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The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia Part 2 | Crooks Everywhere You Look

Oct 18, 2022
History
-
17
minutes

A few months after Daphne's brutal assassination, the Maltese police raided a potato shed.

They would "find" three men who would later admit to being involved in the murder, but were they really any closer to the truth?

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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.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today it is part two of our three-part mini-series on The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:00:30] In case you haven’t listened to part one yet, now is the time to press pause and listen to that, as it does have a lot of important information and background to what we will be talking about today.

[00:00:42] In today’s episode, part two, we will look at how the investigation progressed, how the police worked, or rather didn’t work, to find Daphne’s killers, and how the investigation went right up to the heart of Maltese political power.

[00:00:59] And in part three, the final part, we’ll look at the trial of Daphne’s alleged killers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed.

[00:01:10] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:16] In part one of this mini-series we learned about Daphne Caruana Galizia and her fight against institutionalised corruption on the small island of Malta.

[00:01:27] We heard how political and private interests were deeply interlinked, how Malta became awash with money of perhaps dubious origins, and learned about some of the cases of corruption that Daphne had highlighted.

[00:01:43] And, of course, you know how this story ends, or at least how it ended for Daphne, with her brutal assassination in a rental car outside her house in the Maltese countryside.

[00:01:56] That was on October 16th of 2017, so, what happened next?

[00:02:03] As you might expect, the aftermath was full of tough statements and promises from the Maltese police and politicians. 

[00:02:12] The Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, called her murder a “barbaric attack on freedom of expression that goes against every sense of decency and civility”. 

[00:02:23] He said that everything will be done to find Daphne’s killers, and announced a 1 million Euro reward for information that would lead to their capture.

[00:02:34] So, what happened? 

[00:02:36] Surely it couldn’t be that hard to find some information. 

[00:02:41] Malta is, after all, a tiny island, which makes it hard to escape, and although Daphne’s house was in what is in Malta called “the countryside”, it’s only a few hundred metres away from a major road and a kilometre from one of Malta’s largest towns. 

[00:02:59] Someone had to have seen something…

[00:03:01] But, surprise surprise, nothing. 

[00:03:04] Crickets, as the American expression goes, meaning that there was complete silence. 

[00:03:10] The days and weeks passed and there were no real leads, no developments in the investigation, or at least nothing that was made public.

[00:03:21] One group that certainly wasn’t buying this, that didn’t believe that this could be true, was Daphne’s three sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul. 

[00:03:32] They gave extensive interviews to the foreign press insinuating, suggesting, that the investigation was being prevented by powerful forces within the Maltese elite, by politicians, policemen, businessmen, or a combination of all three.

[00:03:49] It would later transpire that they had every reason to be suspicious, to be sceptical of what they were being told by the police.

[00:03:59] And despite the fact that this was a crime against a Maltese person, in Malta, most likely carried out by a Maltese person on the orders of another Maltese person, the news of Daphne’s murder quickly spread around the globe.

[00:04:15] Malta was in the European Union, she was the most famous journalist in the country, it was an attack on the very heart of the freedom of the press.

[00:04:25] And the fact that she had accused so many powerful people of corruption, and then there were no developments in her own murder investigation suggested foul play, it suggested that someone was covering it up.

[00:04:39] It wouldn’t be until December, two months later, that the first developments were made.

[00:04:46] The police raided a warehouse in the industrial area of Marsa, just southwest of Valletta, the island’s capital.

[00:04:55] In a disused potato shed they found three men: two brothers, Alfred and George DeGiorgio, and another man, Vince Muscat, who I should add is not a relation of the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat - Muscat is a very common Maltese surname, it’s like Smith or Jones in the UK.

[00:05:18] All three of these men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, were hardened criminals, well-known to the police. They were hitmen, essentially, contract killers, people who lived a life of crime.

[00:05:33] They weren’t politicians in the slightest, they couldn’t have been further from the Maltese political class, they were fixers and mercenaries.

[00:05:43] But, it would later transpire, these three men in the potato shed knew exactly when the police were coming, they had been tipped off, yet they were willing to stay and be arrested.

[00:05:57] The only question would be, why?

[00:06:00] Well, perhaps the simple answer is that the evidence linking them to the crime was strong. 

[00:06:06] DNA from cigarette butts left at the murder scene, as well as data from mobile phone towers was pretty conclusive. These men might have been professional killers, but they weren’t very professional.

