More than three years after a car bomb killed Malta’s best-known journalist and sent shock waves across Europe, the head of the Mediterranean island nation’s police force has declared that all those it believes to have been involved in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia have now been arrested.
But an announcement effectively closing the case late Wednesday by Malta’s police commissioner left the motive for the murder unclear. It also left open whether senior government officials, including the former prime minister, had interfered in the case to protect a politically connected millionaire implicated in the crime.
A wealthy local businessman, Yorgen Fenech, was arrested in November 2019 while trying to flee Malta aboard his yacht, accused of paying three contract killers and orchestrating the journalist’s killing. He pleaded not guilty to complicity in murder. A trial is yet to begin.
Unlike many other prominent figures in Malta, Mr. Fenech had rarely been a target of Ms. Caruana Galizia’s investigative reporting and had no obvious reason to want her dead. Most of her journalistic work appeared in a hugely popular blog, Running Commentary, a mix of serious reporting and scabrous personal attacks.
But while the journalist mentioned Mr. Fenech just once in her blog, she regularly criticized an electricity generator, Electrogas, in which the businessman’s family conglomerate held a big stake. This has prompted speculation that her murder could have been related to the electricity company, which received a $400 million loan from the Maltese government and struck a curiously expensive gas supply deal with Azerbaijan, a part owner of the company.
Malta’s police commissioner, Angelo Gafa’, told a news conference in Malta on Wednesday night that investigators had found no evidence of any involvement by politicians in the murder. But he did not address the issue of their possible involvement in a cover-up after the murder.
On the murder itself, he said: “With the evidence we have, we are in a position to say that every person involved, be it mastermind or accomplice, is under arrest or facing charges.”
Swamped by street protests and accusations that he had allowed Malta, the smallest member of the European Union, to become a “mafia state,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in late 2019. But Mr. Muscat has repeatedly denied trying to hamper the murder investigation, despite evidence that his chief of staff tipped off the suspected mastermind, Mr. Fenech, about details of the police’s work and advised him to flee. The former chief of staff has denied trying to protect the prime suspect, an old friend.
The current prime minister, Robert Abela, told a news conference on Thursday that while the prime suspects had all been arrested, the investigation into Ms. Caruana Galizia’s murder would continue. He said that the arrests showed that Malta’s law enforcement system was working well.
Earlier this week the police arrested three professional criminals suspected of involvement in the murder, including the supply of explosives. The journalist was killed by a car bomb that exploded as she drove away from her family home on an isolated country road. Vince Muscat, one of three men accused of planting or detonating the bomb, pleaded guilty to murder this week, reversing his previous not-guilty plea, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Chris Peregin, the founder and head of Lovin’ Malta, an online news portal, who has followed the case closely, said that while the hit men hired to kill Ms. Caruana Galizia had apparently all been identified and arrested the investigation now needed to “go into overdrive” because “there are still so many questions about the possible motive.”