Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has a small Renault in which she drives into town for work or family errands. She is an inconvenient journalist, covering stories of international crime hunters who, for one reason or another, stop over in her home islands – the Maltese archipelago. One morning she got into her car, turned the key in the ignition, and a very violent explosion ended her life and was the beginning of the first serious analysis of what Malta has become in the last quarter of a century: no longer just a free port and tax haven, but a land of international crime.
Malta is the smallest country in the European Union, which it joined in 2004: an ancient land, one of those lands of passage that has been a military and commercial port for Arabs, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans and the organisation of the Knights of Malta. Small as it is, Malta is the most densely populated country on the continent, but it is also the one that, traditionally, is richest in otherwise impossible crossovers – between peoples, religions, commercial enterprises, but also criminal gangs and secret services. Paul Caruana, son of the courageous journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (1964-2017), says of this: “Crime in Malta is organised not so much by families or gangs but by politicians and, thanks to the latter’s patronage, by all Maltese” .
But Daphne Caruana, with her death, has become the symbol of another Malta. One that resists and wants to be different. This is why her car – filled with TNT – was blown up on 17 October 2017. They killed her because, in her blog “The Running Commentary”, she denounced in detail, often in the embarrassing silence of the international community, the prevailing corruption in the Republic of Malta. With professionalism and tenacity, for years, on a daily basis, like a drop of water scratching a rock, she exposed the shady dealings of her fellow citizens and, above all, of her politicians. In the aftermath of his murder, thousands of Maltese for the first time found the courage to demonstrate in the streets and their grief, for the first time, went around the world.
Three men, suspected of detonating the bomb, were arrested in December 2017. One of them pleaded guilty and is serving a final sentence of 15 years. The other two are awaiting trial. An intermediary, i.e. the one who, at the behest of the principals, had given the assignment to the trio of killers, is now telling many more facts, has been pardoned and entered an international witness protection programme . Thanks to his stories, the judiciary has moved on, amidst many difficulties.
Transparency International, the NGO that publishes the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), ranks Malta 49th out of 180 countries analysed and has called for the establishment of a single EU investigative structure, more powerful than local power cliques, to fight organised crime and money laundering. In 2021, the EU Commission opened proceedings against Malta because of “Golden Passports”, i.e. the easy granting of citizenship to wealthy people regardless of their criminal record. This is precisely what Caruana Galizia was investigating shortly before her tragic end: an international corruption network, the centre of which would have been the offshore company 17 Black Ltd, registered in the Emirates and operating in Malta.
That is why, when in 2019 the police identified and arrested the likely instigator of the Caruana Galizia murder, no one was surprised that the name was one of Malta’s wealthiest businessmen, Yorgen Fenech, who apparently owns 17 Black . And now one expects not only a trial that sheds light on this tragedy, but also a credible analysis of the thousand rivulets of corruption and criminality connected to it, starting with the Enemalta case.
The fairy tale of the power plant in Montenegro
One of Enemalta’s power plants, which has been losing 30 million euros a year since investigations began into corruption among the company’s management
In December 2021, the Parliament of Montenegro set up a committee of enquiry into the Možura wind farm project on the border with Albania. The wind farm was given to Enemalta, which has been the state-owned company providing electricity and heating in the Maltese archipelago since 1977. Branka Bošnjak, vice-president of the Parliament of Montenegro, explaining the decision to the public, said that “there is important evidence of multi-million dollar corruption related to the project, which will cost over 115 million euros for a 12-year tax-advantaged electricity supply contract”.
Bošnjak speaks of an affair that started in 2015, when the then Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi signed negotiated a contract for the operation and maintenance of the wind farm . The problems started immediately: on 10 December 2015, the wind farm was sold by a Spanish company to a broker, Seychelles-based Cifidex Ltd, for €2.9 million, and Cifidex, two weeks later, sold it to Enemalta for €10.3 million – with a brokerage bonus, paid to 17 Black, of €4.6 million . The 300% increase in Možura’s value is explained by the fact that, as part of the giant Chinese industrial expansion project called Belt and Road (known as the New Silk Road), the wind farm will have a princely partnership contract with Shanghai Electric Power – a contract (called IRED) brokered by Konrad Mizzi .
According to the Reuters news agency, Cidifex would belong to Turab Musayev, executive director of the Swiss subsidiary of Socar, Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company: Musayev and Fenech are already business partners in the consortium that, in 2017, built a new €450 million gas-fired power plant in Malta, with a monopolistic gas price brokerage deal that makes the Republic of Malta lose millions of euros a year . Called upon to explain, Socar denied any involvement in the Možura deal. Despite the controversy, in November 2019 the wind farm was inaugurated: 112 GWh per year, which the Government of Podgorica has committed to buy at a fixed price of 95.99 €/MWh, in addition to providing 115 million in tax incentives for the duration of 12 years . The land on which the wind farm is located, leased until 2035 to the Sino-Maltese cartel IRED International Renewable Energy Development Ltd, is expected to eventually revert to the ownership of the Montenegrin government.
