It’s the scandal which tarnished Malta’s government. Melvin Theuma, the so-called “middleman” in the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the anti-corruption journalist, testified in court that Yorgen Fenech, Malta’s biggest casino owner, was the “mastermind” behind the murder.
Fenech is one of the richest men in Malta, with a close relationship to the Maltese government. He was charged two weeks ago, with planning the 2017 car bomb attack which killed Caruana Galizia.
On November 20, the casino owner and hotelier was arrested while trying to escape Malta on his private yacht. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had announced a day earlier that Theuma had been granted immunity in exchange for revealing details about the murder.
In the wake of Fenech’s arrest, three senior politicians quickly resigned although none have been charged with any crime. These included economy minister Chris Cardona, tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri. Prime Minister Muscat announced earlier this month, he would resign in January.
Alleged Motive Exposed
Theuma informed the court Fenech had asked him to organize the murder because Caruana Galizia was about to print something harmful about his uncle, Raymond Fenech. Later Fenech gave him a brown envelope containing €150,000 ($167,000 USD) in €50 ($56 USD) banknotes, Theuma said.
Raymond Fenech is the chairman of the Tumas Group, which possesses two land-based casinos and an online casino in Malta. Shortly before his arrest, his nephew resigned as CEO of the group.
As reported by casino.org, the Tumas Group issued a press release on November 25, separating itself from its former CEO. This comprised an official statement from Raymond Fenech saying the accusations against his nephew were “alien to the values that Tumas Group has stood for since its inception and continues to profess.”
Previously, it had been speculated that Yorgen Fenech’s motive for killing Caruana Galizia was her investigation into a mysterious company called 17 Black.
After her death, it was revealed that 17 Black was run by Fenech and was due to pay $2 million USD to offshore shell companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri for unknown services.
Worried About His Safety
Theuma testified that after the murder he became depressed and began drinking heavily and that after the three men he had paid to plant the bomb were arrested late 2017 and charged with murder, his condition deteriorated.
Theuma became sure that Fenech would conspire with his powerful friend, Schembri, to put him in prison, or worse. So he wrote a letter claiming both Fenech and Schembri were accountable for the killing, which he expected authorities would find if he were murdered.
However, he told the court Wednesday that he had no direct knowledge of Schembri’s participation and had mentioned him in the letter just because he had supposed the prime minister’s former chief of staff was part of the plot.
He also said a man named “Kenneth” from the Prime Minister’s Office had visited him, who promised him the three accused arrested for the bomb attack would be granted bail and paid €1 million each. The three men had been asking money from Theuma to keep mum via an intermediary; however, “Kenneth” didn’t keep his promises, Theuma said.
It is expected that Fenech will plead not guilty to promoting, organizing or funding a criminal association with the purpose of committing criminal offenses, with being involved in the voluntary murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and with connecting with persons in Malta or abroad with the aim committing a crime.
On December 19, hearings continue.