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Malta premier under pressure after new arrest over journalist’s murder

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 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)

 

 

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