This is a surprising partnership in many ways. Enemalta is not a giant – far from it. It manages the emergency systems of the Delimara power plant (444 MW, started up in 1992) and the connection of several plants to the grid. Its history began on 5 December 1953 with the inauguration of the power station installed in the tunnels dug at the base of the Jesuit Hill in Marsa – a station that was closed in September 1994. The power plants of Floriana (1896-1960), and Corradino (1939-1992) were also operated by Enemalta . The state-owned company built three new plants (one diesel and two coal-fired – Electrogas and BWSC Delimara) which, in 2018 covered three quarters of Malta’s electricity , while a quarter of the electricity needs came from the power line from Marina di Ragusa, in Sicily . Then solar panels arrived, electricity production increased, and since September 2017 Malta has been able to export electricity to Europe .
But this story of apparent success is riddled with scandals, such as that of the Delimara power plant: Mossack y Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the centre of the scandal known as the ‘Panama Papers’, managed both the parent company of the consortium partner Electrogas Gasol plc (via an office in the Seychelles) and on behalf of offshore companies founded by minister Konrad Mizzi and the head of the prime minister’s secretariat, Keith Schembri, in a web of shell companies with an epicentre in Malta . When the scandal became public, the offshore shares were transferred (what a coincidence) to a private consortium consisting of GEM Holdings Malta, Siemens, and Azerbaijan’s Socar . The project is being carried out with bank financing (450 million euros), 80% of which is guaranteed by the Maltese tax authorities.
The fairy tale of the Azeri friends
The skyscraper of the Socar Group headquarters in Baku
It sounds like a fairy tale: it is the story of a contract worth over $1 billion signed by Malta with Azerbaijan’s state oil and gas company, Socar, for the ten-year supply of natural gas liquids to power the island’s power plant. A contract that the Maltese government presented to the public and with little transparency, given that this contract contains a long series of clauses that, since 2015, force the Maltese population to pay electricity bills twice the market rate – a contract negotiated by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri .
The contract was audited by a Maltese company, Nexia BT, whose ownership is indirectly linked to Mossack y Fonseca, which approved regular fees (officially brokerage bonuses) paid by Delimara to the Rotorua Trust, owned by the Panamanian offshore company Hearnville Inc which, in turn, belongs to Konrad Mizzi . One of the three original partners of Electrogas Gasol was the African Gas Development Corporation Ltd (Seychelles), also administered on a trust basis by Mossack y Fonseca, which, of course, constitutes an open conflict of interest. But that’s not all: Mossack y Fonseca has concealed (through a network of offshore companies in Panama) the fact that the family of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev owns a major stake in Socar Trading, which now markets the electricity produced by Delimara.
Between September 2013 and March 2016, Konrad Mizzi travels to China 17 times for further negotiations , apparently in search of possible Chinese partners for Enemalta . Police in vestigations uncover a trace: at the end of 2015 there is a payment of one million dollars, transferred to an account of Pilatus Bank in Valletta, in the name of Torbridge Services Inc (Virgin Islands), founded by Nexia BT, and whose owner is the Chinese entrepreneur Cheng Chen who, according to investigations, is about to buy a stake in Enemalta worth 320 million euros . According to the investigation, Nexia BT was the intermediary of many other contracts and also of the negotiations with the European Union to obtain ecological licences for Enemalta’s power plants. Since 2013, Nexia BT has allegedly pocketed more than one million euros from the Maltese government for this consultancy work, all authorised by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat .
The mysterious tale of Professor Miffed
London, November 2017. From left: Professor Joseph Mifsud, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian lobbyist Prasenjit Kumar Singh
In this tourbillon of corruption, business, people and companies in tax havens, a tale shrouded in mystery could not be missing: that of Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese citizen and collaborator of the Link University in Rome. The professor has friends all over the world, from the Clinton Foundation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the top executives of the Russian secret service. The professor disappears into thin air in October 2017, just as American investigators are looking for him to ask him to explain his involvement in Russiagate – the scandal that speculates that Vladimir Putin illegally helped Donald Trump win the presidential election .
Mifsud has not appeared for weeks, neither in his flat in Rome nor in his room at the Link University campus in Rome and London: Hillary Clinton’s lawyers and the Democratic electoral committee have sued him, his testimony as a ‘postman’ between Trump and Putin is supposed to be of fundamental importance, so it is suspected that he is dead and his body has been hidden. Some say he is in Russia, some say he is being hidden in Italy – former US Justice Secretary William Barr and former US Attorney John Durham, who represent Trump’s interests in Russiagate, have unsuccessfully visited the Italian intelligence services to ask them for verifiable information .
