Updated May 1, 11.30am - Added Security Services statement
Malta's security service on Tuesday categorically denied that it had any prior knowledge whatsoever of a plan to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The security service statement came in reaction to claims made by Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi in parliament on Monday, in which he alleged that intelligence services were "rotten to the core" and being used to "protect criminals".
Dr Azzopardi, who is also representing the Caruana Galizia family in proceedings against three men accused of murdering the journalist, had asked how Malta's Security Service had not gotten wind of the murder plot despite having tapped one of the suspects' phones.
He also alleged that a police sergeant had tipped off the three men accused of murdering Ms Caruana Galizia and was then transferred to a different unit without punishment.
Police denied knowing of a mole having tipped the suspects off, said the officer in question had no knowledge of the murder investigation and that "steps taken in his regard" had nothing to do with an alleged leak.
Sergeant was transferred to RIU - Azzopardi
Dr Azzopardi alleged that PS88 Sergeant Aldo Cassar had gotten in touch with the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Cassar and warned them police were onto them.
The three suspects were arrested following a massive police operation which began at a Marsa warehouse at dawn on December 4.
Sergeant Cassar had been part of the Criminal Intelligence Unit, a sensitive post where he was privy to criminal investigations and surveillance, the PN MP alleged.
He claimed that the police commissioner had subsequently gotten wind of the leak, and had subsequently transferred the sergeant to the Rapid Intervention Unit after finding out.
Dr Azzopardi listed three clues which indicated that the murder suspects had been tipped off: they had thrown their mobile phones into the sea, they had no keys on them and one of the suspects had written down his partner's phone number on his arm.
He cited a media report which claimed that one of the investigating officers had told the suspects "How did you know we were coming? Did you smell us coming?"
Police sources told Times of Malta that investigators had suspected that the men had been tipped off, and had confronted at least one of the suspects with that charge while they were being interrogated.
Sergeant Cassar, Dr Azzopardi said, had been implicated in a visa scandal when he acted as a guarantor for Libyans getting Maltese visas in Tripoli. He had also been named by PN newspaper Il-Mument as the police officer who allegedly escorted a Libyan national onto a private jet carrying the Prime Minister.
Security services 'rotten'
The PN MP laid into Malta's security services, asking how it was possible that they had not gotten wind of the murder plot against Ms Caruana Galizia despite monitoring one of the suspects' phones.
"Instead of being used to protect us, the intelligence services are being used to protect criminals. You are rotten to the core!" he thundered.
The claims prompted a reply from Malta's security service, in which it categorically denied "any prior knowledge, whatsoever, of a plan to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia."
In the course of his intervention in parliament, Dr Azzopardi also suggested that Joseph Muscat had called a snap election last year after he discovered that Ms Caruana Galizia had received a cache of leaked Electrogas documents.
Media organisations working on the Daphne Project, including Times of Malta, have reported that documents reveal how Malta's gas deal with Azerbaijan means it is paying much more for gas than the market price.
In a statement issued in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the police force denied that they had any knowledge or information about information having been leaked to the murder suspects.
Informed @azzopardijason allegations in Parliament are lies. One should ask why a lawyer in the #DCG case chose the cover of Parliamentary immunity to reveal things instead of law courts #DaphneProject @FbdnStories @repubblica @guardian @StephenGrey @carlobonini @lemondefr— Kurt Farrugia (@KurtFarrugia) April 30, 2018
. @AzzopardiJason obtains info as lawyer parte civile in #DCG murder case. As lawyer he is assured that none of his claims are true. Then uses his wrong info under Parliament immunity. One should seriously ask why is he intentionally hindering investigations #DaphneProject.— Kurt Farrugia (@KurtFarrugia) May 1, 2018
Police said that they had never received any allegation of a leak in the murder investigation, and had already explained this to Dr Azzopardi, who is representing the Caruana Galizia family parte civile during the three suspects' murder trial.
Sergeant Cassar was "in no way privy" to information about the murder case, the police said, saying that "the steps already taken in his regard" had nothing to do with an alleged leak.
"The Malta Police refutes that there is any evidence to sustain the allegation that the forces were tipped off with the murder before it happened," they said, adding that such allegations were more hinder than help in the case it was building against the three men in court.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Kurt Farrugia, also dismissed Dr Azzopardi's comments as "lies".
“One should ask why a lawyer in the #DCG case chose the cover of Parliamentary immunity to reveal things instead of law courts,” he said.
Live updates from the parliamentary session are below
One of the suspect's phones had been under surveillance since August 2017, he said, asking who would have had any interest in hiding who was behind the assassination.
He poured scorn onto the Secret Service, saying it was amazing that they did not realise that the target of the plotters was the slain journalist.
"The MSS were in a quandary as to what was cooking…poor guys. Our MSS did not know the only high profile target in Bidnija was Daphne Caruana Galizia," he told the House.
"The intelligence services, instead of being used for our security, are being used to protect criminals. You are rotten to the core!"
Dr Azzopardi called for the resignation of the Commissioner of Police, he shouted.
Parliament is now adjourned.
Dr Azzopardi continues to expound his argument. Until June 2013, this sergeant was stationed at Immigration at Airport and after stories about the visa racket started coming out, he was transferred to the Economic Crimes, assisting then Inspector Daniel Zammit.
During this time, the visa racket investigations unearthed many invitation letters which he had issued for Libyans to come to Malta on a visa issued by the Maltese consulate in Tripoli (completely illegal for a Police officer to issue).
And it gets more interesting: in 2016/17 he was transferred to the Criminal Intelligence Unit, a sensitive post where he was privy to criminal investigations and surveillance.
And Aldo Cassar, PS88, called the three suspects to warn them about the raid. And the Police Commissioner called for him - but took no steps, in spite of the various laws he had broken. Instead he was transferred and given the choice of going to a police station or to the Rapid Intervention Unit. Sergeant Cassar chose the latter.
The person who tipped off the subjects - Alfred and George Degiorgio together with Vince Cassar - was a police sergeant... He was in the news in 2012 when he went onto a plane, calling someone off the plane and putting him onto another plane bound for Libya on which the prime minister was travelling - against all protocol.
The revelations from these documents showed that the price being paid for gas was much higher than it needed to be.
This cache of documents is the story that the blogger's son, Matthew, referred to as the "biggest story that his mother had been working on".
He explains that at the time, Dr Muscat was still doing very well in the polls, and there was nothing looming which could have changed that.
He said that it was certainly not the Egrant revelation as this was revealed well after the PL had decided to call the election.
However, the Italian newspaper tied the snap election to a story about Socar, and that Ms Caruana Galizia had received 680,000 documents - leaked from Electrogas - about.
Dr Azzopardi is building up to the revelation in a roundabout way and is now linking it to the snap election last year.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, assassinated on October 16, had revealed in May 2017 that Joseph Muscat planned to call a snap election – and that she had been told this by Chris Kalin of Henley and Partners some weeks before.
Despite denials to the contrary, it now turns out the three suspects standing charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia were tipped off before the December 4 raid which captured them. Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi, who first challenged the government about this, is planning to reveal to Parliament who tipped them off.
He said that there were three clues which showed that they knew that their arrest was imminent: their mobile phones were thrown into the sea, there were no keys on them, and the phone number of the accused's partners was written on his hand.
He was alerted to this by an article written by Carlo Bonini of La Repubblica had written on that day, as part of the Daphne Project, and quoted that the interrogating inspector asked one of the accused: “Who told you we were coming? How did you know we were coming? You smelt us coming?”
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us