- George Degiorgio confesses to his crime in an interview from prison
- He says that he will join others in the conspiracy plan
- Journalist Daphne Caruana Galicia was murdered in 2017
VALLETTA, July 5 (Reuters) – The man accused of bombing a car bomb that killed a prominent Maltese journalist has confessed to the crime in an interview with Reuters and said others would soon be involved in the plot.
George Degiorgio, speaking from prison in his first comments on the case, said that if he had known more about the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – accused of killing two other journalists in 2017 – then he would have asked for more money to carry out the hit. .
Expressing the money given to him for killing the journalist in euros, he said, “If I had known, I would have gone for 10 million. Not 150 thousand.”
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“It was just business to me. Yes. Business as usual!” I told a Reuters reporter. He later added: “Of course I’m sorry.”
The interview with Degiorgio was carried out during research for the podcast about the case of Caruana Galizia.Who killed Daphne?“
His confession came after Degiorgio’s lawyers tried to obtain a pardon from 2021 in exchange for Degiorgio testifying about his role in the murder of Caruana Galizia and other crimes allegedly involving prominent figures on the island.
On June 22, Malta’s Court of Appeal rejected Degiorgio’s remaining legal challenges to the criminal charges against him and his co-accused brother, Alfred. The decision paves the way for the trial to proceed.
The killing of an investigative journalist and blogger by a car bomb has shocked the whole of Europe. Maltese authorities charged Degiorgio and two other men – his brother Alfred and accomplice Vince Muscat – with killing Caruana Galizia in October 2017 at the behest of an island businessman.
Degiorgio told Reuters he would plead guilty before any jury trial. “I’ll talk to the judge,” he said. He said he would testify about the involvement of others in the murder and the previously unsolved conspiracy to kill the journalist. According to him, his motive was to ask for a reduced sentence for himself and Alfred, and “we will not go alone!”
Until now, both Degiorgio brothers have denied involvement in the murder. Muskat pleaded guilty to murder in 2020 and received a reduced 15-year prison sentence in exchange for testifying about that case and some other crimes.
Jorgen Fenech, one of the island’s richest businessmen, was also charged in November 2019 with instructing Degiorgio and his two accomplices to carry out the hit. Although Fenech has denied the accusation, he has not presented his defense yet. His lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran, said in a statement that Fenex plans to prove in court that he “never wanted, actively sought or sponsored” the killing of Caruana Galizia.
“Mr. Fenech, while strongly protesting his innocence, maintains that with the available evidence, an independent and rigorous investigation could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the real culprits behind the assassination.”
Fenech was identified as the mastermind by taxi driver Melvin Theuma, an alleged middleman who avoided prosecution for his role in the case in exchange for testifying. Teuma said he arranged the murder with the Degiorgio brothers on behalf of Fenech. He testified that Degiorgio never told the gang Fenech’s identity.
In an interview, Degiorgio said he was ready to testify that a senior Maltese political figure tried to organize a hit on Caruana Galizia in a separate plot two years ago. Degiorgio also said that he will offer to testify about the participation of two high-ranking former ministers in the armed robbery.
Reuters is not publishing further details of the allegations at this stage or releasing the names of those accused by Degiorgio, all of whom deny any involvement in any crime.
The Malta Police Force and prosecutors handling the murder case did not respond to official requests for comment on Degiorgio’s remarks.
In a further statement to Reuters through their lawyers, George and Alfred Degiorgio said they were seeking a sentence on their confessions, consistent with the sentence already handed down to Vincent Muscat. We are ready to reveal everything we know about other murders, bombs and organized crime. We are getting pardons. We emphasize that justice should be established for the families of other victims as well.”
Caruana Galicia was killed after making a series of corruption allegations against prominent figures, including ministers in the island’s Labor Party government. His murder raised suspicions that some of the people he was investigating may have been involved in planning his death.
Fenech, accused of ordering the 2017 blockbuster, was first identified in November 2018 in articles by Reuters and the Times of Malta as being linked to Caruana Galicia. The report named him as the owner of a company known as 17 Black, which Caruana Galizia claimed, without providing evidence, was used to bribe politicians. Fenech was also the head of a controversial power plant project in Malta.
George Degiorgio and his gang followed the journalist throughout the summer of 2017, according to prosecution evidence presented to the court in multiple preliminary hearings since 2018. in his car.
That afternoon, while Degiorgio was on a yacht in the island’s Grand Harbour, his brother Alfred, who was watching the house, called to say that Caruana Galizia had gotten into his car and left. Degiorgio then sent a text message from the yacht to the cellphone that detonated the bomb, prosecutors told the court.
After the car exploded, Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew heard the explosion, ran from the family home and discovered his mother’s body. Since then, he has been campaigning for justice for his mother. Asked about Degiorgio’s comments, he told Reuters: “George Degiorgio’s own words show that he is a stone-cold killer who deserves no reprieve.”
George Degiorgio, who was arrested two months after the murder, did not say anything to the police and even refused to give his name during interrogation. He remained silent until he was interviewed by Reuters, and his lawyers spent four years denying that he was involved in the murder. He also raised a number of legal challenges challenging the evidence against him.
But he now wants to take a pre-trial deal with the prosecution in exchange for pleading guilty to the charges and providing new information.
Alfred Degiorgio, like his brother, pleaded not guilty to the murder charges but did not enter a plea. He also filed several motions to have the charges dropped in exchange for his testimony.
George Degiorgio said that before the shooting began, he didn’t know much about Caruana Galizia or his family, including that they were ordinary people, not criminals. “That’s right. Of course! I’ve never met him in his life,” he said.
The Degiorgio brothers have made several bids for official pardons for their crimes since March 2021. The latest filing, filed April 4 by their attorney William Cuschieri, said without naming or specifics that Degiorgios “could testify to the crimes of aggravated robbery and attempted voluntary manslaughter where one of the authors is a minister and the other author. Who is the minister.” According to an official statement, the request was rejected by the Maltese government on April 24 on grounds of national interest and the administration of justice.
Malta’s Prime Minister Robert Abela has previously condemned the Degiorgios’ attempts to gain amnesty, calling them “criminals” seeking to buy their freedom. Cuschieri, the Degiorgios’ lawyer, said the prime minister had violated his rights to a fair trial and that the brothers had “direct knowledge” of a minister’s involvement in a crime without providing details.
MORE PODCAST DETAILS
“Who Killed Daphne?”, written and hosted by Reuters’ Stephen Gray. six-part podcast Following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s fight for justice after the death of her son Matthew, and a project to continue Daphne’s work by a group of journalists. Produced by global podcast studio Wondery, it has been streaming on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other podcast platforms since July 11, or is now available on Wondery+.
((Reporting by Stephen Gray; Additional reporting by Jacob Borg of Malta Times; Editing by Janet McBride))
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