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The Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia Part 3 | A Culture of Impunity

Oct 21, 2022
History
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19
minutes

It has been 5 years since the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In part three of this three-part mini-series, we look at what has happened since then and ask ourselves whether we are any closer to knowing the truth.

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

[00:00:11] 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 it is part three of our three-part mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:28] If you haven’t listened to parts one or two yet, well, go back and do that, as they will give you the background you need to understand the story.

[00:00:37] In part one we talked about who Daphne was, what she wrote about, and some of the peculiarities of the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.

[00:00:47] Then in part two we looked at the criminal investigations into her murder, who was suspected, how it was clear that there were leaks coming from the police, and who was eventually arrested in connection with her brutal assassination.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will look at the final chapter of the story, the trials and investigations into the alleged people behind the murder, what has been revealed, what questions still need answers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed about who killed Daphne.

[00:01:23] OK then, part three.

[00:01:27] So, we are picking up our story at the start of 2020, over two years after Daphne was murdered. 

[00:01:35] As a reminder, in November of 2019, the police arrested the prominent businessman, Yorgen Fenech, for being the mastermind behind the murder. 

[00:01:46] Fenech said he has information about who else was involved in the murder, information that will implicate those at the very top of the Maltese political establishment, including some of the Prime Minister’s closest allies.

[00:02:02] But in exchange, he wants a pardon, he wants to avoid prison.

[00:02:08] He isn’t granted one, he isn’t given a pardon

[00:02:12] There are big protests, the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, is forced to resign, and he is replaced by a man called Robert Abela.

[00:02:22] The police are proudly declaring that they have the men responsible for the crime in custody, so you might think that it would be a simple case of a criminal trial and sentencing the guilty parties.

[00:02:35] It was far from simple.

[00:02:39] Instead, five years after her murder, the Maltese state has still not convicted anybody with being the mastermind of the brutal assassination, and the allegations remain that key people involved in the murder are not only walking free, but still holding a powerful grip over the country’s political and judicial systems. 

[00:03:01] So, what do we know, what has happened so far?

[00:03:05] Why did the Maltese police arrest Yorgen Fenech, the businessman, and why did they then arrest Keith Schembri?

[00:03:13] Well, it first starts with Vince Muscat, one of the three gangsters who was arrested in the potato shed

[00:03:22] As a reminder, he is not related to the Prime Minister, they just share the same common surname.

[00:03:28] So Vince Muscat. Sometime in April of 2018, he starts speaking to police.

[00:03:36] He says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that he and his accomplices, the DeGiorgio brothers, were paid by a third party to carry out the murder.

[00:03:48] This third party’s name, this person’s name, was Melvin Theuma.

[00:03:53] Muscat was promised to be paid a total of 150,000 euros to kill Daphne, a €30,000 down payment, a deposit, and the remainder after she was killed.

[00:04:06] What’s more, Muscat would claim that Theuma had been paying the three men, via intermediaries, a weekly allowance while they were in prison to keep quiet, to not talk to the police.

[00:04:20] Melvin Theuma was merely a taxi driver, he was clearly acting on someone else’s orders.

[00:04:27] When he was arrested Melvin Theuma, he revealed that he was acting on the orders of Yorgen Fenech, a businessman and one of the wealthiest men on the island.

[00:04:39] Fenech, according to Theuma, wanted Daphne to be killed because she was going to publish damning accusations about Fenech's uncle.

[00:04:49] Or at least this was what he told Theuma.

[00:04:53] It would transpire that Daphne did know something revelatory, something very surprising, but it wasn’t about Fenech’s uncle, it was about Fenech himself, and his links to Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, and Konrad Mizzi, another senior member of the Maltese government.

[00:05:14] What Daphne had discovered was that Yorgen Fenech was the owner of a mysterious company called 17 Black, which had been named as a company that was going to pay Schembri and Mizzi’s offshore companies a total of $2,000,000.

[00:05:31] Yorgen Fenech, despite having a background in casinos and hotels, had recently entered the energy business, and his company had been awarded the rights to build a new power station in Malta. 

[00:05:45] Who would have been involved in that decision? 

[00:05:48] Well, at the time the energy minister was Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri was the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:05:56] And Daphne had discovered that these two government officials had set up secretive companies and bank accounts with the stated purpose of receiving money from none other than the man who was set to make millions from this new power station.

[00:06:12] Mizzi and Schembri, the senior politicians, would deny any wrongdoing, saying that they set up these secretive companies and bank accounts for honest, personal reasons, but it certainly did seem like unusual behaviour, exactly the sort of behaviour one might do if, for example, one wanted to receive a very large bribe.

[00:06:36] This information about this link, I should add, was never published in Daphne’s lifetime, it was only released by a brave collection of journalists who meticulously went through Daphne’s notes and research and eventually published this story in late 2019, just before Fenech and Schembri’s arrest.

