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  • Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was arrested in connection with an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta, November 29, 2019.

    Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was arrested in connection with an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta, November 29, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 November 2019

The murder of Caruana Galizia, who penned an anti-corruption blog, appalled Europe and raised questions about the rule of law.

One of Malta’s wealthiest men Yorgen Fenech was charged Saturday in a Valletta court with complicity to murder in the car bomb killing of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana in 2017.

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Malta: 3 on Trial for Murdering Anti-Corruption Journalist

Fenech pleaded not guilty to the charge of complicity to murder and to other charges related to the case, which include membership of a criminal gang, and conspiracy to cause an explosion.

Caruana, 53, was killed by a car bomb as she drove out of her home in Bidnija, 11 km from Valletta, just half an hour after writing a blog describing Keith Schembri, a close friend, and Muscat’s former chief of staff, as “a crook”.

The journalist had reported that Schembri and former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizziowned had secret companies in Panama, information released in the Panama Papers scandal. 

Leaked emails indicated those same companies intended to earn money from an offshore company called 17 Black. An investigation by Reuters and the Times of Malta showed that 17 Black was owned by Fenech.

The businessman, who was until this month chief executive of one of Malta’s largest companies, the property-to-energy Tumas Group conglomerate, has alleged ties to ministers and senior officials.

Vincent Muscat (no relation to the PM) and brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio are accused of having planted and set off a bomb that exploded on Oct. 16, 2017. All three have pleaded not guilty and are still awaiting trial.

However, sources briefed on the murder investigation told Reuters that police regard Fenech as the mastermind of the journalist’s killing. Investigators told a court that the bomb was set off from a yacht off Valletta harbor.

But, in court filings, Fenech has tried to implicate Schembri, who was arrested Tuesday in connection with the murder but released without charge two days later.

The new charges and updates to the case spawned a political crisis for the government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who appeared close to resigning on Saturday; although no official statement has been issued.

“We now expect the Prime Minister to leave office, and parliament, with immediate effect to allow a free and full investigation into his and Keith Schembri’s role in Daphne’s assassination,” Caruana's family said in a statement. 

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