[00:06:22] The more cynical, sceptical, or realistic answer, perhaps, was that international pressure was building and the Maltese state needed to hold someone accountable for the crimes, they needed to show the international community that they were capable of finding who had killed the country’s most famous journalist.

[00:06:42] But did anyone believe that these three lifelong but relatively amateur criminals had been the ones who wanted Daphne dead, and who masterminded the entire operation?

[00:06:55] No.

[00:06:56] Indeed, George DeGiorgio, one of the gang, would later testify in an interview that he didn’t really know who Daphne was, it was just business, and that if he had known how famous Daphne was he would have asked for much more money.

[00:07:12] He must have been one of the few people in the country who didn’t know who she was, but this gives you an idea of how far away, at least socially and culturally, he was from the Maltese political elite.

[00:07:26] So, the police made these arrests, they had tracked down the people who they believe had planted and detonated the bomb, but were they any closer to those who ordered the hit?

[00:07:38] They were not, at least publicly.

[00:07:41] The investigation continued, with many people, including Daphne’s family, questioning whether much was actually happening at all.

[00:07:51] There were no public developments, no announcements about any new leads or anyone else being arrested.

[00:07:58] This was the case for practically two years, which, clearly, for the people who had ordered the murder, gave them plenty of time to get their story straight, to agree on their account of what happened, and to get rid of any evidence that would tie them to the crime.

[00:08:16] Then in November of 2019, everything changed.

[00:08:22] First, on November 20th, the owner of one of Malta’s largest and richest business groups was arrested.

[00:08:31] The man’s name was Yorgen Fenech, and he owned and operated a wide variety of casinos, hotels and other businesses on the island. 

[00:08:42] Mysteriously, he was also involved with the development of a new power plant that was to be built on the island.

[00:08:49] Like the three men in the potato shed, he too had been tipped off, he had been alerted that he was going to be arrested. 

[00:08:58] He had tried to flee the island early in the morning on his luxury yacht, but he had been caught before he could get away.

[00:09:07] I should say that he said he wasn’t trying to escape, he would claim that he was simply going on a scheduled boat visit to Sicily.

[00:09:16] But this supposedly “scheduled visit” meant leaving under the cover of darkness, he was arrested at 5:30am. 

[00:09:24] And it would also later transpire that he had tried to hire a private jet from the airport the night before, he had made arrangements to pay for a villa in the south of France in cash, and that he had tried to buy cyanide and a gun off the Dark Web.

[00:09:41] Oh, and he also had 21 SIM cards with him on the boat.

[00:09:46] You can decide for yourself whether you think this sounds like a “scheduled boat visit”.

[00:09:52] In any case, we’ll hear plenty more about Yorgen Fenech later.

[00:09:57] Then, a week later, on November 26th, it was one of the most monumental days of the investigation to date.

[00:10:05] And this is where it gets personal again, or at least I can share my personal experience.

[00:10:12] I was working in an office about a kilometre away from my apartment. 

[00:10:17] I got a message from my wife, who was at the time at home with our then one-month-old son. All the power in the area had gone out. She wasn’t able to use the lift to take our infant son outside in his pram.

[00:10:32] I got messages from other friends in other areas of the island. Their power had gone too, and before long my office, and the entire island, was plunged into darkness. 

[00:10:46] Now, this rarely ever happens in Malta on such a large scale, and it was quite the coincidence that it happened, that the power to the entire country was cut off, on the day that investigations were closing in on the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

[00:11:02] Or perhaps it was simply a pathetic fallacy, a foreshadowing of what was to come.

[00:11:08] See, earlier that day Keith Schembri, who you may remember from episode 1 as being the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and having a wide range of business interests in the country, he was arrested and taken in for questioning.

[00:11:25] It seems that he too was tipped off, alerted, that the police were coming, because when they arrived and asked him for his phone, he told them that he had recently lost it.

[00:11:38] Recently, it would later transpire, would mean that he lost it 30 minutes before the police arrived, when it was permanently switched off at his family home.

[00:11:49] This, by the way, was at 5am, which does seem like an unusual time to switch off your phone at home and never be able to find it again.

[00:11:59] Why was Keith Schembri arrested?

[00:12:02] Well, Yorgen Fenech, the businessman with casinos and hotels, had told police that he had information about Daphne’s murder that implicated not just Keith Schembri, but also the former Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, the Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona and other people “close to the prime minister.”

[00:12:24] Fenech was willing to testify in court and reveal all about those at the top of the Maltese political system who had been involved with the killing but, in exchange, he wanted a Presidential pardon, he wanted to avoid jail.

