One of Malta’s richest men is charged with masterminding the car bombing on the island that killed investigative journalist in 2017
One of Malta’s richest men has been charged with masterminding the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a 2017 car bomb.
Yorgen Fenech has been under arrest since November 2019, accused of complicity to murder.
He has since been undergoing a pre-trial compilation of evidence where he pleaded not guilty.
One of Malta’s richest men, Yorgen Fenech, has been charged with masterminding the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a 2017 car bomb
Caruana Galizia was blown up by a car bomb as she drove out of her residence on October 16, 2017
On Wednesday, Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg laid formal charges against Fenech, in a bill of indictment which requests life imprisonment for the murder charge and between 20 and 30 years in prison for the criminal conspiracy charge.
Caruana Galizia was blown up by a car bomb as she drove out of her residence on October 16, 2017, in a killing that shocked Europe and raised questions about the rule of law in the European Union’s smallest member state.
Fenech headed a business empire with a range of interests including property, imports and a car dealership.
He also headed a consortium which was controversially awarded a government contract for the building of a power station.
The killing shocked Europe and raised questions about the rule of law in the European Union’s smallest member state
The murder of Caruana Galizia sparked international outrage and protests that forced prime minister Joseph Muscat to resign
Caruana Galizia was investigating possible corruption in the contract when she was killed.
Three men accused of actually planting and setting off the bomb were arrested in December 2017.
One, Vincent Muscat, has since pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and been jailed for 15 years. The other two, brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, are awaiting trial.
The murder plot’s self-confessed middleman, Melvin Theuma, turned state evidence and was granted a pardon. He has pointed to Fenech as having tasked him with organising the assassination.
The prosecutors are pushing for a life sentence for Fenech, court officials said.
Vince Muscat was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in February after admitting his involvement in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – who was killed in a car bomb attack near her home in 2017
An inquiry into Ms Galizia’s death found the state must accept blame for ‘creating an atmosphere of impunity’ that ‘led to a collapse of the rule of law’ (file image)
Fenech was arrested on November 20, 2019, when his yacht was just off Malta in what police say was an attempt to flee the island.
Malta’s then-prime minister, Joseph Muscat, announced his resignation within days of Fenech’s arrest after close links were found between the businessman and senior government officials. Muscat himself has always denied wrongdoing.
It later emerged that Fenech had a secret company in Dubai, 17 Black, which intended to funnel money to two Panama companies belonging to then energy minister Konrad Mizzi and Muscat’s then chief of staff, Keith Schembri. No money was actually transferred.
An independent inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia said last month that the state had to bear responsibility for the killing after creating a ‘culture of impunity’.
Prime Minister Robert Abela apologised to the Caruana Galizia family after the inquiry’s conclusions, and pledged to take all of its recommendations onboard.
How murder investigation unfolded
Car Bomb – October 16, 2017
On October 16, 2017 Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed in a car bomb targeting her vehicle not far from her home in the north of the island.
Aged 53, she was known for investigating high-level corruption, including contributing to the 2016 Panama Papers data leak.
Her killing triggers an outpouring of grief on the island, one of her sons accusing Muscat of being complicity and turning Malta into a ‘mafia island’.
On December 4, 2017, authorities arrest eight people in connection with the murder.
Charges – July 16, 2019
On July 16, 2019, three suspects are formally charged in connection with the assassination: brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, as well as Vince Muscat, all in their 50s.
The mastermind has not yet been identified.
On September 20, the government announces a public inquiry into the killing, just ahead of the expiry of a three-month deadline by the Council of Europe to set up such an investigation.
Legal Immunity – November 20, 2019
On November 20, Maltese police arrest tycoon Yorgen Fenech in connection with the murder as he is sailing away from Malta on his yacht.
Fenech owns a Dubai company called 17 Black that Caruana Galizia had reported had connections with the government.
The arrest comes a day after the prime minister promises to pardon an alleged middleman if he names the person who ordered the assassination.
On the 23, Fenech demands legal immunity before revealing what he knows about the case. He is released on bail three days later.
Ministers quit – November 26, 2019
On November 26 Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and his tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi, resign. They had been accused by Caruana Galizia of being involved in corruption, which they denied.
Economy minister Chris Cardona says he is ‘suspending himself’.
Schembri is arrested but released two days later without charge, sparking accusations of a cover-up. Some sources claim Schembri was the mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s killing.
Prime Minister to step down – November 30, 2019
On November 30, party sources say Muscat will step down on January 18 once those behind the murder of Caruana Galizia have been charged
‘He always said that he will be leaving soon and he feels that now is the time to go,’ said one party source.