Man pleads guilty to murder of Malta anti-corruption journalist

by Reuters
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 13:55 GMT

VALLETTA, Feb 23 (Reuters) - One of three men accused of the 2017 car bomb murder of Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia pleaded guilty to the killing on Tuesday.

Vince Muscat changed his plea from not guilty during pre-trial compilation of evidence. He has been under arrest since December 2017 when, together with another two men, he was accused of having planned and executed the murder. The other two are sticking to their not-guilty plea.

Caruana Galizia's killing by a car bomb shone a spotlight on corruption in the European Union's smallest nation.

A fourth person, multimillionaire businessman Yorgen Fenech who had high-level political connections, is suspected of having masterminded the crime and has been accused of being an accomplice to murder. He has denied wrongdoing.

The self-confessed middleman in the plot, Melvin Theuma, turned state evidence in 2019 in return for a pardon.

Muscat's request for a similar deal was denied last month, but a legal source said he had been offered a reduced sentence as part of a plea bargain.

No official information about the deal has been given and lawyers agreed on Tuesday that submissions about punishment will take place behind closed doors.

Muscat is not related to Joseph Muscat, the former prime minister who was in office when Caruana Galizia was killed and resigned in December 2019 to "shoulder political responsibility". Fenech was close friends with the former premier's chief of staff Keith Schembri, who has denied any wrongdoing and any knowledge of the murder or its perpetrators. (Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Mark Heinrich)

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