Malta's Richest Businessman Arrested Trying to Flee over Murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia
Yorgen Fenech owns the company 17 Black Limited, which the reporter killed in a car bomb in 2017 was investigating.
A man was arrested in Malta today in connection with the assassination of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, less than 24 hours after the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat agreed to pardon a suspected middleman for information on the murder.
Yorgen Fenech is Malta’s richest businessman and was detained aboard his yacht early this morning by Malta’s Armed Forces and police while attempting to flee the country.
A billionaire businessman who owns investments in casinos, property, entertainment and hotels in Malta, he is the owner of the company 17 Black Limited, which Caruana Galizia had reported on eight months before her death in a car bomb in October 2017. The journalist found out that Maltese politicians had connections to the company.
The arrest of Fenech comes just a day after Prime Minister Muscat confirmed to the media that he had officially offered a pardon to a suspected middleman, arrested last week, if he provided evidence of who ordered the killing of the journalist in court.
A Council of Europe report published in June by Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt stated: “17 Black limited was expected to make large monthly payments to secret Panama companies owned by Konrad Mizzi, Minister for Tourism, and Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Muscat.”
Fenech is also the CEO of Tumas group and a director who owns a third of Electogas – a company which received a contract from the Maltese Government to operate a new gas-fired power station in Malta, which resulted in the Maltese public paying three times the price. However, it was also revealed today that Fenech resigned from his position as director of the Tumas group company just last week in documents dated 12 November, when he transferred his powers to his brother, Franco Fenech.
Both Mizzi and Schembri are currently under criminal investigation in Malta for their involvement with offshore accounts revealed through the 2016 Panama Papers leak.
David Casa, a Maltese MEP, told Byline Times that he believes the Prime Minister’s position is “untenable”.
“His resignation is now imperative, there is no way back. It is now clearer than ever before that the people involved in the criminal dealings of 17 Black needed to silence Daphne. Instead of cleaning up the mess his closest allies created, he let them operate with full impunity… The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and Minister for Tourism have a lot to keep secret.”
Fenech’s Portomaso Casino provided one of Caruana Galizia’s suspected hitmen, Alfred Degiorgio – who is awaiting trial and in receipt of benefits – with a 96.6 success rate on his gambling returns in 2013, when he walked away with €444,000 in winnings.
Fenech’s lawyer told the media that 17 Black Limited denies any suggestions of wrongdoing.
Ana Gomes, a Portuguese diplomat and a former MEP, told Byline Times that she is calling for all socialist and social democratic European parties in the EU – of which Muscat’s Labour Party is a part – to distance themselves from the Prime Minister.
“The behaviour of Muscat’s Government is protecting the corrupt and obstructing justice in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and covering up for the organised crime to which they are linked, and this is totally incompatible with the values of a Labour Government associated with EU parties,” she said.
Two years since the 53-year-old investigative reporter of 30 years was assassinated outside her home in Malta, Corinne Vella, her sister, said: “If Joseph Muscat hadn’t protected Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi in 2016 my sister would still be alive. Joseph Muscat has blood on his hands.”
MP Adrian Delia, the leader of Malta’s opposition Nationalist Party, said that Fenech’s arrest has “obvious political connections” and called for the immediate resignations of Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri.
Three civil society groups – Repubblika, Occupy Justice and ManuelDelia.com – are protesting this evening in Valletta, calling on parliamentarians to seek the immediate resignations of the trio.