A prominent Maltese businessman was arrested on Wednesday, in a potential turning point for the criminal investigation into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Galizia was killed by a car bomb on Oct. 17, 2017, after running a blog that accused top Maltese politicians, including Labour Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat and his close advisers, of major corruption.
Businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested at sea shortly after he tried to leave Malta on board his luxury yacht.
Video footage uploaded by several Maltese media outlets showed Armed Forces of Malta soldiers inspecting the docked vessel at Portomaso, a luxury yacht marina owned by the Fenech family.
Speaking shortly after the arrest, Muscat told reporters that Fenech was a person of interest in the Caruana Galizia murder case, but said he could not elaborate futher.
He insisted that at this point, there was nothing pointing towards his chief of staff Keith Schembri or current tourism minister and erstwhile energy minister Konrad Mizzi of being involved in the Caruana Galizia case.
Wednesday’s arrest came just a day after Muscat revealed he had recommended a pardon for a suspected middleman in the murder if he provided legally binding evidence on who was behind the killing.
Fenech is a director of a consortium that won a tender in 2013 from the Maltese government to build a gas power station.
In 2018, he was also revealed as the owner of a secret offshore company called 17 Black, which allegedly made secret payments to Schembri and Mizzi.
Both Mizzi and Schembri have denied taking any money from 17 Black via secret offshore companies.
Suspicions arose after their names came up in the Panama Papers, a massive set of documents leaked in 2016 that exposed the dealings of shell companies.
Caruana Galizia had written about the affair months before she was assassinated.
“There’s no one left for whom it is not clear that Daphne was killed to cover up the corruption in the awarding of the Electrogas power station contract,” investigative journalist Manuel Delia wrote on his blog.
He criticised Muscat for not heeding past calls to fire Schembri and Mizzi, and appealed to parliament to dismiss the prime minister, who has been in office since 2013.
“Parliament has the duty to preserve the rule of law. Fire Joseph Muscat. Hire a new prime minister. Start a new government. Let the cleaning begin,’’ Delia wrote.
His remarks were backed by Caruana Galizia’s family.
Andrew, one of the slain journalist’s three sons, tweeted: “Joseph Muscat guaranteed the impunity for corruption of the men who contracted my mother’s murder. Now he holds the keys to justice. He should give them to someone else.’’
Delia said there would be a civil society protest outside the prime minister’s office at 6 p.m (1700 GMT) to demand parliamentarians removal of Joseph Muscat from the post of prime minister if they don’t get his resignation first.’’
Conservative former opposition leader Simon Busuttil joined the calls for Muscat’s ouster.
“The Prime Minister’s position is untenable. He must RESIGN NOW and let JUSTICE take its course,’’ he tweeted.
Until now, Maltese authorities had only managed to arrest three men accused of materially carrying out Caruana Galizia’s murder, but not the people believed to have ordered it.
Edited by Halima Sheji/Felix Ajide (NAN)
Women in Germany have fewer children as first-time mothers getting older
The number of children per woman in Germany decreased from 1.57 in 2018 to an average of 1.54 last year, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) announced on Wednesday.
Also, women in Germany would “have their first child later and later in life,” Destatis noted.
In 2019, mothers in Germany were on average 30.1 years old at the time of their first birth. Ten years ago, the average age of first-time mothers had only been 28.8 years, according to Destatis.
Within the last three decades, the number of German women who became mothers at the age of 40 years or above had almost tripled, Destatis recently announced.
The trend towards later maternity among German women has many reasons. As the number of working women in Germany increases, many are postponing the decision to have children. Also, medical progress has increasingly made late maternity possible.
In 2018, more than three in four women aged 20 to 64 years in Germany were in employment. The share of women in employment had risen by 8 percentage points since 2008.
According to the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), the total fertility rate in Germany in 2018 was slightly higher than the EU average. Germany thus ranked 13th across all EU countries. The highest fertility rate was recorded in France, the lowest in Malta.
Destatis already announced two weeks ago that the number of newborn babies in Germany in 2019 fell by almost 10,000 compared with the previous year to a total of 778,100.
The “long-term demographic trend” of more deaths than births in Germany that emerged since 1972, had also continued in 2019, Destatis noted. By 2060, Destatis is expecting Germany’s population to shrink from currently more than 83 million to less than 75 million.
Malta rescues 33 migrants as most of Monday group had coronavirus
The Armed Forces of Malta rescued a group of 33 migrants and brought them ashore early Wednesday morning, local media reported.
The all-men group disembarked at Boiler Wharf at 4:30 a.m. They were taken into detention and are undergoing medical tests, after most of the 94 migrants rescued on Monday evening tested positive for the coronavirus.
Medical tests showed that 65 of the 85 tested in the group which landed in Malta on Monday were carrying the coronavirus. The rest are still being tested. They have been placed in detention and in isolation for two weeks, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The 94 migrants were rescued after the small dinghy they were on started taking in water, leading to a distress call when they were in Malta’s search and rescue zone.
94 rescued migrants land in Malta
A group of 94 migrants rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) landed in Malta on Monday evening, local media Times of Malta reported.
Most of the migrants were men and five were women, including a young girl and one child around a year old. Details about their nationalities are not yet known.
The migrants were in distress in Malta’s search and rescue area over the weekend. Alarm Phone,the hotline support for people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to the European Union, received calls from them and alerted the relevant authorities, kickstarting the rescue operation.
According to Alarm Phone, the dinghy the migrants were on was floating and had started taking in water early on Sunday. The boat was overcrowded and repeated requests were relayed to the Maltese and Italian authorities.
The NGO hotline said the Maltese authorities had asked a vessel that was close by to monitor the migrants and render assistance if needed. The monitoring continued until an AFM vessel rescued the migrants.
The last group to arrive in Malta was about a week ago. Malta has received around 1,800 migrants since the beginning of the year.
Malta rescues 95 migrants from sinking dinghy
Malta’s armed forces have rescued a group of 95 migrants found in distress on a dinghy north of Libya.
They brought the migrants ashore at a military base near the capital Valletta, authorities said on Monday.
A volunteer organisation, Alarm Phone, on Sunday morning said the dinghy was overcrowded and taking in water.
It said the boat was located within Malta’s search-and-rescue region.
A Maltese patrol boat rescued another group of 63 migrants and brought them to Malta on July 17.
One of those migrants later tested positive to COVID-19 and the medical authorities put the whole group in quarantine.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)