A weak criminal justice system enables murder
24 January 2021
The case outlined below shows how Malta’s weak criminal justice system shores up impunity, making murder possible.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated on 16 October 2017. Three men are accused of being the material executors of the murder. They are now in custody, pending trial. All three have a history of implication in crime with relative impunity. The timeline of proceedings in one particular crime involving one of the three accused, exposed multiple weaknesses in Malta’s criminal justice system.
In August 2017, Alfred Degiorgio was found guilty in a hold up case dating back to 2000 and given a suspended sentence. Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed two months later. In 2018, Degiorgio’s suspended sentence was overturned on appeal. He then filed a Constitutional case claiming his rights had been breached.
In January 2021 the Constitutional Court ruled in Degiorgio’s favour, awarding him €7,000 plus interest in damages. More than three years after Daphne was killed, no one has been convicted of her murder.
26 October 2000
A G4S security van carrying cash is held up as it leaves HSBC bank. The culprits are carrying unlicensed firearms and other types of arms. They make off with Maltese and foreign currency worth Lm 884,200.00 (approximately €2,100,000).
14 November 2000
Alfred Degiorgio is charged, along with Mario Cutajar and Emanuel Formosa, with involvement in the hold up and with a string of related crimes. The multiple charges against Degiorgio include: aggravated theft involving violence, theft of three cars, unlawful detention of third parties, material damages to property, charges involving firearms.
2000-2017: 17 years go by
The case against Alfred Degiorgio and his co-accused is dogged by delays due to the non-availability of a fingerprint expert. The case against Degiorgio hinges on a fingerprint found on a bag containing the stolen money. The expert initially appointed in 2001 renounces the brief. In April 2011, i.e. 10 years later, a replacement expert is appointed. The prosecution now requests fresh fingerprint samples as the original ones are damaged. The fingerprint analysis report is submitted in 2013.
19 October 2016
In parallel proceedings related to the same crime, the Criminal Court finds two co-accused (Joseph Grech and George Briffa) not guilty. The presiding magistrate raises concerns about procedural shortcomings and admissibility of evidence in the case. Grech and Briffa had been arrested and arraigned after their DNA was found on balaclavas found with the stolen cash. However, the court finds that the DNA expert’s report is not admissible as evidence. The court denies an application by the police to keep the compilation of evidence open until Emanuel Formosa (Degiorgio’s co-accused) testifies in the Grech/Briffa case.
1 November 2016
The Attorney General files an appeal in the Grech/Briffa case asking for the judgement to be overturned and for Emanuel Formosa’s testimony to be admitted to the case.
01 June 2017
The Court of Criminal Appeal denies the Attorney General’s request to cancel the sentence against Joseph Grech and George Briffa.
22 August 2017
The Criminal Court finds Alfred Degiorgio guilty. The presiding magistrate sentences him to two years’ imprisonment suspended for four years.
16 October 2017
At 2.58pm, Daphne Caruana Galizia is assassinated as she drives away from her home, using a bomb which had been placed under the seat of her car the previous night.
05 December 2017
Alfred Degiorgio is arraigned along with his brother, George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. All three are charged with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder and related crimes.
14 December 2018
The Court of Criminal Appeal acquits Alfred Degiorgio in the hold up case. The presiding judge finds that there were procedural defects in the case against Degiorgio:
In the original charges, the prosecution had issued the charge of handling stolen property solely against Cutajar. However, when remitting the records back to the court, the Attorney General had attributed this offence to all three co-accused. The court ruled that Degiorgio could never have been found guilty of the offence as he had not been originally prosecuted for it and there had been no compilation of evidence in its regard.
26 July 2019
Alfred Degiorgio files a case against the police in the Constitutional Court. He claims that his right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time has been breached, citing article 9 of the Constitution of Malta and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
18 January 2021
Judge Toni Abela, presiding in the Constitutional Court, rules in Degiorgio’s favour, awarding him €7,000 in damages at 5% interest from 2010 onwards. Judge Abela, during his time as an official of the governing party, which made him a judge, was recorded describing how he led a cover-up of cocaine trafficking at a Party club.