Probe Of Journalist's Killing Threatens To Topple Maltese Leadership
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The European Union's smallest member state is in crisis over the unsolved murder of a prominent investigative journalist. Two government ministers on the island of Malta have resigned, and the prime minister's own chief of staff has been arrested. All three deny being involved in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. She died in a car bombing two years ago. Joanna Kakissis dug into the unsolved murder for us last year and has been following the developments. She's on the line with us from Athens.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So tell us a little more about this journalist. Who was she? And how was she viewed in Malta?
KAKISSIS: So Daphne Caruana Galizia was Malta's most prominent journalist. She wrote about fuel smuggling, organized crime, money laundering. She also combed through the leaked law firm records known as the Panama Papers, and she found offshore wealth tied to the inner circle of Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat. So she got a lot of death threats. She got sued a lot. A government minister even froze her bank accounts. And, you know, it all came to a tragic end on October 16, 2017, just outside her village. I remember talking to her son about the day she died. He had heard this huge explosion as she drove away from their house.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)
MATTHEW CARUANA GALIZIA: I knew this was a car bomb straight away. I tried calling my mother on her phone. Obviously, it didn't ring. When I got there, there was just so much destruction and so much fire.
KAKISSIS: And since that day, her family has never stopped talking very publicly and all over the world about her murder. They want to know who was behind it. They want justice. And they blame the government of Prime Minister Muscat for blocking that justice. They say, you know, these people have something to hide.
CHANG: Well, what about the rest of the Maltese public? I mean, do you get the sense that there are a lot of people out there who believe the prime minister is responsible for this murder?
KAKISSIS: Well, you know, it really depends on who you ask. I mean, Malta's a deeply divided place politically. Those who like Joseph Muscat and the center-left Labor Party are utterly devoted to him. But the other half of Malta, they believe the government is corrupt and is covering up the murder of a very brave truth-teller, and they want Muscat to resign. You know, here was the scene yesterday in the capital, Valletta.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Shouting in non-English language).
CHANG: What are they shouting?
KAKISSIS: They're shouting - the protesters are shouting Mafia, Mafia, just as Muscat is leaving his office. They threw eggs and coins at him, and that's after his top aide and two of the government ministers left their jobs.
CHANG: So do these recent resignations - and also the rest of the prime minister's chief of staff - do these events give people the sense that there is evidence tying these men to the murder?
KAKISSIS: You know, that's not clear yet, but what is clear is that the probe into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder is finally widening to include Malta's most powerful people. You know, these are the very people she investigated as a journalist, so that's a lot of pressure on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. But he's not resigning. He denies involvement in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and he says he wants to, quote, "navigate the country through this crisis."
CHANG: That is reporter Joanna Kakissis.
Thank you, Joanna.
KAKISSIS: You're welcome, Ailsa.
CHANG: She joined us via Skype.
(SOUNDBITE OF O LAKE'S "MORNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.