A Maltese businessman was arrested on his yacht on Wednesday in connection with the 2017 murder of the journalist and anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Yorgen Fenech was arrested at dawn aboard his luxury yacht while trying to leave the Mediterranean island, a day after the government announced it would pardon a suspected middleman if he gives up the names of those who ordered the journalist’s murder, according to reporting in the Guardian.
Despite charges being brought against three men for planting the car bomb which killed Caruana Galizia near her home in October 2017, the government has been strongly criticised for not doing enough bring to justice the mastermind behind the assassination.
Daphne Caruana Galizia investigated connections between the Maltese political class, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and organised crime.
After her death, her children demanded the resignation of Muscat, whom they accused of creating a culture of impunity that made Malta a “mafia island”.
Responding to news of Fenech’s arrest, Muscat said: “The fact that the country’s institutions were given the resources to carry out this operation – a major operation, to ensure no-one fled the country or tried to flee the country – shows the government’s resolve and mine.”
“We are leaving no stone unturned,” the prime minister said.
Fenech has interests in a broad range of business, including Electrogas, a company that won a multi-million dollar contract to construct a power plant in Malta in 2013.
Malta’s financial investigation agency also identified him as the owner of a Dubai-based company called 17 Black, which Caruana Galizia was investigating for its connections with important Maltese politicians.
Most of Daphne Caruana’s research work focused on the data leak known as the “Panama Papers”, which exposed the offshore accounts of thousands of clients worldwide.
According to the emails, some companies based in Panama, owned by the then Maltese Minister of Energy (and current Tourism Minister) Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, received funds from 17 Black, the Fenech company.
The reason for these payments is unknown, although bribes are suspected.
Parliament was adjourned on Wednesday following a walkout by opposition lawmakers after Muscat refused to sack officials allegedly implicated in the case.
On Wednesday, several hundred people protested outside parliament in Valletta demanding the resignation of the prime minister, AfP reports.