Convicted killer George Degiorgio was allowed out of prison on Friday night to attend a family baptism party, Times of Malta can reveal.
Degiorgio was last year sentenced to 40 years imprisonment after admitting to blowing up journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He and his brother Alfred have since demanded a retrial.
Images from the party obtained by Times of Malta show him smiling and posing for photos with relatives. Attending the party is at least one person suspected to be heavily involved in organised crime.
A representative for Degiorgio insisted that everything “was done legally, with all the necessary requests and authorisation from the authorities”.
The representative said the 59-year-old convict was accompanied by a special escort to keep a watchful eye over him.
When contacted, the prison authorities said Degiorgio was granted court permission to attend a family occasion following two court decrees, despite the objection of the Attorney General.
"The Correctional Services Agency followed its procedures following those decisions."
The courts allowed Degiorgio's release for the baptism ceremony at 5pm, followed by a reception at Giardini Lambrosa in Rabat at 6.30pm.
He was ordered to be returned to prison by 9pm. Prison director Christopher Siegersma signed off on the plan.
Certain concessions allowed
Prisoners are allowed out under supervision in certain circumstances, such as a funeral or notable family event. The concession is also based on good behaviour in prison.
However, access to inmates still facing prosecution - as is the case with Degiorgio - is usually strictly controlled, with a permit needed to even visit them in prison. Pictures from the party indicate he was allowed to freely mingle with other guests.
Apart from the Caruana Galizia murder conviction, Degiorgio was this month found guilty of money laundering, adding another four years to his jail time. He is also accused of being complicit in an ongoing case about the 2015 murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop.
Degiorgio is understood to still be in contact with certain gang members on the outside, via third parties. He was arrested in December 2017 over his involvement in planting and triggering the car bomb used to kill Caruana Galizia in October that same year.
Last year, he confessed to his role in the murder during an interview on a podcast. Describing the murder as “just business”, Degiorgio said had he known who Caruana Galizia was, he would have asked for more money.
“If I knew, I would have gone for €10 million, not €150,000,” he said, in reference to the sum paid to him to murder the journalist.
He later added: “of course, I feel sorry”, in reference to the murder.
In reaction to Degiorgio’s party release, Caruana Galizia’s family said: "It’s outrageous that George Degiorgio, one of Daphne’s cold-blooded killers, was allowed out of prison on Friday to attend a party, mere months after he was sentenced to 40 years in jail.
"Security risks aside, it’s shockingly disrespectful to his victim and aggravates the injustice Daphne has already suffered This man was jailed for murdering a mother, depriving her and our family of our right to family life. The prison director should remember that murder victims and their families have rights too. Malta urgently needs to end the weakness of the prison and criminal justice system. As Daphne’s murder shows, the price for not doing so is paid in blood."
Last month, Prime Minister Robert Abela urged the authorities to be tough on those “who do not respect society”.