Judge points to unique nature and complexity of Yorgen Fenech case in decision denying bail

The Criminal Court has turned down yet another bail request filed by murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, pointing out that the case could not be treated 'like other cases'

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech

The Criminal Court has turned down yet another bail request filed by murder suspect Yorgen Fenech, pointing out that the case could not be treated “like other cases.”

In a ruling handed down on Friday morning, Madam Justice Edwina Grima observed that there had been no changes to the circumstances surrounding the case which could justify changing its stance.

“This case cannot be treated as other murder cases due to its wide ramifications, complex investigation and several magisterial inquiries that remain pending. It is true that the accused, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, is in preventive custody, but this decision is not arbitrary,” the Criminal Court said.

Fenech, indicted and awaiting trial for complicity in the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been remanded in custody since his arrest in November 2019. He had been arrested on his yacht as it was leaving Malta for what he claimed to be scheduled maintenance. WhatsApp chats between Fenech and his uncle, which were exhibited in court, revealed that the businessman had discussed the possibility of leaving the country.

In a decree handed down on Friday, the Criminal Court observed that the Attorney General was correct to point out that it could not re-assess and revise a previous decree given by that same court, in which bail had been denied.

The defence had put forward examples of other murder suspects who had been granted bail, but Madam Justice Grima reiterated that the court could not uphold these arguments, pointing out that the implications of this case were different and stating that her court was duty bound to consider the particular circumstances surrounding the case separately when deciding on bail.

The Criminal Court also observed that the fears raised by the prosecution were not illusory, reiterating that it did not have the peace of mind required to grant Fenech bail.

The evidence showed that not only had Fenech attempted to abscond when he realised that his arrest was at hand but also that he possessed the means with which to abscond with the help of his relatives and those close to him, as well as their financial support.

These fears were supported by the evidence exhibited before the First Hall of the Civil Court in its Constitutional Jurisdiction, which was also made part of the records of the criminal case.

“There is also evidence which shows that at the time of the arrest, there were people close to him who were ready to obstruct justice,” said the judge, also noting that to date, Fenech had offered no guarantees which could convince the court otherwise.

Another factor in the Criminal Court’s decision was the ongoing investigation into the murder, which was still active, having spawned parallel investigations and several pending magisterial inquiries.

The judge explained that when deciding on bail, the court needed to have all the guarantees provided for in the Criminal Code, in particular those relating to the administration of justice.

“More so in the unique circumstances of this case where a journalist has been murdered, with its serious repercussions being felt both at a national and at an international level as it has already been pointed out by the Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court.”