The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Updated (2): Cardona denounces smear campaign aimed to tarnish reputation

Monday, 8 October 2018, 19:24 Last update: about 2 months ago

Economy Minister Chris Cardona and one of the suspects in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Alfred Degiorgio, had attended a small bachelor’s party in Fawwara, according to new revelations by the Daphne Project.

In a report published by La Repubblica, one of the partners in the consortium, it was claimed that the bachelor’s party took place at a secluded villa with swimming pool on 29 June 2017 – four months before Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb.

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Cardona has denied the claims, telling La Repubblica that he has “better things to do than entertaining the curiosities of sensational journalism.”

In a statement issued by the Department of Information, the minister said these “smears are highly damaging and false.”

Earlier this year, the Daphne Project had reported that Cardona had been seen speaking to Alfred Degiorgio in a Siggiewi bar, a few weeks after the murder, in November 2017. Alfred and George Degiorgio, along with Vince Muscat, were arrested and charged with the murder in December 2017.

Cardona had later said that he did not recall meeting Degiorgio at the bar, adding that he knew who the accused were through his profession as a criminal lawyer.

Now, two new witnesses have told Magistrate Camilleri about the June 2017 bachelor’s party, La Repubblica reported. The newspaper said only around 40 men were invited to the party but it is not clear whether Cardona and Degiorgio spoke and, if so, about what.

However this raises questions because it happened a few months before the murder and in light of Cardona’s denials and omissions when questioned about the alleged meeting at the Siggiewi bar, the newspaper says.  

“Why does the minister not tell the truth about his relations with Alfred De Giorgio? What does he have to fear?”

But the Daphne Project report does not stop there. It speaks of new phone data that has recently been made available to Magistrate Neville Camilleri, who is now leading the murder inquiry.

It says that, in October 2016 Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about a car bombing in Malta which had killed a man linked with fuel smuggling. She had given details about the victim’s dealings, mentioning also the owner of a ship, who also has links to alleged fuel smuggling.

The man had later called the journalist to give her his version of events, which Caruana Galizia had faithfully reproduced on her blog. The Daphne Project said it knows the identity of the man and had unsuccessfully tried to track him down.

It said that, once his phone call with Daphne was over, the man had made another two calls: one to Chris Cardona and another to Alfred Degiorgio.

“The reason why the man felt the urgency to call Cardona and Degiorgio soon after speaking with Daphne Caruana GAlizia is not known,” the Daphne Project writes, “but it shows that the relationship between Cardona and one of the men later accused of the murder was somehow structured.”

It also mentions how Cardona had sued Caruana Galizia over her German brothel story, slapping her with a garnishee order, but later decided to close the case after the court obtained his phone data records.

The Daphne Project has also claimed that the Malta Security Service had previously denied Magistrate (now judge) Anthony Vella access to the same information. The inquiry was handed over to Magistrate Camilleri after Vella’s promotion.

“As such he (Vella) could not reconstruct the relationship between Cardona and the suspects.”

“In short, from October 2017 to July this year, only the Maltese Intelligence and Police (both under the direct control of the Government) were able to work on that material.”

“One fact is certain. For at least eight months, from October 2017 to July this year, the investigation has seen magistrates and police work separately on the same affair, in a climate of mutual suspicion, turning off from any politically exposed figure, beginning with the Minister Cardona.”

And, for eight months now, the government had been able to open and close the tap of revelations on the investigation, managing to spin the story, the project claimed.

It also said that it is “equally certain” that the bomb was manufactured inside a garage that was frequented by Robert and Adrian Agius, and Jamie Vella, who had been arrested along with the three main suspects but were later released. These men, the project says, also have links to the underworld and have ties with the traffic between Malta, Sicily and Albania. 

Cardona denial

In a statement, Cardona said that, yet again, “a number of media outlets have published allegations about me which are speculative, and distort the facts, in order to suit a particular narrative they are persistently trying to push.”

He quoted from the Times of Malta report, which says that “according to a source briefed on the magisterial inquiry, there is no evidence to link Dr Cardona to the murder, or any wrongdoing.”

 These smears are highly damaging and false, he said.

 “The media stories published today omit the fact that I have, of my own volition, gone to the Malta Police and given a statement to the chief prosecutor. I have also offered my availability to the authorities to clarify any issues surrounding the allegations made.

 At this point, I must insist that if the media does have any relevant information that may help the investigation, that they pass it immediately on to the authorities rather than leave it for further stage-managed “revelations”. 

The investigation into the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia is one of the largest in Maltese judicial history. It should not be undermined by endless speculation and innuendo by international journalists who are falling into the trap of Maltese partisan politics.

I, therefore, appeal to all journalists to cooperate openly with the police if they have any information that could help lead to justice. I, of course, remain available to the authorities at all times.”

PN demands ministerial statement, public inquiry

Speaking in Parliament, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi called for a ministerial statement.

The PN’s head of delegation at the European Parliament, David Casa, urged the European Commission to push for a public inquiry into the assassination.

In a letter sent to First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmeramans and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, MEP David Casa took note of further ties between Daphne Caruana Galizia’s alleged assassins and a minister in Joseph Muscat’s government being exposed.

David Casa stated: “These developments must be understood in the context of corrupt politicians exposed by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s reporting continuing to hold their posts in government. Both Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, and Konrad Mizzi, the Tourism Minister, continue to hold their posts despite the Panama Papers leak exposing their holdings in offshore companies and their intention to funnel exorbitant cash flows, that could not be legitimately explained, to these companies. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has ruled out a public inquiry, and last month, the Maltese government’s representative at the Council of Europe attempted to withdraw the mandate of Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt as Council of Europe rapporteur monitoring investigations into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination”.  

David Casa stated that the reason behind the resistance to any scrutiny into the Maltese Government’s role in the assassination “is now becoming painfully clear.” He asked the Commission to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in Member States and that no tolerance is shown to possible state complicity in the assassination of journalists.

“An independent public inquiry is vital. The European Commission must insist that it starts immediately”, he said.

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