MEPs call for independent investigation into murder of Panama Papers journalist

The assassination of the investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, has brought the rule of law in Malta into sharp focus, with GUE/NGL MEPs urging the Commission to do more to root out tax evasion and to uphold the rule of law across the EU.

On November 14, the European Parliament voted on a resolution condemning the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia, and calling for an independent international investigation into her death.

Irish MEP Matt Carthy was GUE/NGL’s co-author of the resolution, which was signed by the EPP, ECR, ALDE, GUE and Greens groups in the Parliament.

Speaking prior to the vote, Carthy said: “This week we are also voting on a resolution on the rule of law in Malta. I was one of the authors of this resolution, which comes in response to the assassination of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bomb attack last month.

“The resolution, co-signed by several groups which make up a majority of the Parliament, makes a strong condemnation of this assassination, and calls for an independent international investigation into Daphne’s murder.

“The resolution also raises serious questions about some of the systemic problems in Malta regarding freedom of the media and independence of law enforcement bodies and the judiciary.

“We also focus on the fact that the political figures named in the Panama Papers and suspected of possible financial crime by Malta’s financial intelligence unit have not been investigated by the police and remain in government.

“We often criticise countries around the world on human rights issues. But it is vital that fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of the press, are upheld within the EU itself.”

Tributes were paid to the crusading journalist with Patrick Le Hyaric describing Caruana’s murder as an affront to a civilised society: “Caruana was murdered because she denounced many practises which fly in the face of our so-called ‘values’.

“This includes the sale of EU citizenship to the highest bidder; replacing a police chief every other year; corruption and money being laundered from Azerbaijan, for example. If the EU is truly a union of law and order, then such massive infringements of its principles cannot be tolerated.”

“It has to change its instruments to make sure the rule of law is respected. Furthermore, the EU cannot continue to accept tax practises which undermine the basis of our democracy and the fight for tax justice,” argued the French MEP.

Meanwhile, Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou said the issue of criminality and tax evasion don’t just apply to Malta but other parts of the EU, too: “We have rightly focussed on Malta in the debate today but the issue, unfortunately, goes way beyond its borders. “

“We have the involvement of the super-rich at a time when millions of people are living in poverty. And these untaxed trillions which have been lost from our continent could have bolstered the EU’s economies and member states individually.”

“What we need is to focus on particular rules and particular regulations in order to fight and to uproot this horrific system of tax evasion,” he said.

Greece’s Stelios Kouloglou was equally scathing of the EU as a whole in upholding the rule of law: “We don’t have to use Malta as a scapegoat to cover up our collective mistakes.”

“Is Malta the only tax haven in the European Union? No. Is Malta the only country that facilitates tax evasion? No. Is Malta the only country that facilitates money laundering? No. Is Malta the only tax haven in the European Union that does not protect whistleblowers? No.

“All of the above gave rise to corruption, and corruption produces violence and crime. To prevent crimes, we must establish EU legislation against all these practices.

“And until we do, you can all stop these crocodile tears!” Kouloglou told the Commission.

Finally, Ireland’s Luke Ming Flanagan commented: “Daphne Caruana Galizia was a journalist apart, not just because of the quality of her writing, not just because those whom she was exposing for their corruption decided to murder her but because of her courage in an ocean of cowardice.

“But I can also think of many so-called journalists….who aren’t just writing and speaking to defend those named and shamed in the ‘Panama Papers’ and ‘Paradise Papers’ – but in some cases are actually on their payroll, owned and controlled.”