Sources yesterday said investigators were in possession of telecommunications data that allegedly linked the two men to the car bombing on October 16.
No motive has been established, and it is not yet clear whether the Degiorgios were commissioned to carry out the crime or not.
“The evidence is very solid. It ranges from the days before and after the assassination, as well as the actual day that Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered,” the sources said.
The evidence includes, but is not limited to, triangulation data – information on the exact location and time a phone call was made – including the call that triggered the bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia.
The Degiorgios were among a group of 10 men who were arrested during a nationwide police operation yesterday morning.
Announced during a press conference by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the operation included raids in Marsa, Żebbuġ and Buġibba.
The Marsa operation, at Lighters Wharf, started at around 8am and included members of the police, armed forces and security services, who swooped in at a warehouse in which a criminal gang was known to meet regularly. Helicopters, sniffer dogs and an AFM patrol boat were all spotted at the scene.
George Degiorgio, also known as Iċ-Ċiniz, and his brother Alfred, known as Il-Fulu, both have a criminal history. Alfred’s fingerprints were found on items linked to a robbery from a Group 4 cash van in 2000 and George has been charged in court with possession of unlicensed weapons, drugs and tools investigators believe were meant to be used to pick locks.
Police sources said the two had been linked to a series of criminal investigations in the past, including violent and organised “Mafia-style” crimes.
The Degiorgio brothers were also mentioned in court during the compilation of evidence against David Gatt, a former police inspector who was allegedly linked to the foiled heist of the HSBC Qormi headquarters back in 2010.
During yesterday’s press conference, Dr Muscat thanked the police, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Europol and the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation, who had all assisted the Maltese investigators.
Dr Muscat declined to say whether investigators believed the suspects to be the real masterminds behind Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder, saying he had to be “cautious”.
“I have a clear idea of what they did and who they are but cannot give more details at this time,” he said.
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar was nowhere to be seen during the press briefing and dodged reporters’ questions at a media event at police headquarters in the afternoon.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday evening, Dr Muscat said he had decided to hold the morning’s press conference because such a large-scale operation could not be kept under wraps.
“This would have led to speculation,” he said.
He also said he had signed the mandates allowing the security service to carry out certain operations and felt duty-bound to inform the public.
Family’s reaction to arrests
The Caruana Galizia family said yesterday evening the manner in which the arrests had been communicated to them indicated “serious institutional deficiencies which are cause for general public concern”.
In a statement, the family said the information about the arrests had been communicated by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, not by the police, “who appear to prioritise informing the Prime Minister of developments to the exclusion of the surviving members of the assassination victim’s family.”
“In addition, the Prime Minister appears to view the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination as a marketing exercise for his government and not as a contract killing, which has left surviving family members wondering what happened and how justice can truly be served,” the statement read.
The family also noted that the Prime Minister had said they had “faith” in the inquiring magistrate, on whom he counted to keep family members informed.
The family said it was not the magistrate’s role to act as a liaison officer for the police force, over which he had no oversight.