Maltese prosecutors charge businessman in reporter’s killing

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Maltese prosecutors last Saturday charged a prominent local businessman as being an accomplice to the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in a 2017 car bombing on Malta.

Yorgen Fenech, a Maltese hotelier and former director of the Maltese power company, was also charged in the evening courtroom hearing with being an accomplice to causing the explosion that killed the 53-year-old reporter as she drove near her home. He was also arraigned on a further charge: promoting, organising or financing a group with the intention of committing a crime.

Three men early in the case were charged with carrying out the actual bombing. But it wasn’t immediately clear if “the group”, referred to them or perhaps to others.

Magistrate Audrey Demicoli asked Fenech to enter pleas. He replied that he was pleading innocent, didn’t request bail and was remanded in custody. Ten days earlier, Malta police stopped Fenech as he was sailing away from Malta on his yacht.

The reporter’s family has alleged that Fenech has ties to close associates of the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, including his recently resigned chief of staff.

Protesters hold photos during a protest by civil groups Occupy Justice and Republica outside the office of Prime Minster of Malta Joseph Muscat in Valletta. PHOTO: AP

It wasn’t immediately clear if Muscat might resign amid increasing calls by citizens on the island, including Caruana Galizia’s family, for him to step down. Muscat, in power since 2013, has said he will speak after the investigative case is complete.

“What we now expect is the Prime Minister to leave office and to leave Parliament,” Corinne Vella, one of the slain reporter’s sisters, told The Malta Independent after the arraignment of Fenech.

Vella also called for Muscat as well as his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to be “properly investigated” for their “possible involvement in Daphne’s assassination”.

Schembri quit his government post a few days earlier. He had been taken into custody for questioning but later released. Police said there weren’t grounds to hold him.

Two of Muscat’s ministers also have stepped down.