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The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia Part 1 | Cocaine, Corruption, and Filthy Money

Oct 14, 2022
History
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20
minutes

On October 16th, 2017, a 52-year-old journalist was blown up in a car bomb outside her home in Malta.

In part one of our three-part mini-series, we'll learn about who she was, and who might have wanted her dead.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is the start of another three-part mini-series, this time about a lady called Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:31] She was a journalist who was brutally assassinated 5 years ago this month on a countryside road in a small Mediterranean island called Malta.

[00:00:42] It’s a story that brings together corruption, money laundering, crooked politicians, bribery, bad policemen, casinos, passports, energy supplies, tax havens, fake government jobs, hitmen, gambling, and at the centre of it all, one fearless woman.

[00:01:01] In part one, today’s episode, we’ll learn more about the setting for this story, the tiny and unusual country of Malta, as well as who Daphne was and who might possibly have wanted her dead.

[00:01:14] Then in part two, we’ll look at how the investigation progressed, or how it didn’t progress, who was implicated in the assassination, how close it got to the top of the Maltese political establishment, and how it brought down a Prime Minister.

[00:01:29] And in part three, our final part, we’ll find out who confessed to the murder, what’s happening next, and ask ourselves whether the person, or people, who really orchestrated it all will ever be brought to justice. 

[00:01:45] OK then, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:01:51] Shortly after lunch, on October 16th, 2017, a 52-year-old woman left her house in the countryside village of Bidnija, in Malta. 

[00:02:03] She said goodbye to her adult son, who continued working on his laptop in the house.

[00:02:10] She strolled down to her car, a rental, a Peugeot 108. 

[00:02:16] She got into the car, ready to drive off.

[00:02:19] Little did she know that up on a hill nearby a middle aged man was watching her through his binoculars.

[00:02:28] When he saw her heading towards the car, he made a phone call to his brother. The call didn’t last long. 

[00:02:36] The brother was only a few kilometres away, out on a little boat next to Valletta, the capital, which had been given the prestigious award of being the European Capital of Culture that year. 

[00:02:50] To the left of the small boat, only a few hundred metres away, were multi-million Euro yachts owned by some of the wealthiest people in the world.

[00:02:59] To the right, up on the raised capital of Valletta, was the Office of the Prime Minister, the centre of Maltese political power.

[00:03:08] The man on the boat tapped his phone.

[00:03:12] Seconds later, back at the car, there was a huge explosion. 

[00:03:18] The vehicle was blown to smithereens, the woman inside killed instantly.

[00:03:24] After hearing the explosion, the woman’s son rushed outside to see what had happened. His worst fears were confirmed as he found parts of his mother’s dead body strewn around the wreckage of the smouldering vehicle.

[00:03:38] It would be an event that would change everything, or perhaps, would change nothing.

[00:03:44] For the name of the woman at the centre of our story was Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:03:50] She was one of, if not the most famous journalists in the country.

[00:03:55] Her blog was one of the most popular websites in Malta, with Maltese people firing up her website first thing in the morning to catch up on the latest stories.

[00:04:06] So, if you can for a minute, imagine the most well-known journalist in your country being blown up by a car bomb. 

[00:04:15] It would be a huge shock, right? 

[00:04:18] An assault on the freedom of the press, a direct attack on the truth.

[00:04:24] But Malta is not like other countries, so what I want to do in this first episode is to give you a little bit of background to this country, as it will, I hope, help explain but certainly not excuse the events of this story.

[00:04:40] This story is, as regular listeners may realise, more personal than many of the others. 

[00:04:46] Malta is the country that I’ve called home for almost 6 years now. 

[00:04:51] I was a close follower of Daphne while she was alive, and I have been following this story closely ever since that fateful day in October of 2017.

[00:05:02] Your first question might be, where exactly is Malta?

[00:05:06] Well, it is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. 

[00:05:10] Imagine Sicily, the island at the very bottom of Italy, put your finger in the middle of it, then go directly south 100km and you’ll hit Malta.

[00:05:21] But you could easily miss it, because it is very small, absolutely tiny.

[00:05:28] The island of Malta itself is only 246 km squared, and the entire country, which consists of two other smaller islands, is only 316km squared. 

[00:05:42] To put that in perspective, the Metropolitan area of London is 8,382 kilometres squared, so you could fit almost 27 Maltas inside Metropolitan London.

[00:05:56] Why is this important for our story, you might ask?

[00:06:00] Well, the nature of a small place, especially a small island, is that there are tighter connections between people. Everyone knows everyone. The world of politics is closely intertwined with the world of business, the judicial system and the police.

[00:06:17] There is only one real university on the island, so you have a situation where a large proportion of the people who will go on to the highest positions in politics, in business, in the legal system, and in public administration, the people who control the goings on of the country, they all know each other and have often grown up together, gone to the same schools and gone to the same university.

[00:06:44] On one level, lovely. You can do business with your friends and you have a much closer-knit society than exists in larger countries.

