Maltese prosecutors charge businessman in reporter's killing

Malta businessman charged in journalist's car bomb killing

Fenech pleaded not guilty.

Defendant Yorgen Fenech, one of the Mediterranean island's wealthiest businessmen, pleaded innocent on Saturday night to the charge of complicity in the murder and to another charge of being an accomplice to the bombing.

The prime minister later said he had reported Fenech to the police for attempted blackmail, saying the mogul had threatened to implicate him in the affair if he was not given a pardon.

Three men - brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio and their friend Vincent Muscat, all in their 50s - have been charged with triggering the bomb which killed Caruana Galizia near her home in October 2017.

European Union lawmaker Sven Giegold said the mission's priority "must be to investigate all potential links to the prime minister who has protected and defended these ministers for so long". "He will make announcements in due course".

The arrest has led to a cascade of developments with Fenech implicated the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri in the murder during interrogation.

Fenech said when he spoke to journalists on Friday that the "truth will come out".

Sources briefed on the murder investigation told Reuters that police regard Fenech as the mastermind of the journalist's killing.

Immediately after Saturday's hearing, Caruana Galizia's family urged authorities to continue probing who else was involved in the murder, adding that they expect Muscat to leave office.

Ms Vella also called for Mr Muscat and his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to be "properly investigated" for their "possible involvement in Daphne's assassination". Present were Daphne's husband and other family members.

Those same sources said he is likely to stay on until the party holds a leadership election in mid-January.

He has been repeatedly questioned over the killing since trying to leave the island on his yacht on 20 November, and sought a pardon in return for providing information but his request was rejected.

Schembri has not commented since his resignation or arrest.

That arrest was followed swiftly by the resignation of Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, while economy minister Chris Cardona said he was "suspending himself".

Muscat, who has vowed to resign if links were found between himself and the murder, said Friday he would remain in power, telling reporters he wanted "this case to be closed under my watch". He previously denied any wrongdoing. Mr Mizzi on Tuesday denied any business links with Fenech and any wrongdoing.

Past year he was identified as the owner of a Dubai-registered company called 17 Black, which is listed in the Panama Papers, a collection of leaked confidential documents showing how wealthy and powerful companies around the world use tax havens to get around the law. Leaked emails indicated those same companies meant to earn money from an offshore company called 17 Black. Following her murder, an investigation by Reuters and Times of Malta showed Fenech as having been the owner of 17 Black.

Mr Mizzi has denied any business ties to Fenech or knowledge of 17 Black or any criminal activity.

Muscat's image started unravelling after Caruana Galizia died in a vehicle bombing in October 2017 near her home.

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