An unnamed person who acted as a source in the Panama Papers scandal was forced to quit their job after the journalist they met was stalked by a former OPM official, the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry has revealed.
In its conclusions, the inquiry said it received conclusive evidence from witnesses who testified behind closed doors that journalists who were at the forefront of investigating the Panama Papers were stalked.
“One journalist recounted in explicit detail how they were stalked by people, at least one of whom was identified as having worked at the OPM, where he used to respond to the chief of staff [Keith Schembri],” the report reads.
“The journalist recounted how he was stalked after reporting a PL activity in the 2017 election campaign, all the way to a meeting he had with his source, who had information related to the Panama Papers.”
“[The stalkers] successfully managed to register this conversation between the journalist and his source. As a result of this incident, the source suffered serious consequences and he had to end up quitting his job.”
The inquiry also noted that Caruana Galizia herself was stalked in the months before her assassination, including by a person who was close to the Office of the Prime Minister.
Although the inquiry didn’t name this person, Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne Vella had testified that former OPM official Neville Gafa used to stalk her sister and post photos of her to social media.
The board condemned this stalking as a sign that the government was trying to silence journalists and hinder their work, rather than safeguarding them and encouraging them to investigate matters of the public interest.
One of the people involved in this incident, who the board said had close links to Schembri and former OPM communications chief Kurt Farrugia, testified at the public inquiry. Although he didn’t confirm that he had received specific orders to stalk the journalist, he made it seem that his job entailed making the best of opportunities to acquire “useful information” and pass it on to their superiors.
Kurt Farrugia denied that his office had any involvement in this stalking incident and condemned it.
“However, the fact remains that the people who carried out this surveillance either did so because they felt it was part of their job or because they were convinced that they were being of service to the party they support or the government that employs them,” the board noted.
Cover photo: Left: Konrad Mizzi, Right: Keith Schembri
What action should be taken following the conclusion of the public inquiry?