[00:06:57] And as Vince Muscat, the bomb fixer, and Melvin Theuma, the middleman, started talking, more and more of the details of the murder plot started to be revealed.

[00:07:11] I should say, of course, that this is their testimony, and there are the obvious question marks over the truth, but this is what has been revealed so far.

[00:07:22] Shortly after being asked by Yorgen Fenech to arrange the murder, Melvin Theuma would claim that he was given a job working for the Family Affairs Ministry, the government, as a driver.

[00:07:35] He was told to turn up to Castille, the office of the Prime Minister, and after a two minute interview he was hired on a salary of €1,200 a month. 

[00:07:48] The salary might not have been super high, but the best bit about his new job was that he never actually had to turn up, it was a completely phantom government job.

[00:08:00] Now, these kinds of phantom jobs in Malta are, unfortunately, not so incredibly uncommon, but to be handed one, ostensibly, for arranging a murder would be peculiar

[00:08:14] And it certainly seems like a coincidence.

[00:08:17] What’s more, Theuma would testify that, during one of his trips to Castille, to the Office of the Prime Minister, he was told to pass on a message to the three men in jail, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, that they would be released from jail soon and they would each be given a million Euros.

[00:08:38] Theuma starts to think that people at the highest levels of the Maltese political system were involved with the murder, and are involved in the subsequent coverup.

[00:08:49] Combined with his knowledge that it was the powerful businessman, Fenech, who paid him to arrange the murder, Theuma starts to get more and more paranoid, thinking that he is going to be killed or silenced by powerful forces.

[00:09:04] It certainly seems like warranted, justified, suspicion, especially as Fenech’s behaviour becomes even more erratic, although it would turn out that this erratic behaviour was partly due to a crippling cocaine addiction.

[00:09:20] So, Theuma starts recording his conversations with Fenech, he keeps an old ice cream tub of evidence with him at all times as protection.

[00:09:30] He tells Fenech that he has this big box of evidence, promising that he will send copies of it to policemen he trusts if anything happens to him.

[00:09:40] So, starting in early 2018, only a few months after the murder, and after Vince Muscat starts talking to police, Theuma knows he might be arrested.

[00:09:51] After all, he was involved, and Vince Muscat, who is in police custody and is starting to talk to the police, knows who he is.

[00:10:01] But more than this, Theuma too is receiving inside information about the investigation, information that isn’t publicly available. 

[00:10:11] He knows what’s going on. 

[00:10:13] But he hopes that he knows too much, and that the powerful forces that he believes ordered the murder will save him from the police.

[00:10:23] Eventually, however, his luck runs out. On 14th November of 2019 he is arrested, and it's his arrest that leads to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech and then Keith Schembri.

[00:10:37] Even more bizarrely, perhaps, it would be claimed that, after the arrests of Fenech and Schembri, Schembri arranged for a letter to be sent to Fenech where Fenech was instructed to claim that it was Chris Cardona, the former minister of the economy, who had ordered the killing.

[00:10:56] Chris Cardona has vehemently denied these claims, and it should be said that he has not been questioned or charged with anything. 

[00:11:05] I know that there are a lot of names and dates here, but the point to underline is that there are fingers being pointed in all directions and a lot of paranoid people fearing that someone will spill the beans and reveal everything.

[00:11:21] So, what is the current status of the investigation?

[00:11:26] Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, was questioned and released, with the police stating that “The police at this stage see no reason to hold Mr Schembri under arrest”.

[00:11:38] He has been arrested and questioned regarding several other allegations of corruption, but as far as the investigation of Daphne’s murder is concerned, he has not been charged with anything.

[00:11:51] Yorgen Fenech, on the other hand, has remained in custody, maintaining that he has evidence that will implicate other powerful players in Malta’s political scene. 

[00:12:02] As of the time of writing, and as a reminder, this is five years after Daphne was murdered, the trial is ongoing.

[00:12:11] Three men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat have been charged with the killing, and they are currently serving their sentences, but they were merely the executors of the plan, the people who planted and detonated the bomb.

[00:12:27] Who was ultimately responsible?

[00:12:30] Well, there was a public inquest, in July of 2021 which did assign responsibility, but not to any one individual.

[00:12:42] This 437-page report named the Maltese State as being responsible for Daphne’s death, writing that "It created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law".

[00:13:10] In other words, there was a culture of corruption where the people at the top thought that they were untouchable, which led to a total breakdown in the official workings in the rule of law.

[00:13:21] The report stated that Daphne provided the only real opposition in the country, and the state’s failure to protect her from danger meant that it had to accept responsibility for her death.

[00:13:35] Despite whatever truth there might have been behind this report, it did nothing to bring Daphne’s killers any closer to justice.

[00:13:44] And were Daphne to be writing today, her inbox would be just as full of allegations of corruption.

[00:13:52] Indeed, if you were to have opened almost any newspaper in Malta over the past few months, you would have found stories of suspicious sounding deals, of an alleged kidnapper being given a contract to supply cars to the justice department, of the same alleged kidnapper doing a property deal with the current Prime Minister, of politicians creating phantom jobs for their lovers or constituents.