[00:12:41] As you may know, this is a pretty common thing in many judicial systems. In exchange for providing valuable information, someone can be given a reduced criminal sentence or even pardoned, not given any punishment at all. 

[00:12:57] The decision on whether to give Fenech this Presidential pardon needed to be taken by the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat.

[00:13:06] Would he do it, and pardon Fenech in exchange for the information he claimed to have on the most powerful people in Maltese politics?

[00:13:16] Well, Muscat was clearly too close to the case, Fenech was promising damning information about Muscat’s closest allies.

[00:13:26] So, Muscat, the Prime Minister, recused himself, he withdrew himself from the decision, he said he was too personally involved, so he left the decision-making process to his cabinet ministers.

[00:13:40] There were extensive deliberations, long discussions, which went well into the night.

[00:13:46] Outside, angry crowds were gathering, shouting “mafia” and calling for justice.

[00:13:53] The verdict, the decision that the Maltese cabinet came to?

[00:13:57] They were not going to agree to a pardon, essentially they didn’t want to listen to what Fenech had to say and were not going to give him a pardon.

[00:14:08] The public was furious, the protests grew angrier.

[00:14:12] People called for the Prime Minister to go, to resign, saying that he had allowed a culture of impunity to flourish, for his closest allies and friends to do whatever they wanted without fear of punishment.

[00:14:27] And then the bombshell, the huge allegation, that his right hand man Keith Schembri, someone who had said that the Prime Minister and he were “best friends”, that he was responsible for the murder of the country’s most famous and most controversial journalist.

[00:14:45] It was too much.

[00:14:47] On Sunday, December 1st of 2019, 776 days after Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, announced that he would step down, that he would resign.

[00:15:03] In his farewell address, his farewell speech, he mentioned his own shortcomings and failures, but painted himself as a victim, essentially saying that it wasn’t his fault.

[00:15:16] He said “there is a need for a clear signal of a fresh page”, that the country needed change.

[00:15:24] That change would come in the form of a man called Robert Abela, the son of the former President, and a man who, it would turn out, wasn’t really that much of a change at all.

[00:15:37] So, by the start of 2020, the Maltese police would publicly claim that they had found the mastermind, in the form of Yorgen Fenech, that they had found the men who arranged, planted and detonated the bomb, in the form of Vince Muscat and the DeGiorgio brothers and the country had a new Prime Minister, in the form of Robert Abela.

[00:15:59] All that was needed would be to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and the case could be closed, this dark episode of Maltese history consigned to the past.

[00:16:10] Except, as the subsequent investigations would show, it was only getting started…

[00:16:17] OK then, that is it for part two of this mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:16:25] Next up we will look at what has happened since then, where we’ll meet a crooked taxi driver, allegations against the Minister of the Economy, even more egregious allegations of corruption, including police corruption and we’ll ask ourselves whether Daphne’s killers will ever be brought to justice.

[00:16:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode. 

[00:16:48] Was this story covered by newspapers in your country?

[00:16:52] Have there been any similar political scandals where you live?

[00:16:56] Who do you think was guilty of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:17:00] 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.

[00:17:10] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:17:15] 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.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today it is part two of our three-part mini-series on The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:00:30] In case you haven’t listened to part one yet, now is the time to press pause and listen to that, as it does have a lot of important information and background to what we will be talking about today.

[00:00:42] In today’s episode, part two, we will look at how the investigation progressed, how the police worked, or rather didn’t work, to find Daphne’s killers, and how the investigation went right up to the heart of Maltese political power.

[00:00:59] And in part three, the final part, we’ll look at the trial of Daphne’s alleged killers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed.

[00:01:10] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:16] In part one of this mini-series we learned about Daphne Caruana Galizia and her fight against institutionalised corruption on the small island of Malta.

[00:01:27] We heard how political and private interests were deeply interlinked, how Malta became awash with money of perhaps dubious origins, and learned about some of the cases of corruption that Daphne had highlighted.

[00:01:43] And, of course, you know how this story ends, or at least how it ended for Daphne, with her brutal assassination in a rental car outside her house in the Maltese countryside.

[00:01:56] That was on October 16th of 2017, so, what happened next?

[00:02:03] As you might expect, the aftermath was full of tough statements and promises from the Maltese police and politicians. 

[00:02:12] The Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, called her murder a “barbaric attack on freedom of expression that goes against every sense of decency and civility”. 

[00:02:23] He said that everything will be done to find Daphne’s killers, and announced a 1 million Euro reward for information that would lead to their capture.

