The Electrogas power station, which murder suspect Yorgen Fenech partially owns, was the reason journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, her husband Peter told an inquiry.
Speaking during the first sitting of the public inquiry into his wife’s murder, Peter highlighted the power station and the web of offshore companies linking Fenech to the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi.
“For two years that the government said it had nothing to do with [the murder] and it was actually feeding false information. It actually seems now that OPM was involved in the murder,” he said.
“If the police, the FIAU, and all the other authorities took the relevant action after the Panama Papers and other allegations of corruption, the murder wouldn’t have happened.”
Most of Peter’s testimony focused on the constant intimidation Daphne faced, at often times state-backed through the blog of PL MP Glenn Bedingfield or state officials.
“Minister Owen Bonnici even defended the government’s position by describing her as a hate blogger.,” he said. “It was easy to dismiss her with that term.”
Meanwhile, Peter also criticised the lack of action by the authorities on the several threats Daphne faced over the years and noted that no one was ever charged with such crimes.
Police protection was also a key focus, with both Peter and his son Matthew stating this was non-existent once John Rizzo’s tenure as Police Commissioner ended.
While both Peter and Matthew said she never requested protection, Rizzo often insisted so over fears for her safety.
Matthew’s heartbreaking testimony can be read in full over here.
Lovin Malta’s live blog of the entire sitting can be read below.
Today’s hearing at the public inquiry draws to a close. The hearings will continue on Tuesday 10th December at 2:00pm.
Daphne’s parents and siblings are expected to testify at the next sitting.
With hindsight, Peter says that the dehumanisation of Daphne was intentional to make it easy to get rid of her. He names the Electrogas deal as a crucial aspect in her murder, especially given Yorgen Fenech’s links.
“Two years that they had nothing to do with it and were actually feeding false information. It actually seems now that OPM is involved in the murder.”
Peter says that the common attacks on Daphne, namely the tag ‘hate blogger’, employed by Labour Party figures including Ministers, and MPs, before and after she died.
He says the government never issued a statement condemning the attacks on his wife.
“Minister Owen Bonnici even defended the government’s position by describing her as a hate blogger,” he says.
“It was easy to dismiss her with that term,” he continues.
The inquiry goes into Daphne’s journalism, describing her as a good journalist but also a provocateur, who also wrote gossip. They ask whether anyone not political could have looked to harm her.
“The government was pushing people to hate her on daily basis,” he says.
On institutional failings, Peter says that despite all the evidence in the possession of the authorities regarding the Panama Papers and other financial crime, not a single person for arrested and charged.
“She was running a magazine and a blog, while writing opinion pieces, and I had to hand out her out cheque,” Peter says on the garnishee order imposed by Chris Cardona.
Mentioning other instances, including libel suits and bogus income assessments, he says it seems like there was a concentrated effort to cripple her.
The inquiry tell Peter that he should focus on the institutional issues rather than individual cases, as that is their remit.
“If the police, the FIAU, and all the other authorities took the relevant action when there were the Panama Papers and other allegations of corruption, the murder wouldn’t have happened,” Peter replies.
After Daphne wrote about now Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera, she began receiving threatening items in the post, Peter says.
He adds that the Scerri Herrera eventually rescinded the libel suit she started.
“Every month there was something, whether it was a problem with politicians or police officers. We took it in our stride. We never thought she would get murdered. It’s unacceptable,” he says.
Peter recalls the incident in Rabat were the former Zurrieq Mayor Ignatius Farrugia and a group of people threateningly followed Daphne, swearing at her until she found refuge in a convent.
“They were telling her to come outside,” he says.
Once the police came, he says a report was made but calls out how Farrugia was given a pardon in the case.
Peter says Daphne was never the type to call up Police Commissioners to ask for protection when asked why she didn’t speak to the five successors after Rizzo (these all came in less than five years).
Like Rizzo, Peter says, the Commissioners should have recognised the problem themselves.
The commissioners never sent an email, a message, or made a phone call to Daphne.
Peter says former Police Commissioner John Rizzo would always send police protection during elections, referendums, or politically tense times.
After a while, they noticed that police officers on duty were feeding information to Bedingfield.
While she objected, Rizzo insisted that it was their duty to prevent crime. Peter says, this shows that he feared for her safety.
When he retired this stopped. Peter says the family only had police protection for the two days after the referendum.
On SLAPP lawsuits, Peter also mentions Pilatus Bank, who decided to file multi-million lawsuits against Daphne and other media houses.
The next step, he says, was the libel cases, one of which was a criminal case at the time.
While he says she won many of the cases, Peter describes the libel cases as a coordinated effort to waste her time and place both mental and financial pressure on Daphne.
