia had gotten into his car and left. Degiorgio then sent a text message from the yacht to a mobile device that set off the bomb, prosecutors told the court.

After the car exploded, Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, heard the explosion, ran out of the family home and discovered his mother’s body. He has been campaigning for justice for his mother ever since. When asked about Degiorgio’s comments, he told Reuters: “George Degiorgio’s own words show that he is a cold-blooded killer who does not deserve any reprieve.”

Arrested two months after the murder, George Degiorgio said nothing to the police and even refused to give his name during questioning. Until the Reuters interview, he had remained silent and his lawyers have denied for four years that he was involved in the murder. He has also filed a series of legal challenges contesting the evidence against him.

But now he is seeking a deal with the prosecution, before a trial, in exchange for admitting to the charges and providing the new information.

Alfred Degiorgio, like his brother, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges but did not present his case. He has also submitted several requests to be pardoned in exchange for proving what he knows.

George Degiorgio said that before accepting the successful job, he did not know much about Caruana Galizia or her family, including the fact that they were ordinary people, not criminals. “That’s it. Of course! I never met her in her life,” he said.

The Degiorgio brothers have made several offers since March 2021 for an official pardon for their crimes. The last one, presented on April 4 by their lawyer, William Cuschieri, said, without giving names or details, that the Degiorgios could testify for “Crimes of attempted robbery with violence and attempted voluntary manslaughter in which one of the perpetrators was Minister and another author who is a minister”. The request was rejected by the Maltese government on April 24, citing the national interest and the administration of justice, according to an official statement.

Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela previously condemned the Degiorgios’ attempts to obtain a pardon, calling them “criminals” seeking to buy their freedom. Cuschieri, the Degiorgios’ attorney, responded by saying the prime minister was violating his rights to a fair trial and, without elaborating, said the brothers had “direct information” about a minister’s involvement in a crime.


“Who Killed Daphne?”, written and hosted by Reuters reporter Stephen Grey, is a six part podcast which follows the fight for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, after her death, and the project to continue Daphne’s work by a team of journalists. Produced by global podcast studio Wondery, it streams on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other podcast platforms starting July 11, or is available now on Wondery+.

((reporting by Stephen Grey; additional reporting by Jacob Borg of the Times of Malta; editing by Janet McBride))

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