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Journalist Assassinated?

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  • Tip Bones

A famous Journalist darkened the story of Blockchain Island: The parents of the popular murdered journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, and Michael Vella, haunted a protest outside the office of the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat, after his chief of staff, Keith Scembri, was arrested, and questioned, concerning the murder of the slain journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat stated police discovered no grounds to hold Keith Schembri, his former chief of staff in custody. 

Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, the principal advocate of Malta’s “Blockchain Island” narrative, announced he was going to resign in mid-January. The principal cause of this shock resignation is the ongoing investigation into the murder of Maltese investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

Activists would soon storm Malta’s government headquarters to ask for his immediate resignation. European MEP's have accommodated a call for him to resign immediately as well.

For decades, Caruana Galizia declined to give up her dogged journalism, even though she was arrested by the Malta Police Force twice and sued multiple times. At the time of her death, she was facing libel suits. In, a year before her death, she wrote a series of sensitive reports on the links between the Panama Papers and Maltese politicians — accusing Prime Minister Muscat and two of his closest aides of selling Maltese passports, to the government of Azerbaijan. She was described by Politico as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. Many journalists are killed for interjecting political media news of these kinds of ill-advised concerns regarding such sensitive information. 

In October, Caruana Galizia was "assassinated" through the use of a car bomb a block away from her house. This would kick into motion a series of events that would darken the idealism surrounding “Blockchain Island” — and undo some of its most prominent architects.

As public protests started to form, calling for the resignation of Maltese, government officials implicated in the murder, suddenly gained unstoppable momentum.

A True Tale of Horror:

From her grave, Caruana Galizia would cause the resignation of a few prominent ministers of the “Blockchain Island” administration, and ultimately, Prime Minister Muscat himself.

Malta’s rise in the blockchain and cryptocurrency world has come with a combination of savvy legislation, and worthy –net worth branding. 

The island legislature passed a bill creating a framework for distributed ledger technologies. Malta had become famous for hosting blockchain-related events, most notably the Malta Blockchain Summit. Subsequently, this has spurred-up the influences of many additional crypto-celebrities in the media, since then. 

Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, and at many times, the world’s largest by trading volume, publicly announced that it was moving to Malta after Japan’s Financial Services Agency issued a regulatory warning. At the time, Binance founder Zhao Changpeng personally thanked Prime Minister Muscat on Twitter for embracing the company, and declaring Malta’s plan to be “global trailblazers, in the regulation of blockchain-based businesses”.

Probably unbeknownst to him and many others, the uncertain techno-optimism that came with the move would soon be tested by bitter seeds, and which would come to bloom fully in the year to come.

Malta has continuously hidden remnants of political turmoil in its past, with its sleek Mediterranean beauty, and near-pristine financial reputation – a fact that may have driven blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses to the island, despite its short track record with the technology.

The Tal-Barrani clashes one of the most serious flashes involved members of the now governing Labour Party, and the ascendant Nationalist Party coming to blows. It culminated in the drive-by murder of Raymond Caruana, a Nationalist Party activist. 

In Malta’s courts, an accused perpetrator was exposed to be a victim of a Labour Party frame-up. The murder remains unsolved more than thirty years later, a sad prologue to what might nevertheless occur in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s case.

The first ministers to resign due to the ongoing Caruana Galizia investigation were the Tourism Minister, Konrad Mizzi, and the Economy Minister, Chris Cardona, who chose to suspend himself. 

Minister Mizzi was working on a blockchain-enabled repository for tracking carbon emissions. Minister Cardona clarified cryptocurrency regulations in meetings and sought to define what makes Malta a haven for cryptocurrencies. Both were stalwart allies of Prime Minister Muscat, who in front of the United Nations declared cryptocurrency to be “the future of money” and flagged Malta’s determination to become “Blockchain Island”.

Caruana Galizia would comment on that speech in her blog, Running Commentary, saying she was “taken aback”. She would conclude by writing “Malta is set to become the Bitcoin money-laundering capital of this part of the world – and that the preparations are already being made for it. And that whoever has a vested interest in the heightened use of cryptocurrencies, is already funneling money into the Labour Party, and a couple of Panama companies, and calling the shots.”

Her death effectively stymied the political component of that statement: the ruling Labour Party and many cryptocurrency-friendly administration members look to be gone, for now, and it looks doubtful that policy on any front will endure much traction, amid public protests, and political turmoil.

Caruana Galizia’s murder also darkens the story for “Blockchain Island” morally. Can a movement that drives some of its first political roots and schisms from the support of Wikileaks stand by in apathy while a murdered journalist is present in a favored hotspot?

There is much in what Caruana Galizia wrote that cryptocurrency adherents would strongly disagree with. Though she was concerned with Bitcoin as a tool of the rich and powerful to evade tax controls, it might have been pointed out that dissidents and journalists like her have been using the tool when they are faced with state oppression that extends to financial control, from Russia’s Alexei Navalny to Hong Kong Free Press, accepting Bitcoin donations.

Though she was able to do it, it’s an open question of how many people, especially in situations of near-total totalitarianism, extending to financial control, can make meaningful, dissent transacting in the default financial system and currency of their most daunting foe.

There is much in what Malta achieved in giving a platform, message and incentives for innovative businesses to move and experiment with financial systems, that were positive on this front, that helped not just delegate power — but also meaningfully empower underdogs, chip away at the power of encrusted incumbents, many of whom Caruana Galizia would have criticized in her publication. 

It’s essential not to toss the baby out with the bathwater. It is possible, however, that blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses can do much merit, even in a system of favorable laws, and unfavorable men.

Yet, a final parting thought remains. In her last post before her death, Caruana Galizia wrote “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”A rallying cry for the public protests now sweeping Malta. 

Perhaps now is a good time for cryptocurrency adherents, and businesses, to evaluate what crooks they might be aiding.