The Maltese police chief in charge of the murder investigation for journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has resigned over criticism of his handling of the case. Now it has emerged that his former assistant once attended an EPL soccer game in London with the accused.
Business tycoon Yorgen Fenech is Malta’s wealthiest casino owner. But he is also a defendant in a murder trial that ignited a political crisis in the online gambling hub and brought down the country’s former prime minister, Joseph Muscat.
Fenech is accused of ordering the 2017 car-bomb assassination of Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who devoted her career to exposing corruption among Malta’s elite.
Muscat resigned January 12 amid demonstrations in the country’s capital, Valletta, after his chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was implicated by Fenech and an alleged middleman in the plot. Schembri has not been charged with a crime.
Stamford Bridge Junket
Now, The Sunday Times of Malta reports that former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta traveled with Fenech to the Stamford Bridge stadium in London on September 29, 2018. They were there to watch Liverpool play Chelsea. At the time, Fenech had already been identified as a person of interest in the case.
Valletta admitted to the Times that he made the trip with Fenech. But he insisted he had paid the fare himself and he had been removed from the investigation three months earlier by a court order.
Caruana Galizia’s family had long challenged Valletta’s participation in the investigation because of his marriage to Justine Caruana, minister for Malta’s second-largest island, Gozo.
Since Caruana Galzia had repeatedly denounced corruption at the highest levels of government, this represented a conflict of interest, the family argued.
Rule of Law, Faith Shaken
On Friday, Malta’s Muscat-appointed police commissioner, Lawrence Cutajar, was removed from the case by the country’s new prime minister, Robert Abela.
Abela, who took office last week, has promised to strengthen the rule of law in the country and public faith in it, which has been sorely tested by the scandal.
Cutajar had been criticized for not doing enough to investigate Fenech’s links to Schembri and other government ministers.
Four years ago, Caruana Galizia discovered through the “Panama Papers” data dump that Schembri and another senior government member, Konrad Mizzi, were the beneficiaries of secretive offshore shell companies.
She was also looking into a mysterious company called 17 Black, which Reuters discovered after her death had been due to make a $2 million payment into Schembri’s and Mizzi’s Panama-based companies in 2015.
Reuters also discovered the owner of 17 Black was Yorgen Fenech.
Fenech, who is one of Malta’s richest men, was arrested on November 20 while trying to flee the country on his private yacht. That came a day after he had been named “the mastermind” of the plot by alleged middleman Melvin Theuma, who received a pardon for his testimony.
Police have also charged three men with detonating the the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017.