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Daphne Caruana Galizia, Top Investigative Reporter In Malta, Killed By Car Bomb

Oct 16, 2017
Originally published on October 17, 2017 6:11 am

Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative reporter in Malta who revealed the secrets of the wealthy, powerful and corrupt, was killed by a car bomb on Monday.

Her car exploded as she drove in northern Malta, sending debris into a nearby field, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

Caruana Galizia, 53, ran her own website, where her posts "often drew more readers than the total circulation of Malta's newspapers," Sylvia writes.

Her work targeted many powerful figures, including money-laundering banks, Mafia-linked gambling companies and politicians allegedly receiving covert payments, The Guardian reports.

"Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5m documents leaked from the internal database of the world's fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca," the newspaper writes.

Sylvia reports the government of Malta, a small island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, will be investigating the explosion with international assistance:

"Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who had been singled out by Caruana Galizia, called her death a 'barbaric attack on press freedom.'

"[He] announced that the FBI will fly experts to the island to help local police investigate the killing. Muscat had sued the journalist after she accused him and his wife of involvement in financial scandal.

"Local media reported that two weeks ago, Caruana Galizia had told police she had received threats."

The Associated Press has more on Caruana Galizia's criticisms of Muscat and other political figures:

"One of the topics the veteran reporter examined was what the documents from the 2016 leak said about Malta. She wrote that Muscat's wife, the country's energy minister and the government's chief of staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.

"Muscat and his wife, Michelle, denied they had companies in Panama. ...

"A half-hour before she was killed, she posted to her website an item about a libel claim the prime minister's chief of staff had brought against a former opposition leader over comments the latter made about corruption.

"Caruana Galizia herself had been sued for libel over articles she wrote for her blog. Opposition leader Adrian Delia sued her over a series of stories linking him to a prostitution racket in London. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business."

The journalist's death was swiftly denounced in Malta, the AP writes.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

An investigative journalist who exposed political corruption and organized crime in her native Malta was killed after a bomb exploded in her car on Monday. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Daphne Caruana Galizia had just gotten into her rented car and was on the road in northern Malta when the vehicle exploded, landing in pieces in a nearby field. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, one of the reporter's prime targets, said her death was a barbaric attack on press freedom. Muscat announced that the FBI will fly experts to the island to help local police investigate the killing. The 53-year-old reporter had been described as a one-woman WikiLeaks.

She was known for solid investigative reporting and had no fear to name names and use sarcasm in her popular blog called Running Commentary. Some days, her site got up to 400,000 readers - this on an island that has a population of 420,000. Her last post, one half hour before the explosion, ended with there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate. In recent years, Caruana Galizia had focused on the "Panama Papers," a cache of millions of documents leaked from a large, offshore law firm in the Central American country.

The papers, made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists team, revealed widespread tax evasion and corruption by rich and powerful people in Europe and elsewhere. Malta, a small island, is placed strategically in the middle of the Mediterranean and has a reputation as a haven for money laundering, false residencies and cash for passport schemes. Caruana Galizia had investigated a planned natural gas pipeline that is to run through Europe from Azerbaijan to southern Italy.

She reported that the wife of Prime Minister Muscat, Michelle, the country's energy minister and the government's chief of staff, had offshore holdings in Panama that received large sums from Azerbaijan. The European edition of the news site Politico had recently put Caruana Galizia on a list of 28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe. Two weeks ago, she told police she had received death threats but was not assigned any protection.

The Italian news magazine l'Espresso, which has reported extensively on Malta's alleged corruption links, said Caruana Galizia's murder demonstrates that a well-documented expose is perceived as a danger by the powerful and by organized crime. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.