Updated 7.40am with video
A blunt US embassy statement saying that it was not “too late” to resolve the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case had been “misinterpreted” as being negative, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
In a statement issued on the two-year anniversary of Ms Caruana Galizia’s car bomb murder last week, the US embassy had urged the Maltese authorities to take swift action.
“It is not too late for Malta to bring Daphne’s killer to justice in a credible manner,” the statement read, two years after the car bomb killed the journalist.
Asked on Friday if he felt the statement cast doubts over the local investigation’s credibility, Dr Muscat said this conclusion had been reached erroneously by the press.
Describing the statement as “very valid and very sensitive”, Dr Muscat said the government had been in contact with the embassy shortly after the public statement was published to discuss the matter.
“We are very comfortable with our American partners,” he added.
Meanwhile, replying to questions, a government spokesman said the Maltese authorities had been in touch with their American counterparts from the first day after Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder and contacts were “still constant”.
And in reply to separate questions, a US embassy spokesperson said the US authorities “remain in constant contact over this issue, among others, with Maltese government officials”.
The police’s work with FBI investigators had reaped results
The US embassy’s statement had also said that since 2010, Malta had experienced 19 bomb attacks – five fatal – and “too many remained unsolved”.
The attack on Ms Caruana Galizia, however, stood apart because she was an influential journalist.
The embassy had said it was ready to support the Maltese investigation into the Caruana Galizia assassination “if requested by Maltese authorities”.
Agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation were flown in to Malta to assist local police investigators within hours of the October 2017 murder. Sources said their technical expertise proved pivotal in identifying the three men who stand accused of carrying out the car bombing.
Vincent Muscat and Degiorgio brothers Alfred and George were arrested in December 2017.
American investigators used triangulation and other methods to establish exactly how the car bomb was set off and traced the mobile phones involved in the crime.
Since the statement was issued, doubts have been cast over whether the Maltese authorities had refused further assistance from their US counterparts.
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In comments to Times of Malta, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said that if the police needed further expertise to help in the investigation, they would not hold back from asking.
Dr Farrugia said he had also personally assured the police they would receive any resources they needed.
He said from the first day of the investigation, the police had sought help from various investigators, including Europol and the FBI.
Dr Farrugia said the police’s work with FBI investigators had reaped results.
Europol was still actively involved in the investigation and regular meetings were held with the police, Dr Farrugia said.
The Sunday Times of Malta recently reported that a businessman was believed to be among the main suspects behind Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Additional reporting by Claire Caruana and Jacob Borg.