Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sons’ long, multi-faceted and international quest for justice for their assassinated mother has been laid out in detail by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from the New Yorker magazine.
Ben Taub, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing this year, met up with Matthew, Andrew and Paul to discuss the lead-up to their mother’s murder three years ago and everything that happened since then.
What followed is a detailed and at times poetic feature, merging a brief political history of Malta with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life and the way her reporting became more and more serious and the threat and abuse against more and more intolerable.
“It was like being in prison,” Paul recounted. “The last time she went to the beach, people took pictures of her and doctored the photos so that her thighs were larger, her arms were flabbier.”
After their mother was assassinated, the three sons became active campaigners, seeking not only justice for her murder but for the stories she wrote about and had yet to write about.
However, at one point, some months after the three suspected hitmen were arrested, the criticism against them by top-level government officials became so severe that they felt the need to secure high-level security training.
They moved to a old house in the English countryside where former S.A.S. soldiers trained them in emergency first aid, defensive driving, surveillance detection, and how to search a car for bombs. This was subsidised by the Committee to Protect Journalists and their aunt Corinne Vella.
“You feel like you need to do something—almost, in a way, not to think about what happened,” Paul said. “So we started. And, really, from that day, we just never let up.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Caruana Galizia managed to track down the whistleblower who had leaked a massive trove of internal ElectroGas documents to her mother in the months leading up to the murder, information she never got to publish but which the police suspect could have been a motive for killing her.
Her son brought a hard drive containing the leaked documents back to the UK and shared the information with a group of international journalists, spearheaded by French reporter Laurent Richard, for what would eventually become the Daphne Project.
Journalists scrutinised the ElectroGas deal and raised serious questions about the way the company had agreed to use its partner Socar as the middleman for the procurement of LNG, rather than purchasing it directly from source.
Meanwhile, Matthew and Andrew reached out to Bill Browder, an American financier who successfully lobbied the US Congress to impose sanctions against Russia after his friend Sergei Magitsky was allegedly killed while in police custody.
Browder advised the Caruana Galizias to lobby the Council of Europe to appoint a special rapporteur to scrutinise the Maltese system, just as it had done to Russia following the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov and journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Matthew and Andrew moved to a former orphanage in Saint-Melo, France, where Andrew, a diplomat, used his contacts to prepare for the council’s next session in France.
But the quest for justice was starting to take a toll on them, with Paul saying his brother Matthew used to always be in the same clothes.
“Obviously, it shouldn’t be the case that every family member of a murder victim should have to completely suspend their lives simply to make sure that a process works as it should,” Paul said, admitting that his health took a hit. “My wife was looking at me like a ghost. My father was in a panic. None of his sons were working.”
They drafted a motion to appoint a special rapporteur for Malta while on the train to Strasbourg, with Matthew consulting a lawyer over the phone, and had one afternoon to collect signatures from European MPs for the motion.
“We were like tobacco-company lobbyists—knocking on doors, one after the other, going around to every member state, talking about institutional failings in Malta,” Paul said. “By the end of the day, because we handed out so many papers, we just didn’t know how many signatures we had.”
Their motion ended up receiving more signatures than any in the Council of Europe’s history, and Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt was appointed as special rapporteur into Malta.
Omtzigt pressured Malta to launch an independent public inquiry into whether the state could have prevented Caruana Galizia’s murder, and this was eventually accepted. The inquiry is still ongoing and its panel of judges said yesterday it intends to analyse the contents of Yorgen Fenech’s phone, which is believed to shine a light on the intimate relationships the murder suspect enjoyed with people in positions of power.