[00:02:34] So, what happened? 

[00:02:36] Surely it couldn’t be that hard to find some information. 

[00:02:41] Malta is, after all, a tiny island, which makes it hard to escape, and although Daphne’s house was in what is in Malta called “the countryside”, it’s only a few hundred metres away from a major road and a kilometre from one of Malta’s largest towns. 

[00:02:59] Someone had to have seen something…

[00:03:01] But, surprise surprise, nothing. 

[00:03:04] Crickets, as the American expression goes, meaning that there was complete silence. 

[00:03:10] The days and weeks passed and there were no real leads, no developments in the investigation, or at least nothing that was made public.

[00:03:21] One group that certainly wasn’t buying this, that didn’t believe that this could be true, was Daphne’s three sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul. 

[00:03:32] They gave extensive interviews to the foreign press insinuating, suggesting, that the investigation was being prevented by powerful forces within the Maltese elite, by politicians, policemen, businessmen, or a combination of all three.

[00:03:49] It would later transpire that they had every reason to be suspicious, to be sceptical of what they were being told by the police.

[00:03:59] And despite the fact that this was a crime against a Maltese person, in Malta, most likely carried out by a Maltese person on the orders of another Maltese person, the news of Daphne’s murder quickly spread around the globe.

[00:04:15] Malta was in the European Union, she was the most famous journalist in the country, it was an attack on the very heart of the freedom of the press.

[00:04:25] And the fact that she had accused so many powerful people of corruption, and then there were no developments in her own murder investigation suggested foul play, it suggested that someone was covering it up.

[00:04:39] It wouldn’t be until December, two months later, that the first developments were made.

[00:04:46] The police raided a warehouse in the industrial area of Marsa, just southwest of Valletta, the island’s capital.

[00:04:55] In a disused potato shed they found three men: two brothers, Alfred and George DeGiorgio, and another man, Vince Muscat, who I should add is not a relation of the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat - Muscat is a very common Maltese surname, it’s like Smith or Jones in the UK.

[00:05:18] All three of these men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, were hardened criminals, well-known to the police. They were hitmen, essentially, contract killers, people who lived a life of crime.

[00:05:33] They weren’t politicians in the slightest, they couldn’t have been further from the Maltese political class, they were fixers and mercenaries.

[00:05:43] But, it would later transpire, these three men in the potato shed knew exactly when the police were coming, they had been tipped off, yet they were willing to stay and be arrested.

[00:05:57] The only question would be, why?

[00:06:00] Well, perhaps the simple answer is that the evidence linking them to the crime was strong. 

[00:06:06] DNA from cigarette butts left at the murder scene, as well as data from mobile phone towers was pretty conclusive. These men might have been professional killers, but they weren’t very professional.

[00:06:22] The more cynical, sceptical, or realistic answer, perhaps, was that international pressure was building and the Maltese state needed to hold someone accountable for the crimes, they needed to show the international community that they were capable of finding who had killed the country’s most famous journalist.

[00:06:42] But did anyone believe that these three lifelong but relatively amateur criminals had been the ones who wanted Daphne dead, and who masterminded the entire operation?

[00:06:55] No.

[00:06:56] Indeed, George DeGiorgio, one of the gang, would later testify in an interview that he didn’t really know who Daphne was, it was just business, and that if he had known how famous Daphne was he would have asked for much more money.

[00:07:12] He must have been one of the few people in the country who didn’t know who she was, but this gives you an idea of how far away, at least socially and culturally, he was from the Maltese political elite.

[00:07:26] So, the police made these arrests, they had tracked down the people who they believe had planted and detonated the bomb, but were they any closer to those who ordered the hit?

[00:07:38] They were not, at least publicly.

[00:07:41] The investigation continued, with many people, including Daphne’s family, questioning whether much was actually happening at all.

[00:07:51] There were no public developments, no announcements about any new leads or anyone else being arrested.

[00:07:58] This was the case for practically two years, which, clearly, for the people who had ordered the murder, gave them plenty of time to get their story straight, to agree on their account of what happened, and to get rid of any evidence that would tie them to the crime.

[00:08:16] Then in November of 2019, everything changed.

[00:08:22] First, on November 20th, the owner of one of Malta’s largest and richest business groups was arrested.

[00:08:31] The man’s name was Yorgen Fenech, and he owned and operated a wide variety of casinos, hotels and other businesses on the island. 

