A prominent businessman was arrested on Wednesday by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM), a day after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat signed a letter assuring presidential pardon to a suspect who claimed to know the mastermind behind the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, above, local reports say.
Yorgen Fenech, owner of Electrogas and Dubai-registered 17 Black, was stopped at sea by AFM personnel around 5.45am, some 15 minutes after he left Portomaso in his luxury yacht Gio.
Fenech was allegedly trying to escape to an unknown destination via Italy.
Officers investigating Caruana Galizia’s murder arrested Fenech on the yacht and the vessel was thoroughly searched after it was taken back to Portomaso.
Muscat did not give details of the arrest of a “person of interest” (Fenech) as he feared it might jeopardise the case.
He also did not identify the suspect awaiting pardon who, according to court records, is Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver.
Muscat said the arrest proved the government’s determination to get to the bottom of the truth behind Caruana Galizia’s murder. The investigators gathered sufficient evidence before arresting the fleeing man.
Muscat said his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi have not been linked to Caruana Galizia’s murder.
However, Caruana Galizia’s investigative reports said the Panama companies of Schembri and Mizzi had received illegal payments from Fenech-owned 17 Black.
Caruana Galizia showed rare courage to expose corruption in EU and Maltese politics and business. Some of her reports even targeted Muscat.
Months after posting the stories, she was killed in a car bomb blast near her home on 16 Oct 2017. Her family blamed the authorities for ignoring the specific threats she had reported to them before her murder,
Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) has expressed concern over shrinking Press freedom and attacks on journalists in Europe citing the killings of Caruana Galizia in Malta and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia.
Journalists live in fear in Turkey which had jailed hundreds of them after the failed coup in 2016.