German authorities refused to pass on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s laptops

Egrant inquiry report sheds light on exchange between Maltese magistrates and German prosecutors over Daphne Caruana Galizia’s laptops

Aaron Bugeja (centre) had requested that the German authorities hand over Daphne Caruana Galizia's laptops to the Maltese judicial authorities
Aaron Bugeja (centre) had requested that the German authorities hand over Daphne Caruana Galizia's laptops to the Maltese judicial authorities
Egrant

German authorities refused to pass on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s laptops that were in their possession to Maltese magistrates, according to the Egrant inquiry report.

The revelation emerges from a lengthy email exchange that took place in the weeks leading up to June 2018 between Magistrate Aaron Bugeja and the German prosecutor’s office.

Bugeja headed the Egrant inquiry but was also communicating on behalf of other Maltese magistrates conducting other inquiries, including then magistrate Anthony Vella, who was leading the inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia.

It was in April 2018 that the Daphne Project, a consortium of international journalists, revealed how Caruana Galizia’s work laptops had been deposited in Germany with the federal police that month.

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Until then, the only laptop presented in the Maltese courts during the compilation of evidence against three men accused of murdering the journalist, was an old one that contained outdated information.

It now transpires that after news of the laptops in German hands emerged, Magistrate Bugeja sought to gain access to information held on the devices that could have been relevant to the Egrant inquiry.

However, he also informed the German prosecutor’s office that the laptops would be required as evidence in the murder inquiry conducted by another magistrate. Bugeja said that Maltese law required the evidence to be original and hence requested a transfer of the laptops and hard drives.

Bugeja said this was not a mere formality but a legal requirement.

However, in an email received in June 2018, Bugeja was informed by the German authorities that they were legally barred from transferring the laptops because the devices were not subject to a German investigation.

“The laptops are situated at the Federal Criminal Police Office Wiesbaden on the basis of a voluntary transfer and are not subject of a German Investigation procedure. The local prosecution has no legal basis for a seizure of these laptops as evidence, therefore the local authority cannot freely dispose of them, as there are still rights of the owners of the laptops,” the German prosecutor wrote.

She insisted that the German authorities had “no authority” over the laptops. “It is for this reason that no transfer of laptops or hard drives is considered.”

READ ALSO: Just seven days after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder police asked magistrate to take possession of her laptop

German prosecutors were only willing to provide copies of particular information contained on the laptops on the basis of a mutual assistance request. However, copies extracted by the German counterparts, rather than the use of the original devices could have fallen foul of Maltese law.

The last email referred to in the Egrant inquiry report is one dated July 2018, in which Bugeja informed the German prosecutor that the matter will be pursued further by Magistrate Neville Camilleri, who had by then been appointed as the inquiring magistrate in the Caruana Galizia murder case.

It remains unclear whether after this date the German authorities changed their position and whether the Maltese side continued insisting that the devices be handed over.

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