[00:06:53] But this clearly means that the system is rife for corruption, for a politician doing a favour for their wife’s cousin, for someone to pass a driving test because they have connections to a minister, or for a police officer turning a blind eye to their brother’s misbehaviour. 

[00:07:13] Or much worse, as we’ll find out.

[00:07:17] But more than this, the nature of a small place means that if you get on the wrong side of, if you upset, important and powerful people, then your life can be made very difficult. 

[00:07:31] Daphne Caruana Galizia was perhaps the ultimate example of both of these aspects.

[00:07:38] Not only did she make it her life’s work to shine a light on the corruption, cronyism and rent-seeking that she saw going on in Maltese politics, but she suffered a near constant stream of attacks from people in positions of power in Maltese society, making her life very difficult.

[00:07:59] So, let me tell you a little bit about this amazing lady, to give you an idea about who might have wanted her dead, and why.

[00:08:08] She started her career as a journalist at Malta’s main newspaper, The Times of Malta, where she was the country’s first female columnist, before she broke away and started at another newspaper called The Malta Independent.

[00:08:23] And in 2008 she went fully independent, launching a blog called Running Commentary, which swiftly became the most popular source of news in the entire country, regularly getting over 400,000 daily visitors.

[00:08:40] As a point of reference, Malta’s population at the time was just over 400,000 people, so imagine every single adult in Malta, plus a good chunk of people outside the country reading her writing every single day and this gives you some idea of the kind of influence she had.

[00:09:00] So, what did she write about?

[00:09:03] Corruption, essentially.

[00:09:04] And if you are thinking that there surely couldn’t be enough material for her to have a full time job writing about corruption in such a tiny country, you would be sorely mistaken.

[00:09:16] She could barely keep up with all of the dodgy dealings that were going on, and practically every day was full of a new scandal or suggestion of corruption by someone in a position of power.

[00:09:29] There were a few major areas of interest for her. 

[00:09:32] Firstly, in 2013 Malta launched what it called its “Citizenship by Investment” programme, where wealthy people can invest a certain amount of money, around a million Euros, and become a Maltese citizen. 

[00:09:48] Essentially, people from non-EU countries could buy Maltese citizenship, and get an EU passport. 

[00:09:56] Secondly, after Malta joined the EU, in 2004, it became a hub for online gambling companies, which were attracted by Malta’s very low tax rates and ability to give out gambling licences that were recognised in the rest of the European Union.

[00:10:14] Today, this tiny, tiny island is home to about 10% of the global online gambling industry, which has had the effect of bringing a huge amount of money into what is essentially a tiny dry rock in the middle of the sea, and turning what was not a very wealthy country at all into one flooded with money.

[00:10:36] And thirdly, and not completely unrelated to the previous two points, Malta had developed a financial services and banking industry that was often prepared to accept clients that would not be accepted in other countries. 

[00:10:51] That’s perhaps a polite way of putting it - a more sceptical perspective would be that it had become an excellent place for everyone from Mexican drug cartels to Russian oligarchs to launder their money.

[00:11:06] In Daphne’s own words, “Malta is 17 miles by nine and flooded with cocaine, corruption, and filthy money”.

[00:11:17] In an eerie premonition, a spooky foreshadowing, cocaine, corruption and filthy money would all come out in her own murder investigation.

[00:11:28] And while the Maltese government pointed to increasing salaries, booming property prices, and everyone getting richer, Daphne was prepared to look where other journalists were not.

[00:11:41] She alleged that the minister of the economy had visited a brothel, that he had used prostitutes, that the leader of the opposition party was getting rich from a prostitution business in London, practically every day there was a new seedy and nasty, scandal that was reported on her blog.

[00:12:01] As you might imagine, because she was pointing the finger at the country’s most powerful men, and I’m afraid it was almost exclusively men, she was targeted.

[00:12:13] There were frequent claims of libel, that she had written untrue stories about people, she was taken to court and sued by those she accused.

[00:12:23] And what’s more, she was frequently attacked and harassed by members of the public.

[00:12:29] Why would members of the public feel so strongly about her attacks on politicians, you might ask?

[00:12:35] Well, to answer this question it’s useful to talk very briefly about Maltese politics.

[00:12:41] The political situation in Malta is dominated by two parties, the Nationalist party, which was in power until 2013, and the Labour party, which won the 2013 election and has been in power ever since. 

[00:12:58] Politicians from both parties were the subject of her attacks, but–given it has presided over the era in which the greatest scandals took place–her greatest attacks were directed towards members of the Labour party.

[00:13:13] And the point to underline about Maltese politics is that it is incredibly tribal, people are incredibly passionate about it, almost more like football teams than political parties. 

[00:13:25] There are strong Labour or Nationalist areas or families, and the amount of “floating voters”, people who are undecided, is significantly lower than it tends to be in other countries.

[00:13:40] So, much like how a die-hard football fan might feel if their team lost or someone attacked them, for some people Daphne’s attacks on “their” politicians were like attacks on them personally.

[00:13:53] And they fought back.

