An investigative journalist whose stories tied top politicians in Malta to allegations of corruption uncovered by the Panama Papers died in a car bomb Monday afternoon.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed when her car exploded while she was driving near her home in Bidnija.
She had recently accused Malta’s prime minister and two top aides of using offshore companies connected to the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.
Two weeks ago Caruana Galizia reportedly filed a police report alleging she had received death threats.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife have denied using offshore companies and bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan’s ruling family.
The Maltese government said FBI agents were traveling there to assist in the murder investigation.
Caruana Galizia had spent the past year investigating disclosures in the Panama Papers that allegedly showed high-level corruption in Malta.
She reported that the prime minister’s wife received $1 million from Azerbaijan’s ruling family through an anonymous offshore company formed by the Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
Her stories appeared on her influential Running Commentary blog. She had also been a regular columnist for the Malta Independent for two decades.
The Panama Papers are more than eleven million documents from Mossack Fonseca spanning 40 years that identify the real owners of secret offshore companies. The documents were leaked to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and catalogued by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
In May last year, the ICIJ launched a searchable database that used the Panama Papers to index nearly 500,000 offshore companies and the people behind them.
One of Caruana Galizia’s three sons, Matthew, was a member of the ICIJ team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its work on the Panama Papers.
Caruana Galizia is also survived by her husband.
Prime Minister Muscat has been in office since 2013. He won re-election four months ago. He had called an early vote to save his government after Caruana Galizia published her stories about the alleged corruption.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.