Malta’s attorney general has called for a life sentence for the businessman Yorgen Fenech for allegedly masterminding the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, which rocked the country four years ago.
The attorney general, Victoria Buttigieg, laid formal charges against Fenech, who was arrested in November 2019 trying to leave Malta on his yacht, accused of complicity in the murder and criminal conspiracy. He has since been undergoing a pre-trial compilation of evidence where he pleaded not guilty.
The bill of indictment, which confirms that Fenech will stand trial, requests life imprisonment for the murder charge and between 20 and 30 years in prison for the criminal conspiracy charge.
Caruana Galizia was one of Malta’s most prominent investigative journalists before she was assassinated in a car bombing close to her home on 16 October 2017. The murder of a reporter who had exposed cronyism and sleaze within Malta’s political and business elite prompted international outrage and protests that eventually forced Joseph Muscat to resign as prime minister.
At the time of her death, Caruana Galizia was investigating a highly controversial power station deal, in which Fenech was one of the main shareholders and a director.
One of three men accused of planting the car bomb pleaded guilty in February. Vincent Muscat – no relation to the former prime minister – was jailed for 15 years. The brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio are awaiting trial.
An independent judicial inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder last month found the Maltese state responsible for creating a climate of impunity in the country that allowed her to be killed, including through the coordination by staff in the prime minister’s office of online harassment campaigns against her.
In their report, the judges attributed indirect responsibility to Joseph Muscat for the circumstances leading to the murder, citing his failure to act against Keith Schembri, his chief of staff, and the former energy minister Konrad Mizzi over their secret companies, revealed in the Panama Papers, and their alleged links to 17 Black, a secret company owned by Fenech.
Joseph Muscat, Schembri and Mizzi have not faced any charges linked to the murder of Caruana Galizia and have publicly denied involvement. Schembri and Mizzi did not comment on the report.
In March, Schembri was charged with money laundering and fraud.
Joseph Muscat wrote on Facebook in July that the report “unequivocally states that I was in no way implicated in the murder … It is to be noted that the inquiry found that the state had no prior knowledge of, or was involved in the assassination.”
The current prime minister, Robert Abela, apologised to the Caruana Galizia family after the inquiry’s conclusions, and pledged to take all of its recommendations onboard.