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Bitcoin Connection to Mafia Malta Hit Job?

Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017. She was digging deep to expose corruption rotting within Malta’s institutions and beginning to penetrate other areas in the European Union. On that fateful day, Galizia got into her car to drive to her bank. The vehicle blew up, killing Galizia, leaving her husband and three children behind. Authorities discovered a bomb had been placed under her seat. In her work as an investigative journalist, Galizia was against many of the economic policies being adopted by parliament. She was especially opposed to the cryptocurrency legislation put forth at the time. Galizia was concerned that the proposed cryptocurrency laws would provide more opportunities for money launderers. The regulations would further enable the escalation of corruption in Malta, an already known for such transgressions. The person or organization behind the assassination of Galizia is still a mystery. A primary suspect is Yorgen Fenech, a notable wealthy businessman. At the time, he was on the board of ElectoGas, Malta’s leading energy supplier. ElectroGas was also on Galizia’s radar as a company, possibly embroiled in a deep well of corruption. Government ministers Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi also drew the attention of law enforcement investigators. The two denied any wrongdoing and resigned their posts. Fenech was arrested, held for 48 hours, and set free without charges. Galizia’s son Paul believes his mother was looking into potential connections between Fenech, the two ministers, and a gas-supply company contract with Azerbaijan at the time of her death. The deal called for Malta to pay close to twice the open market rate for gas provided by Socar, Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil and gas company. Emails discovered in 2018 revealed ElectroGas considered operating a bitcoin mining farm. Discussion details about constructing a bitcoin mining data warehouse at Delimara, Malta’s central power station, and allowances for the Malta grid operator Enemalta to export electricity to the warehouse using their capacity. Galizia was aware of these plans. She once said, “Malta is like a modern-day pirate haven, empowered with technology.” Shortly before the time of her murder, Galiza’s close examination of the Panama Papers, which exposed the rogue offshore finance industry, led her to claim that two of then-Prime Minister Muscat’s assuages established firms to mask money laundering operations and illegally sell passports to Russian nationals. The accusation ultimately led to Muscat’s resignation. Before his resignation, Muscat asked then Malta President George Vella to pardon taxi driver Melvin Theuma. Theuma was accused of working as a go-between three men who were charged with Galizia’s murder. The three alleged accomplices, brothers George and Alfred Degiogio and Vincent Muscat (no relation), and Theuma had pled not guilty to the crime. The pardon was granted giving Theuma immunity from prosecution in Galizia’s murder. In the fall of 2018, Muscat declared Malta to be a blockchain island, the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt blockchain regulations. The government approved three cryptocurrency-related bills purported to establish a stable and regulatory climate. These three bills are known as the Virtual Financial Asset Act, the Innovative Technological Arrangement and Services Act, and the Digital Innovation Authority Act. A year later, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) declared it would “actively monitor” licensed cryptocurrency businesses in Malta to prevent money laundering. However, corruption continued. Malta became a base for several cryptocurrency businesses, including Binance, a leading cryptocurrency exchange company. In January 2020, Binance and another large cryptocurrency exchange company, Huobi, were believed to have laundered about $1.4 billion in illicit Bitcoin. Since Galizia’s death, 45 “The Daphne Project” was launched by journalists representing 18 news organizations within 15 countries. They aim to continue the Galizia’s investigative work to untangle the web of connections between Malta banks, Maltese and Azerbaijani politicians to a broad range of corrupt entities.

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