[00:13:56] Daphne, and her family, were subject to near constant attacks before the final attack that took her life.

[00:14:04] Other than the legal attacks, her house was set on fire, she would constantly have people driving past her house and shouting vile insults, one of her dogs had its throat slit and another one was poisoned, she would receive text messages and letters with death threats, it was a near-constant intimidation campaign.

[00:14:26] But she didn’t stop.

[00:14:28] And the allegations of corruption that she made became more and more serious.

[00:14:33] Yes, the minister of the economy going to a brothel, visiting prostitutes, is bad, but it was nothing compared to what she was to discover.

[00:14:43] After the Panama Papers were released in 2016, she claimed that she had discovered damning information about two very senior members of the Maltese government. 

[00:14:56] The first was Konrad Mizzi, a man who had been both the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Health, before being transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister.

[00:15:06] The second was a man called Keith Schembri, a Maltese businessman and childhood friend of Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister. Schembri now held the position of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:15:20] What did Daphne claim?

[00:15:22] That shortly after the Labour party had been elected to power, both men had opened up offshore bank accounts and companies in New Zealand and Panama. Why would they do that? 

[00:15:35] Well, the implication was that they were to secretly store money that the two politicians would be receiving as bribes.

[00:15:44] What’s more, she would go on to claim that none other than the Prime Minister’s wife was the owner of a company in Panama, with the implicit suggestion that this would be used to accept money without it being linked to the Prime Minister.

[00:15:59] This was in April of 2017. 

[00:16:03] Although the Prime Minister and his wife would vigorously deny it, in the already corruption-tolerant country of Malta, it was quite the allegation.

[00:16:13] An early general election was called, in June of 2017, and the Labour party, the party at the centre of all of these outrageous corruption allegations, was re-elected in a resounding majority.

[00:16:28] It was, to some, a sign that either the Labour voting population didn’t believe the allegations, or they simply didn’t care about them.

[00:16:38] But this did not deter Daphne in the slightest. If anything, it was an even greater reason to keep pushing, to keep on searching for the truth. 

[00:16:49] It would be a search that would end, tragically on the afternoon of October 16th.

[00:16:57] Her last post on her blog was titled “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook”.

[00:17:06] A crook, by the way, means a bad, dishonest person, a criminal.

[00:17:12] And ominously, the last sentence of the last article that she would ever write read “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:25] She hit publish, the article went live on the blog, and just 30 minutes later one of these crooks pressed a button on a phone, detonating a massive bomb and silencing Daphne forever.

[00:17:41] As we will find out in the next episode, although the bomb might have silenced Daphne the journalist, it would unravel a web of scandal, put a black mark on Malta’s international reputation, bring down the prime minister and several of his closest allies, and it would certainly not silence the message of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:18:03] OK then, that is it for today's episode, part one of this three-part mini-series on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:14] Next up, in part two, we will look at how the investigation unravelled, look at what Daphne had discovered, look how the very corruption she was investigating got in the way of the investigation of her own murder, who has been accused and charged with her killing, and why.

[00:18:32] Then in part three, the final part, we’ll look at what has happened since then, the trials, the revelations, and see who, if anyone, has actually been brought to justice.

[00:18:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:48] Have you been to Malta? It’s a place that lots of people visit to learn English, so I wonder, if you have been here, did you know that it had this dark underbelly?

[00:18:58] Why do you think that this culture of corruption and rent-seeking is so pervasive in small islands, and what do you think could be done to stop it?

[00:19:07] I would love to know, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:17] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:22] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is the start of another three-part mini-series, this time about a lady called Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:31] She was a journalist who was brutally assassinated 5 years ago this month on a countryside road in a small Mediterranean island called Malta.

[00:00:42] It’s a story that brings together corruption, money laundering, crooked politicians, bribery, bad policemen, casinos, passports, energy supplies, tax havens, fake government jobs, hitmen, gambling, and at the centre of it all, one fearless woman.

[00:01:01] In part one, today’s episode, we’ll learn more about the setting for this story, the tiny and unusual country of Malta, as well as who Daphne was and who might possibly have wanted her dead.

[00:01:14] Then in part two, we’ll look at how the investigation progressed, or how it didn’t progress, who was implicated in the assassination, how close it got to the top of the Maltese political establishment, and how it brought down a Prime Minister.

[00:01:29] And in part three, our final part, we’ll find out who confessed to the murder, what’s happening next, and ask ourselves whether the person, or people, who really orchestrated it all will ever be brought to justice. 

[00:01:45] OK then, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:01:51] Shortly after lunch, on October 16th, 2017, a 52-year-old woman left her house in the countryside village of Bidnija, in Malta. 

[00:02:03] She said goodbye to her adult son, who continued working on his laptop in the house.

[00:02:10] She strolled down to her car, a rental, a Peugeot 108. 

[00:02:16] She got into the car, ready to drive off.

[00:02:19] Little did she know that up on a hill nearby a middle aged man was watching her through his binoculars.

