The fallout over the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has taken a new turn, with the chief prosecutor of Catania now accusing the Maltese authorities of dragging their feet on an Italian investigation into an illegal oil-smuggling investigation.
Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro lashed out at the lethargy of Maltese authorities during an interview with The Guardian, in which he also said he “could not exclude” that the men targeted in his investigation were behind Caruana Galizia’s murder last week.
“Attempts to collaborate with Maltese authorities on the oil-smuggling investigation have not been fruitful,” Zuccaro was quoted as saying. “An international request for information submitted to investigators in Malta had gone unanswered for 18 months. Malta is becoming a sort of crime haven for all kinds of mobsters.”
Darren Debono with his wife Odette Goodlip (picture published on Daphne Caruana Galizias blog)
Malta’s justice minister Owen Bonnici denied Zuccaro’s claim, arguing it had only taken Attorney General Peter Grech three months to initiate procedures in the Maltese courts for the collection of evidence as had been requested by Italy. Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit subsequently held two sittings for the collection of the evidence requested by the Italian authorities earlier this year, and a third sitting has already been scheduled in the coming days.
“Any claim that Maltese authorities have an interest not to co-operate with other jurisdictions on this case, is completely unreasonable, untrue, and unjust,” Bonnici said.
The Guardian has turned its spotlight onto Darren Debono, a former Maltese international footballer, who was arrested on Lampedusa last week in connection with a fuel smuggling racket between Libya, Malta and Italy. Another Maltese suspect, Gordon Debono, was also arrested at Catania airport.
Caruana Galizia had written about Darren Debono last year during a series of blogposts which had exposed the real lives of the three actors in a promotional video by the Labour Party ahead of the 2013 general election. Debono is married to one of the actors – Odette Goodlip – and runs the Scoglitti fish restaurant in Valletta along with his wife’s brother Daimer Goodlip. He is also a registered fisherman.
In February 2016, Caruana Galizia published a threatening e-mail she had received from Odette Goodlip’s mother Carmen Hili and responded by warning Hili to look out for her son-in-law’s safety.
“The way things are going, Carmen Hill had better keep her eyes open closer to home and make sure that her daughter’s companion, Darren Debono, doesn’t get blown up,” Caruana Galizia wrote. “Two registered fishermen with business connections to Libya have been blown up in their cars already – Martin Cachia a few weeks ago and Darren Degabriele 18 months ago – and what do you know, one of them even had a fish restaurant too.”
However, Carmelo Zuccaro has told MaltaToday Debono is not being suspected of Caruana Galizia’s murder and that the timing of his arrest was purely coincidental.