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#PanamaPapers: Journalist who uncovered links between Panama accounts and senior Maltese politicians killed in explosion




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Prominent Maltese journalist and blogger, Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been killed in a car bomb in Bidnija. Galizia exposed links to senior Maltese politicians exposed in the Panama Papers, writes Catherine Feore.

In what became known as the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) carried out an unparalleled investigation that exposed how shell companies were being used to hide financial transactions. The Papers exposed politicians, drug traffickers, sports stars and celebrities. The ICIJ worked with over 100 news organisations including the Times of Malta.

Galizia’s research revealed that the Maltese Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff - Keith Schembri and his Energy Minister - Konrad Mizzi were linked to two of the companies in the Papers. She also alleged that the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat was the owner of another Panama-based company. The companies were allegedly created to receive payments from the daughter of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. The revelations prompted a general election which saw the Maltese Labour Party returned to power. Muscat denies all claims and established an independent magisterial inquiry.

The Panama Papers exposed how money could be laundered through overseas territories, such as the British Virgin Islands and Panama. As a result of the revelations the European Parliament established a special committee to investigate money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (PANA). It will present its conclusions and recommendations in the final report to be put to the vote on Wednesday (18 October).

Sven Giegold, Green coordinator on the Parliament's inquiry committee on money laundering and tax evasion (PANA) said that he was “shocked and saddened to hear of the death” of Galizia: “Daphne played a vitally important role in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government […] Such incidents bring to mind Putin’s Russia, not the European Union. There can be absolutely no tolerance for violence against the press and violations of the freedom of expression in the European Union."

In her last blog, published 14:35, Galizia did not mince her words:

“Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil testified in court this morning, as did the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, that crook Keith Schembri, in the case he himself brought against Dr Busuttil for libel damages.


Mr Schembri is claiming that he is not corrupt, despite moving to set up a secret company in Panama along with favourite minister Konrad Mizzi and Mr Egrant just days after Labour won the general election in 2013, sheltering it in a top-secret trust in New Zealand, then hunting round the world for a shady bank that would take them as clients.

(In the end they solved the problem by setting up a shady bank in Malta, hiding in plain sight.)

His government salary is just peanuts to him, Mr Schembri said, because he has retained his companies and his shares and that is where he makes his money. But the way he is using his government influence to benefit his private business in Malta is entirely a separate corruption/trading in influence issue and is not an argument in his defence.

He also said that he was unable to reply to the corruption accusations in the past two years – but it hasn’t been two years – because of a “medical condition”. Would this be the medical condition that they claimed he didn’t have, when the Prime Minister’s chief of staff disappeared for months, I wondered why, found out, and then reported on it?

There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”

Prime Minister Muscat held a press conference to condemn the attack and said that he had contacted external security services to try to root out the perpetrators. At his press conference he said, “Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way."

The leader of the opposition, Adrian Delia, who had also received much criticism from Galizia, described the murder as a “political killing”

Roberta Metsola MEP (Malta, EPP) who has strongly criticized the current government described the killing as “the darkest day for our democracy in a generation”.

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