VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — The head of Italy's anti-mafia parliamentary commission called Tuesday for greater cooperation from Malta in the fight against organized crime, which she said has found a "hospitable" home on the Mediterranean island thanks to its shady financial regulations.
Rosy Bindi led an Italian parliamentary visit to Malta this week that was planned before the Oct. 16 car bomb slaying of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose reports on organized crime and suspicious activities of Malta's political leaders made her a leading anti-corruption campaigner.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Bindi urged Malta to use Caruana Galizia's killing as an impetus to reform the laws that allowed organized crime to proliferate.
"The fact that they hit a woman who did investigative journalism is proof that sometimes they're more afraid of a pen than a pistol," Bindi said.
Recalling the popular movement that arose against mob violence in Italy, she said Malta could be at a similar crossroads:
"We believe this is an extraordinary opportunity to come to grips with how dangerous this criminal phenomenon is, where they kill people when they are prevented from doing business and making money," Bindi said.
Police haven't given any clues about the leads they are pursuing in the 53-year-old Caruana Galizia's slaying. Her investigations targeted some of Malta's leading politicians, as well as Maltese links to foreigners as far afield as Azerbaijan.
Bindi said Italian representatives are visiting Malta to encourage greater cooperation from Maltese police and prosecutors in fighting the mafia. She said there was evidence that Italy's major organized crime syndicates — Cosa Nostra, the 'ndrangheta and the the Camorra — had found fertile ground to base operations in Malta.
Bindi cited drug trafficking, petroleum trafficking, immigration and online gambling as sectors where organized crime already had insinuated itself. Online gambling accounts for an estimated one-third of Malta's GDP, she estimated.
"Those who run this sector often base their organizations in Malta, taking advantage of the Maltese fiscal system and the opacity in the registration of businesses," she said.
The Italians met with Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a well-known figure to them from his years of service as a prosecutor in the Vatican's sex crimes office. Bindi said he urged them to be courageous in pressing for greater cooperation in the fight against organized crime, and to not abandon Malta.
"If we join forces to fight the mafia, we're all a bit less alone and a bit stronger," Bindi said.
This story has been corrected to show that Bindi's first name is Rosy.(backslash)