One year ago this month, the best-known and most feared journalist in Malta, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated by a car bomb as she left her house on the tiny Mediterranean island. Her violent murder, still unsolved, might have stayed the stuff of local news. But on Malta, local news turns out to be global.
Caruana Galizia’s murder has always been a test for Malta and for Europe, one that neither has yet passed. The year since her death may have shown the failure—or at least the resistance—of institutions to solve the crime, reining in corruption, upholding the rule of law, and protecting journalists. But it has also served as a triumph of investigative journalism.
Before her death, Caruana Galizia had been pulling at the threads that connected the powers-that-be on the island—a member of the European Union that has adopted the euro—to all manner of international operations. She feared that her native island had become a money-laundering hub, one that threatened the stability and integrity of Europe itself. The last sentence she wrote on her pithy blog, Running Commentary, was “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
Dubbed by Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks,” Caruana Galizia took to her blog to report, among other things, on allegations of abuse in Malta’s program of selling “golden passports” to wealthy foreign investors—most of them Russian—which give the holders access to visa-free travel within Europe and the use of European banks. The program is highly lucrative for the country, and Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, travels the world promoting it. She also reported allegations that Muscat’s wife and two of his advisers were tied to accounts in a Maltese bank whose major client was the first family of Azerbaijan. All have denied any wrongdoing; Caruana Galizia’s reporting on the bank spurred Muscat to call a snap election in June 2017, which he won.