Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Valletta — The son of a murdered Maltese journalist on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of being complicit in his mother’s death, in a grisly killing that sent shockwaves across Europe.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a journalist involved in digesting the Panama Papers, said his mother had been assassinated for doing her job in investigating alleged corruption.

In an emotional post on his Facebook page, the son of whistle-blowing blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia accused Muscat of filling his office with crooks and creating a culture of impunity that had turned Malta into a "mafia island".

The case looks set to increase scrutiny of Malta by its partners in the EU, some of whom have already expressed concern over the island’s light-touch regulation of its banking sector and a controversial investment scheme that gives wealthy individuals access to an EU passport.

The European Commission said on Tuesday that it was horrified by what it termed a likely "targetted attack".

"This is a horrible event, a major thing that needs to be investigated, and clarified, and justice needs to be brought," commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said.

Caruana Galizia, a veteran journalist once described as a "one-woman Wikileaks", used her widely read blog to make a series of detailed allegations of corruption in Muscat’s inner circle, some based on the Panama Papers data leak.

Her killing has triggered an outpouring of grief on the island of 430,000 people, with thousands expected for a second round of commemorations on Tuesday afternoon in the fortress capital Valletta.

She was the fourth person to die in a Malta car bombing in just over a year, though previous attacks were all linked to criminal feuds and did not generate anything like the shock created by Caruana’s death.

"I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it," Matthew Caruana wrote.

"They stared at me. ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do’, one of them said. "I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realised they were right, it was hopeless." Muscat has described the killing as "barbaric" and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice with the help of US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators.

That pledge was dismissed by the victim’s son, who said one of the police officers involved in investigating the murder had celebrated his mother’s death online.

"A culture of impunity has been allowed to flourish by the government in Malta," he wrote.

"It is of little comfort for the prime minister of this country to say that he will ‘not rest’ until the perpetrators are found, when he heads a government that encouraged that same impunity.

"First he filled his office with crooks, then he filled the police with crooks and imbeciles, then he filled the courts with crooks and incompetents," Caruana Galizia wrote.

"If the institutions were already working, there would be no assassination to investigate — and my brothers and I would still have a mother." The judge in charge of investigating the murder stepped aside from the case on Tuesday following objections from the Caruana Galizia family that she was too close to the Labour Party administration.

Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera had been accused of misconduct by the blogger, and had threatened her with libel proceedings.

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death came four months after Muscat won a landslide victory, in elections that were called early after she accused his wife of taking kickbacks from Azerbaijan’s ruling family and hiding the cash in a secret Panama bank account.

The claims, which Muscat denies, were the latest in a string of scandals on the island, based on information leaked from the records of the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The so-called Panama Papers disclosed how wealthy individuals around the world, including a number of politicians, used shell companies based in the Latin American nation and other tax havens to hide cash.

Among those exposed were Keith Schembri, Muscat’s chief of staff, and Konrad Mizzi, a government minister. The premier resisted pressure to dismiss the two men, insisting their accounts were related to their private business and they had done nothing illegal.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a reward of €20,000 to anyone who provided information about the attack leading to the conviction of those responsible.


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