Luxembourg intelligence firm claimed Azerbaijan behind Caruana Galizia assassination

Private intelligence firm hired by British PR firm Chelgate, whose client included the Maltese government, had prepared report on possible motives for Caruana Galizia assassination.

16 October, 2017: Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed in a car bomb
16 October, 2017: Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed in a car bomb

A private intelligence firm in Luxembourg called Sandstone had suggested that journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination had been a joint Russian-Azerbaijani state-sponsored killing.

Excerpts of the research seen by EUobserver posited that Russian president Vladimir Putin and Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev had conspired to assassinate Caruana Galizia, using a Chechen killer, the newspaper said.

The firm was engaged by a British PR firm, Chelgate, which in turn was engaged by the Maltese government to defend it in a fake news probe by the House of Commons.

Chelgate was tasked to fight claims that the Labour government ever had dealings with Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), a British firm accused of election meddling.

According to the excerpts of the research published by EUObserver, Sandstone suggested that Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev – whose family and oligarchs had accounts in the now-shuttered Pilatus Bank in Malta – “had incontestable connections with Malta’s top officials, including Prime Minister Muskat [sic], and their partners on the island”, a possible reference to the Electrogas project which includes Azeri state oil company Socar as a shareholder.

The firm also suggests that the organiser of the murder was “an experienced professional not connected with public authorities.”

Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew described the content of these excerpts as “just mad”, in comments to EUObserver.

Sandstone’s managing partner Frank Schneider used to be head of operations in the Luxembourg’s intelligence service. But he said he is not aware of this report. “I am not aware of any report prepared by my company which would match the description you have given,” he told EUObserver.

The House of Commons’ culture committee had accused Muscat’s party of SCL, to which Chelgate replied with a letter to British MPs denying statements in the interim report that the Malta Labour Party had had dealings with the SCL group.

Chelgate’s full letter to the House of Commons committee remains confidential. The government is no longer a client of the firm, and Chelgate signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Malta had petitioned the House of Commons committee, saying MPs had listened to “unnamed sources” claiming SCL had given services to Muscat’s Labour.