1 Dec 2019

Daphne Caruana Galizia: Malta businessman charged with complicity in murder

9:42 am on 1 December 2019

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech has been charged with complicity in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Protesters holding a photo of killed reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia gather outside Parliament in Valletta, Malta, on 26 November.

Protesters holding a photo of killed reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia gather outside Parliament in Valletta last week. Photo: AFP

He pleaded not guilty to that charge and four others others including membership of a criminal gang.

Relatives of the assassinated blogger were present in the court in Valletta.

The investigation into Ms Caruana Galizia's death has rocked the island's government. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is under pressure to resign.

His chief aide, Keith Schembri, quit this week amid reports he was being questioned by police, while Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi also resigned and Economy Minister Chris Cardona took the decision to suspend himself.

Three people are awaiting trial for Ms Caruana Galizia's murder in a car bombing but the police investigation is now focusing on who ordered the killing and why.

Who is Yorgen Fenech?

He has been repeatedly questioned over the killing since trying to leave the island on his yacht on 20 November, and sought a pardon in return for providing information but his request was rejected.

Maltese media allege he was familiar with Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver with links to criminal enterprises who has been described in local media as a potential "middleman" in the murder.

Mr Fenech is a well-known figure in Malta who has served as head of the Mr Tumas business group and a director of energy company Electrogas but recently resigned from both positions.

He was identified last year as being the owner of a mysterious Dubai-registered company, 17 Black.

The company was listed in the Panama Papers - confidential documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm in 2016 which revealed how the wealthy and powerful use tax havens to get around the law.

Ms Caruana Galizia had written about 17 Black eight months before her death, alleging it had links to both Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

Why have events come to a head?

Investigations into Ms Caruana Galizia's murder intensified when Mr Theuma was pardoned on Monday.

The prime minister told Parliament he was being given immunity in return for information about the killing. Maltese reports suggested he had audio recordings linked to the case.

On Tuesday, Konrad Mizzi resigned and Chris Cardona took the decision to suspend himself after being questioned by police. They deny involvement.

Mr Schembri, who had previously been named in the Panama Papers, quit.

Ms Caruana Galizia alleged that Mr Schembri and Mr Mizzi had benefited from secretive "shell companies". Both deny wrongdoing.

What do we know about the murder inquiry?

Three men - brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio and their friend Vincent Muscat, all in their 50s - have been charged with triggering the bomb which killed Ms Caruana Galizia near her home in October 2017.

They were arrested in December 2017 and pleaded not guilty in pre-trial proceedings.

Mr Muscat later told police the bomb had been placed in Caruana Galizia's car while it was parked outside the walled compound where she lived. The killings earned the trio €150,000 ($NZ257,000), Reuters news agency reports.


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