Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning that he has assured a man arrested last Thursday that he will be given a presidential pardon in exchange of information with regard to who is the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. This presidential pardon will be given if the information given stands up in court.
Addressing reporters, Muscat said that the man was arrested in a police raid last Thursday in connection with a money laundering investigation, and had offered to provide information about the assassination, demanding a blanket pardon for all crimes he committed.
Muscat said that he has given his assurance that if the information given sticks in court, this presidential pardon is given.
He said that he took his decision on his own accord and did not seek Cabinet approval.
The man, the PM told reporters, was arrested with others and is suspected to be the middleman in between the alleged killers of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the mastermind.
During interrogation, the man informed the police that he was in possession of information in relation to the murder. Through his laywers, the man requested a presidential pardon for all crimes that he was involved in.
Muscat said that the request was passed on to him, and that he had spoken to the investigators and the Attorney General about the arrested man’s request. He said it was agreed that no blanket immunity could be given unless the information provided could stand up in court as evidence.
He said that the AG and the man’s lawyers negotiated what Muscat said was an “unprecedented agreement” via which he (Muscat) signed a letter giving his assurance that if this man provides all the information necessary – which could be corroborated in court – “I would be recommending a presidential pardon” which is subject on the person’s collaboration on other cases that the person may be involved in.
This person now has the assurance of immunity if the information he provides leads to the prosecution of the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Muscat said.
“I am taking this decision alone”, he said before noting that this will not be a decision which will be discussed or decided in Cabinet. He said that due to other precedents set in the case of presidential pardons, he believed that he should take the decision alone and shoulder the political responsibility of it alone as well.
He appealed to the media to “keep prudence” as the case is not yet closed; he said that the person is currently under strict protection and is still being spoken to by the police.
He said that the government had done what it had to do, and that there is no question of impunity whoever the person or persons behind the case are, but appealed once more to be prudent as an extra word may either prejudice the case or even result in the case not being concluded in a succesful manner.
Muscat noted that he does not think that it will be a matter of months before there is a charge, but that it is not a matter of a couple of days either: “it’s somewhere in between”, he said before expressing his wish that the authorities conclude their case as soon as possible but in such a manner that it is as solid as possible, and possibly even resulting in the closure of other cases which seem to be quite large.
Muscat did admit that he is “not too fond” of presidential pardons, as each time a pardon had been given in Malta, the person’s testimony in court was not believed: “I want to be sure that if we are going to give a pardon, the case has to be very strong. It seems like the case is in fact very strong, and so that is why I am going to be doing it”, he said.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated on 16 October 2017, just over 25 months ago, with three men – Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat – having been charged with her murder. Over the course of the last few months however, the search for the middleman, and in turn the, mastermind behind the assassination has intensified.
In a statement, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said that in this delicate moment, the Nationalist Party said the Maltese State should use all means and procedures at its disposal, including those of exceptional nature, to find out who ordered, financed and executed the assassination of the journalist.
The PN publicly thanked and encouraged the judiciary and investigators involved in the process.