[00:08:42] Mysteriously, he was also involved with the development of a new power plant that was to be built on the island.

[00:08:49] Like the three men in the potato shed, he too had been tipped off, he had been alerted that he was going to be arrested. 

[00:08:58] He had tried to flee the island early in the morning on his luxury yacht, but he had been caught before he could get away.

[00:09:07] I should say that he said he wasn’t trying to escape, he would claim that he was simply going on a scheduled boat visit to Sicily.

[00:09:16] But this supposedly “scheduled visit” meant leaving under the cover of darkness, he was arrested at 5:30am. 

[00:09:24] And it would also later transpire that he had tried to hire a private jet from the airport the night before, he had made arrangements to pay for a villa in the south of France in cash, and that he had tried to buy cyanide and a gun off the Dark Web.

[00:09:41] Oh, and he also had 21 SIM cards with him on the boat.

[00:09:46] You can decide for yourself whether you think this sounds like a “scheduled boat visit”.

[00:09:52] In any case, we’ll hear plenty more about Yorgen Fenech later.

[00:09:57] Then, a week later, on November 26th, it was one of the most monumental days of the investigation to date.

[00:10:05] And this is where it gets personal again, or at least I can share my personal experience.

[00:10:12] I was working in an office about a kilometre away from my apartment. 

[00:10:17] I got a message from my wife, who was at the time at home with our then one-month-old son. All the power in the area had gone out. She wasn’t able to use the lift to take our infant son outside in his pram.

[00:10:32] I got messages from other friends in other areas of the island. Their power had gone too, and before long my office, and the entire island, was plunged into darkness. 

[00:10:46] Now, this rarely ever happens in Malta on such a large scale, and it was quite the coincidence that it happened, that the power to the entire country was cut off, on the day that investigations were closing in on the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

[00:11:02] Or perhaps it was simply a pathetic fallacy, a foreshadowing of what was to come.

[00:11:08] See, earlier that day Keith Schembri, who you may remember from episode 1 as being the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and having a wide range of business interests in the country, he was arrested and taken in for questioning.

[00:11:25] It seems that he too was tipped off, alerted, that the police were coming, because when they arrived and asked him for his phone, he told them that he had recently lost it.

[00:11:38] Recently, it would later transpire, would mean that he lost it 30 minutes before the police arrived, when it was permanently switched off at his family home.

[00:11:49] This, by the way, was at 5am, which does seem like an unusual time to switch off your phone at home and never be able to find it again.

[00:11:59] Why was Keith Schembri arrested?

[00:12:02] Well, Yorgen Fenech, the businessman with casinos and hotels, had told police that he had information about Daphne’s murder that implicated not just Keith Schembri, but also the former Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, the Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona and other people “close to the prime minister.”

[00:12:24] Fenech was willing to testify in court and reveal all about those at the top of the Maltese political system who had been involved with the killing but, in exchange, he wanted a Presidential pardon, he wanted to avoid jail.

[00:12:41] As you may know, this is a pretty common thing in many judicial systems. In exchange for providing valuable information, someone can be given a reduced criminal sentence or even pardoned, not given any punishment at all. 

[00:12:57] The decision on whether to give Fenech this Presidential pardon needed to be taken by the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat.

[00:13:06] Would he do it, and pardon Fenech in exchange for the information he claimed to have on the most powerful people in Maltese politics?

[00:13:16] Well, Muscat was clearly too close to the case, Fenech was promising damning information about Muscat’s closest allies.

[00:13:26] So, Muscat, the Prime Minister, recused himself, he withdrew himself from the decision, he said he was too personally involved, so he left the decision-making process to his cabinet ministers.

[00:13:40] There were extensive deliberations, long discussions, which went well into the night.

[00:13:46] Outside, angry crowds were gathering, shouting “mafia” and calling for justice.

[00:13:53] The verdict, the decision that the Maltese cabinet came to?

[00:13:57] They were not going to agree to a pardon, essentially they didn’t want to listen to what Fenech had to say and were not going to give him a pardon.

[00:14:08] The public was furious, the protests grew angrier.

[00:14:12] People called for the Prime Minister to go, to resign, saying that he had allowed a culture of impunity to flourish, for his closest allies and friends to do whatever they wanted without fear of punishment.

[00:14:27] And then the bombshell, the huge allegation, that his right hand man Keith Schembri, someone who had said that the Prime Minister and he were “best friends”, that he was responsible for the murder of the country’s most famous and most controversial journalist.

[00:14:45] It was too much.

