After two long years, the masterminds behind the mafia-style assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia could soon be revealed.
A middleman has pledged to spill the beans in exchange for a presidential pardon, with major businessman Yorgen Fenech now arrested and confirmed as the case’s main suspect.
The latest breakthrough has been 765 days in the making, with inquiries, international condemnations and a memorial disputes defining the last two years.
Lovin Malta took a look at some critical dates since the horrific murder.
16 October 2017
The day Malta changed forever.
At 3 pm, the fabric of the country is rocked by news of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s last words on her infamous blog post, “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate”, become immortalised in Maltese culture.
The murder of a journalist through a car-bomb outside her family home brings with it widespread condemnation both locally and abroad. Foreign experts are called in to help with the investigation.
By the evening, thousands of people gather in Sliema in a show of unity, the first sign of the civic activism that would define the next few years.
22 October 2017
The following Sunday, thousands of people gather in Republic street in Valletta, with the nation calling for truth and justice for the brutal murder.
Led by a giant banner that demanded ‘Justice’, a giant wave of Maltese flags, pictures of the murdered journalist and homemade signs with demands pack Republic Street from end to end.
Despite being one of the largest public outcries in Malta for generations, calls for the resignation of key officials are some of the first indications of a country divided hiding behind a veil of unity.
A PN parliamentary motion calling for the resignations is shot down by the government the next day.
14 November 2017
A resolution of the rule of law in Malta passes with an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament, with 466 votes in favour, 49 against and 160 abstentions.
While non-binding, the resolution is the first sign that Malta’s relationship with the investigation, freedom of speech and the rule of law would be consistently under the international microscope.
A press-room at the European Parliament is named after Caruana Galizia, while she receives a host of international awards for her work in the months that follow.
4 December 2017
Eight people are arrested in an early morning raid in Marsa, with Prime Minister Muscat later announcing that 10 suspects have been apprehended.
Malta’s Armed Forces later broadcast the footage of the daring raid.
5 December 2017
The next day, three men, George Degiorgio (Ic-Ciniz), his brother Alfred Degiorgio (Il-Fulu) and their friend Vince Muscat (Il-Kohhu), are charged with carrying out the murder.
They all plead not guilty.
14 December 2017
Starting the compilation of evidence proves more challenging than expected, with both Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech and Magistrate Charmaine Galea recusing themselves from the case.
Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is eventually appointed.
21 December 2017
Magistrate Stafrace Zammit declares that there is enough prima facie evidence to issue a bill of indictment against the men.
The country, however, would wait a year and a half for the Attorney General to issue the charges.
2 February 2018
A sign of things to come.
Footage emerges of a woman in red destroying the makeshift memorial set on the Great Siege monument opposite the Law Courts, striking down letters, flowers, and even a picture of Caruana Galizia.
This would continue throughout the year, with similar cases happening as late as September 2018, nearly a full year after Caruana Galizia’s murder.
12 April 2018
Caruana Galizia’s laptop, taken by investigators, is revealed to have been last used in December 2015, meaning she was using another laptop at the time of her death.
Two laptops were eventually passed on to German police by the journalist’s family.
15 April 2018
The Daphne Project, a consortium of journalists from across the globe, including The New York Times, The Guardian and Reuters, comes together to continue where Caruana Galizia left off.
Their most prominent story is the publication of leaked documents showing how €1.3 million was transferred to 17 Black. The Dubai-company is linked to the Panama Papers scandal that enveloped Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
Claims of Malta’s links with a multi-million fuel smuggling operation from Libya to Europe are also exposed. Months later, Gordon Debono and Darren Debono land in Italian court with links to a fuel smuggling ring.
A third, more sensational claim is that Minister Chris Cardona met with Alfred Degiorgio both before and after the murder. It is later claimed that the person who had made the allegation admitted to police that he’d lied.
31 May 2018
After failing to turn up at court, Cardona’s libel case against Caruana Galizia involving claims that he had visited a brothel in Germany while on official business, is dropped.
Caruana Galizia’s heirs inform the court that they would take on her libel cases earlier in the year.
22 July 2018
A magisterial inquiry concludes that the infamous Panamanian offshore company, Egrant, does not belong to Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife.
Daphne Caruana Galizia will forever be tied to the claim, having been the one who had sensationally revealed the information.
The Prime Minister’s libel suit against Caruana Galizia continues till today. Despite being a point of criticism, Muscat has powered through, insisting that he will only drop the case if the journalist’s family says the story was a lie.
6 September 2018
Issues surrounding the Great Siege monument, used as a makeshift shrine for the journalist, erupt once again after the memorial is removed, with police barriers placed around it.
Minister Owen Bonnici later says this formed part of a restoration and cleaning effort.
11 September 2018
The courts unveil how Alfred Degiorgio, one of the men accused, gambled some €570,000 in various casinos over the years, despite being legally unemployed and claiming social benefits.
He lost €71,000 but walked away with some €499,000 in clean money.
The lavish lifestyles of all three men, despite also being unemployed, have been a common feature in the case.
8 October 2018
Another Daphne Project story linking Minister Chris Cardona to Alfred Degiorgio is published, revealing they had both attended a bachelor party together.