[00:02:28] When he saw her heading towards the car, he made a phone call to his brother. The call didn’t last long. 

[00:02:36] The brother was only a few kilometres away, out on a little boat next to Valletta, the capital, which had been given the prestigious award of being the European Capital of Culture that year. 

[00:02:50] To the left of the small boat, only a few hundred metres away, were multi-million Euro yachts owned by some of the wealthiest people in the world.

[00:02:59] To the right, up on the raised capital of Valletta, was the Office of the Prime Minister, the centre of Maltese political power.

[00:03:08] The man on the boat tapped his phone.

[00:03:12] Seconds later, back at the car, there was a huge explosion. 

[00:03:18] The vehicle was blown to smithereens, the woman inside killed instantly.

[00:03:24] After hearing the explosion, the woman’s son rushed outside to see what had happened. His worst fears were confirmed as he found parts of his mother’s dead body strewn around the wreckage of the smouldering vehicle.

[00:03:38] It would be an event that would change everything, or perhaps, would change nothing.

[00:03:44] For the name of the woman at the centre of our story was Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:03:50] She was one of, if not the most famous journalists in the country.

[00:03:55] Her blog was one of the most popular websites in Malta, with Maltese people firing up her website first thing in the morning to catch up on the latest stories.

[00:04:06] So, if you can for a minute, imagine the most well-known journalist in your country being blown up by a car bomb. 

[00:04:15] It would be a huge shock, right? 

[00:04:18] An assault on the freedom of the press, a direct attack on the truth.

[00:04:24] But Malta is not like other countries, so what I want to do in this first episode is to give you a little bit of background to this country, as it will, I hope, help explain but certainly not excuse the events of this story.

[00:04:40] This story is, as regular listeners may realise, more personal than many of the others. 

[00:04:46] Malta is the country that I’ve called home for almost 6 years now. 

[00:04:51] I was a close follower of Daphne while she was alive, and I have been following this story closely ever since that fateful day in October of 2017.

[00:05:02] Your first question might be, where exactly is Malta?

[00:05:06] Well, it is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. 

[00:05:10] Imagine Sicily, the island at the very bottom of Italy, put your finger in the middle of it, then go directly south 100km and you’ll hit Malta.

[00:05:21] But you could easily miss it, because it is very small, absolutely tiny.

[00:05:28] The island of Malta itself is only 246 km squared, and the entire country, which consists of two other smaller islands, is only 316km squared. 

[00:05:42] To put that in perspective, the Metropolitan area of London is 8,382 kilometres squared, so you could fit almost 27 Maltas inside Metropolitan London.

[00:05:56] Why is this important for our story, you might ask?

[00:06:00] Well, the nature of a small place, especially a small island, is that there are tighter connections between people. Everyone knows everyone. The world of politics is closely intertwined with the world of business, the judicial system and the police.

[00:06:17] There is only one real university on the island, so you have a situation where a large proportion of the people who will go on to the highest positions in politics, in business, in the legal system, and in public administration, the people who control the goings on of the country, they all know each other and have often grown up together, gone to the same schools and gone to the same university.

[00:06:44] On one level, lovely. You can do business with your friends and you have a much closer-knit society than exists in larger countries.

[00:06:53] But this clearly means that the system is rife for corruption, for a politician doing a favour for their wife’s cousin, for someone to pass a driving test because they have connections to a minister, or for a police officer turning a blind eye to their brother’s misbehaviour. 

[00:07:13] Or much worse, as we’ll find out.

[00:07:17] But more than this, the nature of a small place means that if you get on the wrong side of, if you upset, important and powerful people, then your life can be made very difficult. 

[00:07:31] Daphne Caruana Galizia was perhaps the ultimate example of both of these aspects.

[00:07:38] Not only did she make it her life’s work to shine a light on the corruption, cronyism and rent-seeking that she saw going on in Maltese politics, but she suffered a near constant stream of attacks from people in positions of power in Maltese society, making her life very difficult.

[00:07:59] So, let me tell you a little bit about this amazing lady, to give you an idea about who might have wanted her dead, and why.

[00:08:08] She started her career as a journalist at Malta’s main newspaper, The Times of Malta, where she was the country’s first female columnist, before she broke away and started at another newspaper called The Malta Independent.

[00:08:23] And in 2008 she went fully independent, launching a blog called Running Commentary, which swiftly became the most popular source of news in the entire country, regularly getting over 400,000 daily visitors.

[00:08:40] As a point of reference, Malta’s population at the time was just over 400,000 people, so imagine every single adult in Malta, plus a good chunk of people outside the country reading her writing every single day and this gives you some idea of the kind of influence she had.

[00:09:00] So, what did she write about?

[00:09:03] Corruption, essentially.

[00:09:04] And if you are thinking that there surely couldn’t be enough material for her to have a full time job writing about corruption in such a tiny country, you would be sorely mistaken.

[00:09:16] She could barely keep up with all of the dodgy dealings that were going on, and practically every day was full of a new scandal or suggestion of corruption by someone in a position of power.