[00:14:47] On Sunday, December 1st of 2019, 776 days after Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, announced that he would step down, that he would resign.

[00:15:03] In his farewell address, his farewell speech, he mentioned his own shortcomings and failures, but painted himself as a victim, essentially saying that it wasn’t his fault.

[00:15:16] He said “there is a need for a clear signal of a fresh page”, that the country needed change.

[00:15:24] That change would come in the form of a man called Robert Abela, the son of the former President, and a man who, it would turn out, wasn’t really that much of a change at all.

[00:15:37] So, by the start of 2020, the Maltese police would publicly claim that they had found the mastermind, in the form of Yorgen Fenech, that they had found the men who arranged, planted and detonated the bomb, in the form of Vince Muscat and the DeGiorgio brothers and the country had a new Prime Minister, in the form of Robert Abela.

[00:15:59] All that was needed would be to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and the case could be closed, this dark episode of Maltese history consigned to the past.

[00:16:10] Except, as the subsequent investigations would show, it was only getting started…

[00:16:17] OK then, that is it for part two of this mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:16:25] Next up we will look at what has happened since then, where we’ll meet a crooked taxi driver, allegations against the Minister of the Economy, even more egregious allegations of corruption, including police corruption and we’ll ask ourselves whether Daphne’s killers will ever be brought to justice.

[00:16:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode. 

[00:16:48] Was this story covered by newspapers in your country?

[00:16:52] Have there been any similar political scandals where you live?

[00:16:56] Who do you think was guilty of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:17:00] 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.

[00:17:10] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:17:15] 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.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today it is part two of our three-part mini-series on The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

[00:00:30] In case you haven’t listened to part one yet, now is the time to press pause and listen to that, as it does have a lot of important information and background to what we will be talking about today.

[00:00:42] In today’s episode, part two, we will look at how the investigation progressed, how the police worked, or rather didn’t work, to find Daphne’s killers, and how the investigation went right up to the heart of Maltese political power.

[00:00:59] And in part three, the final part, we’ll look at the trial of Daphne’s alleged killers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed.

[00:01:10] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:16] In part one of this mini-series we learned about Daphne Caruana Galizia and her fight against institutionalised corruption on the small island of Malta.

[00:01:27] We heard how political and private interests were deeply interlinked, how Malta became awash with money of perhaps dubious origins, and learned about some of the cases of corruption that Daphne had highlighted.

[00:01:43] And, of course, you know how this story ends, or at least how it ended for Daphne, with her brutal assassination in a rental car outside her house in the Maltese countryside.

[00:01:56] That was on October 16th of 2017, so, what happened next?

[00:02:03] As you might expect, the aftermath was full of tough statements and promises from the Maltese police and politicians. 

[00:02:12] The Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, called her murder a “barbaric attack on freedom of expression that goes against every sense of decency and civility”. 

[00:02:23] He said that everything will be done to find Daphne’s killers, and announced a 1 million Euro reward for information that would lead to their capture.

[00:02:34] So, what happened? 

[00:02:36] Surely it couldn’t be that hard to find some information. 

[00:02:41] Malta is, after all, a tiny island, which makes it hard to escape, and although Daphne’s house was in what is in Malta called “the countryside”, it’s only a few hundred metres away from a major road and a kilometre from one of Malta’s largest towns. 

[00:02:59] Someone had to have seen something…

[00:03:01] But, surprise surprise, nothing. 

[00:03:04] Crickets, as the American expression goes, meaning that there was complete silence. 

[00:03:10] The days and weeks passed and there were no real leads, no developments in the investigation, or at least nothing that was made public.

[00:03:21] One group that certainly wasn’t buying this, that didn’t believe that this could be true, was Daphne’s three sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul. 

[00:03:32] They gave extensive interviews to the foreign press insinuating, suggesting, that the investigation was being prevented by powerful forces within the Maltese elite, by politicians, policemen, businessmen, or a combination of all three.

[00:03:49] It would later transpire that they had every reason to be suspicious, to be sceptical of what they were being told by the police.

[00:03:59] And despite the fact that this was a crime against a Maltese person, in Malta, most likely carried out by a Maltese person on the orders of another Maltese person, the news of Daphne’s murder quickly spread around the globe.

[00:04:15] Malta was in the European Union, she was the most famous journalist in the country, it was an attack on the very heart of the freedom of the press.

[00:04:25] And the fact that she had accused so many powerful people of corruption, and then there were no developments in her own murder investigation suggested foul play, it suggested that someone was covering it up.

