Thirty days after Malta’s best known journalist was assassinated in a car bomb, the nation is none the wiser about who killed her. The police have kept all but completely silent and the questions have just kept piling up. Here’s what we know so far…
The man who punched Matthew Caruana Galizia at the scene in which his mother was killed by a car bomb one month ago, has been questioned by the magisterial inquiry. This is the only piece of information given out officially by the police following the assassination, after weeks of radio silence.
Lovin Malta sent several questions to the police to see whether any basic facts have been established 30 days after the killing. However, all of these questions were ignored, except the one which referred to Bidnija resident Mario Vella.
“With reference to your questions, kindly note that Police Investigations and a Magisterial Inquiry are still ongoing and thus we are not in a position to divulge further information. With regards to question no.11, please be informed that the person mentioned was spoken to by the District Police at the place of incident and was also spoken to by the CID. He was also interviewed as part of the Magisterial Inquiry,” the police’s media arm said in an email.
Photo of Mario Vella near his car, taken a few minutes after the incident
Sources close to the investigation who spoke to Lovin Malta on condition of anonymity specified that Vella was not being treated as a murder suspect and was simply questioned over the incident with Matthew Caruana Galizia, who threw Vella’s phone to the ground after he saw him taking photos of his dead mother.
While forthcoming on the fact that Vella was questioned, the police refused to answer any other question, including whether the car bomb made use of Semtex or TNT and whether it bore any similarities to the previous car bombs that took place in Malta. The police also failed to say how many people had been questioned and whether any politically-exposed people had been interrogated.
Scroll to the bottom to see the questions sent by Lovin Malta to the police.
Lawyer Roberto Montalto doubts mafia angle and says Caruana Galizia’s most dangerous target was Azerbaijan
Lovin Malta also spoke to Roberto Montalto, the criminal lawyer who represented Daphne Caruana Galizia on three criminal libel suits, including the case filed by Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera who happened to be the duty magistrate when Caruana Galizia was killed.
Montalto explained that only a few days before Caruana Galizia was killed, she had tried to meet up with him in Valletta but the meeting never materialised.
“I was in court, between one case and the other. She was in Valletta probably doing other things because she hated coming to Valletta so she would always plan several errands at a time. She messaged me before to say she wanted to talk about something regarding magisterial inquiries. I don’t know if it was about a current magisterial inquiry or about how to make another one happen. It wasn’t general information she needed. By then she had become a bigger expert than me on magisterial inquiries. But she definitely wanted to speak face to face.”
Criminal lawyer Roberto Montalto on TV programme Xarabank
“What was uncharacteristic was that she kept insisting to meet. Usually she would just text and wait till I respond. Eventually I told her I had two cases remaining and she said she was going to have a light lunch. But then she didn’t get in touch again. She must have been waiting in Valletta for about two hours but eventually she must have left.”
Montalto had already told the press that he had several of his clients killed in the past, including people like Paul Degabriele, Ray Agius, Kevin Gatt and Martin Cachia, who was killed in a car bomb. Montalto also represented mafia boss Sebastiano Brunno between 2014 and 2016, when he was eventually extradited to Italy.
But Montalto downplays the suspected mafia connection in Caruana Galizia’s murder, which he said was an angle mostly being pursued by Italian journalists. He said Caruana Galizia never spoke to him about the mafia or the fuel smuggling rings and only wrote about them a couple of times in relation to Labour Party connections.
Montalto said he was not questioned by police but did send the lead investigator the text messages that he shared with Caruana Galizia.
Asked who were the most dangerous people Caruana Galizia had written about, Montalto immediately said: “Definitely Azerbaijan. I’m not saying they killed her, but they were definitely the most dangerous people she dealt with. Them, and Pilatus Bank.”
Mafia boss Sebastiano Brunno who was represented by Montalto in extradition proceedings (Photo: Timesofmalta.com)
Prime Minister’s spokesman ‘not informed’ whether any politicians have been questioned
Meanwhile, the Office of the Prime Minister has also refused to say whether any politically-exposed persons have been questioned. In a clear reference to the European Parliament’s vote yesterday calling for an investigation into Malta’s rule of law, the Prime Minister’s spokesman Kurt Farrugia told Lovin Malta: “Rule of law dictates that we do not interfere in magisterial or Police investigations. We have faith that the multiple independent investigations can reap results.”
