Journalist Leading Charges of Gov’t Corruption Killed in Car Bomb in Malta

A Maltese investigative journalist who alleged Malta’s Prime Minister and top associates were using Panamanian companies to launder money died in a car bomb explosion on Monday, Oct. 16.

Now her son, also an investigative journalist, is calling out those same figures and others, blaming a web of corruption and impunity for his mother’s violent death.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had been dribbling evidence that top figures in the Maltese government were using Panamanian companies to launder money for years. Her allegations became hard facts when the release of the Panama papers put names to the companies.

Her death is sending shockwaves throughout the country and raising questions about the state of the government.

Her son, who described finding parts of his mother’s body around the destroyed car in a Facebook post, is leveling charges against key public figures his mother had targeted or who he says should have prevented her murder.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” wrote Matthew Caruana Galizia, a software engineer who now works at the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

“But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”

Police inspect the wreckage of a car bomb believed to have killed journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia close to her home in Bidnija, Malta on Oct. 16, 2017. The force of the blast broke her car into several pieces and catapulted the journalist’s body into a nearby field, witnesses said. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A left-leaning reporter, his mother’s work varied from blog posts poking fun at the appearance of politicians to investigative work that uncovered the secretive business dealings of leading political figures.

Depending on which side of the political debate a person falls on, her work was either a hatchet job meant to bolster the political opposition, or a shocking revelation of political corruption at the very highest levels.

Galizia, 53, was nicknamed a “one-woman WikiLeaks.” Her last entry on her hugely popular blog came less than an hour before her death and finished with the line: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”

Her allegations focused on secret Panamanian companies owned by leading figures, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi.

Galizia has faced several libel suits for her reporting, but was a hero to many Maltese worried that corruption was undermining the rule of law in their country.

When the Panama papers confirmed that Schembri and Mizzi did indeed own off shore companies, EU officials launched an investigation into whether Malta was running afoul of the EU’s rule of law.

While Muscat denounced the journalist’s killing on Monday, calling it a “barbaric attack on press freedom,” and pledging “I will not rest until I see justice done in this case,” Galizia’s son said the killing revealed Malta is in a state of crisis.

“This was no ordinary murder and it was not tragic. Tragic is someone being run over by a bus. When there is blood and fire all around you, that’s war. We are a people at war against the state and organised crime, which have become indistinguishable,” he wrote on Facebook.

Describing Malta as a mafia state where “you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms” he says a culture of impunity is flourishing in Malta.

“It is of little comfort for the Prime Minister of this country to say that he will “not rest” until the perpetrators are found, when he heads a government that encouraged that same impunity.”

Malta has invited the United States’ FBI to send a team of experts to help local police investigate. Dutch investigators are already looking into the crime.