Peter then references Henley and Partners threats of multi-million euro lawsuits after Daphne wrote extensively about the passport scheme they headed.
It later resulted, Peter says, that this was all done with the blessing and encouragement of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri.
An email exchange showing this was published of Daphne’s blog. The email addresses, he said, were all private, so they would not be tracked.
Peter turns to the claims that Daphne’s blog was somehow paid for PN, and the constant attacks for Labour’s response to her vociferous writing, Glenn Bedingfield.
He says Bedingfield was paid by the state to run a blog to attack Daphne. He says the blog was littered with personal stories about Daphne, most of which were written while he was meant to working at OPM.
“We couldn’t go anywhere,” he says.
Peter continues on the dehumanisation of Daphne, namely the expressions like ‘The Witch of Bidnija’, with Labour Party figures often depicting her as a demon.
He then moves onto the infamous blog Daphne founded.
“Without an editor, she could write what she wanted,” he says of the one-woman media empire she created.
Her number plate, DCG 001, was easily recognisable, Peter says, adding that she regularly found either her tires slashed or her car scratched.
Peter recalls an incident at Mater Dei when Daphne allegedly hit a car, something which she denied. He describes the wave of police who came to investigate the case, even though it turned out to be false.
He says once she was taken to court on a similar charge, but it turned out to be wrong as well.
He adds once she received a parking ticket that was blown up to a sitting where it resulted that the Police Officer making the claim was lying.
“The problem wasn’t parking, it was Daphne,” he says.
“From that billboard, people recognised her, and people would shout at her, spit at her, among other things whenever we would go out,” Peter says.
A turning point in their lives, he says, is when during the general election in 2013, the Labour Party put Daphne up on a billboard with PN figures.
“My wife was not in the party, was not a politician, it was unacceptable to use her a campaign
The Labour Party for years, he says, insisted that Daphne was paid.
“She never took a cent from the PN. It was the fake news of the time,” he says.
This is where the process of dehumanisation started, Peter says. People, he says, still believed the Labour Party’s false claims.
Peter details a number of cases, namely fires that happened outside their family home, and how no one was ever charged with the crimes.
Peter says no one was charged with the arson, while soon after they found their dog’s throat slit.
He says that Daphne wrote extensively that Gianella De Marco could not represent Meinard Calleja given that her father Guido held a cabinet position.
She resigned from The Times over the issue.
He says the abuse his wife suffer started from then, and eventually became normalised.
“We used to hide these things from our children when the house was on fire, all we told them was that the Christmas lights were on fire,” he says.
Peter details the reports Daphne wrote about Meinard Calleja, the cocaine dealer who was the son of Brigadier Calleja.
During this period is when they had the first attack on their home. This was around the time Richard Cachia Caruana was stabbed.
On the same day, they also burned the door of the Caruana Galizia home and the home of Adrian Strickland.
Peter describes a time where Daphne interviewed Michael Falzon, the PN Minister, for The Times of Malta in the 1990s. This came after Falzon swam in the sea in Sliema to prove that it wasn’t polluted.
He says then Daphne then moved by The Malta Independent, she was meant to be made editor, but a man was chosen in her place.
He first met his wife in the 1980s while she was on her way into court for her political activism.
Peter says she was arrested for 36 hours that time, describing the event where current Speaker Anglu Farrugia held her in a filthy cell, something Daphne wrote about regularly.
He says this was the beginning of her determination to hold those in power to account.
Peter says his testimony will focus on the culture of daily threats and intimidation his wife received.
Peter Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s husband, takes to the stand.
The inquiry is back in session. Lawyers Therese Commidini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi, who are appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family, have asked the court to acquire the TAP3 files of Chris Cardona that relate to the Acapulco Brothel libel case.
The lawyers say that the records will prove where Cardona was that day.
Azzopardi says that if those files would be able to confirm whether Cardona was guilty of perjuring himself and actually helped contribute to murder through the culture of hatred it fostered.
He says, if the inquiry doesn’t preserve the records, they will be destroyed and Cardona would be absolved of any wrongdoing.
The lawyers also say that if proved correct, it shows that the Police failed in its duty to protect the journalist.
The inquiry is suspended for the next 10 minutes. Peter Caruana Galizia will testify next.
Matthew reveals that Malta’s representative in the United Arab Emirates owns a company called Beat Limited that is in itself in business with Electrogas.
“We need to establish how this was allowed to happen at a public service level.”
Matthew and his lawyers will work on an entire dossier to submit this information.
