Maltese Casino Owner Murdered Journalist to Suppress Truth Over Power Station Deal, Cops Say
Posted on: September 3, 2020, 07:17h.
Last updated on: September 4, 2020, 03:40h.
Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered because she was about to uncover details of a corrupt government contract that benefited Malta’s biggest casino owner.
That’s according to Maltese police, who said this week they are working on the assumption that chief suspect Yorgen Fenech was trying to protect the interests of his energy company, Electrogas, when it is alleged he conspired to murder Caruana Galizia.
A car bomb killed the journalist in October 2017 in an incident that garnered international media attention.
Fenech is one of the country’s richest men, and until his arrest was CEO of the Tumas Group, which is one of Malta’s biggest employers. Tumas owns the Qawra Oracle Casino and the Portomaso Casino, as well as the portomasolive.com online gaming website.
Fenech was detained by police in November 2019, shortly after the arrest of the alleged “middleman” in the plot, Melvin Theuma.
In December last year, Theuma received a presidential pardon to spill the beans about the murder. He pointed to Fenech as the mastermind of the scheme, and the man who told him to arrange the killing. Theuma was recently released from the hospital after stabbing himself in an apparent suicide attempt.
At a hearing in the capital Valetta this week to summarize the evidence against Fenech, Detective Inspector Kurt Zahra said Caruana Galizia had received a cache of 600,000 emails. They were leaked from Electrogas at the beginning of 2017, and she was painstakingly working through the data.
In 2013, Electrogas was awarded a $500 million contract to build a power station in Malta and to supply the state-owned electricity provider with energy. Caruana Galizia was looking into the deal.
Galizia had already discovered — via the Panama Papers — that the energy minister at the time, Konrad Mizzi, and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, had links to shell companies based in Panama. Those companies were due to receive mystery payments totaling $2 million from a shadowy company called 17 Black.
Journalists who took up and vowed to complete Caruana Galizia’s work after her death found that 17 Black was controlled by Fenech.
Neither Mizzi nor Schembri has been charged with any crime, although they were forced to resign last year over the scandal, which saw demonstrators take to the streets to demand arrests.
The affair led to the downfall of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who resigned at the beginning of the year.
Police have said that Fenech claimed in interviews that Schembri was behind the murder.
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