[00:14:17] And almost all newspapers in Malta are significantly more friendly to the government than Daphne ever was.

[00:14:24] I wonder, what would Daphne have written about the investigations of her own murder?

[00:14:30] What would she have written about the lawyer working for state prosecution who then switched to Yorgen Fenech’s defence?

[00:14:37] What would she have written about one of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers admitting that he had tried to bribe a journalist from the Times of Malta with an envelope of €500 notes, and that his only excuse for this would be that he had “never dealt with a journalist before”?

[00:14:53] What would she have written about the fact that this lawyer was acquitted of any wrongdoing and continued to represent her alleged killer?

[00:15:02] What would she have written about the fact that the middleman, Melvin Theuma, was found stabbed several times in his apartment in 2020, after it was revealed that he was testifying in court?

[00:15:14] What would she have written about Keith Schembri managing to permanently lose his mobile phone at 5am in the morning 30 minutes before the police arrived to arrest him?

[00:15:24] What would she have written about the constant leaks from the police to the alleged killers?

[00:15:30] And what would she think today about the extent to which her murder had done anything to change her country or its political situation?

[00:15:39] Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister condemned by the report as being responsible for creating a culture of impunity, is already in the process of being rehabilitated, and has taken on the role of chairman for the Association of Maltese Football Clubs. 

[00:15:57] Many political commentators see this as being just the first step of his return to political power.

[00:16:04] And has public opinion shifted?

[00:16:07] The public were given the chance to have their say, in a general election in May of 2022. For some, this was an opportunity to get rid of the corrupt influences at the top of the Maltese political system.

[00:16:23] The people spoke with their votes, but the message was clear.

[00:16:27] It doesn’t really matter.

[00:16:29] The Labour party, the party that came to power under Joseph Muscat, whose senior members included Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, won with an even greater percentage of the popular vote than in 2017 or in 2013. 

[00:16:45] Although the voter turnout, the percentage of the population that actually voted, was the lowest in 67 years, it was a clear message that the plethora of allegations of corruption weren’t enough to really change people’s minds.

[00:17:01] So, what’s next?

[00:17:03] Five years on, the trial continues. 

[00:17:06] Is there going to be enough evidence for a conviction of anyone of any serious power?

[00:17:12] There certainly seems to be enough evidence, but the past five years suggests that the links between the police, the judiciary, the political system and the world of business are so close, so tight, that it’s optimistic to think that there will be any major developments.

[00:17:30] Anyone who was involved has now had plenty of time to cover up their tracks, destroy evidence, or make sure that their “lost” mobile phone will never be found again.

[00:17:41] It’s very sad to say, but perhaps the last words Daphne ever wrote are as appropriate now as they were thirty minutes before she was killed: “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:58] OK then, with that ominous quote comes the end of this episode, and the end of this mini-series on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:08] I hope it's been an interesting one, and that it might have shone some light on this dark case of a brutal attack on this brave journalist.

[00:18:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:20] Have you been to Malta? Did you know about Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:18:24] Do you think the people responsible for her death will go unpunished?

[00:18:29] What more can be done, both by individuals and governments, to stop the senseless murder of journalists?

[00:18:36] I would love to hear your perspective.

[00:18:38] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:51] 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. 

[00:00:11] 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 it is part three of our three-part mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:28] If you haven’t listened to parts one or two yet, well, go back and do that, as they will give you the background you need to understand the story.

[00:00:37] In part one we talked about who Daphne was, what she wrote about, and some of the peculiarities of the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.

[00:00:47] Then in part two we looked at the criminal investigations into her murder, who was suspected, how it was clear that there were leaks coming from the police, and who was eventually arrested in connection with her brutal assassination.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will look at the final chapter of the story, the trials and investigations into the alleged people behind the murder, what has been revealed, what questions still need answers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed about who killed Daphne.

[00:01:23] OK then, part three.

[00:01:27] So, we are picking up our story at the start of 2020, over two years after Daphne was murdered. 

[00:01:35] As a reminder, in November of 2019, the police arrested the prominent businessman, Yorgen Fenech, for being the mastermind behind the murder. 

[00:01:46] Fenech said he has information about who else was involved in the murder, information that will implicate those at the very top of the Maltese political establishment, including some of the Prime Minister’s closest allies.

[00:02:02] But in exchange, he wants a pardon, he wants to avoid prison.

[00:02:08] He isn’t granted one, he isn’t given a pardon

[00:02:12] There are big protests, the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, is forced to resign, and he is replaced by a man called Robert Abela.

[00:02:22] The police are proudly declaring that they have the men responsible for the crime in custody, so you might think that it would be a simple case of a criminal trial and sentencing the guilty parties.

[00:02:35] It was far from simple.