Meanwhile, a ship-owner allegedly linked to fuel smuggling is claimed to have spoken with Caruana Galizia, Cardona and Degiorgio within a few moments of one another.
The phone call with Cardona has been disputed. However, the others have been confirmed.
16 October 2018
The week leading up to the first anniversary of the journalist’s death is defined by renewed calls for truth and justice.
A march is held in Valletta, while activists, MEPs and an International Freedom of Expression join in the call for a public inquiry into the assassination.
12 November 2018
Minister Owen Bonnici is revealed to have ordered the destruction of the makeshift memorial in Valletta, telling the Director-General of the Cleansing Department to do so.
18 November 2018
Maltese investigators tell The Sunday Times of Malta that they have identified a group of “more than two” Maltese nationals who they believe masterminded the assassination.
Arrests are reportedly imminent. However, they fail to materialise.
27 November 2018
The murder is described as “an event which represented the darkest hour for media freedom and media pluralism in the European Union since the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in France” by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom.
31 January 2019
In court, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says he would be willing to drop his libel suit against Caruana Galizia’s heirs, should they admit the Egrant story was a lie, something which he would repeat whenever faced with the question.
The move is described as “bloodthirsty” by her son Matthew.
6 June 2019
Alfred and George Degiorgio request a meeting with MEPs Ana Gomes and David Casa in the presence of a foreign journalist. The request is later turned down by the court.
The same day, the testimony of FBI experts against the three men is deemed not to breach their right to a fair trial.
26 June 2019
The Council of Europe approves a damning report into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, which also highlights severe concerns over the state of the rule of law in Malta.
The document flags “serious concerns” over the investigation into the murder – namely with the conflict of interest of magistrates and police officers, the continuing compilation of evidence against the three men charged with the crime, and the lack of progress in finding the mastermind behind the assassination.
It is approved with 72 votes in favour, 18 against and three abstentions.
The report, authored by Pieter Omtzigt, is disputed by the government, while the Degiorgio brothers claim it breaches their right to a fair trial.
16 July 2019
The bill of indictment against Vince Muscat, George Degiorgio and Alfred Degiorgio is finally issued, a whole 21 months after the car bomb.
Judge Aaron Bugeja, who headed the inquiry, is elected to preside over the trial.
12 August 2019
The phone intercepts of the men involved in the murder become a serious issue in the courts, after their lawyers demand that the relative warrants be exhibited in court.
20 September 2019
The government announces it will hold a public inquiry into the assassination following the Council of Europe’s order and months of pressure.
Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia will preside over the commission, which is also composed of former Dean of the Faculty of Law and constitutional expert Professor Ian Refalo and forensic expert Dr Anthony Abela Medici.
Criticism over the appointments has continued ever since, especially with regards to the impartiality, mandate and transparency of the inquiry.
The Council of Europe would later say it did not meet the Assembly’s expectations.
The Prime Minister has backed the appointments.
6 October 2019
A “major businessman” is revealed by The Times of Malta to be the main suspect in the assassination, with a smuggler and person with gambling connections also linked.
Investigators say they were “quite certain by now that Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered because of what she wrote or what she was about to reveal”.
Judge Aaron Bugeja recuses himself from the trial, with Judge Edwina Grima replacing him.
9 October 2019
The phone intercepts rear their head once again.
George Degiorgio files a Constitutional case, arguing that they were obtained illegally and should be struck from the record.
13 October 2019
The Sunday Times of Malta reports that Vince Muscat is willing to provide testimony about his role in the assassination, should he receive less time behind bars.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has previously poured water on the idea of a full presidential pardon, but it appears that a plea bargain is something authorities are considering.
While no agreement has been reached, it is believed that an offer would include a 12-year sentence, the minimum for homicide, but there are fears for his safety in prison for such an extended length of time.
14 October 2019
‘Murder on the Malta Express’, a book by John Sweeney, Carlo Bonini and Manuel Delia, is published. Meanwhile, Roberto Saviano carries excerpts of Caruana Galizia’s writing in his new book ‘Munitizioni’.
15 October 2019
It’s revealed that a British law firm which has represented the Church of Scientology was hired by the Maltese government to send a warning to the authors of ‘Murder on the Malta Express’.
Thursday 14th November 2019
A separate investigation into money laundering results in what could be the biggest breakthrough in the case.
Europol and Maltese investigators arrest an unnamed person, who is believed to be Melvin Theuma, among others as part of a money-laundering sting.
Under police investigation, Theuma and his lawyers start bartering for a presidential pardon in exchange for crucial information on the assassination.
Tuesday 19th November 2019
Reports come flooding in that the middleman in the assassination will be granted a pardon to spill the beans on the masterminds of the murder.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat later confirms this on the steps of Castille. He informs the press that he has taken this decision without informing the cabinet and that he would be “shouldering political responsibility” for the decision.
The pardon will only be granted if the evidence provided is corroborated in court and results in a successful prosecution.
Wednesday 20th November 2019
At 5:45am, Yorgen Fenech’s yacht is intercepted by AFM patrol boats trying to leave Malta. The yacht, Gio, is escorted back to Portomaso marina with armoured personnel conducting a rigorous search of the vessel.
Fenech is discovered on board. He is confirmed as the main suspect in the investigation and arrested.