Car bomb victim was investigated over 2008 Butterfly Bar murder

Romeo Bone, victim of the 2017 car bomb explosion in Msida, had been questioned over murder of Raymond Agius, father of brothers accused of procuring bomb that killed Caruana Galizia

The February 2017 car bomb in Msida
The February 2017 car bomb in Msida

Romeo Bone, the man targeted in the February 2017 car bomb in Msida, had been investigated by police on suspicion of having assassinated Raymond Agius in 2008, the father of Adrian and Robert Agius.

The Agius brothers, known by their family nickname ‘tal-Maksar’, are facing charges of having procured the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017, as well as complicity in the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop in 2015.

Now, one of the Caruana Galizia hitmen who pleaded guilty to murder, Vince Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’, has suggested both the hitmen as well as the alleged procurers of the bomb had discussed the bomb attack on Bone.

In his testimony to the court last week, Muscat described in detail the plot to kill Caruana Galizia: “It was a neat bomb, it had a stainless steel face. It had an apparatus in which the SIM card would be inserted. The bomb came with a mobile phone. It had a switch. You send a particular message to the SIM card on the bomb. Either Jamie [Vella, accused in connection with the Agiuses on the Chircop murder] or Robert [Agius] had told us it would explode seconds later. It had some 500g of explosive. George [Degiorgio,accused in the Caruana Galizia murder] told us, ‘Let’s hope this one’s not like the Bone bomb’. And then one of the Maksar brothers said that bomb had not been placed under the seat but under the key lock. The car door had shielded him.”

This stark testimony in court reveals for the first time ever some form of intimate knowledge on the bomb attack that nearly killed Bone, by both the hardened criminals accused of killing Caruana Galizia and those suspected of procuring the bomb. Romeo Bone was one of four men who had been held by police in connection with their investigations on the hitmen that shot car dealer Raymond Agius, 49, twice in the head at close range at the Butterfly Bar in Birkirkara on 25 April, 2008.

The other three suspects were two Birkirkara men, and another man from Ħaż-Żebbuġ. A police source with knowledge of the investigation said police had suspected the hit was over a series of property deals and disagreements over smuggled goods.The suspects were two assailants wearing crash helmets with visors, who carried out the mafia-style execution, at 9:15am on 25 April, 2008, then fled on a motorcycle.

Agius, a well-known businessman as well as a property dealer, used to call at the bar regularly. Muscat’s reference to Bone in court is the first time linking the Degiorgio-Agius tandem to another car bomb attack. However, the same police source insists that after Bone was targeted by the car bomb in 2017, no suspects had been questioned by police.

Gangland connections

Accused George Degiorgio was already revealed to have had a previous association with businessman John Camilleri, who was killed with a car bomb in St Paul’s Bay in 2016.

Camilleri, known as Giovann ‘tas-Sapuna’, had been chasing Degiorgio in court over a debt of thousands of euros on a property deal since 2011. Camilleri was demanding that Degiorgio pay him back over €52,000 for a St Paul’s Bay apartment he ‘sold’ him back in 1996 – not by legitimate property transfer, but through a verbal agreement.

Romeo Bone, 43, had himself been investigated over the murder of businessman Joseph Baldacchino, shot while parking his car in Valletta in November 2010. The victim’s car licence plate number had been scrawled on a piece of paper found in Bone’s car, but he was never charged.

Apart from the charges brought against the Agiuses on the Carmel Chircop murder, the brothers have also been previously linked to Terence Gialanze, who disappeared in November 2012 just four weeks after disposing of his shares in a company he jointly owned with them.

The Agius brothers, known by the family nickname Tal-Maksar, were among 10 people arrested in a police raid as part of the Caruana Galizia murder investigation in December 2017. They were later released, while three men – George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat – were charged with the murder.

Gialanze’s disappearance remains shrouded in mystery but court documents reveal how the young man left a trail of debt behind him and victims who were sweet-talked into acting as guarantors for loans he took to finance his business and lavish lifestyle. He set up Globe International Enterprises Ltd with the Agius brothers in 2009 to import and export beverages, detergents, cosmetics, toiletries, sanitary ware and food.

On 2 November 2012, Gialanze transferred his shareholding to Imora Holdings Ltd, belonging to Adrian Agius. Imora Holdings held a 20% shareholder in Interaa Holdings, a company that included Cassar & Schembri Marketing as main shareholders (40%). Cassar & Schembri was a company owned by supermarket boss Ryan Schembri, which supplied his now defunct More Supermarkets chain. At one point, Agius was registered as a director of the More Hamrun outlet.