Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s top investigative journalist, was killed on Monday (16 October) when the car she was driving exploded shortly after she left her home.
Caruana Galizia was a top gun when it came to exposing corruption in Malta and EURACTIV repeatedly quoted her articles and was in touch with her. Her blog, Running Commentary, was considered by many colleagues as the best source of information about her country.
The force of the blast that killed her reduced the car she was in to pieces and catapulted the journalist’s body into a nearby field, witnesses said. She leaves behind a husband and three sons. Local media say one of her sons heard the blast and rushed outside.
She was killed minutes after posting her last blogpost, following up on her investigations based on the Panama Papers.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whom Caruana Galizia accused of wrongdoing earlier this year, denounced the killing.
“I condemn without reservations this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country,” he said in a televised statement.
“Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, as she was for others too.”
Malta Television reported that Caruana Galizia had filed a complaint to the police two weeks ago to say she had received threats but gave no further information.
Caruana Galizia’s death comes four months after Muscat’s Labour Party won a resounding victory in a general election he called early as a result of scandals to which Caruana Galizia’s allegations were central.
Muscat, leader since 2013, went to the polls a year early after his wife, Michelle Muscat, was accused of being the beneficial owner of a secret Panama bank account.
Caruana Galizia had alleged the account was used to stash kickbacks from Azerbaijan’s ruling family linked to an Azeri bank gaining a licence to operate in Malta.
Muscat called the claims the “biggest lie in Maltese political history”, asked a magistrate to investigate and has vowed to quit if any link is established between him and hidden offshore accounts. He has not applied that principle to two of his closest allies.
Chief of staff Schembri and government minister Konrad Mizzi were both revealed last year to be owners of undeclared shell companies established through Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Muscat has stood by both of them.
There are also suspicions in other EU countries that Malta’s financial services sector is facilitating tax avoidance. German tax authorities are currently investigating some 2,000 Malta-registered companies with links to German corporations.
Daphne Caruana’s murder was condemned by many European politicians. Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said he was “shocked and outraged”. “If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost,” he tweeted.
Shocked and outraged by murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost
— Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) October 16, 2017
Leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul called her “an investigative journalist of the highest calibre” and praised her work on the Panama Papers for having made “the world a more transparent and a fairer place”.
The GUE/NGL group also expressed shock. MEP Fabio De Masi (Die Linke) recalled how Caruana Galizia used to be an interlocuter of the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA).
MEP Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA group), an active member of the PANA Committee, said Caruana Galizia “played a vitally important role in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government”.
“It is too early to know the cause of the explosion but we will expect to see a thorough investigation”, Giegold stated.