Malta offers $1.18 million reward to find reporter's killers

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
ISTANBUL
Published 21.10.2017 19:39
Police and forensic experts inspect the wreckage of a car bomb believed to have killed journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia close to her home in Bidnija, Malta, Oct. 16, 2017. (AFP Photo)
Police and forensic experts inspect the wreckage of a car bomb believed to have killed journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia close to her home in Bidnija, Malta, Oct. 16, 2017. (AFP Photo)

The Maltese government said Saturday it is offering an "unprecedented" 1 million euros ($1.2 million) for information leading to the killers of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The controversial journalist and blogger, 53, was killed by a car bomb last Monday in a chilling attack that has jolted the normally-tranquil Mediterranean island.

"The government is fully committed to solving the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and bringing those responsible to justice," a statement read. "This is a case of extraordinary importance and requires extraordinary measures. Justice must be done, whatever the cost."

A few years ago, the Maltese government offered money in a bank heist case, but this was believed to be the first-ever time the government was posting a reward in a murder case.

Top European Union officials have denounced her slaying as an attack on journalistic freedom and insisted that rule of law prevail in the tiny member nation. Malta is widely considered a tax haven and a tempting venue for those looking to launder or hide ill-gotten revenues.

The blast, which blew up the car Caruana Galizia was driving just a few hundred meters (yards) from her home, stunned citizens, who eagerly followed her Running Commentary blog on corruption to see which business, financial or political figures were the latest in her sights.

Her husband and her three sons — including one, Matthew, who is an investigative journalist himself — didn't immediately comment on the government's move Saturday. But earlier in the week, the family said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had asked for their "endorsement" for offering a reward.

Their reply: "This is how he can get it: show political responsibility and resign ... for failing to uphold our fundamental freedoms" to the point where their mother "no longer felt safe walking down the street." They also called on the government to replace the top police commissioner and the attorney general so "then we won't need a million-euro reward and our mother wouldn't have died in vain."

In the last 10 years, there have been 15 Mafia-style bombings or similar attacks in Malta, and many of the crimes have gone unsolved.

Caruana Galizia had dug out Maltese links to the Panama Papers leaks, writing, among other articles, that Muscat's wife had an offshore account that was used to move money from high-level Azerbaijan figures. The Muscats denied having such an account and any wrongdoing.

Several other top officials, including a minister and Muscat's chief-of-staff, had launched libel suits against the slain journalist.

In the statement Saturday, the government also said information could be passed on confidentially to the police, and still be eligible for the reward "as long as this information is corroborated with other independent evidence which would lead to the identification of the person or persons who committed this act."

FBI agents and Dutch forensic experts are helping Malta with the homicide investigation.

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