[00:09:29] There were a few major areas of interest for her. 

[00:09:32] Firstly, in 2013 Malta launched what it called its “Citizenship by Investment” programme, where wealthy people can invest a certain amount of money, around a million Euros, and become a Maltese citizen. 

[00:09:48] Essentially, people from non-EU countries could buy Maltese citizenship, and get an EU passport. 

[00:09:56] Secondly, after Malta joined the EU, in 2004, it became a hub for online gambling companies, which were attracted by Malta’s very low tax rates and ability to give out gambling licences that were recognised in the rest of the European Union.

[00:10:14] Today, this tiny, tiny island is home to about 10% of the global online gambling industry, which has had the effect of bringing a huge amount of money into what is essentially a tiny dry rock in the middle of the sea, and turning what was not a very wealthy country at all into one flooded with money.

[00:10:36] And thirdly, and not completely unrelated to the previous two points, Malta had developed a financial services and banking industry that was often prepared to accept clients that would not be accepted in other countries. 

[00:10:51] That’s perhaps a polite way of putting it - a more sceptical perspective would be that it had become an excellent place for everyone from Mexican drug cartels to Russian oligarchs to launder their money.

[00:11:06] In Daphne’s own words, “Malta is 17 miles by nine and flooded with cocaine, corruption, and filthy money”.

[00:11:17] In an eerie premonition, a spooky foreshadowing, cocaine, corruption and filthy money would all come out in her own murder investigation.

[00:11:28] And while the Maltese government pointed to increasing salaries, booming property prices, and everyone getting richer, Daphne was prepared to look where other journalists were not.

[00:11:41] She alleged that the minister of the economy had visited a brothel, that he had used prostitutes, that the leader of the opposition party was getting rich from a prostitution business in London, practically every day there was a new seedy and nasty, scandal that was reported on her blog.

[00:12:01] As you might imagine, because she was pointing the finger at the country’s most powerful men, and I’m afraid it was almost exclusively men, she was targeted.

[00:12:13] There were frequent claims of libel, that she had written untrue stories about people, she was taken to court and sued by those she accused.

[00:12:23] And what’s more, she was frequently attacked and harassed by members of the public.

[00:12:29] Why would members of the public feel so strongly about her attacks on politicians, you might ask?

[00:12:35] Well, to answer this question it’s useful to talk very briefly about Maltese politics.

[00:12:41] The political situation in Malta is dominated by two parties, the Nationalist party, which was in power until 2013, and the Labour party, which won the 2013 election and has been in power ever since. 

[00:12:58] Politicians from both parties were the subject of her attacks, but–given it has presided over the era in which the greatest scandals took place–her greatest attacks were directed towards members of the Labour party.

[00:13:13] And the point to underline about Maltese politics is that it is incredibly tribal, people are incredibly passionate about it, almost more like football teams than political parties. 

[00:13:25] There are strong Labour or Nationalist areas or families, and the amount of “floating voters”, people who are undecided, is significantly lower than it tends to be in other countries.

[00:13:40] So, much like how a die-hard football fan might feel if their team lost or someone attacked them, for some people Daphne’s attacks on “their” politicians were like attacks on them personally.

[00:13:53] And they fought back.

[00:13:56] Daphne, and her family, were subject to near constant attacks before the final attack that took her life.

[00:14:04] Other than the legal attacks, her house was set on fire, she would constantly have people driving past her house and shouting vile insults, one of her dogs had its throat slit and another one was poisoned, she would receive text messages and letters with death threats, it was a near-constant intimidation campaign.

[00:14:26] But she didn’t stop.

[00:14:28] And the allegations of corruption that she made became more and more serious.

[00:14:33] Yes, the minister of the economy going to a brothel, visiting prostitutes, is bad, but it was nothing compared to what she was to discover.

[00:14:43] After the Panama Papers were released in 2016, she claimed that she had discovered damning information about two very senior members of the Maltese government. 

[00:14:56] The first was Konrad Mizzi, a man who had been both the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Health, before being transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister.

[00:15:06] The second was a man called Keith Schembri, a Maltese businessman and childhood friend of Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister. Schembri now held the position of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:15:20] What did Daphne claim?

[00:15:22] That shortly after the Labour party had been elected to power, both men had opened up offshore bank accounts and companies in New Zealand and Panama. Why would they do that? 

[00:15:35] Well, the implication was that they were to secretly store money that the two politicians would be receiving as bribes.

[00:15:44] What’s more, she would go on to claim that none other than the Prime Minister’s wife was the owner of a company in Panama, with the implicit suggestion that this would be used to accept money without it being linked to the Prime Minister.

[00:15:59] This was in April of 2017. 

[00:16:03] Although the Prime Minister and his wife would vigorously deny it, in the already corruption-tolerant country of Malta, it was quite the allegation.

[00:16:13] An early general election was called, in June of 2017, and the Labour party, the party at the centre of all of these outrageous corruption allegations, was re-elected in a resounding majority.

