International news media reported on Wednesday the arrest of Yorgen Fenech, a prominent Maltese businessman, in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta about two years ago.
Fenech was detaind by armed officers after his yacht was intercepted and raided. Galizia, an anti-corruption blogger, was killed by a car bomb in 2017.
His arrest came the next day after the government said it would offer a pardon to a suspected middleman in the October 2017 murder, if he provided substantial proof of who masterminded the killing.
The Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat has described Fenech as a "person of interest", stating that his arrest is part of an ongoing investigation. Muscat said he ordered police to be on the lookout for unusual actions by ‘persons of interest' in the murder, "If I had not given these instructions, maybe today we might be speaking of persons of interest who might have escaped."
Fenech is a director and co-owner of a business group that won a big energy concession from the Maltese state in 2013 to build a gas power station on the island, Electrogas. He is also the head of the Tumas Group, of which Tumas Gaming is a subsidiary, which owns the Oracle and Portomaso Casinos in Malta, in addition to the website portomasogaming.com. The Tumas Group, a business consortium registered on the island is estimated to be worth over €350 million and includes assets in property, gaming, hospitality, energy and shipping.
Reports released earlier say that Fenech recently resigned from the following companies including Portomaso Leasing Company, Tumas Group Company, Tumas Group Finance Company Limited, Tumas Gaming Group, TG Leading Company Limited, TG Properties Limited, Tomino Services Limited, Mill Street Complex Limited, Halland Developments Company Limited, St Andrews Hotel Limited, Norma Limited, Spinola Investments Limited, and Sun Island Services Limited, among others. He was alleged to have tried to escape the country via his private yacht, before being apprehended by the Maltese armed forces.
Fenech's resignations will make a little gap between him and the businesses mentioned above, although in many cases it is obvious he will remain a shareholder with family members taking up his vacant positions. To add more to Fenech's headaches, Malta's Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit has linked Fenech as the owner of 17 Black, a Dubai-registered company. Based from the Council of Europe's report, "17 Black had been expected to make large monthly payments to secret Panama companies owned by senior Maltese officials and had also received large sums of money from an Azerbaijani national."
Through her writings on the Panama Papers Leaks, Galizia was the first to reveal that the 17 Black company was linked to the Maltese politicians, which she wrote 8 months before she was killed by a car bomb. One leaked email named 17 Black as the source of income for companies owned by then energy minister Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, who remains the prime minister's chief of staff. The email mentioned their firms expected payments of up to £1.56m within a year from the Mr Fenech's company, though it made no reference to the gas power station plans.
Schembri and Mizzi, who is now tourism minister, both told Reuters in October that they had nothing to do with 17 Black and Fenech, and have no knowledge of any plan to receive payments linked to the energy project or the businessman.
This story is expected to blow up into a national scandal, and it all started with Galizia, known to be a one-woman WikiLeaks, crusading against corruption in Malta and has paid for it dearly with her life.