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Tied to Murdered Journalist Probe, Malta’s Government Teeters

Rocked by departures of his Chief of Staff and two ministers tied to a probe of the October, 2017 murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was investigating high-level corruption, Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s government is scrambling to survive.
Press reports linked Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, Economy Minister Chris Cardona and Muscat’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, to the Caruana Galizia investigation. They deny wrongdoing but Schembri and Mizzi resigned and Cardona suspended himself.
That came after the arrest of hotelier and power company director Yorgen Fenech, who was stopped on his yacht by the military while sailing away from the island.
In her blog, Caruana Galizia had reported on a Dubai-based “mystery company” called 17 Black Ltd. and its ties to Maltese politicians, owned by Fenech.
Fenech was arrested after Muscat said taxi driver Melvin Theuma, an alleged loan shark, had information about who ordered the killing, for which three men are facing trial, and offered to provide details if given a pardon, which was granted.
Galizia reported Schembri and Mizzi became beneficiaries of secretive offshore companies soon after entering office with follow-up investigations finding the firm due to get paid by another shell company owned by Fenech, who got a lucrative concession from Muscat’s government to run a power station when Mizzi was Energy Minister, according to the Guardian.
Muscat, who withstood pressure, including from the European Commission’s former Justice Minister, lost an ally when the influential newspaper Malta Today, whose owner was known to be close to him, pulled support in a scathing editorial that said: “Joseph Muscat’s moral authority has been compromised to the point of no return … the stage is set for Muscat’s exit.”
David Casa, a Member of the European Parliament from Malta, urged new European Commission President Ursula von den Leyen and other European Union officials to intervene, saying his country “is on the precipice” and it was “insane” for Muscat to stay on.
“A government that murders its own citizens has absolutely no place in the European Union,” said Casa, urging Von der Leyen to use “every possible tool” to “restore the rule of law” in the country.
Schembri was in police custody and being questioned in relation to the murder and allegations by Fenech that the former chief of staff was a co-conspirator, the newspaper said.
Fenech is said to have provided evidence that implicates Schembri in the hope of also receiving a presidential pardon for helping secure the conviction as the case turned into a malestrom of charges and counter-accusations flying.
Caruana Galizia’s family said they were seeking an urgent meeting with Attorney General Peter Grech to keep Fenech from getting a pardon and said he should be immediately prosecuted. That came as Muscat planned a rally of his Labour Party for Dec. 1 which Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said on Facebook should be scrapped.
The country’s Chamber of Commerce said it had become clear “the extent to which criminal activity had infiltrated the circles of power, and operated unperturbed for years,” the BBC said, with Muscat trying to deal with the swirl of the investigation.
He said: “I have always said I don’t intend seeking re-election. I don’t intend to serve more than two terms. My role right now is to make sure that we navigate through this turbulent time in the best possible manner. Once this chapter is closed with the arraignment of person or persons on this case I will make my consideration.” He added he would quit if tied to the murder.

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