Hitman Pleads Guilty in Maltese Journalist’s Murder

Published: 24 February 2021


By Alessandro Ford

Vince Muscat, one of three men on trial for the 2017 assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, pled guilty on Tuesday to all charges against him in exchange for a 15 years prison sentence.

As part of the plea deal, Muscat agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the murder case in which his alleged co-conspirators, the brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, continue to deny guilt. In a related development, he will also provide information on his role in the 2015 murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, for which he received a presidential pardon on Monday.

This sudden reversal is one of the first signs of movement in the three-years-long legal process that started with the trio’s arrest in December 2017. The three are suspected of planting the car bomb that killed one of Malta’s most famous investigative journalists, described by Politico as “a one-woman Wikileaks.”

At the time Caruana Galizia was investigating top-level corruption in Malta’s “Golden Passports” investment program, which came after her Panama Papers stories rocked the country by alleging the involvement of then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – no relation to Vince Muscat-- in a money laundering and kickbacks scheme.

The former stepped down in January last year after nearly 20,000 people protested in the capital, Valletta, and demanded his resignation. This came mere months after the resignations of his Chief of Staff, Economy Minister and Tourism Minister, and was swiftly followed by the resignation of Malta’s police chief for allegedly leaking information to a middleman involved in Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Hours apart from Vince Muscat’s lawyer entering a guilty plea on Tuesday, Maltese police also raided an undisclosed location and arrested three men alleged to have provided the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia: Adrian and Robert Agius and Jamie Vella.

They were among seven others previously arrested alongside Muscat and the Degiorgio brothers in 2017 but released without charges.

Yet while Muscat’s guilty plea may undermine the legal defenses of both the Degiorgio brothers and their newly arrested alleged bomb suppliers, it is unlikely to touch the main suspect in the journalist’s assassination – Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech – let alone the higher powers above him.

Navy personnel arrested Fenech trying to leave Malta in late 2019 and charged him with murder and participation in a criminal organization. He continues to plead not guilty.

A statement delivered in court by a lawyer representing Caruana Galizia’s family expressed “the hope that this step will begin to lead to full justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” a person whose legacy continues to animate countless others across the world.