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Daphne Caruana Galizia's sister Mandy Mallia, right, protests outside the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on Dec. 3. Also that day, a delegation of European Union lawmakers visited with Mr. Muscat and raised serious questions about the rule of law in Malta, suggesting that the embattled Prime Minister should quit immediately, instead of in January as planned.

Rene Rossignaud/The Associated Press

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat promised to step down in January after a week of public fury in his Mediterranean island nation, where a scandal over the 2017 killing of a journalist has implicated some of Malta’s most powerful people. Now, the governing Labour Party is preparing to choose a new leader; Maltese police are trying to unravel the story of who ordered the killing and why; and lawmakers from the European Parliament are pressing Mr. Muscat to quit immediately, raising questions about his credibility to govern. Here’s a primer on what we know so far.


Malta at a glance

MALTA

0

400

Pop.: 449,043

(July 2018 est.)

KM

ITALY

Languages:

Maltese*

English*

Italian

French

DETAIL

TUNISIA

*Official

Gozo

Mediterranean Sea

Victoria

Comino

Valletta

Malta

Rabat

Marsaxlokk

0

8.5

KM

john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIl

SOURCE: OPENSTREETMAp; HIU; cia.gov

0

400

KM

Mediterranean

Sea

Gozo

ITALY

Victoria

Comino

MALTA

DETAIL

TUNISIA

Pop.: 449,043

(July 2018 est.)

Languages:

Valletta

Malta

Maltese*

English*

Rabat

Italian

Marsaxlokk

French

0

8.5

*Official

KM

john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIl

SOURCE: OPENSTREETMAp; HIU; cia.gov

MALTA

0

8.5

Gozo

Pop.: 449,043

(July 2018 est.)

KM

Victoria

Languages:

Maltese*

Mediterranean Sea

English*

Comino

Italian

French

*Official

0

400

KM

Valletta

ITALY

Malta

Rabat

DETAIL

Marsaxlokk

TUNISIA

john sopinski/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: OPENSTREETMAp; HIU; cia.gov


How Daphne Caruana Galizia died

Daphne Caruana Galizia, shown in 2016.

Jon Borg/The Associated Press

Daphne Caruana Galizia was an investigative journalist whose blog, Running Commentary, covered organized crime and alleged corruption among Malta’s business elite and politicians. Using the Panama Papers – a cache of data about offshore tax havens leaked from a Panamanian law firm in 2015 – she spent the last two years of her life investigating connections between companies named in the papers and the governing Labour Party, including some of Mr. Muscat’s aides and cabinet ministers.

Ms. Galizia’s investigations made her many enemies. She filed reports of death threats with local police, and twice, unknown assailants tried to burn down her home. Then on Oct. 16, 2017, her car exploded near her rural home while she was in the driver’s seat, killing her.

Forensic experts walk in a field in Bidnija, Malta, the day after after a powerful bomb blew up Ms. Caruana Galizia's car.

Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters


Who’s who

The three suspected bombers: Three men – Alfred Degiorgio, his brother George Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat (no relation to the Prime Minister) – were arrested in December of 2017 and charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and use of explosives in connection with the car bombing. The men have yet to face trial, and allegations against them have not been tested in court. But details have leaked out from a confession Vincent Muscat gave to police in 2018, allegedly in hopes of getting a pardon. He said Alfred Degiorgio was the one who received the contract to kill Ms. Caruana Galizia at a café called the Busy Bee. The price: €150,000 ($218,000).

Melvin Theuma: Vincent Muscat allegedly told police in 2018 that Mr. Theuma, a taxi driver, was the middleman who arranged the contract. Mr. Theuma was arrested in November of 2019 in a separate investigation of illegal gambling, but offered information about the people who ordered the killing, according to a person familiar with his confession who spoke with Reuters. It was these revelations, and a request by the Prime Minister to get Mr. Theuma a presidential pardon for his confession, that would set off Malta’s most recent political crisis.

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta on Nov. 29.

Eric Reguly/The Globe and Mail

Yorgen Fenech: A Maltese multimillionaire, Mr. Fenech was arrested six days after arrest of Mr. Theuma, who regularly worked at an apartment complex that Mr. Fenech owned. Mr. Fenech, who was reportedly arrested on his luxury yacht while trying to leave the country, was charged with complicity in the assassination. He has pleaded not guilty, and also said in hope of getting a presidential pardon (which he was denied) that another man, Keith Schembri, was the one who arranged the killing.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

The Associated Press

Keith Schembri: Mr. Schembri is a close friend of the Prime Minister. In her reporting, Ms. Caruana Galizia alleged that he and former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi set up secret Panamanian companies after Mr. Muscat’s election in 2013. She also linked the two to a Dubai company, 17 Black, that she suspected was owned by Mr. Fenech (a conclusion Reuters would also reach in a 2018 investigation). Mr. Schembri also worked as Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff, a job he quit in November as the new revelations about the 2017 killing came out. He was arrested and questioned by police in connection with the killing, then released. He has denied any role in Ms. Caruana Galizia’s death.

Konrad Mizzi and Chris Cardona: Two ministers in Mr. Muscat’s cabinet were among those alleged by Ms. Caruana Galizia to have benefited from the Panamanian offshore companies. Both resigned in November, and both deny any role in Ms. Caruana Galizia’s death.


Daphne Caruana Galizia's parents, Rose Vella and Michael Vella, attend a protest in Valletta on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press

Malta’s fight for change

In late November, protesters gathered in front of the parliament in Valletta for days, shouting “Mafia, Mafia” and demanding Mr. Muscat’s resignation. Other governments across Europe also renewed calls for Malta to hold an independent inquiry into the killing, which Mr. Muscat’s government promised to do this past September. Then on Dec. 1, Mr. Muscat gave a televised announcement that he would be stepping down in January.

The eventful weeks were just part of a two-year-long odyssey for Ms. Caruana Galizia’s family, which made common cause with former opposition leader Simon Busuttil to press for accountability from Mr. Muscat and his government. Ms. Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew, also a journalist, spoke with The Globe and Mail about the “relief” of seeing Mr. Fenech being led away in handcuffs, while Corinne Vella, who acts as the family spokeswoman, said it felt like two years of hard work were paying off:

The last two years have felt like one long day. At first, there was a lot of attention on us and no attention on political responsibility. Our family pushed the political agenda.


What happens now?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announces his January resignation in a televised address to the nation on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press

Mr. Muscat’s plan is to remain in office until Jan. 12, though the head of the European Parliament delegation that visited him in December said he should quit immediately instead. “In politics it is about trust. It is about the integrity of office. This is not about formalities,” Dutch lawmaker Sophia in ‘t Veld said outside Mr. Muscat’s office in Valletta on Dec. 3.

Whoever is chosen to succeed Mr. Muscat as Labour Party leader, they are unlikely to face a new national election soon. Labour’s comfortable majority in Malta’s parliament makes a motion of no confidence unlikely to succeed. The next scheduled election date is in 2022.

It’s unclear how the change in leadership will affect the timeline for the independent inquiry Mr. Muscat promised this fall, which retired judge Michael Mallia was chosen to lead. Ms. Caruana Galizia’s family is also pressing for investigations of Mr. Schembri, Mr. Mizzi and Mr. Cardona.


Related reading

Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia: Our mother was killed for being a journalist. There is still no justice for her or her work


Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Eric Reguly, Reuters and Associated Press


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