The Malta Independent 16 December 2017, Saturday

Watch: Three suspects plead not guilty to murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia

Helena Grech Tuesday, 5 December 2017, 17:42 Last update: about 9 days ago

Three men this evening pleaded not guilty to murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia with a car bomb on 16 October.

Vince Muscat, 55, known as 'il-Kohhu', was arraigned along with Alfred Degiorgio, 52, 'il-Fulu' and George Degiorgio, 54, 'ic-Ciniz'.

They were charged with murder, conspiracy, forming part of a criminal gang, using explosives to kill, being in possession of explosives and relapsing. 

All three pleaded not guilty and were remanded in custody. Their financial assets were also frozen by the court, presided by Magistrate Neville Camilleri.

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The three were among a group of 10 men arrested on Monday morning in an operation that involved the police, Armed Forces and secret services. This included a raid at Lighters Wharf in Marsa where, it is believed, the gang discussed and planned the murder. 

The remaining seven men were released on police bail, a statement by the police said this evening.

Dr Benjamin Valenzia was appointed as legal aid for Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat for the arraignment only, and the court will provide them with different legal aid attorneys throughout the proceedings. George Degiorgio will have Benjamin Valenzia as legal aid for the rest of the proceedings.

Photos Baskal Mallia

Valenzia, on behalf of the three accused, contested the validity of the arrest claiming that the warrants were issued 36 hours after the men were apprehended by the police. A police witness confirmed that the warrants were issued tonight. Inspector Keith Arnaud however, said that the accused were informed about the reason for their arrest at 8.15 am Monday, as soon as they were arrested..

Inspector Keith Arnaud said that he was one of the first on scene. He said that the Degiorgos were arrested first and that Muscat was arrested some metres away. He said after they were arrested and the site was cleared, the suspects were made aware of the reason for their arrest.

The court noted that the arrest of the three accused was in line with the law, and the court did not accept the arguments against the validity of the arrest, thus ruling that the arrest was valid.

No request for bail was made at this time. 

Peter Caruana Galizia, husband of the murdered journalist, was in the court room, and so was family friend Petra Caruana Dingli who was visibly upset. Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing as parte civile on behalf of the family. The court room was also filled with police officials in plain clothes wearing blue tags.

All three men charged this evening were previously mentioned in connection with the HSBC heist of 2010. Muscat faced charges of involvement, and of having shot 30 bullets at police. He was out on bail. The Degiorgio brothers were for a time linked with the crime but were never charged.

Muscat (below) himself was later shot while in his car in Msida, accusing Jonathan Pace of Zejtun, known as the owner of the Tyson Butcher shop, of having shot him in 2014. Pace himself was later killed by an automatic rifle in Fgura.

The Degiorgio brothers (below) both have criminal pasts. They were suspects of  the Lm1 million heist on a Group 4 van back in 2001, when Police Commissioner John Rizzo at the time said he had found the brothers and other notorious persons meeting in Siggiewi.

Back in 2005, George Degiorgio was charged with possession of unlicensed weapons, cocaine possession and tools which can be used to open  locks. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges and granted bail by Magistrate Joe Cassar on a personal guarantee of Lm1,000.

Furthermore Alfred Degiorgio along with Darren Debono it-Topo and Vincent Muscat il-Kohhu were acquitted by a magistrate court. They were charged with committing an armed hold-up on the employees of Valhmor Borg Ltd in Marsa. It was said that the three - who wore balaclavas during the hold-up - made off with some Lm18,000 (€41,940) in cash and cheques. However due to lack of evidence from witness the accused were clear.

In her writings journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia never wrote about these two brothers. 

Police statement

The police, in a statement, confirmed that three people were to be arraigned Tuesday evening.

The other persons arrested in Monday's operation, the police statement read, were given police bail as per the relevant laws.

The police statement referred to Monday's operation, "which occurred simultaneously in Marsa, Zebbug, St Paul's Bay, Msida and Mosta". The statement read that the police also went to other sites and conducted extensive searches, finding evidence that will help the police in their case.

The statement also noted FBI and Europol assistance, as well as support by the National Investigations Bureau in Finland. The police statement read that their support was of help in leading to the Maltese police arresting persons who will be arraigned in court.

"Details gathered by the police will be used during the compilation of evidence stage."

CSN statement

Civil Society Network, in a statement, took note of the arraignments and the ongoing judicial process. 

"Following last Sunday's successful demonstration attended by thousands, CSN maintains its demands. CSN is disappointed that the Caruana Galizia family has not been duly informed and concerned by the police commissioner's failure to give comments at this crucial stage."

"CSN hopes for justice to truly be served, including to those who commissioned the murder, not merely the executioners. In the meantime, CSN believes it is crucial that full protection be given to Jonathan Ferris and that the Panama Papers scandal and the FIAU practices continue to be investigated."

 


 

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