Anti-mafia squad in Malta, government denies Italian senator claims

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Last Wednesday, a forensic team scoured the fields around the site of the bombing. Investigators are working on a number of theories. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Updated at 11.08am with government’s statement on senator’s claims of exclusion

Italian anti-mafia investigators are assisting in the investigation of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as police explore potential links to international organised crime.

Sources involved in the investigation told The Sunday Times of Malta that organised crime links between Malta, Italy and Libya, among other countries, were being considered among “the main avenues of investigation” into Monday’s car bombing.

Meanwhile, M5S senator Mario Michele Giarrusso, who said on Wednesday he will be in Malta with the squad next week “to shed light” on journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, told Italian media he was requested by the government not to form part of the delegation.

In a statement this morning, the government however denied Mr Giarrusso’s claims and said Malta’s ambassador in Rome had already requested an explanation about this invention.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also asked for an explanation from Italy’s ambassador in Malta.

The government said both confirmed that the Maltese government had never been consulted or expressed itself, formally or informally on any members of the delegation.

The sources told The Sunday Times of Malta: “We have now made contact with international anti-mafia services as part of this inquiry: our belief is that this murder could have ties to the criminal underworld and an international network of illegal activity that Ms Caruana Galizia herself may have been looking into.”

They said a recently exposed international fuel smuggling racket, involving two Maltese men, was “just one” of the leads being looked at by investigators.

The Times of Malta yesterday reported the two men, Darren and Gordon Debono, were allegedly involved in the transportation of fuel being exported illegally from the Zawia Libyan refinery and shipped to Europe via ships bunkered off Malta.

Some 80 million kilograms of fuel oil worth in excess of €30 million are believed to have been sold on the black market through the racket. The sources said it was believed Ms Caruana Galizia may have been looking into the racket. They also said that this was not the first local car bombing that investigators believe could be linked to the smuggling of fuel.

Investigations into a similar deadly explosion in Marsaxlokk in 2014 also led to suspected ties with the smuggling of fuel from Libya to Italy, the sources said.

Investigators said the inquiry into the 2014 murder of fuel company owner Darren Degabriele had led to a shortlist of possible suspects, however even if the smuggling turned out to be a solid lead, they pointed to the difficulty of gathering enough information to lead to an arrest.

“These crimes will leave little to no trail, and the people believed to be involved will have rock solid alibies. These are crimes that are extremely difficult to crack,” one source said.

Lengthy reports have been published by the United Nations in recent years detailing how Maltese companies and vessels were involved in transferring tons of smuggled fuel from Libya to Europe, and the dangerous criminal elements behind them.

Meanwhile, the sources stressed that investigations into the murder were, however, still at an early stage and other plausible theories were being given just as much importance.

One such theory being investigated stems from a vague blog post on the late journalist’s Running Commentary website in March of this year.

In the post, Ms Caruana Galizia said she was working on developing a story about “one shady cigarette man in Cyprus, a few containers of cigarettes that were not where they were supposed to be and cash and bank drafts that moved between Malta and Cyprus around 2008/2009”.

“Again this is something we are investigating as something of interest that could have a link to the car bombing,” the source said, reiterating that the investigation was still at a “very early stage” and a number of similar possibilities were being explored.

Investigators are trawling through thousands of posts uploaded on Ms Caruana Galizia’s popular website since its inception in 2008 in a bid to get a better idea of likely suspects. This includes sifting through the many more thousands of comments left by readers, many of which were written using aliases.

Europol, the EU’s crime-fighting agency, has been roped in to help coordinate efforts between the Maltese police and international organised-crime investigators.

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