[00:16:28] It was, to some, a sign that either the Labour voting population didn’t believe the allegations, or they simply didn’t care about them.

[00:16:38] But this did not deter Daphne in the slightest. If anything, it was an even greater reason to keep pushing, to keep on searching for the truth. 

[00:16:49] It would be a search that would end, tragically on the afternoon of October 16th.

[00:16:57] Her last post on her blog was titled “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook”.

[00:17:06] A crook, by the way, means a bad, dishonest person, a criminal.

[00:17:12] And ominously, the last sentence of the last article that she would ever write read “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:25] She hit publish, the article went live on the blog, and just 30 minutes later one of these crooks pressed a button on a phone, detonating a massive bomb and silencing Daphne forever.

[00:17:41] As we will find out in the next episode, although the bomb might have silenced Daphne the journalist, it would unravel a web of scandal, put a black mark on Malta’s international reputation, bring down the prime minister and several of his closest allies, and it would certainly not silence the message of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:18:03] OK then, that is it for today's episode, part one of this three-part mini-series on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:14] Next up, in part two, we will look at how the investigation unravelled, look at what Daphne had discovered, look how the very corruption she was investigating got in the way of the investigation of her own murder, who has been accused and charged with her killing, and why.

[00:18:32] Then in part three, the final part, we’ll look at what has happened since then, the trials, the revelations, and see who, if anyone, has actually been brought to justice.

[00:18:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:48] Have you been to Malta? It’s a place that lots of people visit to learn English, so I wonder, if you have been here, did you know that it had this dark underbelly?

[00:18:58] Why do you think that this culture of corruption and rent-seeking is so pervasive in small islands, and what do you think could be done to stop it?

[00:19:07] I would love to know, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:17] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:22] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today is the start of another three-part mini-series, this time about a lady called Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:31] She was a journalist who was brutally assassinated 5 years ago this month on a countryside road in a small Mediterranean island called Malta.

[00:00:42] It’s a story that brings together corruption, money laundering, crooked politicians, bribery, bad policemen, casinos, passports, energy supplies, tax havens, fake government jobs, hitmen, gambling, and at the centre of it all, one fearless woman.

[00:01:01] In part one, today’s episode, we’ll learn more about the setting for this story, the tiny and unusual country of Malta, as well as who Daphne was and who might possibly have wanted her dead.

[00:01:14] Then in part two, we’ll look at how the investigation progressed, or how it didn’t progress, who was implicated in the assassination, how close it got to the top of the Maltese political establishment, and how it brought down a Prime Minister.

[00:01:29] And in part three, our final part, we’ll find out who confessed to the murder, what’s happening next, and ask ourselves whether the person, or people, who really orchestrated it all will ever be brought to justice. 

[00:01:45] OK then, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:01:51] Shortly after lunch, on October 16th, 2017, a 52-year-old woman left her house in the countryside village of Bidnija, in Malta. 

[00:02:03] She said goodbye to her adult son, who continued working on his laptop in the house.

[00:02:10] She strolled down to her car, a rental, a Peugeot 108. 

[00:02:16] She got into the car, ready to drive off.

[00:02:19] Little did she know that up on a hill nearby a middle aged man was watching her through his binoculars.

[00:02:28] When he saw her heading towards the car, he made a phone call to his brother. The call didn’t last long. 

[00:02:36] The brother was only a few kilometres away, out on a little boat next to Valletta, the capital, which had been given the prestigious award of being the European Capital of Culture that year. 

[00:02:50] To the left of the small boat, only a few hundred metres away, were multi-million Euro yachts owned by some of the wealthiest people in the world.

[00:02:59] To the right, up on the raised capital of Valletta, was the Office of the Prime Minister, the centre of Maltese political power.

[00:03:08] The man on the boat tapped his phone.

[00:03:12] Seconds later, back at the car, there was a huge explosion. 

[00:03:18] The vehicle was blown to smithereens, the woman inside killed instantly.

[00:03:24] After hearing the explosion, the woman’s son rushed outside to see what had happened. His worst fears were confirmed as he found parts of his mother’s dead body strewn around the wreckage of the smouldering vehicle.

[00:03:38] It would be an event that would change everything, or perhaps, would change nothing.

[00:03:44] For the name of the woman at the centre of our story was Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:03:50] She was one of, if not the most famous journalists in the country.

[00:03:55] Her blog was one of the most popular websites in Malta, with Maltese people firing up her website first thing in the morning to catch up on the latest stories.

[00:04:06] So, if you can for a minute, imagine the most well-known journalist in your country being blown up by a car bomb. 

[00:04:15] It would be a huge shock, right? 

[00:04:18] An assault on the freedom of the press, a direct attack on the truth.

[00:04:24] But Malta is not like other countries, so what I want to do in this first episode is to give you a little bit of background to this country, as it will, I hope, help explain but certainly not excuse the events of this story.

[00:04:40] This story is, as regular listeners may realise, more personal than many of the others. 

