Investigators from the German federal police (BKA) have gained access to two laptops and three hard drives used by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia before her death, Times of Malta can confirm.
In reply to questions by Daphne Project partners Süddeutsche Zeitung, the regional German prosecutor said Ms Caruana Galizia's IT equipment had been handed over by “family representatives”.
The equipment was handed to the German police on April 27.
The laptops have been at the centre of a legal wrangle after one of the murder suspects, Alfred Degiorgio, filed a constitutional application over the family's refusal to grant local investigators access to the equipment.
Mr Degiorgio, along with his brother George and Vince Muscat, stand accused of planting the car bomb which killed the journalist on October 16.
All three men deny the charges.
The murder suspect claimed that his right to a fair trial was being breached by investigators’ failure to obtain the last laptop used by Ms Caruana Galizia.
Maltese investigators were instead given access to a laptop last used by Ms Caruana Galizia in 2015.
The magistrate conducting the Egrant inquiry, Aaron Bugeja, was told by the German prosecutor that they were in possession of the laptops.
Sources explained the German federal police formally informed Dr Bugeja about the development as they had already received a mutual assistance request from him over the Egrant inquiry.
Upon receiving the request last year, the BKA gave Dr Bugeja access to data from the Panama Papers about the three Panama companies acquired by government consultants Nexia BT.
Magistrate Bugeja can now formally ask the BKA for what they described as “back-up copies” of the data from Ms Caruana Galizia's laptops.
The German prosecutor told Süddeutsche Zeitung that it could not rule out that other Maltese authorities file a request for mutual assistance for copies of the data for use in cases unrelated to the Egrant inquiry.
They did not say whether such requests would be acceded to.
This means that copies of the data from Ms Caruana Galizia's IT equipment will not immediately be available to the magistrate leading the inquiry into her death.
The regional prosecutor's office in Wiesbaden said it was not conducting its own investigation into the data on the laptops.
Malta Today reported last week that Anthony Vella, the magistrate conducting the murder inquiry, is being touted for the role of judge. The promotion would mean that another magistrate would have to take over the murder inquiry from Dr Vella.
Government MP Glenn Bedingfield had implied in April that the family was hiding Ms Caruana Galizia's laptop. A day after his statement, banners asking why the laptop was being kept hidden popped up around Malta.
Ms Caruana Galizia's son Matthew said he would rather burn the laptop than hand it over to the Maltese police.
Family members have previously told the Daphne Project that Ms Caruana Galizia would not have wanted her laptop to be given to the local authorities.
Her sister Corinne Vella said: "Daphne would never have wanted her laptop to be given to the authorities. She would always hide her laptop before going out. It was about protecting her sources. And she died protecting her sources. She knew that whatever information the police got hold of would go straight to the same people in government she was investigating."
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