On the fifth anniversary of the brutal murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the country is reminded of the dark consequences from allowing a culture of impunity by the most powerful among us.
A car bomb that ended the life of a prominent journalist and magazine publisher, broke a local family, sent shockwaves around the country and eventually led to the resignation of a prime minister, Joseph Muscat, whose grip on Malta appeared unshakeable. It also helped to shine a spotlight on unfettered access some business moguls had and continue to have among the political class.
Following the murder, three men were charged with carrying out the deed: brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat. Just this week, the Degiorgio brothers were each sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for their roles in the assassination, while Vince Muscat pleaded guilty back in 2021 and was sentenced to 15 years’ jail after securing a plea bargain with the prosecution.
While two men are still left to face charges for supplying the bomb, former Tumas Group CEO and business mogul Yorgen Fenech in 2019 was arrested and charged with complicity in the act, and criminal association. The prosecution is seeking a lifetime sentence, while he pleads not guilty to the charges.
The most scathing indictment of Malta’s institutions paying lip service to big business, however, stems from a public inquiry launched in 2019 to determine whether the state caused any form of risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life and work.
A board of inquiry was set up, terms of reference were set, and two years later, a report was produced.
Among several conclusions, the board of inquiry determined that steps must be taken to regulate and rein in politicians’ links with big business.
The inquiry also concluded that the state must bear responsibility for the murder, which took place on 16th October 2017 through the use of a car bomb.
The board noted that confrontation between Ms Caruana Galizia’s work and Government reached fever pitch when she published the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, and the circumstances surrounding the setting up of 17 Black, a Dubai company later revealed to belong to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.
On politicians’ links with big business, the inquiry noted that a “business-friendly approach”, one that has been championed by the Labour Government from when it re-entered power in 2013 and prior, can be something positive, so long as steps are taken to prevent abuse.
The board described finding “abundant proof” of the close relationship between some Government officials and big business, particularly those working towards promoting large-scale infrastructure projects.
The board also noted that the proximity between business and politics was a determining factor leading to the majority of such projects being scrutinised by the auditor-general and magisterial inquiries.
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