[00:02:39] Instead, five years after her murder, the Maltese state has still not convicted anybody with being the mastermind of the brutal assassination, and the allegations remain that key people involved in the murder are not only walking free, but still holding a powerful grip over the country’s political and judicial systems. 

[00:03:01] So, what do we know, what has happened so far?

[00:03:05] Why did the Maltese police arrest Yorgen Fenech, the businessman, and why did they then arrest Keith Schembri?

[00:03:13] Well, it first starts with Vince Muscat, one of the three gangsters who was arrested in the potato shed

[00:03:22] As a reminder, he is not related to the Prime Minister, they just share the same common surname.

[00:03:28] So Vince Muscat. Sometime in April of 2018, he starts speaking to police.

[00:03:36] He says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that he and his accomplices, the DeGiorgio brothers, were paid by a third party to carry out the murder.

[00:03:48] This third party’s name, this person’s name, was Melvin Theuma.

[00:03:53] Muscat was promised to be paid a total of 150,000 euros to kill Daphne, a €30,000 down payment, a deposit, and the remainder after she was killed.

[00:04:06] What’s more, Muscat would claim that Theuma had been paying the three men, via intermediaries, a weekly allowance while they were in prison to keep quiet, to not talk to the police.

[00:04:20] Melvin Theuma was merely a taxi driver, he was clearly acting on someone else’s orders.

[00:04:27] When he was arrested Melvin Theuma, he revealed that he was acting on the orders of Yorgen Fenech, a businessman and one of the wealthiest men on the island.

[00:04:39] Fenech, according to Theuma, wanted Daphne to be killed because she was going to publish damning accusations about Fenech's uncle.

[00:04:49] Or at least this was what he told Theuma.

[00:04:53] It would transpire that Daphne did know something revelatory, something very surprising, but it wasn’t about Fenech’s uncle, it was about Fenech himself, and his links to Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, and Konrad Mizzi, another senior member of the Maltese government.

[00:05:14] What Daphne had discovered was that Yorgen Fenech was the owner of a mysterious company called 17 Black, which had been named as a company that was going to pay Schembri and Mizzi’s offshore companies a total of $2,000,000.

[00:05:31] Yorgen Fenech, despite having a background in casinos and hotels, had recently entered the energy business, and his company had been awarded the rights to build a new power station in Malta. 

[00:05:45] Who would have been involved in that decision? 

[00:05:48] Well, at the time the energy minister was Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri was the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:05:56] And Daphne had discovered that these two government officials had set up secretive companies and bank accounts with the stated purpose of receiving money from none other than the man who was set to make millions from this new power station.

[00:06:12] Mizzi and Schembri, the senior politicians, would deny any wrongdoing, saying that they set up these secretive companies and bank accounts for honest, personal reasons, but it certainly did seem like unusual behaviour, exactly the sort of behaviour one might do if, for example, one wanted to receive a very large bribe.

[00:06:36] This information about this link, I should add, was never published in Daphne’s lifetime, it was only released by a brave collection of journalists who meticulously went through Daphne’s notes and research and eventually published this story in late 2019, just before Fenech and Schembri’s arrest.

[00:06:57] And as Vince Muscat, the bomb fixer, and Melvin Theuma, the middleman, started talking, more and more of the details of the murder plot started to be revealed.

[00:07:11] I should say, of course, that this is their testimony, and there are the obvious question marks over the truth, but this is what has been revealed so far.

[00:07:22] Shortly after being asked by Yorgen Fenech to arrange the murder, Melvin Theuma would claim that he was given a job working for the Family Affairs Ministry, the government, as a driver.

[00:07:35] He was told to turn up to Castille, the office of the Prime Minister, and after a two minute interview he was hired on a salary of €1,200 a month. 

[00:07:48] The salary might not have been super high, but the best bit about his new job was that he never actually had to turn up, it was a completely phantom government job.

[00:08:00] Now, these kinds of phantom jobs in Malta are, unfortunately, not so incredibly uncommon, but to be handed one, ostensibly, for arranging a murder would be peculiar

[00:08:14] And it certainly seems like a coincidence.

[00:08:17] What’s more, Theuma would testify that, during one of his trips to Castille, to the Office of the Prime Minister, he was told to pass on a message to the three men in jail, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, that they would be released from jail soon and they would each be given a million Euros.

[00:08:38] Theuma starts to think that people at the highest levels of the Maltese political system were involved with the murder, and are involved in the subsequent coverup.

[00:08:49] Combined with his knowledge that it was the powerful businessman, Fenech, who paid him to arrange the murder, Theuma starts to get more and more paranoid, thinking that he is going to be killed or silenced by powerful forces.

[00:09:04] It certainly seems like warranted, justified, suspicion, especially as Fenech’s behaviour becomes even more erratic, although it would turn out that this erratic behaviour was partly due to a crippling cocaine addiction.

[00:09:20] So, Theuma starts recording his conversations with Fenech, he keeps an old ice cream tub of evidence with him at all times as protection.