[00:04:46] Malta is the country that I’ve called home for almost 6 years now. 

[00:04:51] I was a close follower of Daphne while she was alive, and I have been following this story closely ever since that fateful day in October of 2017.

[00:05:02] Your first question might be, where exactly is Malta?

[00:05:06] Well, it is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. 

[00:05:10] Imagine Sicily, the island at the very bottom of Italy, put your finger in the middle of it, then go directly south 100km and you’ll hit Malta.

[00:05:21] But you could easily miss it, because it is very small, absolutely tiny.

[00:05:28] The island of Malta itself is only 246 km squared, and the entire country, which consists of two other smaller islands, is only 316km squared. 

[00:05:42] To put that in perspective, the Metropolitan area of London is 8,382 kilometres squared, so you could fit almost 27 Maltas inside Metropolitan London.

[00:05:56] Why is this important for our story, you might ask?

[00:06:00] Well, the nature of a small place, especially a small island, is that there are tighter connections between people. Everyone knows everyone. The world of politics is closely intertwined with the world of business, the judicial system and the police.

[00:06:17] There is only one real university on the island, so you have a situation where a large proportion of the people who will go on to the highest positions in politics, in business, in the legal system, and in public administration, the people who control the goings on of the country, they all know each other and have often grown up together, gone to the same schools and gone to the same university.

[00:06:44] On one level, lovely. You can do business with your friends and you have a much closer-knit society than exists in larger countries.

[00:06:53] But this clearly means that the system is rife for corruption, for a politician doing a favour for their wife’s cousin, for someone to pass a driving test because they have connections to a minister, or for a police officer turning a blind eye to their brother’s misbehaviour. 

[00:07:13] Or much worse, as we’ll find out.

[00:07:17] But more than this, the nature of a small place means that if you get on the wrong side of, if you upset, important and powerful people, then your life can be made very difficult. 

[00:07:31] Daphne Caruana Galizia was perhaps the ultimate example of both of these aspects.

[00:07:38] Not only did she make it her life’s work to shine a light on the corruption, cronyism and rent-seeking that she saw going on in Maltese politics, but she suffered a near constant stream of attacks from people in positions of power in Maltese society, making her life very difficult.

[00:07:59] So, let me tell you a little bit about this amazing lady, to give you an idea about who might have wanted her dead, and why.

[00:08:08] She started her career as a journalist at Malta’s main newspaper, The Times of Malta, where she was the country’s first female columnist, before she broke away and started at another newspaper called The Malta Independent.

[00:08:23] And in 2008 she went fully independent, launching a blog called Running Commentary, which swiftly became the most popular source of news in the entire country, regularly getting over 400,000 daily visitors.

[00:08:40] As a point of reference, Malta’s population at the time was just over 400,000 people, so imagine every single adult in Malta, plus a good chunk of people outside the country reading her writing every single day and this gives you some idea of the kind of influence she had.

[00:09:00] So, what did she write about?

[00:09:03] Corruption, essentially.

[00:09:04] And if you are thinking that there surely couldn’t be enough material for her to have a full time job writing about corruption in such a tiny country, you would be sorely mistaken.

[00:09:16] She could barely keep up with all of the dodgy dealings that were going on, and practically every day was full of a new scandal or suggestion of corruption by someone in a position of power.

[00:09:29] There were a few major areas of interest for her. 

[00:09:32] Firstly, in 2013 Malta launched what it called its “Citizenship by Investment” programme, where wealthy people can invest a certain amount of money, around a million Euros, and become a Maltese citizen. 

[00:09:48] Essentially, people from non-EU countries could buy Maltese citizenship, and get an EU passport. 

[00:09:56] Secondly, after Malta joined the EU, in 2004, it became a hub for online gambling companies, which were attracted by Malta’s very low tax rates and ability to give out gambling licences that were recognised in the rest of the European Union.

[00:10:14] Today, this tiny, tiny island is home to about 10% of the global online gambling industry, which has had the effect of bringing a huge amount of money into what is essentially a tiny dry rock in the middle of the sea, and turning what was not a very wealthy country at all into one flooded with money.

[00:10:36] And thirdly, and not completely unrelated to the previous two points, Malta had developed a financial services and banking industry that was often prepared to accept clients that would not be accepted in other countries. 

[00:10:51] That’s perhaps a polite way of putting it - a more sceptical perspective would be that it had become an excellent place for everyone from Mexican drug cartels to Russian oligarchs to launder their money.

[00:11:06] In Daphne’s own words, “Malta is 17 miles by nine and flooded with cocaine, corruption, and filthy money”.

[00:11:17] In an eerie premonition, a spooky foreshadowing, cocaine, corruption and filthy money would all come out in her own murder investigation.

[00:11:28] And while the Maltese government pointed to increasing salaries, booming property prices, and everyone getting richer, Daphne was prepared to look where other journalists were not.

[00:11:41] She alleged that the minister of the economy had visited a brothel, that he had used prostitutes, that the leader of the opposition party was getting rich from a prostitution business in London, practically every day there was a new seedy and nasty, scandal that was reported on her blog.