Turning to his mother’s work, Matthew says that the Electrogas leak didn’t stop until many months after his mother’s death, meaning it’s clear Yorgen Fenech’s main concern was the web of offshore companies between him, Schembri, Mizzi, and the Azeri government.
“The leaks only stopped when the Daphne Project announced the story. If it was his concern he would have stopped the story internally immediately,” he says.
“The facts we are uncovering seems to indicate that the main purpose of the money laundering network was to siphon money from the Electrogas creation.”
“If we assume Fenech was the man who killed my mother, there must be corruption behind his endeavour. If the deal had an economic rationale, they would have won the tender normal.”
This is why, he says, Electrogas must be considered as part of the inquiry.
Matthew reveals that his mother started fearing for her life when she broke the story about Keith Schembri receiving cancer treatment.
“She was shocked about how vindictively he acted, even though she thought the story was small and would actually elicit sympathy. He acted violently through intense legal cases. But it got worse after that,” he says.
He says that Konrad Mizzi led a cabal to intimidate her.
“She once told my brother that she felt they were frying her alive,” he says.
Judge Abigail Lofaro now questions Matthew on police protection.
Matthew says the family had police protection during the hunting referendum but is unsure whether his mother had protection during the 2017 general election.
He says his father would be able to clarify these facts.
He says the relationship she had with Rizzo was not shared among his predecessors, namely because she was investigating them.
Matthew starts talking about the protection his mother received prior to 2013 but says it simply is not normal for a police commissioner to feel a journalist could be in danger every time an election or referendum rolls around.
He says this can only be considered a measure of last resort, and questions must be raised why such violent people are allowed to be free and financed by the state, as is the case in Melvin Theuma.
He says that John Rizzo (who was the Police Commissioner at the time) would maintain communication with his mother, in order to make sure nothing would happen to her.
He was there when his mother would have phone conversations with Rizzo.
Therese Commidini Cachia, who is Caruana Galizia family lawyer with Jason Azzopardi, starts questioning Matthew.
She asks whether she was physically assaulted. He says in May 2017, he was walking in Valletta when a woman tried to attack his mother.
Before that, he says one Ignatius Farrugia, who was a Mayor of Zurrieq, led a mob after his mother, taunting her. This was around 2014 at a feast in Rabat. Daphne Caruana Galizia filed a report and wrote about it extensively.
She had sought refuge in a convent.
“My mother feared for her safety,” he says.
He describes the outcome of the case of a travesty of justice, saying that Farrugia was pardoned and served no effective sentence.
Matthew says he wouldn’t know whether his mother was requesting police protection at the time or when she had done so in the past, explaining she often shielded themselves from these issues.
“I remember when the house was set on fire, she brushed it off as an accident to me and my brothers,” he says.
Matthew talks about the days leading up to the murder. He says at the time he didn’t notice anything suspicious.
However, in the month leading up one of their dogs got ill and was about to die. The vet conducted toxicology tests and was unable to pinpoint the reason.
The dog eventually seemed to be getting better but died after the murder. He sees this now as a measure the hitmen might have taken to poison the dog.
“I felt it was getting worse, but I never thought there were hitmen after her.”
“I never noticed people were following me, even though the police have told me they were,” he says.
Matthew says his mother was confident that she would win the case once the mobile phone records were preserved,
The worst threat to his mother after 2013, Matthew says, was when Economy Minister Chris Cardona froze her bank accounts over an article on an infamous Acapulco brothel visit.
The libel suit instituted by Cardona was eventually withdrawn, with the preserved cell records of Cardona never seeing the light of day.
“The full power of the state descended upon my mother…all the structures that were meant to protect my mother took away her rights,” he says.
Matthew refers to an incident when letters with disparaging claims about his mother were thrown around the University of Malta were written on a government watermarked paper by a government employee.
He closes his testimony and faces questions from Judge Mallia.
Matthew reveals that prior to 2013 there was some degree of police protection, there was a fixed point guard, as there is today.
Matthew says he was aware of the threats his mother received, adding that some were acted upon, like when their dogs were killed or their house set on fire.
He says after 2013 things got worse, saying that there was a campaign to isolate his mother, including growing threats, either through harassment by police or intensive libel cases.
Matthew references a case where his mother hit another vehicle that was treated with intense importance by police. He says his father will be able to divulge more on these incidents.
“My mother didn’t like talking about these things to us.”
Matthew calls on the inquiry to ask for all evidence to be handed over including:
The full unredacted inquiry of the Egrnagt Inquiry, FIAU reports, Police case files who features in the investigation, and any other reports on people his mother wrote about.
Matthew warns that given the current state of affairs, documentary evidence could well be destroyed and it must be preserved by the inquiry.
