Sunday 15 December 2019

Tycoon held over murder of journalist in car bomb

Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photo: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Chris Scicluna

Maltese police arrested one of the country's most prominent businessmen yesterday as part of an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, two sources said.

Yorgen Fenech was detained as he tried to leave the island before dawn aboard his luxury yacht, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Arrested: Yorgen Fenech was held as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht. Photo: Jeremy Wonnacott/Malta Government Department of Information/Handout via Reuters
Arrested: Yorgen Fenech was held as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht. Photo: Jeremy Wonnacott/Malta Government Department of Information/Handout via Reuters

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed Mr Fenech's arrest but declined to say on what grounds he had been detained. The arrest came a day after Mr Muscat offered to pardon a suspected middleman in the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia if he provided legally binding evidence of who was behind the killing.

Mr Muscat told reporters he had ordered additional police surveillance after news of the alleged go-between emerged. "Had I not done that, today we might be talking of a person or persons of interest having potentially escaped," he said.

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Mr Fenech's lawyer was contacted for comment but has so far issued no statement.

Ms Caruana Galizia, an eminent anti-corruption journalist, was killed by a car bomb near the Maltese capital Valletta in October 2017 - a murder that shocked Europe and raised questions about the rule of law on the island.

Eight months before her death, she wrote about a mysterious company in Dubai called 17 Black Ltd, alleging it was connected to Maltese politicians. A Reuters investigation last year revealed that Mr Fenech was the owner of the firm.

According to a December 2015 email, uncovered by Maltese financial regulators, secret Panama companies owned by then energy minister Konrad Mizzi and Mr Muscat's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, stood to receive payments of up to $2m (€1.8m) from 17 Black for unspecified services.

Mr Schembri and Mr Mizzi both said last October they had no knowledge of any connection between 17 Black and Mr Fenech.

Mr Fenech denied making any plans to pay any politician. There is no evidence the payments went ahead.

Mr Muscat said there was no indication that Mr Schembri or Mr Mizzi, who now serves as tourism minister, were involved in the murder.

Three men suspected of being Ms Caruana Galizia's killers were arrested in December 2017, but the authorities have struggled to determine who commissioned the murder.

Irish Independent

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