Maltese businessman Fenech accused of complicity to kill in a journalistic case

VALETTA: One of the richest men in Malta, was accused in a Valletta court on Saturday of complicity of murder in the car bomb murder of the anti-corruption journalist in 2017.

The leveling of official charges against Fenech marked a milestone in the investigation into the murder of Caruana Galizia, a campaign journalist who investigated and denounced corruption. Fenech's alleged links with ministers and senior officials have also generated a political crisis for the prime minister's government Joseph Muscat , who seemed close to resigning on Saturday.

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

In a statement, Muscat told Reuters he would talk about his future after the hearing. Official sources said he was expected to announce his resignation later in the evening or Sunday.

No official statement has been issued.

When asked about this before Fenech was charged, a spokesman for the prime minister said Muscat has pledged several times that he wants to see this case. It will make announcements in due time.

COATING ROOM

Fenech, 38, who until this month was the chief executive of one of Malta's largest companies, the Tumas Group energy-owned conglomerate, was taken to court in handcuffs in a police van under a police escort armed almost two years a day. since three other men were accused of having exploded the bomb that killed the journalist on October 16, 2017.

The three pleaded not guilty and are still awaiting trial.

Dressed in a dark gray suit and dark glasses, Fenech with a shaved head stood up to hear the charges in a quiet room less than a meter away from the three children of Caruana Galizia, who were also joined in the room Her husband Peter, her parents. , Michael and Rose Vella, and their sisters.

With the music of a bar near drifting in the courtroom, the businessman did not request bail.

Fenech said when he spoke to reporters on Friday that the truth will come to light and, in the documents presented to the court, made it clear that he intends to involve other key members of the Muscat government, both in the plot of the murder as in other cases of corruption.

Informed sources about the murder investigation told Reuters that police consider Fenech as the intellectual author of the journalist's murder. But, in court records, Fenech has tried to implicate former Muscat chief of staff, Keith Schembri, who was arrested Tuesday in connection with the murder, but released without charge two days later.

Immediately after the hearing, Caruana Galizia's family urged the authorities to continue investigating who else was involved in the murder.

The family said: We now expect the Prime Minister to leave office and parliament, with immediate effect to allow a free and complete investigation into his role and that of Keith Schembri in the murder of Daphne.

INTERMEDIARY

Fenech was arrested on November 20 on his luxurious yacht when he allegedly tried to leave the island, days after another man, Melvin Theuma, was arrested in a money laundering case and immediately told police he had been the intermediary in the plot of the murder and offered information in exchange for a pardon.

The Maltese government accepted Theuma's request for forgiveness, but then rejected another request for forgiveness from Fenech.

Muscat has been in power since 2013, having won two general elections in a row, the last one in 2017. His Labor Party is expected to hold leadership elections in January.

Schembri, a close friend and right hand of Muscat, and former Tourism Minister, resigned on Tuesday.

Neither Schembri nor his lawyers have commented since his resignation or arrest. He previously denied acting wrong. Mizzi on Tuesday denied any commercial ties with Fenech and any irregularities.

Caruana Galizia had reported that Schembri and Mizzi owned secret companies in Panama. The leaked emails indicated that those same companies intended to earn money from an offshore company called 17 Black.

There is no evidence that the funds have been transferred to Mizzi and Schembri, and Mizzi has denied any connection with 17 Black or the murder.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed by a car bomb when she left her home in Bidnija, seven miles (11 km) from Valletta, only half an hour after writing a blog describing Schembri as a scammer.

Subsequently, investigators told a court that the bomb was dropped from a yacht in the port of Valletta.

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