The Maltese journalist killed last October had been exposing the drift of her land for years: drug and money trafficking, corruption up to the highest levels of politics, and that underground connection from Azerbaijan to Puglia
by Francesca Rizzo
Politics, mafia, finance: these were the ingredients of the lethal cocktail that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist, blogger and activist who had long been committed to exposing an island adrift, hostage to drug trafficking and “incognito” tax haven on October 16. An outspoken opponent of Josep Muscat’s center-left government, the journalist had also begun investigating the leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, Adrian Delia, who was previously involved in a prostitution and money laundering ring. The closing of the latest post on his Running commentary is emblematic: “Thieves are now everywhere. The situation is desperate.” Only a few hours later, Daphne Caruana Galizia died in her car, turned into a bomb. The culprits? Despite warm statements about the need to do justice, investigations seem to be languishing.
// THE MALTA FILES Daphne Caruana Galizia had been involved in investigative journalism for more than 30 years, but her recent history is linked to the “Malta files,” the Maltese strand of the international “Panama Papers” investigation. The links between tax havens and well-known personalities (including and especially politicians) around the world come to the surface when German journalist Frederik Obermaier receives an abnormal amount of data from an anonymous source at Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca: 1.4 terabytes, more than 13 million files containing names, figures, locations. Obermaier starts a collaborative project with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: the documents are converted into a huge database on which investigative journalists from around the world can work in the name of truth. On the team that has worked on the project from the beginning is Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s son and also a journalist. The Panama Papers investigation, which won the Pulitzer Prize last year, involved more than 400 investigative journalists; among them, reporters from L’Espresso and, more recently, from the editorial staff of Report. By all working together on data that was numerous, complex and dangerous because it contained, in black and white, the names of international criminal, political and financial figures, it was possible to form a real media escort to protect journalists and benefit the truth: “There would be no point in picking on a journalist or two – Frederik Obermaier said. – Because four hundred others, with access to the same documents, would carry on his work.”.
Over a million dollars in a single wire transfer (but there are many more) between Leyla Aliyeva’s company and Michelle Muscat’s company: that’s part of what Daphne, long working on the Malta files, discovered
Before she was killed, Daphne Caruana Galizia had uncovered nearly half a million names involved in illicit money deals in the “Panama of Europe.” But the journalist had done more; she had traced the financial relations between Malta and Azerbaijan by revealing the links between Leyla Aliyeva, daughter of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev, and the wife of Maltese Prime Minister Muscat, Michelle: to the former belongs Al Sahra FCO, an offshore company registered in Dubai; to the latter, Egrant Inc, registered in Panama, is registered. Various money transfers take place between the two companies, including a transfer of more than $1 million. In Caruana Galizia’s crosshairs are the underground agreements made by the two governments on energy supply: agreements that would include, through an underground network of bribes and political dealings, even the TAP pipeline that will reach Puglia from Azerbaijan.
Also among the personalities implicated in the Malta files and revealed by the journalist are Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi (Josep Muscat’s chief of staff the former, former energy minister the latter), both of whom own companies in tax havens.
But the Malta files are just the latest chapter: the use of reckless lawsuits and threats that, as told by his son Matthew, they have been an integral part of family life for years, they serve as an accompaniment to the life of a woman who, as the title of her first blog post indicates, has promised Zero tolerance to corruption.
// THE REACTIONS The death of Daphne Caruana Galizia literally shook the island of Malta, but the shock waves of the deflagration were felt around the world. In addition to the many expressions of condolences, the media escort in defense of her work has begun. “Daphne’s brutal murder shows once again how documented and reporting information is perceived as a danger by the powerful and organized crime,” recalls the editorial staff of L’espresso, which expresses compacts the grief over the death of his colleague and continued, in collaboration with Report (which dedicated the special episode of november 13 to Daphne), the work on the Panama Papers.
Her son Matthew: “If she had not been murdered, she would have found the crux of a story that begins in Azerbaijan and ends with a $40 billion pipeline to Europe. If we can’t do the same, with all the resources we have at our disposal today, what kind of work are we ever doing?”
The editors of eight international newspapers have written to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to demand justice. Timmermans himself, on the day of the murder, said he was shocked, and added, “If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost.”
The reaction of her son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, who was among the first to arrive at the scene of the explosion, was very harsh: “My mother,” he wrote on Facebook, “was murdered because she stood between the law and those who seek to violate it, like many other brave journalists. But she was also affected because she was the only one to do so. This is what happens when state institutions are incapacitated: the last person standing is often a journalist. And so it is the first person who has to die.” In the same post, the journalist denounced Ramon Mifsud, a Maltese police sergeant, who posted the phrase on his profile, “Everyone gets what they deserve. I am happy :)”.
In a letter published by L’Espresso Matthew Caruana Galizia picks up his mother’s baton and calls on all journalists to do the same: “My mother worked without any outside resources (…). If she had not been murdered, she would have found the crux of a story that begins in Azerbaijan and ends with a $40 billion pipeline to Europe. If we can’t do the same, with all the resources we have at our disposal today, what kind of work are we ever doing?”
// THE FOR UM IN MEMORY OF DAPHNE At the Forum of Mediterranean Women Journalists will be presented, in a European premiere, “Invicta. The life and work of Daphne Caruana Galizia“, the book about the real Daphne. Maltese reporters Caroline Muscat and Petra Caruana Dingli, who participated in the production of the text, will speak.