Nicola Driscoll-Davies returns from Malta with more chilling details on the financial and legal threats Daphne Caruana Galizia was dealing with in the weeks before her assassination
While still in her 20s, a young wife and mother to three sons, Daphne Caruana Galizia was the first woman to write a political column in Malta. 30 years later, the 53-year-old investigative journalist was murdered in a car bomb outside her home.
At a ceremony in the European Parliament to unveil the renamed Daphne Caruana Galizia press room, Daphne’s husband Peter said: “My wife was killed because she mattered, because the powerful were afraid of her and because the criminals were infuriated by her.
“When all legal means were exhausted and when all threats proved ineffective, there was only one solution left. My wife was executed suddenly, mercilessly and violently a few metres away from the home in which we raised our family.”
He added that he and his sons Matthew, Andrew and Paul were faced with a “new reality” in which “the physical elimination of a dissenting voice is possible and where those responsible have every chance of getting away with it”.
The Last Refuge
“The unfounded libel suit is the last refuge of rogues, knaves and scoundrels” wrote Daphne Caruana Galizia on her influential blog in the weeks before she was killed. In the final year of her life, she was fighting no less than 47 libel suits.
Under Malta’s Press Act (repealed only after Daphne’s death), journalists were particularly vulnerable to libel and defamation suits which could be filed for only €500 with no proof of serious harm. Most of the suits against Daphne came from Labour politicians or donors to the Maltese Labour Party. More than 95% of cases were filed by wealthy and powerful men.
Silvio Debono, a Labour donor, filed 19 libel suits against Daphne for a single story about a government land deal.
A libel suit filed by Maltese Minister Chris Cardona against Daphne for reporting that he and his aide Joe Gerada visited a brothel in Germany while on official EU business, resulted in a garnishee order against her bank accounts. As a result, €46,000 of Daphne’s assets were frozen.
Daphne was on the way to her bank on the afternoon of 16 October 2017 to discuss regaining access to her accounts when she was assassinated by a car bomb. (There is no suggestion these libel suits or any other legal threats had anything to do with her murder.)
Last year, Cardona – who is currently Malta’s Minister for Economy and investment – and his aide dropped the case when the magistrates ordered that phone records which could confirm the men’s whereabouts on that evening in Germany should be preserved. However, Daphne’s €46,000 has yet to be returned to her family.
Passports for Sale
According to her sister, Corinne Vella, Daphne was under mounting legal threats in the months leading up to her murder.
“Daphne was facing over 40 libel actions at the time of her death,” she told Byline Times. “She was under a huge pressure from many directions, for example, Henley & Partners kept threatening and threatening her with actions.”
Interviewed at her home in Malta, Vella explained what her sister had revealed about the “citizen by investment scheme” run by Henley & Partners.
They are not selling Maltese passports. They are selling European Union passports for €650,000.Daphne’s sister Corinne Vella
“The Government implemented the scheme in Malta without any public consultations or official announcements. Malta’s passport sales scheme was not validated by the European Commission and the European Parliament has recently called for its termination.
“When Daphne found out about the scheme and started to report on it, more and more people started to get angrier and angrier. People started objecting and the EU Parliament started asking questions, and there was a huge storm of protest.
“Daphne was angry about this because she said they are not talking about investments, they are talking about passports. They are not selling Maltese passports. They are selling European Union passports for €650,000.”
On 31 May 2017, Daphne reported on her blog:
“As I myself said to you, Mr Kalin, during our sole meeting some weeks ago. The fact that you deal with shady members of the Malta government and may have been exposed to corrupt dealings at an official level here in Malta does not change the fact that Malta is nonetheless a European Union member state and not a dirt-poor and desperate Caribbean island without the rule of law or institutions to safeguard it.”
When approached by Byline Times, Henley & Partners said it did not provide comments on Daphne’s reporting and added: “To be absolutely clear, Henley & Partners only ever issued Ms Caruana Galizia with legal letters of complaint requesting that she remove false and/or defamatory information from her blog posts.”
According to her sister, Daphne was particularly angry about the ‘citizenship’ and ‘investment’ link.
“They are not selling citizenship, this is just about selling passports,” Vella told Byline Times. “You don’t need a passport to invest in Malta, you are welcome to invest without one, end of story. This was the point Daphne was making from the beginning.”
The Investment for Citizenship scheme was introduced in Malta in 2014. A confidentiality agreement between the Maltese Government and Henley & Partners means that the total profits and total number of sales from the scheme remain unavailable to the public.
In February this year the EU Commission passed a motion stating that the scheme should be terminated immediately because it is “impossible to verify whether the sales volume and further terms are in line with Maltese, EU, and international law and security considerations”.
In response to this EU report, Henley & Partners told Byline Times: “When combined with the industry-standard-multiple-tier due diligence procedures exemplified in particular by Malta’s citizenship-by-investment program, the system creates a robust risk management capability, so that the presumed threats mentioned in the report become largely non-existent.”
Government co-ordination with legal moves against Daphne
On 31 May 2017, Daphne published private email communications she alleged she had received from a Government source, which appear to show Henley & Partners’ CEO Christian Kalin co-ordinating with Maltese Government ministers to take legal action against Daphne in London.
The emails from November 2014 appear to show Kalin in detailed discussions with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Tourism Minister Keith Schembri and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, as well as others. Though the Government staff were using private email addresses on a US server to communicate, they included a Government email address by mistake.
The following day, in response to accusations of collusion with Government officials, Kalin sent the following email marked ‘for publication’:
On 2 June 2017, addressing all those who were listed in the private emails, Kalin’s lawyers and media outlets in Malta, Caruana Galizia responded:
She went on to accuse Henley & Partners of working with “corrupt Maltese officials” and “tainting” the reputation of Maltese passports and shoring up “millions in some offshore account”.
Henley & Partners has vehemently denied this accusation, but Corrine Vella believes that her sister was right about collusion between the Maltese Government and the firm.
She said: “When you have a Justice Minister colluding with a corporation to silence a journalist rather than pushing back, I mean, it is actual collusion.
The unfounded libel suit is the last refuge of rogues, knaves and scoundrels.Daphne Caruana Galizia
“And they kept threatening and threatening her with legal actions, and then she eventually got that email – when she saw the collusion with Kalin and the Government, this made her really angry.”
The European Commission report earlier this year stated that Maltese investor citizenship and residence schemes can no longer be endorsed because they “pose serious risks to the fight against money laundering and, in particular, in regards to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.”
Henley & Partners insists its work in Malta and elsewhere was entirely above board. The company also told Byline Times that it agreed that “the time has come to consider a regulatory framework and Henley & Partners fully agrees with the European Commission in that clear recommendations, if not indeed regulation, are needed for investment migration.”