Two years ago, we wrote about the murder of Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, known for her work on Maltese corruption. While three men suspected of planting the car bomb that killed her were arrested shortly after her death in 2017, until recently little progress had been made regarding the identity of the person or persons who hired them.
That changed in late November 2019, when police raided the yacht of one of Malta’s wealthiest businessman, former Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech, based on information furnished by a self-confessed middleman, Melvin Theuma. Theuma, who has been promised immunity if his information is corroborated, has identified Fenech as the mastermind of the plot to kill Caruna Galizia in an attempt to prevent the publication of information about Fenech’s uncle, Tumas Group Chairman Raymond Fenech. Theuma has also testified that he arranged for payments from Fenech to the contract killers.
Theuma claims to not have been personally compensated for his role as the middleman, although he was reportedly granted a “government job” by the office of the Prime Minister, for which he did not have to show up to work.
Fenech has significant ties to the current Maltese government; he is reported to have been a long-time friend of Keith Schembri (Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s former Chief of Staff) and has been accused of funneling kickbacks to Schembri and former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. Fenech has testified that he also received regular updates from Schembri regarding the status of the case, including warnings that his phone was being tapped and the expected dates of the raids that led to the arrest of the contract killers in 2017.
While criminal proceedings related to Fenech and the contract killers are ongoing, the revelations since Fenech’s arrest have sparked numerous protests and calls for government ministers to resign. Both Schembri and Mizzi have resigned, and Prime Minister Muscat has announced his intention to resign in January 2020. Muscat deputy and Economy Minister Christian Cardona also “suspended himself” as minister in November, before being reinstated in early December.
Here at Smith Brandon, we are encouraged by the progress that has been made toward bringing Daphne Caruna Galizia’s killers to justice. The events since her death serve as a reminder of the pernicious effects that corruption can have, not only on individuals or businesses, but also on society at large.