The Maltese government have arrested one of the countries leading businessmen in connection with the assassination of the investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Yorgen Fenech was apprehended shortly after 5 am this morning as he tried to leave Malta in his luxury yacht. The Armed Forces of Malta intercepted the vessel and returned it to shore where it was searched and Fenech was arrested.
Last year three men were arrested for planting and activating the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on the 16 October 2017. Known criminals and defendants in a money laundering case, they were presumed to be the hitmen while the mastermind remained at large. Then yesterday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that he had granted a conditional presidential pardon to an individual suspected of acting as a middleman in the assassination.
Last week, Maltese media reported that components of the bomb had been purchased from individuals involved in the Albanian criminal underworld. Multiple questions to the Ministry of the Interior and deputy ministers asking whether this was true and whether they were collaborating with Maltese authorities went unanswered.
Fenech has long been suspected as being the mastermind behind the murder as his ‘secret company’ had been a topic of many of Caruana Galizia’s investigations.
He was found to be the owner of a secret Dubai-based company, 17 Black that was set up to pay the Prime Ministers Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, the equivalent of EUR 5000 a day, each for a year. Fenech is also involved in the consortium (including Azeri state-owned company SoCar and Malta state-owned company Enemalta) that won a controversial bid to build a EUR 450 million gas power station that Malta did not need.
As well as allegedly paying kickbacks to government ministers and being involved in “sinister” deals with the Azeri state, Fenech has business interests in gaming, hospitality, leisure, casinos, and property development. One of the ‘hitmen’ awaiting trial was a regular gambler in one of Fenech’s casinos and had gambled over EUR 400,000 despite being long-term unemployed.
Eight months before her assassination, Caruana Galizia had written about 17 Black on her blog, thus setting off a cascade of events that put pressure on the government, Mizzi, Schembri, and Muscat. At the time it was not known that Fenech was the owner of the company.
The family of Caruana Galizia have reacted to the news, calling for the immediate resignation of both Schembri and Mizzi for their involvement with Fenech’s business dealings. Numerous calls were also made by members of the journalists family, activists, journalists, and politicians for the Prime Minister to resign as well.
A protest has been scheduled for 6 pm this evening in the capital city of Valletta, demanding the resignation of all of those involved in the Electrogas deal.