Updated | ‘No phone call between Darmanin and Cardona’ – Malta Independent report

Newspaper says both Maltese and foreign sources working on the investigation have disputed La Repubblica report claiming fishing boat owner Pierre Darmanin called Chris Cardona shortly after calling Daphne Caruana Galizia

Pierre Darmanin
Pierre Darmanin

The Malta Independent on Sunday has disputed reports published by the Daphne Project in the Italian La Repubblica, claiming there was never any call from the fishing boat owner Pierre Darmanin to minister Chris Cardona.

Earlier this week, La Repubblica reported that telephonic data in the hands of the inquiring magistrate investigating the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October, 2016, included calls made by Darmanin to Caruana Galizia, then to Cardona and soon after to Alfred Degiorgio, one of the murder suspects.

But the newspaper has said both “local and foreign sources close to the investigation” that the alleged telephone calls between Darmanin and Cardona never took place.

“On the other hand, Darmanin really did call brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, two of the three men accused of killing the journalist, shortly after the phone call with the journalist,” the newspaper said.

Economy minister Chris Cardona
Economy minister Chris Cardona

According to La Repubblica, Darmanin had contacted Caruana Galizia after she named him as the owner of the ship MV Silverking in a blog post about fuel smuggling and car bombings: the ship had been impounded by Customs three years prior, and Darmanin had been named in a related investigation into a diesel-smuggling ring. Darmanin was said to have called the journalist, who later reported that he had asked for a rectification.

La Repubblica, citing sources close to the magisterial inquiry led by Neville Camilleri, then said that Darmanin called Chris Cardona and then Alfred Degiorgio straight after,

But The Malta Independent has reported “while the call between Darmanin and the Degiorgios has been confirmed, there is no evidence of a call between Darmanin and Cardona. According to our sources investigators have found regular contacts between Darmanin and the Degiorgios in the logs.”

It said that while it was not excluded that Cardona was contacted at an earlier or later stage on an unknown number, “there is nothing to suggest that Darmanin called the minister shortly after the conversation with Caruana Galizia, as claimed by La Repubblica.”

The Independent also said it was Daphne Caruana Galizia who had called Darmanin, and not the other way round, as Caruana Galizia had written, and the call lasted 411 seconds (around seven minutes). The call was placed on 31 October 2016 at 14.29, according to the phone logs.

He was ostensibly known to Caruana Galizia, given that her husband Peter Caruana Galizia was his lawyer in civil proceedings, at least up to March 2016. La Repubblica made no reference to this fact in their reportage.

Peter Caruana Galizia was Darmanin’s lawyer in a case instituted against him by his former partner, Labour candidate Rachel Tua.

In the blog, Caruana Galizia described the different patterns with which fuel smugglers and drug traffickers were being killed. It was uploaded on the morning when a powerful car bomb killed John Camilleri, known as Giovann tas-Sapun, in Buġibba.

Caruana Galizia linked Darmanin’s fishing vessel to one of the victims of a car bomb earlier that year.

She later included a short clarification by Darmanin that the vessel referred to in the story no longer belonged to him.

Darmanin is evasive

When contacted by MaltaToday on Tuesday afternoon, Darmanin said he was unaware of the news report by La Repubblica.

However, he did confirm that he spoke to Caruana Galizia in October 2016 but was evasive over the alleged phone calls to Cardona and Degiorgio.

Darmanin then cut short the conversation, insisting he had a meeting to attend. He said that he would call back after two hours. He has not.

MaltaToday sent its questions by WhatsApp but has received no replies yet.

Darmanin’s name had also appeared in court proceedings that concerned a certain Martin Cachia from Marsaskala, who was killed in a car bomb in January 2016.

The court records included a letter, signed by Darmanin, and dated 11 December, 2015, asking an unspecified recipient to permit Cachia to travel with him to Egypt. Darmanin was listed as the director of Darmanin Fisheries Limited.

Darmanin had told Caruana Galizia that Cachia had forged his signature.

Smear campaign

Cardona has so far failed to clarify the nature of the relationship he had with Darmanin, insisting the report in La Repubblica is part of a smear campaign.

The newspaper also reported that Cardona and Alfred Degiorgio had been present together for a bachelor’s party held in a villa in Fawwara on 29 June 2017.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Cardona said that no lawyer, especially those who worked in the criminal field like him, could vouch that in social events for which they are invited there are no persons of bad conduct. He said it was "ridiculous" to try and connect him to the Caruana Galizia murder.

The evidence quoted by La Repubblica is circumstantial and does not imply any link between Caruana Galizia’s murder and either Cardona or Darmanin.

The journalist was killed on 16 October 2017 in a car bomb shortly after leaving her house in Bidnija.

Three men were arrested and charged with her murder in December 2017. The case against brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat, is ongoing.

In court, it emerged that Alfred Degiorgio and Muscat had acted as spotters on a hill above Bidnija. Alfred was the one who informed George of Caruana Galizia’s last movements before the bomb was triggered by an SMS.

So far, the mastermind behind the murder has eluded justice.

Chris Cardona statement

In a statement issued Sunday afternoon, Cardona, referring to The Malta Independent article, said it had been made plainly clear that international journalists forming part of the Daphne Project had been “misled on unverified information to believe and report baseless conjecture and outright fabrications”.

“Unfortunately, these join the many intentional and relentless attempts to undermine my reputation and character, so to link me in some way to such a heinous act [Caruana Galizia’s murder],” he said.

“Once again these allegations are proving to be false,” he said, adding that the investigation into the murder should be left to take its course.

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