Malta’s casino owner Yorgen Fenech was charged with involvement on Friday in the 2017 murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a case that ultimately brought down the government of Malta.
Fenech, one of the richest men in Malta, was arrested at the beginning of November, in connexion with the car-bomb attack that killed Caruana Galizia and attracted the attention of international media.
He was intercepted by police, who observed his movements, as he allegedly attempted to flee Malta on his yacht in the early hours of 20th November.
Fenech was the Tumas Group’s CEO, one of Malta’s largest employers, until shortly before his arrest he resigned. Tumas Gaming’s subsidiary is owns Qawra Oracle Casino and Portomaso Casino as well as online gaming.
The investigation into the murder has shaken the online gambling centre of Europe and entered the highest levels of government.
On Saturday, prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, announced his resignation on January 18, in the wake of criticism of his handling of the case and the entanglement in the affair of three members of his inner circle.
In return for including three top government officials who he says were involved in the assassination, the chief of staff of the prime minister, Keith Schembri, tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, and economic minister Chris Cardona, Fenech had called for a presidential pardon
All three people resigned earlier in the week, denying guilt and denying Fenech’s appeal for forgiveness.
According to Malta Today, at a brief court hearing in Valletta on Friday, Fenech was charged with “promoting, organising or financing a group with the intention of carrying out a criminal offence, actively participating in this criminal organisation by giving information, material means or the recruitment of new members whilst aware of the purpose of this organisation.”
And also: “Complicity in the wilful homicide of Daphne Caruana Galizia, conspiracy to commit a crime in Malta punishable by imprisonment and complicity in causing an explosion which caused Caruana Galizia’s death.”
Fenech, 38, spoke only in order to confirm his name and personal information. His lawyers filed a non-guilty plea, reported Malta Today. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Last year, Fenech was named as the owner of a mysterious Dubai-registered company, 17 Black, which at the time of her death Caruana Galizia investigated. 17 Black was alleged to make a payment of $2 million to secret offshore companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi.
Since the arrest of Fenech, thousands have taken to the streets in protest, demanding the resignation of Muscat –including the Caruana Galizia family.
Muscat followed in a live television address on Sunday evening.
“It is not right that a person, with her good and bad, who contributed to democracy had to be killed this way… The anger and disappointment are understandable and it is never justified to somehow justify the murder. But neither can disorder and violence be justified under the guise of protest,” he said.
Muscat said the investigation would continue and that “no one is above the law.”