Farrugia also added this in response to specific questions about whether anybody in government was interrogated over the murder: “We are not informed whether anyone from either Government, or Opposition, has been questioned.”
PN leader Adrian Delia, also not questioned, has no faith in the investigation
Lovin Malta has also asked the Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia whether he (or anyone close to him) had been questioned by the investigation given that he was Caruana Galizia’s main target of criticism in the months preceding her death. The Nationalist Party said that Delia was not questioned and to its knowledge nor were any of the people close to him.
A spokesman for Delia also said that the PN was not satisfied with the investigation so far and would not be satisfied until the Police Commissioner and Attorney General were replaced with people who enjoyed the confidence of at least two thirds of Parliament, as has been long proposed by the PN. The spokesman added that the only police comments about the case emerged from the “farcical” press conference given by the police commissioner.
Disgraced former EU Commissioner John Dalli not questioned by police
However, former EU Commissioner John Dalli – who recently penned an article practically gloating about Caruana Galizia’s death – did reply to questions by Lovin Malta.
He specified that he was not questioned by the police and added: “I would let the police and the experts that they have on board do their job. I am not privy to any information and therefore would be irresponsible to comment.”
Pilatus Bank sent legal threats to newspapers 12 hours before Caruana Galizia’s murder
Lovin Malta is also awaiting replies from Pilatus Bank which sent threatening legal letters to several news organisations just 12 hours before Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed. In the letters, Pilatus Bank demanded the removal of several articles related to the pre-election stories which Caruana Galizia had led.
Lovin Malta asked Pilatus Bank whether similar letters were sent to Caruana Galizia and whether any staff or directors of the bank were interrogated as part of her murder investigation. No replies were forthcoming by the time of publishing.
Caruana Galizia leased her car from Percius
Meanwhile, Lovin Malta has confirmed that the company which leased Daphne Caruana Galizia her Peugeot was the rental company Percius, which also supplied the cars used by the family at Caruana Galizia’s funeral. Responding to Lovin Malta’s questions, the company said: “We are able to confirm that at the time of her tragic death, Mrs Caruana Galizia was a client of ours.”
Lovin Malta asked Percius to confirm when was the last time her car was brought into the garage for any form of maintenance and whether an internal investigation had been conducted to ensure no employees could have conspired in her murder. This was the company’s reply: “Insofar as concerns your other questions, we decline to respond, both on general principles of customer confidentiality and, in this particular instance, due to the sensitive nature of the case.”
People keep calling for justice
Meanwhile, to mark one month since Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed on October 16th, a silent walk is being organised this evening by people who are seeking justice for her assassination.
This follows several demonstrations which have been held across Malta to commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia and call for the strengthening of institutions and the rule of law in Malta.
Questions which remain pending at the police
1. Have the investigators been able to identify whether the bomb which killed Caruana Galizia was made of Semtex, TNT or another substance? If so, what has been identified?
2. Has it been identified whether the bomb was placed underneath the car or within the car’s seat? If so, could you explain what has been confirmed?
3. How many people have the police questioned regarding Caruana Galizia’s death?
4. Have any politically-exposed people been interrogated with regard to the murder?
5. Have any suspects been identified? Can any of them be named?
6. How was the bomb detonated? Was it done by a mobile phone?
7. Did the car bomb bear any similarities to any previous car bombs or was it a very different job?
8. Are the police still pursuing the angle regarding a man in a van spotted close to the scene of the crime?
9. Have the police ruled out any involvement of Darren or Gordon Debono who were arrested in Italy two days after the incident?
10. Is the involvement of the FBI and Dutch forensic experts still ongoing? Has anyone else been brought into the investigation?
11. Have the police questioned Mario Vella from Bidnija who allegedly punched Matthew Caruana Galizia on the scene?
12. Almost one month after the police commissioner said the police were “doing our best”, is he confident that this crime will be solved?
13. When do the police believe the bomb was placed in Caruana Galizia’s car?
After the police replied to Question 11, Lovin Malta sent a list of names to the police to ask if they had also been interviewed by the investigation.
Magistrate Anthony Vella also refused to comment when he was called about the investigation which he is leading.