[00:09:30] He tells Fenech that he has this big box of evidence, promising that he will send copies of it to policemen he trusts if anything happens to him.

[00:09:40] So, starting in early 2018, only a few months after the murder, and after Vince Muscat starts talking to police, Theuma knows he might be arrested.

[00:09:51] After all, he was involved, and Vince Muscat, who is in police custody and is starting to talk to the police, knows who he is.

[00:10:01] But more than this, Theuma too is receiving inside information about the investigation, information that isn’t publicly available. 

[00:10:11] He knows what’s going on. 

[00:10:13] But he hopes that he knows too much, and that the powerful forces that he believes ordered the murder will save him from the police.

[00:10:23] Eventually, however, his luck runs out. On 14th November of 2019 he is arrested, and it's his arrest that leads to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech and then Keith Schembri.

[00:10:37] Even more bizarrely, perhaps, it would be claimed that, after the arrests of Fenech and Schembri, Schembri arranged for a letter to be sent to Fenech where Fenech was instructed to claim that it was Chris Cardona, the former minister of the economy, who had ordered the killing.

[00:10:56] Chris Cardona has vehemently denied these claims, and it should be said that he has not been questioned or charged with anything. 

[00:11:05] I know that there are a lot of names and dates here, but the point to underline is that there are fingers being pointed in all directions and a lot of paranoid people fearing that someone will spill the beans and reveal everything.

[00:11:21] So, what is the current status of the investigation?

[00:11:26] Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, was questioned and released, with the police stating that “The police at this stage see no reason to hold Mr Schembri under arrest”.

[00:11:38] He has been arrested and questioned regarding several other allegations of corruption, but as far as the investigation of Daphne’s murder is concerned, he has not been charged with anything.

[00:11:51] Yorgen Fenech, on the other hand, has remained in custody, maintaining that he has evidence that will implicate other powerful players in Malta’s political scene. 

[00:12:02] As of the time of writing, and as a reminder, this is five years after Daphne was murdered, the trial is ongoing.

[00:12:11] Three men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat have been charged with the killing, and they are currently serving their sentences, but they were merely the executors of the plan, the people who planted and detonated the bomb.

[00:12:27] Who was ultimately responsible?

[00:12:30] Well, there was a public inquest, in July of 2021 which did assign responsibility, but not to any one individual.

[00:12:42] This 437-page report named the Maltese State as being responsible for Daphne’s death, writing that "It created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law".

[00:13:10] In other words, there was a culture of corruption where the people at the top thought that they were untouchable, which led to a total breakdown in the official workings in the rule of law.

[00:13:21] The report stated that Daphne provided the only real opposition in the country, and the state’s failure to protect her from danger meant that it had to accept responsibility for her death.

[00:13:35] Despite whatever truth there might have been behind this report, it did nothing to bring Daphne’s killers any closer to justice.

[00:13:44] And were Daphne to be writing today, her inbox would be just as full of allegations of corruption.

[00:13:52] Indeed, if you were to have opened almost any newspaper in Malta over the past few months, you would have found stories of suspicious sounding deals, of an alleged kidnapper being given a contract to supply cars to the justice department, of the same alleged kidnapper doing a property deal with the current Prime Minister, of politicians creating phantom jobs for their lovers or constituents.

[00:14:17] And almost all newspapers in Malta are significantly more friendly to the government than Daphne ever was.

[00:14:24] I wonder, what would Daphne have written about the investigations of her own murder?

[00:14:30] What would she have written about the lawyer working for state prosecution who then switched to Yorgen Fenech’s defence?

[00:14:37] What would she have written about one of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers admitting that he had tried to bribe a journalist from the Times of Malta with an envelope of €500 notes, and that his only excuse for this would be that he had “never dealt with a journalist before”?

[00:14:53] What would she have written about the fact that this lawyer was acquitted of any wrongdoing and continued to represent her alleged killer?

[00:15:02] What would she have written about the fact that the middleman, Melvin Theuma, was found stabbed several times in his apartment in 2020, after it was revealed that he was testifying in court?

[00:15:14] What would she have written about Keith Schembri managing to permanently lose his mobile phone at 5am in the morning 30 minutes before the police arrived to arrest him?

[00:15:24] What would she have written about the constant leaks from the police to the alleged killers?

[00:15:30] And what would she think today about the extent to which her murder had done anything to change her country or its political situation?

[00:15:39] Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister condemned by the report as being responsible for creating a culture of impunity, is already in the process of being rehabilitated, and has taken on the role of chairman for the Association of Maltese Football Clubs. 

[00:15:57] Many political commentators see this as being just the first step of his return to political power.

[00:16:04] And has public opinion shifted?

[00:16:07] The public were given the chance to have their say, in a general election in May of 2022. For some, this was an opportunity to get rid of the corrupt influences at the top of the Maltese political system.

[00:16:23] The people spoke with their votes, but the message was clear.

[00:16:27] It doesn’t really matter.

