On May 1, 2017, Joseph Muscat spoke angrily on the steps of his office at a Labour Party gathering. He had been a victim, he said, of “the greatest lie in Malta’s political history”. The matter could only be settled with an early general election. It had been an eventful first term in office.
Early in 2016, Daphne Caruana Galizia said Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi had set up companies in Panama folded in trusts in New Zealand just after coming to office in 2013. They denied it. The story would be confirmed by the Panama Papers. Later, we’d learn that two Dubai companies – Macbridge and 17 Black – undertook to pay $2 million a year into Schembri ‘s and Mizzi’s companies.
Those documents would also show Schembri had a backdoor business relationship with Adrian Hillman when the latter was managing director of the company that owns this newspaper and Schembri owned the company that sold this newspaper its new printing press. Daphne documented that illicit relationship. They denied wrongdoing.
A common thread through all this was Brian Tonna and his firm, Nexia BT. Daphne showed how Tonna organised offshore arrangements for one Cheng Chen from Accenture who advised Shanghai Electric when they purchased a chunk of Enemalta. Mizzi had been the minister who sold it to them. They denied wrongdoing.
In 2017, Daphne revealed Christian Kälin, from Henley & Partners, conspired with Muscat to sue her in the UK for exposing the sale of Maltese passports to crooks and money-launderers.
That year, she had reported H & P sold a St Kitts passport to Sayed Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, who used it to hide his Iranian identity to acquire a licence to set up a European bank in Malta. That was Pilatus Bank. Daphne reported the bank was used by corrupt tyrants for money-laundering purposes.
Ali Sadr denied wrongdoing and sued Daphne in Arizona, USA, for $40 million.
By this time, Daphne had been reporting on John Dalli’s shenanigans for many years. At 3pm on October 16, 2012, the European Commission announced he had been fired on suspicion of corruption. Dalli blamed his humiliation on Daphne’s “poison pen”, denying any wrongdoing. When Muscat came to office in 2013, Dalli returned in glory and was made adviser to the government on health matters.
Perhaps thanks to his advice, the government privatised three public hospitals, selling them to a shady outfit which Daphne alleged was an obscure front for corruption. Chris Cardona, then investments minister, signed a deal with the hospital buyers before the government made a call to check if anyone else would do it.
Cardona had been a subject of Daphne’s reporting for many years as well. In 2017, she reported he had been spotted, hopefully with a towel around his waist, walking into a room in a brothel with his assistant and a woman they had just met. He was supposed to be at a work conference. He denied and sued her four times over, freezing her bank accounts in the process.
Daphne was right, on the hospitals, the passport sales, Dalli’s games and corruption in energy- Manuel Delia
In the midst of all that noise, Daphne named 17 Black in a teaser post raising the curtain on her investigation into the energy deal sealed by Mizzi and Schembri with Electrogas, a consortium led by Yorgen Fenech, brokered by Tonna.
If that weren’t enough, Ali Sadr was caught rushing out of his bank in the dead of night hours after Daphne said his bank held evidence that illegal payments from Azerbaijan were made to a Panama company in the name of Michelle Muscat. That was described by Joseph Muscat as “the greatest lie” and an early election was called that Labour won resoundingly.
A few months later, Daphne was killed.
In December 2017, the new owners of the hospital said they had run out of cash. The government allowed them to sell on the hospitals and make a handsome profit from flipping the deal. The money they were paid to upgrade the hospital went down the drain.
In February 2018, Ali Sadr was arrested in the US and charged with bank fraud.
He was convicted by a jury but eventually let go on a technicality. His Pilatus Bank was shut down and has since been charged with money laundering.
In May 2018, Cardona gave up on the libel suit about his brothel visit. Did he fear losing it?
In April 2021, the Passport Papers documented systemic fraud in the process of awarding passports to buyers, documenting government complicity in breaches of the laws they had written.
In January 2018, Dalli’s daughters were charged with fraud and money laundering for a scheme their father ran while European commissioner. This November, Dalli himself is being charged with corruption in office.
In March 2021, we discovered the identity of the owner of Macbridge: Cheng Chen from the Shanghai Electric swindle. At the same time, the police charged Schembri and Hillman for the Allied Newspapers imbroglio.
In November 2018, the owner of 17 Black was identified. It was Fenech, who owned a company that promised to pay money to Schembri and Mizzi and also owned another company they awarded the Electrogas contract to. A year later, Fenech was charged with Daphne’s murder. He denies it.
In July 2018, Muscat tearfully proclaimed himself vindicated by an inquiry that found no evidence he owned Egrant. But questions remain and, as the witnesses the inquiry relied upon to dismiss the claim – in particular, Tonna – get charged in separate cases of fraud, new questions arise.
Daphne was right, on the hospitals, the passport sales, Dalli’s games and corruption in energy.
Yet, none of those she had exposed has yet faced any consequence.
She deserves justice.
On Saturday, October 16, at 7pm, join the vigil in Valletta demanding just that.
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