Arrests in Journalist’s Murder Come Days After Delegation Calls BS on Malta’s Investigation

Ten people were taken into custody Monday in connection with the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia—just days after an EU panel accused the Maltese government of complicity.

Axel Schmidt/Reuters

ROME—It has been two long months for the family of Panama Papers journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was blown to bits in a car bomb on a country road near her home in Malta. Her son Matthew Caruana Galizia, also a journalist, has spent much of that time following in his mother’s footsteps, continuing to shine a light on apparent corruption at the highest levels of the island nation’s government.

Galizia’s murder cast the world’s attention on the tiny European state, prompting the European Parliament to issue a warning citing “serious concerns” and “perceived impunity” over the Maltese rule of law, or apparent lack thereof. “Developments in Malta in recent years have led to serious concerns about the rule of law, democracy, and fundamental rights, including freedom of the media and the independence of the police and the judiciary,” stated the European Parliamentary report on the matter.

Last Friday, a delegation of European parliamentarians visited Malta to open their own shadow investigation into the murder, led by Portugal’s Ana Gomes, who said the group found it “extremely disturbing” that that no one seemed to be taking the murder probe seriously. The chief of staff for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wouldn’t answer questions, but rather read a prepared statement. Other officials simply skipped the meetings altogether.

Many in Malta now wonder if the timing of Monday morning’s arrests of 10 people was to pacify the European leaders who suggested sanctions against the government for its handling of the matter. The arrests came after an impressive show of force, with state police and armed soldiers in full combat gear conducting several raids, with helicopters flying low over the capital of Valletta and sections of the Lighters Wharf in Marsa blockaded as police in riot gear patrolled the streets.

Prime Minister Muscat then made the announcement of the first eight arrests at a mid-morning televised press conference. He later tweeted that two more people had been taken into custody. All were Maltese citizens and most had criminal records, which begs the question of why it took so long to haul them in. None of the names have been released, nor have details about what role any of them might have played in the murder. Under to Maltese law, the police can hold the suspects for 48 hours before charging them or letting them go.

“I have a clear idea of what they did and who they are, but I cannot give out more details at this time,” Muscat said. “Let us not forget that, in the past, such statements by a prime minister had been used in the accused’s defense.”

The Maltese government, one of Galizia’s favorite targets for her razor-sharp criticism, offered a €1 million reward payable to anyone who comes forward with information about who killed the journalist. It is still unclear if that reward has been paid for these arrests. The FBI and Dutch secret service have been aiding in the investigation into where the Semtex that was allegedly used in the bomb might have come from, but have not been privy to the details of the actual murder investigation, a source with the U.S. embassy in Malta told The Daily Beast.

The slain journalist’s family refused to endorse the reward and instead called for resignations of the police commissioner, attorney general, and the prime minister. Tips poured in, although most implicated the very government officials offering the reward. Other popular theories include Galizia’s investigations into Libyan oil smuggling through Malta into Italy, which is under investigation by prosecutors in Sicily. There are no details about whether any of those arrested have ties to criminal organizations.

“We are not interested in justice without change. We are not interested in a criminal conviction only for the people in government who stood to gain from our mother’s murder to turn around and say that justice has been served. Justice, beyond criminal liability, will only be served when everything that our mother fought for—political accountability, integrity in public life and an open and free society—replaces the desperate situation we are in,” her son posted after his mother’s murder, on his increasingly popular Facebook page. “A government and a police force that failed our mother in life will also fail her in death. The people who for as long as we can remember sought to silence our mother cannot now be the ones to deliver justice.”