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Daphne Caruana Galizia: Suspect admits killing Maltese journalist

The Independent logo The Independent 05/07/2022 Stephen Grey

The man accused of detonating a car bomb that killed a prominent Maltese journalist has confessed to the crime in an interview and says he will soon implicate others in plotting to assassinate her.

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

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

“For me it was just business. Yeah. Business as usual.” He later added, “Of course I feel sorry.”

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

On June 22, Malta‘s Appeal Court rejected remaining legal challenges by Degiorgio to the murder charges against him and his brother Alfred, who is co-accused. The judgement clears the way for trial to go ahead.

The car-bomb assassination of the investigative journalist and blogger caused shock across Europe.

Maltese authorities charged Degiorgio and two other men, his brother Alfred and an associate, Vince Muscat, with murdering Caruana Galizia in October 2017.

Degiorgio said he would plead guilty ahead of any jury trial.

“I’m going to speak to the magistrate,” he said. He 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 of the 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 this case and some other crimes.

One of the island’s richest businessmen, 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.

In a statement, his lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran, said Fenech planned to prove in court “he at no point wanted, actively searched for or sponsored” Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

George Degiorgio, the man accused of detonating a car bomb that killed prominent Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (via REUTERS) © Provided by The Independent George Degiorgio, the man accused of detonating a car bomb that killed prominent Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (via REUTERS)

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

Caruana Galizia was killed after she levelled a series of corruption allegations against prominent people, including ministers in the island’s Labour Party government.

According to prosecution evidence presented in court in multiple preliminary hearings since 2018, George Degiorgio and his gang had tracked the journalist throughout the summer of 2017. In the early hours of October 16, 2017, prosecutors allege, the gang planted a bomb under a seat in her car.

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