The police insist they need to gather more “rock solid evidence” before interrogating and proceeding against other suspects believed to be closely connected with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
“The police’s target is not just to arrest and interrogate, but to get a sound prosecution and conviction,” a police source said, amid mounting criticism over the length of time it is taking to bring more suspects to justice.
Officials from the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol were recently in Malta to hold discussions with local investigators and are expected back for “updates” in the coming days.
The police are trying to net more suspects connected with the murder, including the people who are suspected to be linked with the commissioning of the devastating car bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia 16 months ago. Three men have since been charged with planting and detonating the bomb which killed the 53-year-old journalist.
Foreign investigators have questioned the reluctance of the Maltese police to proceed against more suspects, believed to be between three and five men.
“We believe there is the basis to move ahead with the arrest and interrogation of certain individuals and we are working with the Maltese police to understand what is holding them back,” said an overseas source close to the investigation.
The source said that the people “who were involved at the commissioning stage” of the murder have been identified but there are different opinions among Maltese investigators as to whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.
The comments echo a report carried in The Sunday Times last November, which reported high-ranking officers leading the murder probe saying the investigation into those behind the car bomb was at a “very advanced stage”, with the main suspects having been identified.
The sources would not give any indication of the identity of these suspects or whether they came from the criminal, business or political world.
But officials close to the Maltese police have painted a complex picture of the investigation, with more evidence required lest the suspects walk away free.
The interrogations need to come at the right time, the sources said, reminding critics that investigators had a 48-hour deadline to press charges before the suspects are let go. At this stage, there are no imminent arrests planned.
While pointing out that the police had the right leads to land more convictions, they advised against undue haste, even if the delay to arraign others is perceived as procrastination in the eyes of the public.
This is a very dangerous business. People’s lives could be at risk
“In this line of business, we could be inadvertently alerting other potential suspects that the police are after them. This is a very dangerous business. People’s lives could be at risk.”
The police are often well informed of the people behind major crimes yet cannot proceed if they lack sufficient proof which could stand up in court.
“We think the arrests will come, but they will come at the right time,” one source said.
Last week, a Council of Europe report on threats to media freedom said that despite three suspects having been detained, there were no “credible indications” that those who commissioned the killing were being investigated.
Most of the investigative work into the murder has been carried out by the Maltese police and the Malta Security Service.
When contacted, a spokesperson for Europol said the EU’s law enforcement agency has supported the Maltese police investigation from the outset.
“We can confirm that Europol staff were deployed in Malta in December 2018 in support of the ongoing investigation. Europol is not in a position to comment further on operational matters which remain the prerogative of the Malta police.”