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17 Black, Egrant And Brothels: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Biggest Stories, Two Years On

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It’s been two years since Malta lost one of its most well-known figures, Daphne Caruana Galizia, in a mafia-style assassination that has irreparably changed the country.

Her legacy, however, lives on. A divisive person who was both venerated and ostracised, Caruana Galizia was able to use her pen to singlehandedly set the political agenda, moving from one fierce battle to the next.

Here’s a look at some of her biggest stories over the years.

1. The Panama Papers and 17 Black

Unveiling the story months before its international reveal, Daphne Caruana Galizia was the first to expose that Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri had set up offshore companies in Panama.

A year later, Caruana Galizia uploaded a cryptic post linking a Dubai company called 17 Black to Mizzi, Schembri, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and former EU Commissioner John Dalli.

With the help of leaked documents given to Caruana Galizia before her death, The Daphne Project uncovered that 17 Black was one of two companies set up to transfer money to Mizzi’s and Schembri’s Panamanian companies.

Leaked documents from the FIAU also showed how 17 Black received over €1 million in payments from Mario Pullicino, the Maltese agent of the LNG tanker in Delimara, and an unnamed Azeri national.

After years of suspense, the owner of 17 Black was revealed to be none other than Yorgen Fenech, an investor in Electrogas, the consortium running the Delimara power station.

All parties involved have long denied any allegations, with magisterial inquiries still underway.

2. Egrant and the Prime Minister’s wife

Caruana Galizia’s legacy will forever be tied to her claims over Egrant, the third Panamanian company found alongside Mizzi’s and Schembri’s.

Working off of information believed to be provided by Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova, Caruana Galizia claimed that the infamous account belonged to none other than Michelle Muscat, the wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and had received millions from the Azeri royal family.

A magisterial inquiry eventually concluded that Egrant did not belong to Michelle Muscat, with the Prime Minister since describing the incident as the “biggest frame-up in Malta’s political history”.

One main issue with the inquiry was Caruana Galizia, Efimova and Pierre Portelli all giving different versions of how they acquired the damning information and documentation.

While there were claims a document of trust showing that Muscat did own Egrant existed, a copy was never presented to the courts. A copy submitted by Portelli was then found to contain forged signatures.

The full inquiry is yet to be published, despite Joseph Muscat initially promising to do so, with the Attorney General fighting tooth and nail against its publication. While the magistrate’s conclusions were somewhat definite, the absence of the full document has given rise to speculation.

The Prime Minister has pushed on with his libel cases against Caruana Galizia following her death, insisting he would only drop the suit if the family says the story was a lie.

3. Pilatus Bank and Keith’s passports kickbacks 

As part of a series of serious allegations which led the Prime Minister to unexpectedly call an early election, Caruana Galizia was the first to report on alleged kickbacks involving Keith Schembri and Pilatus Bank.

Schembri is alleged to have received funds from Nexia BT owner Brian Tonna from the sale of citizenship, while also having issued a €650,000 payment to former Times of Malta managing director Adrian Hillman, who has since acquired several government roles.

All three have denied any allegations of corruption.

An inquiry was summarily opened. However, while the Egrant inquiry was completed a year and a half ago, the other inquiries remain underway, with no indication of their conclusion, with appeals often the cause of delay.

Pilatus Bank was first flagged as a potential hub for money-laundering by Caruana Galizia long before the allegations emerged, with the bank housing accounts of key political figures like Schembri and wealthy elites like the Azeri ruling family.

The bank’s owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, has since been arrested in the US and charged with evading sanctions on Iran through a complex offshore system. Malta has since withdrawn their banking license, while the European Banking Authority slammed the FIAU for failing to properly monitor the bank.

The FIAU is currently implementing a series of European Commission binding recommendations to tighten anti-money laundering efforts.

4. Vitals Global Healthcare and a pre-destined concession

Caruana Galizia was the first to expose that Vitals Global Healthcare may have been selected as the preferred bidders to privatise three state hospitals, months before the deal was even struck.

Repeatedly slamming VGH’s inexperience, she also published a due diligence report from an unknown company alleging that two foreign contractors had agreed to invest in the project months before any deal.