[00:16:29] The Labour party, the party that came to power under Joseph Muscat, whose senior members included Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, won with an even greater percentage of the popular vote than in 2017 or in 2013. 

[00:16:45] Although the voter turnout, the percentage of the population that actually voted, was the lowest in 67 years, it was a clear message that the plethora of allegations of corruption weren’t enough to really change people’s minds.

[00:17:01] So, what’s next?

[00:17:03] Five years on, the trial continues. 

[00:17:06] Is there going to be enough evidence for a conviction of anyone of any serious power?

[00:17:12] There certainly seems to be enough evidence, but the past five years suggests that the links between the police, the judiciary, the political system and the world of business are so close, so tight, that it’s optimistic to think that there will be any major developments.

[00:17:30] Anyone who was involved has now had plenty of time to cover up their tracks, destroy evidence, or make sure that their “lost” mobile phone will never be found again.

[00:17:41] It’s very sad to say, but perhaps the last words Daphne ever wrote are as appropriate now as they were thirty minutes before she was killed: “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:58] OK then, with that ominous quote comes the end of this episode, and the end of this mini-series on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:08] I hope it's been an interesting one, and that it might have shone some light on this dark case of a brutal attack on this brave journalist.

[00:18:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:20] Have you been to Malta? Did you know about Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:18:24] Do you think the people responsible for her death will go unpunished?

[00:18:29] What more can be done, both by individuals and governments, to stop the senseless murder of journalists?

[00:18:36] I would love to hear your perspective.

[00:18:38] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:51] 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. 

[00:00:11] 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 it is part three of our three-part mini-series on Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:00:28] If you haven’t listened to parts one or two yet, well, go back and do that, as they will give you the background you need to understand the story.

[00:00:37] In part one we talked about who Daphne was, what she wrote about, and some of the peculiarities of the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.

[00:00:47] Then in part two we looked at the criminal investigations into her murder, who was suspected, how it was clear that there were leaks coming from the police, and who was eventually arrested in connection with her brutal assassination.

[00:01:03] And in today’s episode, part three, we will look at the final chapter of the story, the trials and investigations into the alleged people behind the murder, what has been revealed, what questions still need answers, and ask ourselves whether the truth will ever be revealed about who killed Daphne.

[00:01:23] OK then, part three.

[00:01:27] So, we are picking up our story at the start of 2020, over two years after Daphne was murdered. 

[00:01:35] As a reminder, in November of 2019, the police arrested the prominent businessman, Yorgen Fenech, for being the mastermind behind the murder. 

[00:01:46] Fenech said he has information about who else was involved in the murder, information that will implicate those at the very top of the Maltese political establishment, including some of the Prime Minister’s closest allies.

[00:02:02] But in exchange, he wants a pardon, he wants to avoid prison.

[00:02:08] He isn’t granted one, he isn’t given a pardon

[00:02:12] There are big protests, the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, is forced to resign, and he is replaced by a man called Robert Abela.

[00:02:22] The police are proudly declaring that they have the men responsible for the crime in custody, so you might think that it would be a simple case of a criminal trial and sentencing the guilty parties.

[00:02:35] It was far from simple.

[00:02:39] Instead, five years after her murder, the Maltese state has still not convicted anybody with being the mastermind of the brutal assassination, and the allegations remain that key people involved in the murder are not only walking free, but still holding a powerful grip over the country’s political and judicial systems. 

[00:03:01] So, what do we know, what has happened so far?

[00:03:05] Why did the Maltese police arrest Yorgen Fenech, the businessman, and why did they then arrest Keith Schembri?

[00:03:13] Well, it first starts with Vince Muscat, one of the three gangsters who was arrested in the potato shed

[00:03:22] As a reminder, he is not related to the Prime Minister, they just share the same common surname.

[00:03:28] So Vince Muscat. Sometime in April of 2018, he starts speaking to police.

[00:03:36] He says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that he and his accomplices, the DeGiorgio brothers, were paid by a third party to carry out the murder.

[00:03:48] This third party’s name, this person’s name, was Melvin Theuma.

[00:03:53] Muscat was promised to be paid a total of 150,000 euros to kill Daphne, a €30,000 down payment, a deposit, and the remainder after she was killed.

[00:04:06] What’s more, Muscat would claim that Theuma had been paying the three men, via intermediaries, a weekly allowance while they were in prison to keep quiet, to not talk to the police.

[00:04:20] Melvin Theuma was merely a taxi driver, he was clearly acting on someone else’s orders.

[00:04:27] When he was arrested Melvin Theuma, he revealed that he was acting on the orders of Yorgen Fenech, a businessman and one of the wealthiest men on the island.

[00:04:39] Fenech, according to Theuma, wanted Daphne to be killed because she was going to publish damning accusations about Fenech's uncle.

[00:04:49] Or at least this was what he told Theuma.

