It’s been four years since Daphne Caruana Galizia was brutally assassinated by a car bomb. Her legacy lives through her investigations, many of which have seen charges issued against some of the most powerful figures in the country.
Still, one of her most-read stories, about then-Minister Chris Cardona’s alleged visit to a German brothel while on official business, seems to have been forgotten amid the never-ending stream of scandal in the country.
Cardona, who has since been ousted from the political sphere, remains a spectre over damning allegations from heists to murders, including Caruana Galizia’s. Here’s a look at Daphne’s most famous story about him:
On 30th January 2017 at 11.45pm, Caruana Galizia shocked the nation with allegations that Cardona, who was Economy Minister and Labour Party deptuy leader at the time, had been spotted at a brothel in Velbert, near Düsseldorf.
Cardona was in nearby Essen at the time as a guest speaker at a ‘Stakeholder Forum’ organised by the European Commission and Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. He was accompanied by Joe Gerada, one of Cardona’s aides.
Caruana Galizia claimed that the two men visited the brothel the evening of 30th January between 7pm and 10.30pm.
Within hours, all of Malta knew the name FKK Acapulco with Caruana Galizia sharing salacious details including claims of a threesome and that Cardona had emerged naked from the shower shouting: “Ħaqq Alla kemm hu kiesaħ l-ilma.”
“Patrons pay €80 to get in through the door at the brothel are given food and drinks, but must then pay for sex with the girls and women,” Caruana Galizia wrote.
“They were naked in the shower together, then went to the bar where they negotiated with a prostitute. Gerada went with her first, then the Minister followed him in.”
“My source is not some random reader who rang me or messaged me out of the blue and who I don’t know,” Caruana Galizia had said. “He is somebody who has known me since I was a baby, and who knows my family of origin over several generations. For reasons that are obvious, he would have no reason to invent the story, no reason to lie to me (but rather the opposite), and every reason to keep quiet and say nothing.”
The following day, Caruana Galizia published another blog, writing that a second source had informed her that Cardona and Gerada had returned to the same brothel at around 4pm the following day.
However, an SMS exchange published in court after Caruana Galizia’s murder show that the texts were sent from Malta, and not from Germany, casting serious doubt on the credibility of this second source.
The scandal gripped Malta with both Cardona and Gerada vociferously denying the claims against them.
Within days, the two men had filed four libel cases against Caruana Galizia, with the courts inexplicably approving a €47,460 garnishee order against the journalist, crippling her finances.
It was a very public display of a Cabinet member attempting to use SLAPP to silence one of their critics. However, a crowdfunding campaign did alleviate some pressure off Caruana Galizia, who had her accounts frozen. The media and defamation act has been reformed since then.
Caruana Galizia did not back down. As part of her defence, Caruana Galizia demanded that the court request the geolocation data of Cardona’s phone – something which would prove or disprove the allegation.
The evidence would have exonerated Cardona if his denial would be believed. Still, Cardona and Gerada fought tooth and nail to ensure that the data was not submitted in court.
On 10th July 2017, the court asked mobile companies to provide it with the necessary data. However, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale never got to make a decision on whether to publish this data or not. Caruana Galizia was murdered just a few months later on 16th October 2017.
The family took on the libel cases and were determined to ensure that the truth came out in the case. Cardona and Gerada, it appears, sniffed an opportunity to make sure the case would go away.
In May 2018, Cardona failed to turn up to a sitting, citing government duties. However, that decision meant that the cases went to default. He then failed to reactivate the cases in the prescribed time, shutting down everything all together. The family were determined to continue.
Cardona’s actions still raise questions about whether his behaviour was that of an innocent man. Despite his best efforts, the geolocation data has actually been preserved.
A public inquiry board that was looking into the circumstances surrounding Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination has preserved the data. However, it was never included in the inquiry’s report.
Cardona was eventually interrogated over the alleged brothel visit in November 2019, soon after the arrest of Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the assassination of Caruana Galizia.
It formed part of a wide-ranging interrogation brought on by a letter sent by Keith Schembri to Fenech while the latter was out on police bail looking to pin the murder on Cardona.
Cardona, on his part, has been linked to the Caruana Galizia murder ever since the arrest of Fenech.
Claims in court have suggested that Cardona was involved with the plot and previous plot to murder the journalist.
Third parties told middleman Melvin Theuma that Cardona had two middlemen in the murder plot and that Anthony ‘Il-Biglee’ Chetcuti was named as another potential middleman between Cardona and suspected triggermen Alfred and George Degiorgio.
Theuma even detailed a financial relationship between Cardona and the Degiorgios, suggesting he used Chetcuti to pass on payment. Meanwhile, Degiorgios’ brother Mario had told Theuma that Cardona paid them €350,000 to kill Caruana Galizia.
Theuma said he cannot state under oath that Cardona was involved as his information came from third parties.
However, confessed hitman Vince Muscat has also linked Cardona to a 2015 plot to kill Caruana Galizia, while George and Alfred Degiorgio also named him as being involved in the murder and a 2010 HSBC heist.
Muscat has also revealed that roughly two to three weeks before their arrests on 4th December 2017, Alfred Degiorgio informed him of the planned raid.
Degiorgio told Muscat that he got the information directly from Cardona, explaining that he was fearful that he would be arrested and interrogated over his relationship with the two brothers. Cardona’s number was found on a burner phone allegedly belonging to the Degiorgios.
This information allegedly came through Cardona’s regular source, Silvio Valletta. The men even knew the time they would be raided.
Cardona has denied all the claims.
Did Cardona visit the brothel? Let us know in the comments below