VGH eventually ran into severe financial difficulty, spurring on Steward Healthcare to purchase the concession just 21 months into operations. The unreacted commercial agreement between the state and VGH is yet to be published.

However, activist group Repubblika has since launched a sustained battle to open an inquiry into the controversial €2.1 billion concession.

The group has accused three ministers, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna, of facilitating a “coordinated” “act of modern-day piracy”, “corruption and money laundering, among other crimes” which saw VGH’s investor leave a debt of €50 million.

5. Chris Cardona and the brothel 

In one of her most salacious stories, Caruana Galizia claimed that Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his consultant Joe Gerada visited a brothel while on government business in Germany. The story included copious details, including quotes from Cardona while at the brothel.

A libel suit was opened, with the courts imposing a €50,000 garnishee order on her that was personally requested by Cardona and Gerada.

A lengthy legal battle ensued, with Cardona and Gerada fighting tooth and nail to ensure that mobile records – which would have vindicated him – be kept from being used in the case.

While the magistrate eventually decided to keep the pair’s geolocation data, the case was ultimately dropped after her death.

The case, it should be noted, fell after Cardona failed to turn up to the sittings.

6. Adrian Delia and the Soho prostitution ring 

While she was consistently branded as a PN stooge by her neverending list of critics (who often were the subjects of her writing), Caruana Galizia’s attention turned towards Adrian Delia en route to his successful campaign for the PN leadership.

During a heated-contest defined by party infighting, Caruana Galizia claimed that Delia had helped set up a Barclay’s Jersey bank account that made money off of a prostitution racket in Soho, London.

Delia vehemently denied the reports, filing five separate libel cases against her. In what became a running joke throughout the campaign, Delia visited the courts on five different occasions for every time she wrote about the story.

While Delia eventually dropped the libel cases, the story took a dramatic turn in June 2019.

Months after telling Malta Today that he had informed police he had never opened the Barclay’s bank account, Delia’s old friend Kris Bajada emerged from a coma to pour water on his claims.

Bajada’s father, Eucharist, was the owner of the Soho properties. However, Bajada insists that a series of sub-lets led to Guilnara Gadzijeva using the apartments as a brothel.

Bajada does not claim that Delia was aware of any wrongdoing, but rather damns him for lying about the case.

7. DB and their plans for the ITS Site 

Years before db Group’s deal for the ITS site was even signed, Caruana Galizia was already warning that a backroom deal had been struck between db Group and the government.

She would also later expose that db was already selling its plans to develop a hotel and a high-rise luxury living complex on the piece of prime government land months before it was even granted a permit.

In what became a recurring theme towards the end of Caruana Galizia’s life, DB’s owner Silvio Debono issued a massive 19 libels against her, one for each sentence in a particular blog post.

While the Planning Authority eventually approved the project, a court sent it back to the drawing board after a Planning Board member was found to have a conflict of interest.

8. John Dalli and the Ponzi scheme 

A long-standing tense relationship which still continues to this day, Caruana Galizia accused former EU Commissioner John Dalli of using his two daughters as a front to run a Ponzi scheme which had scammed evangelical Christians of millions of dollars.

The claim, which has since gone to court, said that Eloise Marie Corbin Klein posed as a missionary, scamming a massive $600,000 on the basis that the money was going towards an African project.

The money, however, appeared to go to bank accounts owned by Dalli’s daughters.

All three have been charged with fraud and money-laundering, with Klein finally appearing in court earlier this week after missing several sittings due to ill health.

9. Malta and the problems with US correspondent banks

In an issue that finally came to fruition this year, Caruana Galizia had claimed in 2016 that Joseph Muscat and a few other key officials had been scrambling in the USA to ensure that correspondent banking relationships with Maltese banks didn’t end.

The source behind the issue, Caruana Galizia claimed, was solely due to the country’s repetitional decline.

In June 2019, the Bank of Valletta lost its last correspondent bank, with ING stopping such transactions on 14 December 2019.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank has also made the decision to stop offering its banking services in Malta by the end of the year.

What do you make of these nine stories?

READ NEXT: Yorgen Fenech Denies David Casa Attempted Bribery Accusation, Demands Former PN Councillor Take It Back

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