[00:04:53] It would transpire that Daphne did know something revelatory, something very surprising, but it wasn’t about Fenech’s uncle, it was about Fenech himself, and his links to Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, and Konrad Mizzi, another senior member of the Maltese government.

[00:05:14] What Daphne had discovered was that Yorgen Fenech was the owner of a mysterious company called 17 Black, which had been named as a company that was going to pay Schembri and Mizzi’s offshore companies a total of $2,000,000.

[00:05:31] Yorgen Fenech, despite having a background in casinos and hotels, had recently entered the energy business, and his company had been awarded the rights to build a new power station in Malta. 

[00:05:45] Who would have been involved in that decision? 

[00:05:48] Well, at the time the energy minister was Konrad Mizzi, and Keith Schembri was the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

[00:05:56] And Daphne had discovered that these two government officials had set up secretive companies and bank accounts with the stated purpose of receiving money from none other than the man who was set to make millions from this new power station.

[00:06:12] Mizzi and Schembri, the senior politicians, would deny any wrongdoing, saying that they set up these secretive companies and bank accounts for honest, personal reasons, but it certainly did seem like unusual behaviour, exactly the sort of behaviour one might do if, for example, one wanted to receive a very large bribe.

[00:06:36] This information about this link, I should add, was never published in Daphne’s lifetime, it was only released by a brave collection of journalists who meticulously went through Daphne’s notes and research and eventually published this story in late 2019, just before Fenech and Schembri’s arrest.

[00:06:57] And as Vince Muscat, the bomb fixer, and Melvin Theuma, the middleman, started talking, more and more of the details of the murder plot started to be revealed.

[00:07:11] I should say, of course, that this is their testimony, and there are the obvious question marks over the truth, but this is what has been revealed so far.

[00:07:22] Shortly after being asked by Yorgen Fenech to arrange the murder, Melvin Theuma would claim that he was given a job working for the Family Affairs Ministry, the government, as a driver.

[00:07:35] He was told to turn up to Castille, the office of the Prime Minister, and after a two minute interview he was hired on a salary of €1,200 a month. 

[00:07:48] The salary might not have been super high, but the best bit about his new job was that he never actually had to turn up, it was a completely phantom government job.

[00:08:00] Now, these kinds of phantom jobs in Malta are, unfortunately, not so incredibly uncommon, but to be handed one, ostensibly, for arranging a murder would be peculiar

[00:08:14] And it certainly seems like a coincidence.

[00:08:17] What’s more, Theuma would testify that, during one of his trips to Castille, to the Office of the Prime Minister, he was told to pass on a message to the three men in jail, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, that they would be released from jail soon and they would each be given a million Euros.

[00:08:38] Theuma starts to think that people at the highest levels of the Maltese political system were involved with the murder, and are involved in the subsequent coverup.

[00:08:49] Combined with his knowledge that it was the powerful businessman, Fenech, who paid him to arrange the murder, Theuma starts to get more and more paranoid, thinking that he is going to be killed or silenced by powerful forces.

[00:09:04] It certainly seems like warranted, justified, suspicion, especially as Fenech’s behaviour becomes even more erratic, although it would turn out that this erratic behaviour was partly due to a crippling cocaine addiction.

[00:09:20] So, Theuma starts recording his conversations with Fenech, he keeps an old ice cream tub of evidence with him at all times as protection.

[00:09:30] He tells Fenech that he has this big box of evidence, promising that he will send copies of it to policemen he trusts if anything happens to him.

[00:09:40] So, starting in early 2018, only a few months after the murder, and after Vince Muscat starts talking to police, Theuma knows he might be arrested.

[00:09:51] After all, he was involved, and Vince Muscat, who is in police custody and is starting to talk to the police, knows who he is.

[00:10:01] But more than this, Theuma too is receiving inside information about the investigation, information that isn’t publicly available. 

[00:10:11] He knows what’s going on. 

[00:10:13] But he hopes that he knows too much, and that the powerful forces that he believes ordered the murder will save him from the police.

[00:10:23] Eventually, however, his luck runs out. On 14th November of 2019 he is arrested, and it's his arrest that leads to the arrest of Yorgen Fenech and then Keith Schembri.

[00:10:37] Even more bizarrely, perhaps, it would be claimed that, after the arrests of Fenech and Schembri, Schembri arranged for a letter to be sent to Fenech where Fenech was instructed to claim that it was Chris Cardona, the former minister of the economy, who had ordered the killing.

[00:10:56] Chris Cardona has vehemently denied these claims, and it should be said that he has not been questioned or charged with anything. 

[00:11:05] I know that there are a lot of names and dates here, but the point to underline is that there are fingers being pointed in all directions and a lot of paranoid people fearing that someone will spill the beans and reveal everything.

[00:11:21] So, what is the current status of the investigation?

[00:11:26] Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, was questioned and released, with the police stating that “The police at this stage see no reason to hold Mr Schembri under arrest”.

