Calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat followed the arrest this morning of Yorgen Fenech in connection with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia after he was stopped from leaving the island on his yacht earlier this morning.
Fenech’s arrest comes less than 24 hours after Muscat announced that he had granted a conditional presidential pardon to a person suspected of acting as the middleman in Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Fenech was found to be the owner of 17 Black a company set up in Dubai to pay kickbacks to the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, according to leaked emails. He is involved in the consortium that won a bid to build and run a €450 million gas power stationa few months after the Labour Party was elected to power in 2013.
Earlier this month, Schembri withdrew a libel case he had filed against former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil to avoid being questioned on the witness stand about 17 Black.
The Caruana Galizia family reacted to the news, demanding resignations. “The bribery scheme involves the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, the now Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and a company called Macbridge. They are still in Cabinet, ” Caruana Galizia’s son, Paul, said on social media. The owner of Macbridge, the second Dubai company set up for the same kickbacks, is as yet unknown.
This is the point:
They are still in cabinet. https://t.co/Meqh7aXmgi
— Paul Caruana Galizia (@pcaruanagalizia) November 20, 2019
His brother, Andrew, also said it was time for Muscat and Schembri to resign “and be placed under surveillance”.
A power station owner suspected of kicking-back payments to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and Energy Minister has just been arrested in connection with my mother’s assassination. It’s time for Mizzi and Schembri to resign and be placed under surveillance. https://t.co/dmIVsk8fBZ
— Andrew Caruana Galizia (@acaruanagalizia) November 20, 2019
Busuttil and PN MEP David Casa said the Prime Minister’s position was no longer tenable. “His resignation now is imperative,” Casa said in a tweet. Busuttil also said Muscat must resign immediately to allow justice to take its course.
ARRESTED: #YorgenFenech, owner of #17Black, caught paying €5,000-a-day to the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff and his top Minister for the new power station. The Prime Minister's position is untenable. He must RESIGN NOW and let JUSTICE take its course. https://t.co/CZ0BdUhWnE
— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) November 20, 2019
The tweets came a few hours after Fenech was arrested when the Armed Forces of Malta intercepted his yacht early this morning before dawn. The luxury yacht Gio left the Portomaso marina and was forced to return back to port where it was searched by the AFM.
Addressing journalists shortly after Fenech was arrested on board his yacht, Muscat said that at this point, there was nothing pointing towards Schembri’s or Mizzi’s involvement in the murder.
Fenech’s Tumas Group is one of the partners in the gas-fired power station which was Labour’s main electoral promise in 2013. The Labour Party in government gave the green light for €450 million gas power station in December the same year, owned by the Electrogas consortium, which is owned by GEM holdings, 33.34% (in which Tumas Energy Co Ltd holds 35.16 %), Socar Trading 33.33% and Siemens Projects Ventures 33.33% .
The LNG-to-power project involved the construction, owning, operating and maintaining of a 205 MW natural gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine, as well as a Floating Storage Unit (FSU) for the receipt and storage of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and an onshore LNG regasification facility.
Electrogas entered into an 18-year agreement with Azerbaijani State-owned company SOCAR to supply Enemalta with liquefied natural gas and electricity for the project. It emerged that Malta was paying twice the market price for gas.
Civil society organisations are calling citizens to join them in a protest to demand resignations in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Valletta at 6pm.