One of three men accused of assassinating investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in 2017 has received a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to all charges in connection with his role in the murder. Vincent Muscat had previously entered a Not Guilty plea, but reportedly accepted a plea bargain arrangement with prosecutors. He is also to pay €42,000 in court fees.
Daphne Caruana Galizia — frequently described as a “one-woman WikiLeaks” — had been investigating a complex weave of corruption involving major figures of the political, social, and business elite of the Mediterranean island nation when she died.
Vincent Muscat is not the first person in the four-year-old case to accept an arrangement with prosecutors.
In 2019, Melvin Theuma confessed his role as middleman in the suspected plot to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia, in exchange for a pardon. Theuma reportedly possessed recordings of conversations that implicated Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech and others in Caruana Galizia’s murder. That development would lead to the collapse of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (no relation) and his top aide, Keith Schembri, both long suspected by Caruana Galizia’s family and supporters of involvement in her murder.
Fenech, Joseph Muscat, and Keith Schembri all strenuously deny involvement in the alleged plot.
In 2018, when Joseph Muscat (no relation) was Prime Minister, Vince Muscat’s saw a plea proposal rejected. “I have nothing to hide,” Joseph Muscat said. “Our [Maltese] history shows that presidential pardons in the past have led to people walk[ing] free and nobody being convicted,” he also said. Pardons in Malta come from the president, on the justice minister’s recommendation, after consultation with the police commissioner.
In court on Tuesday, all three of the men charged with carrying out the assassination were present: Vincent Muscat, and George and Alfred Degiorgio — brothers.
The Caruana Galizia affair has exposed the structure and culture of government and leadership on the island to broad public and international scrutiny.
In 2019, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, used one of her first major addresses to demand a “thorough and independent” investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, which she called “an attack on free media.” She said, “Media freedom is the foundation of our free and democratic society.”
“Journalists must feel safe to work in Europe,” she added. “If not, democracy as we know it will be under threat.”
Also in 2019, the Catholic bishops of Malta called for all Maltesers “to work together, with a calm sense of purpose, to promote truth and justice with charity and respect for one another,” adopting, “a spirit of collaboration,” that would serve, “the greater good of Maltese society in general, so that our institutions may carry out their duty with due diligence and with impartiality.”