Panama Papers journalist who accused Maltese govt of graft killed by car bomb

Panama Papers journalist who accused Maltese govt of graft killed by car bomb
Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent Maltese journalist and blogger who made repeated and detailed corruption allegations against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's inner circle, was killed by a car bomb on Monday.

Muscat condemned the killing as a "barbaric" act and ordered security services to devote maximum resources to bringing those responsible to justice. "What happened today is unacceptable on various levels. Today is a black day for our democracy and our freedom of speech," he told reporters.

Daphne, 53, died mid-afternoon, close to her home in Bidnija in the north of the island. The force of the blast reduced her car to pieces and catapulted the journalist's body into a nearby field, witnesses said. She leaves a husband and three sons.

Thousands of people, holding candles and waving placards, poured into the streets in the island's northeast resort town Sliema for a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the reporter.

People left candles, flowers and messages of support at makeshift shrines in the street. "When the people fear their government there is tyranny when the government fears the people there is LIBERTY," read one sign left on the pavement with flowers and candles.

A local television station reported that Daphne had filed a police complaint earlier this month about threats she had received.

"I will not rest until justice is done," said Muscat. "Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way," he added.

In the final entry on her blog, posted within an hour of her death, Daphne reiterated an allegation that Muscat's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was a "crook" who used his government influence to enrich himself.

"There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate," she signed off. Daphne's death comes four months after Muscat's Labour Party won a resounding victory in a general election he called early as a result of scandals to which her allegations were central.

Panama Papers

Muscat, premier since 2013, went to the polls a year early after his wife, Michelle, was accused of being the beneficial owner of a secret Panama bank account. Daphne had alleged the account was used to stash kickbacks from Azerbaijan's ruling family linked to an Azeri bank gaining a licence to operate in Malta.

Muscat called the claims the "biggest lie in Maltese political history," asked a magistrate to investigate and has vowed to quit if any link is established between him and hidden offshore accounts. The premier has not applied that principle to two of his closest allies.

Chief of staff Schembri and government minister Konrad Mizzi were both revealed last year to be owners of undeclared shell companies established through Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Muscat has stood by both of them.
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