(CN) – The mystery of who was behind the murder of a Maltese anti-corruption journalist may be closer to being solved after a suspected middleman in her killing was arrested last week.
On Tuesday, the Maltese government said a man was arrested Thursday who investigators believe acted as a middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The suspect was not identified.
Caruana Galizia. 53, was killed by a car bomb on Oct. 16, 2017, outside her home in Malta, a small island nation and European Union member that is also considered a tax haven. She was known for her investigations into corruption among the island’s political and business elite.
Prior to her death, she reported on links between Malta and the so-called Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents revealed how rich and powerful people used tax havens to hide their wealth.
In Malta, Caruana Galizia reported that the wife of Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, his energy minister and chief of staff held companies in Panama.
An inquiry cleared Muscat and his wife of any wrongdoing. The prime minister has a libel suit against Caruana Galizia’s heirs over allegations she made.
Three men – brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat – have been charged with triggering the car bomb that killed her. Vince Muscat has no relation to the prime minister. All three men are awaiting trial and they have not shed light on who commissioned the killing.
Muscat announced the arrest of the suspected middleman on Tuesday on the steps of the Auberge de Castille, where the prime minister’s offices are in Valletta, the capital of Malta.
He said he was ready to offer the suspected middleman a presidential pardon if enough evidence was revealed to lead to an indictment of the mastermind behind the journalist’s killing.
Muscat said a police operation involving Europol made arrests in a money laundering case and that one of those arrested is believed to have been involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder, according to Maltese media.
The prime minister said the suspect’s lawyer proposed a pardon in exchange for information about the killing of Caruana Galizia.
Last month, in connection with the second anniversary of her death, Pieter Omtzigt, a special rapporteur for the Council of Europe, a leading human rights and judicial organization, strongly criticized Malta for lack of progress in the case and failings in the investigation. He claimed that authorities may have turned down evidence about who may have commissioned the killing.
Last week, following Omtzigt’s visit to Malta, the Maltese government announced it was opening a public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s death.
Media advocacy groups welcomed the government’s move. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based advocacy group, said in a statement that it was “dismayed by the repeated delays and obstructionism of the Maltese government in establishing a public inquiry.”
The group said the investigation “must proceed without further delay and with full resources to ensure that the whole truth” about Caruana Galizia’s murder comes out.
Reporters Without Borders said the inquiry will look “into whether the authorities could and should have saved her life, knowing that she had reported many threats and acts of intimidation.”
The group criticized the Maltese government for threatening to take legal action against other journalists who have reported on Caruana Galizia’s death and written a book about the case.
It said an “air of impunity” still hangs over her death and criticized Malta for allowing flowers, candles and photographs laid in tribute to Caruana Galizia at a monument in Valletta to be regularly removed by government workers.
Reporters Without Borders said that was “a clear signal that those in power do not accept responsibility for ensuring her safety or punishing those who commissioned the murder.”
On Sunday, the prime minister, said during a speech that he wanted the whole truth to come out about Caruana Galizia’s murder. The case has undermined trust in his premiership and in his Labour Party.
“As a party, we need to establish ourselves as the movement that safeguards institutions. We need to be there to show, and facts will continue to show, that institutions in our country are working,” Muscat said, according to the Times of Malta newspaper.
The newspaper said the prime minister promised not to allow anyone “to act with impunity.”
(Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.)