Maltese police arrest ten suspects in murder of anti-graft journalist

European journalists joined by EU commissioner during a silent vigil in memory of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Brussels. ption. EPA-EFE/ [Olivier Hoslet/EPA]

Maltese police have arrested ten suspects in the murder of anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Monday (4 December), after an EU delegation left the island last week saying there were serious concerns about the rule of law there.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was murdered on 16 October when her car blew up as she tried to drive away from her house in northern Malta. She wrote a blog in which she persistently exposed cases of alleged graft, targeting government and opposition politicians alike.

All of the suspects are Maltese nationals and most have a criminal record, the prime minister said but did not provide any further details. The police now have 48 hours to question the suspects and then indict or release them.

Galizia was following leads from the Panama Papers leaked in 2015, which have exposed how the world’s wealthy use offshore firms to avoid taxes and hide their wealth.

She had also accused senior figures in the government and opposition of corruption and money laundering. They have all denied the accusations. In return, 36 libel suits were filed against Caruana Galizia in the nine months preceding her death.

Her murder shocked Malta and raised concerns in the European Union about the rule of law on the tiny Mediterranean island. The European Parliament dispatched a delegation to the island on a fact-finding mission.

The EU’s Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) was also sent to Malta to help with the murder inquiry, along with Dutch and FBI experts.

Concluding the fact-finding mission on Friday (1 December), the EU lawmakers said there was a “perception of impunity” in Malta.

German Green MEP Sven Giegold said after two days of meetings with government officials, regulators, local journalists media and civil rights activists that he was particularly concerned about Malta’s police and attorney general who, he said, “have demonstrated an unwillingness to investigate and failure to prosecute corruption and money laundering”.

“We came seriously concerned and left even more worried,” he said.

Muscat said in a statement distributed by the Party of European Socialists: “As I stated as soon as I learnt about this barbaric act, we will leave no stone unturned to get this case solved. I am committed to do so more than ever,” Muscat said.