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Malta: Businessman could face life in prison for journalist's murder

Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered after investigating a corruption case involving businessman Yorgen Fenech. A middleman in the murder was granted immunity for giving evidence.

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was arrested in connection with an investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta. November, 2019.

Prosecutors will seek a life sentence against Yorgen Fenech for his alleged part in the murder of a journalist

Malta's chief prosector said on Wednesday that the state would seek a life sentence against millionaire businessman Yorgen Fenech for his alleged part in the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg laid formal charges against Fenech of criminal conspiracy and complicity in the murder of Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bombing close to her home on October 16, 2017.

What do we know about the murder?

At the time of her assassination, highly-regarded investigative journalist Caruana Galizia was hunting for evidence of corruption in a controversial power station bid in Malta. Fenech headed a consortium looking to build the power station.

In December 2017, three men were arrested and charged with placing a bomb in the journalist's car.

A protester holds a photo of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia during a vigil demanding justice. May 16, 2019.

Protestors have asked that those who ordered the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia be brought to justice

One of the three, Vincent Muscat, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Two others, George and Alfred Degiorgio are awaiting trial.

In July, an independent inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia concluded that authorities had to take responsibility for creating a "culture of impunity" in Malta.

What was the Fenech connection?

In 2018 it was revealed Fenech had a secret company in Dubai called 17 Black.

It was alleged he set it up to pay Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the government's chief of staff Keith Schembri through two Panama-based companies, although no money was transferred.

The screw turned for Fenech when Melvin Theuma, a middle-man in the murder plot, chose to give evidence in exchange for a pardon on November 14, 2019.

Theuma said Fenech had asked him to organize the assassination.

Police arrested Yorgen Fenech a week later as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht.

Who is protecting the murderers? Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo on Conflict Zone

Malta's then prime minister, Joseph Muscat, resigned from his post 10 days later, claiming his innocence amid protests.

By then, investigators had found that senior government workers had connections with Fenech.

The case has put into questionthe whole fabric of Malta's political and business eliteand damaged its place in the EU.

What happens next?

After Attorney General Buttigieg presented the bill of indictment against Fenech on Wednesday, the businessman will now stand trial.

He could face life imprisonment for the murder charge and 20 to 30 years for criminal conspiracy, if convicted. A date has not yet been set for the trial.

jc/msh (AFP, Reuters)