[00:04:39] It wouldn’t be until December, two months later, that the first developments were made.

[00:04:46] The police raided a warehouse in the industrial area of Marsa, just southwest of Valletta, the island’s capital.

[00:04:55] In a disused potato shed they found three men: two brothers, Alfred and George DeGiorgio, and another man, Vince Muscat, who I should add is not a relation of the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat - Muscat is a very common Maltese surname, it’s like Smith or Jones in the UK.

[00:05:18] All three of these men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, were hardened criminals, well-known to the police. They were hitmen, essentially, contract killers, people who lived a life of crime.

[00:05:33] They weren’t politicians in the slightest, they couldn’t have been further from the Maltese political class, they were fixers and mercenaries.

[00:05:43] But, it would later transpire, these three men in the potato shed knew exactly when the police were coming, they had been tipped off, yet they were willing to stay and be arrested.

[00:05:57] The only question would be, why?

[00:06:00] Well, perhaps the simple answer is that the evidence linking them to the crime was strong. 

[00:06:06] DNA from cigarette butts left at the murder scene, as well as data from mobile phone towers was pretty conclusive. These men might have been professional killers, but they weren’t very professional.

[00:06:22] The more cynical, sceptical, or realistic answer, perhaps, was that international pressure was building and the Maltese state needed to hold someone accountable for the crimes, they needed to show the international community that they were capable of finding who had killed the country’s most famous journalist.

[00:06:42] But did anyone believe that these three lifelong but relatively amateur criminals had been the ones who wanted Daphne dead, and who masterminded the entire operation?

[00:06:55] No.

[00:06:56] Indeed, George DeGiorgio, one of the gang, would later testify in an interview that he didn’t really know who Daphne was, it was just business, and that if he had known how famous Daphne was he would have asked for much more money.

[00:07:12] He must have been one of the few people in the country who didn’t know who she was, but this gives you an idea of how far away, at least socially and culturally, he was from the Maltese political elite.

[00:07:26] So, the police made these arrests, they had tracked down the people who they believe had planted and detonated the bomb, but were they any closer to those who ordered the hit?

[00:07:38] They were not, at least publicly.

[00:07:41] The investigation continued, with many people, including Daphne’s family, questioning whether much was actually happening at all.

[00:07:51] There were no public developments, no announcements about any new leads or anyone else being arrested.

[00:07:58] This was the case for practically two years, which, clearly, for the people who had ordered the murder, gave them plenty of time to get their story straight, to agree on their account of what happened, and to get rid of any evidence that would tie them to the crime.

[00:08:16] Then in November of 2019, everything changed.

[00:08:22] First, on November 20th, the owner of one of Malta’s largest and richest business groups was arrested.

[00:08:31] The man’s name was Yorgen Fenech, and he owned and operated a wide variety of casinos, hotels and other businesses on the island. 

[00:08:42] Mysteriously, he was also involved with the development of a new power plant that was to be built on the island.

[00:08:49] Like the three men in the potato shed, he too had been tipped off, he had been alerted that he was going to be arrested. 

[00:08:58] He had tried to flee the island early in the morning on his luxury yacht, but he had been caught before he could get away.

[00:09:07] I should say that he said he wasn’t trying to escape, he would claim that he was simply going on a scheduled boat visit to Sicily.

[00:09:16] But this supposedly “scheduled visit” meant leaving under the cover of darkness, he was arrested at 5:30am. 

[00:09:24] And it would also later transpire that he had tried to hire a private jet from the airport the night before, he had made arrangements to pay for a villa in the south of France in cash, and that he had tried to buy cyanide and a gun off the Dark Web.

[00:09:41] Oh, and he also had 21 SIM cards with him on the boat.

[00:09:46] You can decide for yourself whether you think this sounds like a “scheduled boat visit”.

[00:09:52] In any case, we’ll hear plenty more about Yorgen Fenech later.

[00:09:57] Then, a week later, on November 26th, it was one of the most monumental days of the investigation to date.

[00:10:05] And this is where it gets personal again, or at least I can share my personal experience.

[00:10:12] I was working in an office about a kilometre away from my apartment. 

[00:10:17] I got a message from my wife, who was at the time at home with our then one-month-old son. All the power in the area had gone out. She wasn’t able to use the lift to take our infant son outside in his pram.

[00:10:32] I got messages from other friends in other areas of the island. Their power had gone too, and before long my office, and the entire island, was plunged into darkness. 

