The government has advised President George Vella against granting a pardon to the three alleged hitmen in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, who requested immunity from prosecution on major crimes in exchange for information.

In a statement, the government said ministers had met to discuss the request by Vincent Muscat, known as is il-Koħħu, and brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, who are accused of planting and detonating the bomb.

Cabinet decided against the pardon after weighing the advice provided by the attorney general and the police commissioner.

"The cabinet's decision is not only based on the advice of the relevant institutions, but is also in the national interest and the interest of justice," it said.

The statement did not make any reference to the details of the pardon requests.

Major crimes

However, last month, the Degiorgios each asked for a presidential pardon over their role in the murder in exchange for testimony one of the brothers claimed will implicate an ex-minister and a "middleman" in Caruana Galizia's murder. 

In the same pardon request, Degiorgio claimed knowledge that could implicate an ex and a current minister for masterminding the botched 2010 HSBC heist.

Vincent Muscat also requested a presidential pardon in March to reveal information on three major crimes.

This request was separate to one he was granted in February for his role in the 2015 gunning down of lawyer Carmel Chircop. That pardon came as part of a deal that saw Muscat agree to provide information on the men who ordered the killing of the well-known lawyer. 

He simultaneously agreed to plead guilty to charges of having formed part of the group of assassins ordered to kill Caruana Galizia in October 2017. He was sentenced to 15 years and has since begun detailing all he knows about the plot to kill Caruana Galizia. 

Minister recusal

On Monday the government said that Minister Carmelo Abela had recused himself from the cabinet meeting discussing the pardon requests.

"In light of the baseless allegations by [PN MP] Jason Azzopardi, and the ensuing libel proceedings, the minister decided to recuse himself. 

"Minister Abela said he took this decision despite lack of statutory - or any other - reason to do so, but only to avoid any doubt over the Cabinet's impartiality or its work."

The minister with the office of the prime minister has denied any involvement in the bank heist attempt, dismissing the claims as "stories, fairytales and inventions". 

Abela was an HSBC manager at the time of the foiled robbery.

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