Vincent Muscat declared himself guilty on Tuesday at a pre-trial hearing in Malta over the killing of anti-corruption journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was promptly jailed for 15 years under a reduced sentence.
Galizia was killed in a car bombing near her home village of Bidnija in October 2017.
Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, also accused of procuring, planting and detonating the bomb, remained silent despite Muscat's plea, "their faces betraying no expression," reported the Times of Malta (TM) newspaper.
Marc Sant, the lawyer for Muscat, also identified by TM as il-Kohhu, told the court his client wanted to register an admission. Asked by the judge Edwina Grima, Muscat replied twice: "Guilty."
Justice Grima said in jailing Muscat for 15 years she took into account that he had collaborated with police.
Vince Muscat has been under arrest since December 2017. The other two accused stuck to non-guilty pleas.
Parallel arrests of trio
Another newspaper on the EU island nation, MaltaToday, reported that three further men, suspected of having supplied the bomb used, were arrested Tuesday in a police operation.
Both newspapers reported that Muscat's guilty plea Tuesday was understood to have resulted from an agreement with prosecutors to provide information in return for the reduced sentence.
MaltaToday speculated that Tuesday's confession "could have a domino effect on other cases."
Widespread protests, EU scrutiny
Another person accused of being an accomplice, businessman Yorgen Fenech, denied wrongdoing.
Muscat is not related to Joseph Muscat, Malta's former prime minister, who was in office when Caruana Galizia was killed.
Caruana Galizia was confronted with lawsuits after she began probing Panama papers leaks in 2013 and eventually uncovered offshore firms allegedly linked to Malta's business and political elite.
Her sister, Corinne Vella, told DW in 2019 that the murder was not just a murder of a person, but "it's about people`s right to know."
The Daphne Foundation, set up in 2019, quoted the family's lawyer as telling the court that it hoped that Tuesday's guilty plea would "begin to lead to full justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia."
ipj/aw (AFP, Reuters)