All that is certain is that Joseph Mifsud, before disappearing (31 October 2017), met George Papadopoulos, one of Donald Trump’s campaign managers, on several occasions and allegedly told him about “numerous emails compromising the Democratic presidential candidate for the United States in the possession of the Russians”. Those emails were then leaked by Wikileaks and Trump claimed that Mifsud was an “agent provocateur” in the service of European intelligence services who allegedly slandered him about his dealings with Moscow.
Mifsud’s connections are not surprising. The Link University was founded by Vincenzo Scotti, a former Christian Democrat minister and undersecretary of Foreign Affairs in a Berlusconi government, and is close to the American right and its friends in the Five Star Movement (a Link professor, an expert in military intelligence, Elisabetta Trenta, was Minister of Defence in the Conte government). Vincenzo Scotti justifies himself: “Mifsud was also head of the international office of the University of Malta until 2006, then head of cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, then Rector for some years of the European University Emuni, and also Rector of the University Consortium of Agrigento, to then become a professor and director of the diplomatic academy of London” – a curriculum of all respect that made him an unsuspected.
The professor has never appeared again, although there have been several rumours about his alleged appearances in different corners of the world. Russiagate is now a thing of the past. But its traces remain, because the number of Russian oligarchs who, pursued by the tax authorities and no longer feeling protected by their Panamanian and Cypriot trustees, are landing in Malta in search of a safe haven continues to grow.
Among the prominent names are Arkady Volozh, owner of Yandex, the Russian equivalent of Google; Alexey De Monderik, co-founder of the international computer security company Kaspersky Lab; the gynaecologist Mark Kurtser (one of Putin’s most influential personal friends), partner of Robert Vardanyan in S’Agaro, the real estate group very close to the Kremlin that is expanding throughout the European Union; the Azeri businessman Mushvig Ali Ogly Abdullaev, owner of the SPAR supermarket chain in the Russian Federation; the family of the oil trader Andrey Mikhaylovich Turba, founder of Transneft and now being pursued by the Moscow judiciary; the billionaire Konstantin Vitalievich Khodosovosky, Putin’s sworn enemy; the former intelligence officer Murad Azerovich Efendiev, owner of Netris, a security company operating worldwide; and the oligarch Dmitryi Mazepin, who is on the verge of bankruptcy in Russia and seeking refuge abroad.
Malta after the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia
11 December 2019: Roberta Metsola MEP refuses to shake the hand of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
On 18 January, Roberta Metsola, a Maltese MEP was elected President of the European Parliament: the youngest President, the third woman in the history of the European Union . It is not just any appointment, because Metsola, on 3 December 2019, when meeting the then Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, refused to shake his hand . Today she is the reference point for a new generation of Maltese who, deeply shaken by the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, want radical change. A change that is currently impossible, because money from international illegal activities dominates the weak local economy and, as the murdered journalist’s son recalled, every Maltese person gains in some way from the current situation.
Joseph Muscat was forced to resign in 2019 when the judiciary disclosed the extent of the scandal that Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killers wanted to hide. Having arrested Muzzi, Schembri and Fenech, it was clear to everyone that, if these ministers had earned tens of millions in corruption, their boss could not have been unaware of it – and indeed, shortly after his resignation, Muscat also came under investigation, especially after, in his political capacity, he had ordered a pardon for businessman Melvin Theuma, who later turned out to be a key figure in the plot that led to the attack on the Maltese journalist . In 2019, an international NGO named him the World Man of the Year for Organised Crime .
But the reality is that nothing is changing. Despite the fact that the success of decades of fiscal policy focused on supporting foreign investment has brought several multinational pharmaceutical and electronics companies to the archipelago, which now produce almost half of the gross domestic product and, added to those of commerce, employ two out of three Maltese, people remain convinced that the trust sector is indispensable, even if much of the 14.5% of GDP produced by the financial centre disappears for the most part into the jaws of trustees, politicians and organised crime . For this reason too, it is pointless to expect that any wave of international execration will achieve anything – as Malta’s attitude towards illegal immigrants, an attitude of complete closure, shows.
Malta’s heroes, except for a journalist who has become a world icon, are not knights. Nor are they honourable.
 “Diciotto media internazionali hanno unito le forze per impedire alla morte di Daphne Caruana di spegnere le sue indagini”, https://www-lemonde-fr.translate.goog/idees/article/2018/04/18/projet-daphne-s-unir-pour-traquer-la-verite_5287035_3232.html?_x_tr_sl=en&_x_tr_tl=it&_x_tr_hl=it&_x_tr_pto=sc
 https://ibiworld.eu/2021/01/07/movimento-5-stelle-e-lega-nord-prove-generali-per-uninternazionale-post-fascista/ ; https://ibiworld.eu/2021/01/07/la-philip-morris-va-alla-guerra-alleata-a-suprematisti-populisti-e-sceicchi-arabi/ ; https://ibiworld.eu/2021/05/19/dopo-larticolo-di-aldo-torchiaro-gennaro-vecchione-e-solo-la-punta-delliceberg/