Koħħu implicates Chris Cardona in aborted 2015 plot to kill Caruana Galizia

Former minister Chris Cardona says claims are ‘pure evil fiction’ • allegations link him to aborted 2015 plot as well as 2017 plan

Former minister Chris Cardona
Former minister Chris Cardona

The former Labour minister for the economy, Chris Cardona, has been implicated in an aborted 2015 plot to kill journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, by Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’.

Muscat pleaded guilty this week to the assassination of Caruana Galizia, in a plea bargain for 15 years’ imprisonment in which he also gave investigators details about other crimes.

Cardona, who has called the allegation “pure evil fiction” in comments to The Times, was said to have been mentioned by the Degiorgio brothers - who stand accused of executing the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia - as being behind the plot.

The price to kill the journalist was of €150,000, yet no money ever changed hands.

The hearsay evidence is however being treated with caution by investigators, who understand that Muscat was often on the margins of the Degiorgio brothers’ exploits, acting as a driver for Alfred and George.

The plot would have been abandoned after Cardona or his intermediary never put up the cash, according to Muscat, who had also scouted the Bidnija area where Caruana Galizia lived, with George Degiorgio.

Muscat has also claimed that he later dropped off Alfred Degiorgio at the economy ministry in Merchants Street once, and that Degiorgio often claimed he had met Cardona in Valletta.

Cardona has denied the allegations with The Times. “They are also hardly planned by whoever is trying to convince anybody that these lies are true, as Daphne’s fictitious article on the brothel was in January 2017… and so one has to ask: what could have been my motive/and my decision for mandating a heinous crime two years before the publication of that article.”

Cardona denied knowing of any plan to track the journalist’s movements. “How could I help in tracking her movements?” he told the Times, adding that whoever was “sadly trying to rekindle this failed frame-up is against comforted by any facts” but “pure evil fiction.”

There are over 600 references to Cardona in Caruana Galizia’s blog: at the time of the alleged plot, the journalist had taken aim at Cardona over his rent-free stay in a Portomaso apartment owned by Silvan Fenech, a cousin of Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind in the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Cardona was called in for police questioning in November 2019 after Yorgen Fenech name-dropped him to police as being part of the plot to kill Caruana Galizia.

But Fenech then claimed he was followed the lead of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, to frame Cardona. The four-page script was allegedly handed to Fenech in a letter delivered by Fenech family doctor Adrian Vella from Schembri.

The middleman in the assassination, Melvin Theuma, has testified that the Degiorgios’ brother Mario had told him that lawyer David Gatt, a confidant of Cardona who hails from his former law firm, had warned the brothers they would be killed if Cardona’s name is ever mentioned. Gatt has denied these claims.

Bernard Grech reaction

Opposition leader Bernard Grech called the news “shocking”, and called Prime Minister Robert Abela “an extension of the Muscat Cabinet” for attempting to ride on the success of the police investigations. “If the allegations are true they confirm the familiarity of a Labour government and organised crime; and it leaves no doubt as to the part this government has played in the state of affairs we find ourselves in today.”

Grech said the country’s institutions were being led by people close to criminals, and that the Caruana Galizia assassination could only be said to be a closed case once justice is made with all those involved in the crime “and the obstruction of justice and cover-ups”.