The man accused of detonating a car bomb that killed a prominent Maltese journalist confessed to the crime in an interview with a Reuters reporter and says he will soon involve others in the plot to assassinate her.
Speaking from prison in his first comment on the case, George Degiorgio said that if he knew more about Daphne Caruana Galizia – the journalist he and two others are accused of killing in 2017 – then he would have asked for more money to carry out the crime. blow. .
“If I knew, I would have gone for 10 million. Not 150,000,” he said, referring to the sum in euros he said he was paid for killing the reporter.
“For me it was just business. Yes. Business as usual!” she told a Reuters reporter. She later added: “Of course I’m sorry.”
The interview with Degiorgio was conducted during the search for a podcast on the Caruana Galizia case, entitled “Who killed Dafne?”
His admission came after several attempts by Degiorgio’s lawyers from 2021 to obtain pardon in exchange for testimony on Degiorgio’s role in the murder of Caruana Galizia and other alleged crimes involving prominent figures on the island.
On June 22, the Malta Court of Appeal dismissed Degiorgio’s remaining legal appeals to the murder charges against him and his brother Alfred, who is co-defendant. The sentence opens the way for the trial.
The car bomb murder of the investigative journalist and blogger caused shocks across Europe. Maltese authorities accused Degiorgio and two other men – his brother Alfred and a collaborator, Vince Muscat – of killing Caruana Galizia in October 2017 at the behest of a prominent businessman on the island.
Degiorgio told Reuters he would plead guilty before any jury trial. “I’ll talk to the magistrate,” he said. He indicated that he would provide testimony to involve others in the murder and an earlier unrealized plot to kill the reporter.
His motive, he said, was to seek a reduction in his sentence for himself and Alfred and to make sure “we won’t go down alone!”
So far, both Degiorgio brothers had denied involvement in the murder. Muscat pleaded guilty to the murder charges in 2020 and was sentenced to a reduced prison sentence of 15 years in exchange for witnessing this case and other crimes. William Cuschieri, Alfred and George Degiorgio’s attorney, did not respond to requests for comment from either brother.
One of the island’s wealthiest businessmen, Yorgen Fenech, was also accused in November 2019 of hiring Degiorgio and his two accomplices to carry out the heist.
Fenech has denied the accusation but has not yet presented his defense.
In a statement, his lawyer, Gianluca Caruana Curran, said Fenech intended to try in court “he never wanted, actively sought or sponsored” the murder of Caruana Galizia.
“While vigorously protesting his innocence, Mr. Fenech argues that with the available evidence, independent and serious investigations are capable of leading to the arrest and subpoena of the real perpetrators of the murder.”
Fenech was identified as the mastermind by an alleged middleman, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, who escaped prosecution for his role in the case in exchange for testimony. Theuma said he organized the murder with the Degiorgio brothers on behalf of Fenech.
He testified that he never told the identity of Degiorgio Fenech’s gang.
In the interview, Degiorgio said he was willing to testify that two years earlier a prominent Maltese political figure had tried to organize a coup on Caruana Galizia in a separate plot.
Degiorgio also said he will offer to testify about the involvement of two elderly former ministers in an armed robbery.
Reuters is not publishing further details of these allegations or naming the people accused by Degiorgio, all of whom deny any involvement in any crime.
The Malta police force and prosecutors dealing with the murder case did not respond to requests for official comment on Degiorgio’s remarks.
William Cuschieri, Alfred and George Degiorgio’s attorney, did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Caruana Galizia was killed after making a series of corruption charges against prominent figures, including government ministers of the island’s Labor Party.
His murder raised suspicions that some of the people he was investigating may have been involved in the plot of his death.
Fenech, accused of ordering the 2017 hit, was first identified in connection with Caruana Galizia in the November 2018 articles by Reuters and Times of Malta.
The report named him the owner of a company known as 17 Black that Caruana Galizia claimed, without citing evidence, was used to bribe politicians. Fenech was also in charge of a controversial power plant project in Malta.
According to the prosecution evidence presented in court in multiple preliminary hearings since 2018, George Degiorgio and his gang had tracked the reporter throughout the summer of 2017. In the early hours of October 16, 2017, according to prosecutors, the gang allegedly placed a bomb under a seat in his car.
That afternoon, Degiorgio was allegedly on a yacht in the island’s Grand Harbor when his brother Alfred, who was guarding the house, called to say that Caruana Galizia had got into her car and left. Degiorgio then sent a text message from the yacht to a mobile device that detonated the bomb, prosecutors told the court.
After the car exploded, Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew heard the explosion, escaped from the family home and discovered his mother’s body. He has since campaigned for justice for his mother.
Asked about Degiorgio’s comments, he told Reuters: “George Degiorgio’s own words show that he is a ruthless killer who deserves no respite.”
Arrested two months after the murder, George Degiorgio said nothing to the police, even refusing to say his name during interrogation. Until the Reuters interview, he had remained silent and his attorneys spent four years denying that he was involved in the murder. He also filed a series of legal appeals contesting the evidence against him.
But now he is seeking a settlement with the prosecution, prior to trial, in exchange for admitting the allegations and providing the new information.
Alfred Degiorgio, like his brother, pleaded not guilty to murder but did not present his case. He too has filed several pardons on the charges in exchange for testifying what he knows.
George Degiorgio said that before accepting the successful job, he didn’t know much about Caruana Galizia or her family, including the fact that they were normal people, not criminals. “That’s it. Sure! I’ve never met her in her life,” he said.
Since March 2021, the Degiorgio brothers have made several offers to obtain official pardon for their crimes. The last, filed on April 4 by their lawyer, William Cuschieri, stated, without providing names or details, that the Degiorgios could testify “Crimes of attempted violent robbery and attempted voluntary murder in which one of the perpetrators was a minister and another author who is a minister “.
The request was rejected by the government of Malta on April 24, citing national interest and the administration of justice, according to an official statement.
Malta’s Prime Minister, Robert Abela, had previously condemned the Degiorgio’s attempts to obtain pardons, calling them “criminals” seeking to buy their freedom. Cuschieri, the Degiorgios’ lawyer, responded by saying that the prime minister was violating their rights to a fair trial and, without giving details, said the brothers had “direct information” about a minister’s involvement in a crime.