He says that the inquiry should insist on full disclosure of the inquiry, to hold all individuals to account, such as police commissioners, FIAU officials, Ian Abdilla and the Economic Crimes Unit, the MFSA, the tendering process into Electrogas, and all officials involved in the embezzlement of Theuma.
He says no measures were ever provided, but rather there is an accepted stream of hatred towards journalists.
He names Sandro Craus, Glen Bedingfield, and others.
Matthew says the police commissioners were negligent. He explains that when journalists have to live under police protection, it shows the failure of police to charge people that have been exposed as corrupt by journalists.
He questions why certain people weren’t investigated, like the Agius brothers, who allegedly supplied the bomb, and Theuma himself.
He says Ian Abdilla, who heads the Economic Crimes Unit, prioritises personal loyalty to the Prime Minister rather investigate money laundering offences.
Matthew also questions the Attorney General’s indifference to seeing a public inquiry take place.
Matthew questions why Fenech would kill his mother when the evidence was already sitting on the desk of the FIAU and would have been presented to the investigators.
“Unless Fenech knew that Ian Abdilla and Attorney General would never prosecute him on the same evidence my mother had…which he felt grave enough to kill her for,” he says.
Matthew closes with clarifying that there are many good police officers out there.
Matthew says Fenech had one clear motive, to stop his mother publishing an investigation into one of his illicit business endeavours.
He says she was working on the link between 17 Black, owned by Fenech, the two Panama companies of Schembri, and Socar of the Azerbaijan government.
He says both he and his mother describe the Eelectrogas deal as a criminal network between those individuals.
Matthew outlines the insane theories he and his family have been subjected to ever since their mother’s death, ranging from a secret plot to take over the government to being involved with the murder itself.
Matthew turns to the recent revelations in the case, particularly the roles of Keith Schembri and other OPM staff members including Sandro Craus.
He says Craus vindictively sought to imprison his mother. He says Craus’ role as Head of Customer Care at OPM is a guise for an empire of trading in influence, embezzlement of state funds, and vote-buying.
The inquiry must also look into deals like DB’s at ITS or the American University of Malta must also be looked into, he says, given his mother’s writings on the subjects.
People like Sai Mizzi, Brian Tonna, and Melvin Theuma, must be looked into, while the inquiry must also see how Nexia BT has been allowed to operate when others have been suspended it for much less.
While Nexia BT still continues to operate.
Matthew says he hopes that the inquiry is able to see what evidence was destroyed. He says the inquiry is a chance to change Malta and allow the country to start behaving like a democracy.
He says the inquiry cannot provide a complete reckoning but could be the first step in that direction.
He says that a lack of action in 2016 led to death of his mother.
He also adds that the inquiry must look into the serious issues surrounding government jobs, promotions, positions of trust, planning applications, passport sales, and others.
Matthew says that a public inquiry should always be opened immediately when a journalist who investigates corruption is murdered.
It should not be up to family members to fight for it, especially given that some journalists may not have family members to push for it.
Matthew clarifies that his testimony will contain opinion, explaining that before his mother’s death he focused squarely on his work abroad investigating global corruption.
He says his testimony is based on evidence he would give to the courts later. His statement, he says, is not closed, given that more information is coming to light every day.
Matthew Caruana Galizia takes the stand.
The inquiry comes at the end of a sensational week in court which saw both the middleman in the murder, Melvin Theuma, and the alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech, testify.
The inquiry board has entered the courtroom, which is packed with journalists. Judge Mallia is laying out the terms of reference of the inquiry.
Caruana Galizia’s husband Peter and son Matthew are expected to testify today.
Lovin Malta is here live in court on the first day of the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination.
The inquiry has been a long time coming, with years of campaigning, political lobbying, and pressure from the Council of Europe forcing the government’s hand.
Retired judge Michael Mallia is the chairperson of the inquiry board., while Former Chief Justice and Ombudsman Joseph Said Pullicino and incumbent judge Abigail Lofaro are its other two members.
The inquiry will investigate whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any state entity facilitated the assassination of Caruana Galizia or failed to prevent it.
It will also establish whether the Maltese state has laws and measures to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity and whether the state is fulfilling its obligation to protect people, particularly journalists, whose lives are under threat.
The board will have access to all information. However, while the inquiry will be held in public, some hearings can be heard privately over confidentiality concerns.
The inquiry must be concluded in nine months, with the board expected to draft a report for the Prime Minister and Attorney General which will then be published.
Some parts may be redacted. However, if it does, the board is bound to provide the Caruana Galizia family with a full copy that cannot be published.