[00:12:01] As you might imagine, because she was pointing the finger at the country’s most powerful men, and I’m afraid it was almost exclusively men, she was targeted.

[00:12:13] There were frequent claims of libel, that she had written untrue stories about people, she was taken to court and sued by those she accused.

[00:12:23] And what’s more, she was frequently attacked and harassed by members of the public.

[00:12:29] Why would members of the public feel so strongly about her attacks on politicians, you might ask?

[00:12:35] Well, to answer this question it’s useful to talk very briefly about Maltese politics.

[00:12:41] The political situation in Malta is dominated by two parties, the Nationalist party, which was in power until 2013, and the Labour party, which won the 2013 election and has been in power ever since. 

[00:12:58] Politicians from both parties were the subject of her attacks, but–given it has presided over the era in which the greatest scandals took place–her greatest attacks were directed towards members of the Labour party.

[00:13:13] And the point to underline about Maltese politics is that it is incredibly tribal, people are incredibly passionate about it, almost more like football teams than political parties. 

[00:13:25] There are strong Labour or Nationalist areas or families, and the amount of “floating voters”, people who are undecided, is significantly lower than it tends to be in other countries.

[00:13:40] So, much like how a die-hard football fan might feel if their team lost or someone attacked them, for some people Daphne’s attacks on “their” politicians were like attacks on them personally.

[00:13:53] And they fought back.

[00:13:56] Daphne, and her family, were subject to near constant attacks before the final attack that took her life.

[00:14:04] Other than the legal attacks, her house was set on fire, she would constantly have people driving past her house and shouting vile insults, one of her dogs had its throat slit and another one was poisoned, she would receive text messages and letters with death threats, it was a near-constant intimidation campaign.

[00:14:26] But she didn’t stop.

[00:14:28] And the allegations of corruption that she made became more and more serious.

[00:14:33] Yes, the minister of the economy going to a brothel, visiting prostitutes, is bad, but it was nothing compared to what she was to discover.

[00:14:43] After the Panama Papers were released in 2016, she claimed that she had discovered damning information about two very senior members of the Maltese government. 

[00:14:56] The first was Konrad Mizzi, a man who had been both the Minister of Energy and the Minister of Health, before being transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister.

[00:15:06] The second was a man called Keith Schembri, a Maltese businessman and childhood friend of Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister. Schembri now held the position of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:15:20] What did Daphne claim?

[00:15:22] That shortly after the Labour party had been elected to power, both men had opened up offshore bank accounts and companies in New Zealand and Panama. Why would they do that? 

[00:15:35] Well, the implication was that they were to secretly store money that the two politicians would be receiving as bribes.

[00:15:44] What’s more, she would go on to claim that none other than the Prime Minister’s wife was the owner of a company in Panama, with the implicit suggestion that this would be used to accept money without it being linked to the Prime Minister.

[00:15:59] This was in April of 2017. 

[00:16:03] Although the Prime Minister and his wife would vigorously deny it, in the already corruption-tolerant country of Malta, it was quite the allegation.

[00:16:13] An early general election was called, in June of 2017, and the Labour party, the party at the centre of all of these outrageous corruption allegations, was re-elected in a resounding majority.

[00:16:28] It was, to some, a sign that either the Labour voting population didn’t believe the allegations, or they simply didn’t care about them.

[00:16:38] But this did not deter Daphne in the slightest. If anything, it was an even greater reason to keep pushing, to keep on searching for the truth. 

[00:16:49] It would be a search that would end, tragically on the afternoon of October 16th.

[00:16:57] Her last post on her blog was titled “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook”.

[00:17:06] A crook, by the way, means a bad, dishonest person, a criminal.

[00:17:12] And ominously, the last sentence of the last article that she would ever write read “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:25] She hit publish, the article went live on the blog, and just 30 minutes later one of these crooks pressed a button on a phone, detonating a massive bomb and silencing Daphne forever.

[00:17:41] As we will find out in the next episode, although the bomb might have silenced Daphne the journalist, it would unravel a web of scandal, put a black mark on Malta’s international reputation, bring down the prime minister and several of his closest allies, and it would certainly not silence the message of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:18:03] OK then, that is it for today's episode, part one of this three-part mini-series on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:14] Next up, in part two, we will look at how the investigation unravelled, look at what Daphne had discovered, look how the very corruption she was investigating got in the way of the investigation of her own murder, who has been accused and charged with her killing, and why.

[00:18:32] Then in part three, the final part, we’ll look at what has happened since then, the trials, the revelations, and see who, if anyone, has actually been brought to justice.

[00:18:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:48] Have you been to Malta? It’s a place that lots of people visit to learn English, so I wonder, if you have been here, did you know that it had this dark underbelly?

[00:18:58] Why do you think that this culture of corruption and rent-seeking is so pervasive in small islands, and what do you think could be done to stop it?

[00:19:07] I would love to know, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:19:17] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:19:22] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]