[00:10:46] Now, this rarely ever happens in Malta on such a large scale, and it was quite the coincidence that it happened, that the power to the entire country was cut off, on the day that investigations were closing in on the Prime Minister’s inner circle.

[00:11:02] Or perhaps it was simply a pathetic fallacy, a foreshadowing of what was to come.

[00:11:08] See, earlier that day Keith Schembri, who you may remember from episode 1 as being the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and having a wide range of business interests in the country, he was arrested and taken in for questioning.

[00:11:25] It seems that he too was tipped off, alerted, that the police were coming, because when they arrived and asked him for his phone, he told them that he had recently lost it.

[00:11:38] Recently, it would later transpire, would mean that he lost it 30 minutes before the police arrived, when it was permanently switched off at his family home.

[00:11:49] This, by the way, was at 5am, which does seem like an unusual time to switch off your phone at home and never be able to find it again.

[00:11:59] Why was Keith Schembri arrested?

[00:12:02] Well, Yorgen Fenech, the businessman with casinos and hotels, had told police that he had information about Daphne’s murder that implicated not just Keith Schembri, but also the former Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi, the Minister for the Economy Chris Cardona and other people “close to the prime minister.”

[00:12:24] Fenech was willing to testify in court and reveal all about those at the top of the Maltese political system who had been involved with the killing but, in exchange, he wanted a Presidential pardon, he wanted to avoid jail.

[00:12:41] As you may know, this is a pretty common thing in many judicial systems. In exchange for providing valuable information, someone can be given a reduced criminal sentence or even pardoned, not given any punishment at all. 

[00:12:57] The decision on whether to give Fenech this Presidential pardon needed to be taken by the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat.

[00:13:06] Would he do it, and pardon Fenech in exchange for the information he claimed to have on the most powerful people in Maltese politics?

[00:13:16] Well, Muscat was clearly too close to the case, Fenech was promising damning information about Muscat’s closest allies.

[00:13:26] So, Muscat, the Prime Minister, recused himself, he withdrew himself from the decision, he said he was too personally involved, so he left the decision-making process to his cabinet ministers.

[00:13:40] There were extensive deliberations, long discussions, which went well into the night.

[00:13:46] Outside, angry crowds were gathering, shouting “mafia” and calling for justice.

[00:13:53] The verdict, the decision that the Maltese cabinet came to?

[00:13:57] They were not going to agree to a pardon, essentially they didn’t want to listen to what Fenech had to say and were not going to give him a pardon.

[00:14:08] The public was furious, the protests grew angrier.

[00:14:12] People called for the Prime Minister to go, to resign, saying that he had allowed a culture of impunity to flourish, for his closest allies and friends to do whatever they wanted without fear of punishment.

[00:14:27] And then the bombshell, the huge allegation, that his right hand man Keith Schembri, someone who had said that the Prime Minister and he were “best friends”, that he was responsible for the murder of the country’s most famous and most controversial journalist.

[00:14:45] It was too much.

[00:14:47] On Sunday, December 1st of 2019, 776 days after Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, announced that he would step down, that he would resign.

[00:15:03] In his farewell address, his farewell speech, he mentioned his own shortcomings and failures, but painted himself as a victim, essentially saying that it wasn’t his fault.

[00:15:16] He said “there is a need for a clear signal of a fresh page”, that the country needed change.

[00:15:24] That change would come in the form of a man called Robert Abela, the son of the former President, and a man who, it would turn out, wasn’t really that much of a change at all.

[00:15:37] So, by the start of 2020, the Maltese police would publicly claim that they had found the mastermind, in the form of Yorgen Fenech, that they had found the men who arranged, planted and detonated the bomb, in the form of Vince Muscat and the DeGiorgio brothers and the country had a new Prime Minister, in the form of Robert Abela.

[00:15:59] All that was needed would be to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and the case could be closed, this dark episode of Maltese history consigned to the past.

[00:16:10] Except, as the subsequent investigations would show, it was only getting started…

[00:16:17] OK then, that is it for part two of this mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:16:25] Next up we will look at what has happened since then, where we’ll meet a crooked taxi driver, allegations against the Minister of the Economy, even more egregious allegations of corruption, including police corruption and we’ll ask ourselves whether Daphne’s killers will ever be brought to justice.

[00:16:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode. 

[00:16:48] Was this story covered by newspapers in your country?

[00:16:52] Have there been any similar political scandals where you live?

[00:16:56] Who do you think was guilty of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:17:00] 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.

[00:17:10] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:17:15] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]