Malta murder suspect says got tip offs from top official
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[December 05, 2019]
By Crispian Balmer and Chris Scicluna
VALLETTA (Reuters) - A wealthy businessman,
who is the prime suspect in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana
Galizia, told a Malta court on Thursday he got regular tip-offs about
the investigation from the government's ex-chief of staff.
Yorgen Fenech, who was charged last week for allegedly being a
mastermind in the 2017 killing of Caruana Galizia, appeared in court to
seek the removal of the police chief leading the case, saying he was too
close to former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
His testimony in a packed courtroom piled pressure on Prime Minister
Joseph Muscat, who is a friend of Schembri, and raised further questions
about possible government involvement in attempts to cover-up a crime
that shocked the European Union.
Schembri resigned last week and was briefly arrested in connection with
the investigation. He was released without charge and has denied any
Fenech has denied accusations of complicity in the murder and has
instead blamed his close friend Schembri, who was Muscat's righthand man
and the architect of his two electoral victories. Muscat has said he
will stand down next month after his party elects a new leader.
Fenech said Schembri had passed on information from briefings that chief
investigator Keith Arnaud gave at Muscat's office. This meant he knew
swiftly about key breaks, including that his own phone had been tapped,
Schembri's lawyer did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for
comment on Fenech's testimony on Thursday.
A police source has told Reuters that investigators believed a mole had
been passing on information to the suspects, including to three men
caught in 2017 and later charged with carrying out the car bombing that
killed Caruana Galizia.
"The information used to be relayed by Keith Arnaud himself. Schembri
used to say that he had a good relationship with Arnaud who kept him
abreast with latest developments," Fenech said.
[to top of second column]
Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was arrested in connection
with an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana
Galizia, arrives at the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta,
November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
Arnaud made no immediate comment but the police last week issued a
statement saying there was no reason for his removal and that the
investigation was proving effective.
Fenech did not address the murder allegations leveled against
himself and is due back in court on Dec. 10.
But Fenech said that following his arrest, Schembri managed to pass
him notes on two occasions telling him what to say in the
But he ignored the advice and instead implicated Schembri. At that
point, he said police rushed to charge him and skated over the
allegations he was making.
"But all the recordings and evidence link Schembri with the
murderers," he said.
The self-confessed middleman in the murder, Melvin Theuma, who has
been given legal immunity in return for providing evidence, told a
court on Wednesday that Fenech was the sole mastermind behind the
Caruana Galizia was a campaigning journalist who regularly accused
government ministers and business leaders of corruption. Theuma said
Fenech wanted her dead because she was going to publish an
incriminating story about his uncle.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer, Editing by William Maclean)
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