Valletta, Feb 23, 2021 (AFP)
As one of three men accused of assassinating Maltese anti-corruption journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia is sentenced to 15 years in jail, we look back on the case which has shaken the tiny island republic.
- Car bombing -
Caruana Galizia is killed on October 16, 2017 in a car bombing not far from her home in the north of the island.
Aged 53, she was known for investigating high-level corruption, including contributing to the 2016 Panama Papers data leak.
Her killing triggers an outpouring of grief on the island, one of her sons accusing then prime minister Joseph Muscat of complicity and turning Malta into a "mafia island".
In December authorities arrest eight people in connection with the murder.
- Charges -
Three suspects are charged in connection with the assassination on July 16, 2019: brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, as well as Vince Muscat (no relation to the prime minister), all in their 50s.
On September 20 the government announces a public inquiry into the killing.
- Legal immunity -
Maltese police arrest tycoon Yorgen Fenech in connection with the murder as he leaves Malta on his yacht on November 20.
Fenech owns a Dubai company called 17 Black that Caruana Galizia claimed had connections with the government.
The arrest comes a day after the prime minister promises to pardon an alleged middleman, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, if he names the person who ordered the assassination.
Fenech demands legal immunity on November 23 before revealing what he knows about the case.
- Ministers quit -
Muscat's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and his tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi, resign three days later as Fenech is released on bail. They had been accused by Caruana Galizia of being involved in corruption, which they denied.
Economy minister Chris Cardona then announces he is "suspending himself".
Schembri is arrested but released two days later without charge, sparking accusations of a cover-up and that he was also implicated in the hit.
On November 29 Muscat says Fenech will not be granted immunity for disclosing what he knows.
- PM falls -
Pressure mounts on Muscat to quit for his handling of the probe.
After two weeks of public protests he announces in December that he will resign the next month once his successor is chosen.
Muscat steps down on January 10, 2020, saying his is "paying the highest political price" for failing to solve Caruana Galizia's murder.
- Top scalp -
Days later, police chief Lawrence Cutajar resigns amid accusations he botched the investigation.
Cutajar had been top of the list of scalps demanded by activists.
Malta opens an inquiry in June into alleged links between Cutajar and people implicated in the killing.
- Middleman's 'suicide bid' -
Taxi driver Theuma survives what police say looks like a botched suicide attempt on July 22, hours before the middleman was due to give evidence in court.
In September police arrest Schembri, Muscat's former chief of staff, over a separate probe into alleged kick-backs over the sale of so-called golden EU passports to rich foreigners. All his assets and companies are frozen.
- One suspect jailed -
In a dramatic twist on February 23, 2021, one of the main suspects, Vincent Muscat, does a deal with the prosecution, pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 years in jail.
He waives his right to an appeal to get a relatively lenient sentence.
The other two alleged co-conspirators, as well as the supposed mastermind Fenech, are still awaiting trial.
Sumber : AFP
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