[00:11:38] He has been arrested and questioned regarding several other allegations of corruption, but as far as the investigation of Daphne’s murder is concerned, he has not been charged with anything.

[00:11:51] Yorgen Fenech, on the other hand, has remained in custody, maintaining that he has evidence that will implicate other powerful players in Malta’s political scene. 

[00:12:02] As of the time of writing, and as a reminder, this is five years after Daphne was murdered, the trial is ongoing.

[00:12:11] Three men, the DeGiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat have been charged with the killing, and they are currently serving their sentences, but they were merely the executors of the plan, the people who planted and detonated the bomb.

[00:12:27] Who was ultimately responsible?

[00:12:30] Well, there was a public inquest, in July of 2021 which did assign responsibility, but not to any one individual.

[00:12:42] This 437-page report named the Maltese State as being responsible for Daphne’s death, writing that "It created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law".

[00:13:10] In other words, there was a culture of corruption where the people at the top thought that they were untouchable, which led to a total breakdown in the official workings in the rule of law.

[00:13:21] The report stated that Daphne provided the only real opposition in the country, and the state’s failure to protect her from danger meant that it had to accept responsibility for her death.

[00:13:35] Despite whatever truth there might have been behind this report, it did nothing to bring Daphne’s killers any closer to justice.

[00:13:44] And were Daphne to be writing today, her inbox would be just as full of allegations of corruption.

[00:13:52] Indeed, if you were to have opened almost any newspaper in Malta over the past few months, you would have found stories of suspicious sounding deals, of an alleged kidnapper being given a contract to supply cars to the justice department, of the same alleged kidnapper doing a property deal with the current Prime Minister, of politicians creating phantom jobs for their lovers or constituents.

[00:14:17] And almost all newspapers in Malta are significantly more friendly to the government than Daphne ever was.

[00:14:24] I wonder, what would Daphne have written about the investigations of her own murder?

[00:14:30] What would she have written about the lawyer working for state prosecution who then switched to Yorgen Fenech’s defence?

[00:14:37] What would she have written about one of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers admitting that he had tried to bribe a journalist from the Times of Malta with an envelope of €500 notes, and that his only excuse for this would be that he had “never dealt with a journalist before”?

[00:14:53] What would she have written about the fact that this lawyer was acquitted of any wrongdoing and continued to represent her alleged killer?

[00:15:02] What would she have written about the fact that the middleman, Melvin Theuma, was found stabbed several times in his apartment in 2020, after it was revealed that he was testifying in court?

[00:15:14] What would she have written about Keith Schembri managing to permanently lose his mobile phone at 5am in the morning 30 minutes before the police arrived to arrest him?

[00:15:24] What would she have written about the constant leaks from the police to the alleged killers?

[00:15:30] And what would she think today about the extent to which her murder had done anything to change her country or its political situation?

[00:15:39] Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister condemned by the report as being responsible for creating a culture of impunity, is already in the process of being rehabilitated, and has taken on the role of chairman for the Association of Maltese Football Clubs. 

[00:15:57] Many political commentators see this as being just the first step of his return to political power.

[00:16:04] And has public opinion shifted?

[00:16:07] The public were given the chance to have their say, in a general election in May of 2022. For some, this was an opportunity to get rid of the corrupt influences at the top of the Maltese political system.

[00:16:23] The people spoke with their votes, but the message was clear.

[00:16:27] It doesn’t really matter.

[00:16:29] The Labour party, the party that came to power under Joseph Muscat, whose senior members included Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, won with an even greater percentage of the popular vote than in 2017 or in 2013. 

[00:16:45] Although the voter turnout, the percentage of the population that actually voted, was the lowest in 67 years, it was a clear message that the plethora of allegations of corruption weren’t enough to really change people’s minds.

[00:17:01] So, what’s next?

[00:17:03] Five years on, the trial continues. 

[00:17:06] Is there going to be enough evidence for a conviction of anyone of any serious power?

[00:17:12] There certainly seems to be enough evidence, but the past five years suggests that the links between the police, the judiciary, the political system and the world of business are so close, so tight, that it’s optimistic to think that there will be any major developments.

[00:17:30] Anyone who was involved has now had plenty of time to cover up their tracks, destroy evidence, or make sure that their “lost” mobile phone will never be found again.

[00:17:41] It’s very sad to say, but perhaps the last words Daphne ever wrote are as appropriate now as they were thirty minutes before she was killed: “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate”.

[00:17:58] OK then, with that ominous quote comes the end of this episode, and the end of this mini-series on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

[00:18:08] I hope it's been an interesting one, and that it might have shone some light on this dark case of a brutal attack on this brave journalist.

[00:18:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:18:20] Have you been to Malta? Did you know about Daphne Caruana Galizia?

[00:18:24] Do you think the people responsible for her death will go unpunished?

[00:18:29] What more can be done, both by individuals and governments, to stop the senseless murder of journalists?

[00:18:36] I would love to hear your perspective.

[00:18:38] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:51] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]