In Malta and the former head of the casino-operating Tumas Group Limited has reportedly been charged with being the mastermind behind the 2017 assassination of local investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
According to a Sunday report from the Malta Today newspaper, Yorgen Fenech (pictured) is one of the richest men in Malta and previously served as the Chief Executive Officer for Tumas Group Limited, which is responsible for the Mediterranean island nation’s The Oracle Casino and Portomaso Casino as well as its chain of Bestplay slot parlors.
The newspaper reported that Fenech stepped down from his post at Tumas Group Limited last week shortly after discovering that his request for immunity from prosecution would not be granted. The businessman was subsequently arraigned in a Valletta court on Saturday and purportedly pled not guilty to numerous charges including that he actively participated in the plot that saw a fatal bomb placed inside the car of Caruana Galizia.
Malta Today reported that Fenech, who celebrated his 38th birthday last week, is also facing allegations that he promoted, organized and financed the murder of the 53-year-old journalist to the tune of some €150,000 ($166,310) and was immediately remanded into custody with no bail sought.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) cited a story from the Reuters news service in reporting that Caruana Galizia was involved in an investigation into alleged corruption among Malta‘s business and political elites and had stumbled upon a mystery Dubai-based company known as 17 Black Limited as part of her analysis of the so-called ‘Panama Papers.’ The journalist had purportedly claimed that this entity may have been owned by Fenech and could have additionally had links with senior government officials.
However, the mother-of-three was reportedly killed by a car bomb as she left her home on the afternoon of October 16, 2017, to leave her suspicions about 17 Black Limited unconfirmed. A trio of men identified as Vincent Muscat and brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio were later purportedly charged with her murder but pled not guilty and are still awaiting trial.
Malta Today reported that 17 Black Limited had allegedly been planning to make secret payments to local entities established by Keith Schembri, Chief-of-Staff for Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. Both have since resigned following substantial public protests while Muscat has purportedly detailed that he intends to stand down on January 18.
The newspaper reported that Fenech had sought immunity from prosecution by alleging that he holds recordings and a contract that implicates Schembri in the bombing of Caruana Galizia’s car. The newspaper furthermore claimed that it has seen a photo of middleman Melvin Theuma, who was granted a presidential pardon, at the past government official’s office while the former casino magnate purportedly alleges that he held two telephone conversations with Muscat where the murder plot was discussed.
But Muscat reportedly told the newspaper that no such calls were ever made and that he only ever met Fenech at social gatherings or meetings to discuss the endeavors of Tumas Group.
According to Muscat…
“The Prime Minister refused an initial request for pardon by Yorgen Fenech following advice by the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner. The Cabinet refused a second request under similar advice after the Prime Minister withdrew from the meeting.”