Posted on: December 13, 2022, 07:30h.
Last updated on: December 13, 2022, 07:30h.
Yorgen Fenech, the Maltese casino magnate accused of masterminding the 2017 assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has made a small gain ahead of his trial.
Casino magnate Yorgen Fenech arrives at a court hearing in Valetta, Malta, shortly after his November 2019 arrest. Behind him a woman holds a placard that reads “Mafia State.” (Image: EuroNews)
A judge in Maltese capital Valetta ruled that the first statement Fenech made to police after his arrest three years ago should be struck from the record.
Fenech was detained in November 2019 by Maltese armed forces while trying to flee the island on his yacht. He immediately offered to spill the beans on corrupt government deals in the hope he might obtain a presidential pardon. None was forthcoming.
This statement cannot be used as evidence in Fenech’s forthcoming trial because it was presented under false pretenses. Under Malta’s criminal code, confessions must be made voluntarily and not extorted by any promise or suggestion of favor.
Fenech was CEO of the Tumas Group, which is one of Malta’s biggest employers. Subsidiary Tumas Gaming owns the Qawra Oracle Casino and the Portomaso Casino in Malta, as well as the portomasolive.com online gaming website.
He has been in custody since 2019, having been repeatedly refused bail. Prosecutors argue that the businessman’s vast wealth makes him a flight risk and note he was attempting to escape to the United Arab Emirates when he was intercepted.
Caruana Galizia was killed on October 16, 2017 by a car bomb that had been placed under her leased Peugeot 108.
The incident made international headlines. Known as a “one-woman Wikileaks” Caruana Galizia’s reporting focused on government corruption, money laundering, and links between Malta’s online gambling industry and organized crime.
Prosecutors believe Fenech ordered the hit to stop her exposing an allegedly corrupt energy contract awarded to his company by Malta’s government.
Fenech controlled a Dubai registered company named 17 Black, which planned to make a $2 million payment to secret, offshore shell companies owned by two high-level politicians, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
Caruana Galizia was looking into 17 Black at the time of her death, then unaware of who was behind it.
Prosecutors claim Fenech paid three men, brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and their associate, Vince Muscat, to carry out the attack, via a middleman, Melvin Theuma. The first three men have been convicted of murder.
Theuma received a presidential pardon for spilling the beans about the murder and for identifying Fenech as its “mastermind.”
The scandal ultimately toppled the Maltese government. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 amid widespread protest against corruption.
Fenech denies involvement in the killing.