Valletta (AFP) – The investigative work of slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been pursued by dozens of colleagues worldwide who this week published a flurry of revelations and delved into the mystery surrounding her murder.
“You can kill the messenger, but not the message,” said French journalist Laurent Richard, who launched the “Forbidden Stories” project three years ago to continue the work of journalists silenced by murder or imprisonment.
The “Daphne Project” is the first fruit of his initiative.
For six months, 45 journalists from 18 media outlets around the world have worked together, secretly pouring through a mass of documents left behind by Caruana Galizia, who was murdered last year by a bomb planted in her car.
Hated and admired in equal measures on the Mediterranean island, the 53-year-old spent much of her life shedding light on the dark-side of Maltese politics, exposing corruption and backdoor dealings of the country’s political and financial elite.
In the years leading up to her death she had gone after the ruling Labour party, virulently attacking Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and more recently also the leader of the opposition.
Her online blog garnered a readership of over 300,000, according to a documentary on French TV channel France 2 about the island of 430,000 inhabitants.
Her attacks, often cutting and personal, earned her many enemies.
– The murder plot –
The investigative work of the Daphne Project, based on thousands of documents and multiple testimonies, sheds light on the extensive police and forensics investigation, which led to the arrest of three men accused of perpetrating the gruesome murder.
Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vincent Muscat, who were reportedly known to police in relation to other crimes, have pleaded not guilty to the killing and remained tight-lipped in custody.
But the project’s research paints a picture of a meticulously planned operation to assassinate the provocative blogger and suggests that the mastermind who ordered her death is still at large.
Their findings allege that the accused monitored the blogger’s home and attached a trigger SIM to the deadly car bomb which was then detonated via text message.
The phone which sent the message was ditched in the ocean and later recovered by police.
The murderous plan culminated in a ferocious explosion on the afternoon of October 16 as Caruana Galizia drove away from her home.
In an interview given to the Daphne Project, Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew recalls how after hearing the explosion he rushed from his home, running barefoot towards the crime scene he found his mother’s burnt out vehicle and parts of her body strewn across the road.
– “Playing with fire” –
On Wednesday, French daily Le Monde, one of Project Daphne collaborators, began to publish details of stories Caruana Galizia had been working on before her death.
One article denounces Malta’s “golden passport” law which allows Maltese citizenship to be purchased for one million euros, providing the buyer has resided on the island for at least one year — a stipulation put in place by the European Commission.
Project Daphne claims that Caruana Galizia’s criticism of the “golden passport” was “largely justified,” saying the condition of one-year residency was not being respected and process was allowing beneficiaries to circumvent international law.
“Beneficial tax laws, sanction avoidance… Malta is playing with fire”, wrote Le Monde.
“Candidates with sensitive profiles have fallen through the cracks. Individuals who have been prosecuted are on the list of passport buyers,” the paper said.
A second article follows the journalist’s suspicions about dubious links between the Azerbaijani regime and the Maltese Government.
In the article, the Daphne Project claimed to have “uncovered a very extensive network” of Maltese front companies owned by two ruling families of Azerbaijan.”