Judge dismisses Yorgen Fenech's claim that freezing order breached his fundamental human rights

Yorgen Fenech claimed his fundamental rights were being breached by a freezing order over all his assets, imposed as part of the money laundering proceedings against him

Yorgen Fenech’s claim that his fundamental rights were being breached by a freezing order over all his assets, imposed as part of the money laundering proceedings against him, has been dismissed in court, a judge ruling that there was no doubt that the asset freeze was justified.

Fenech, who is currently being held on remand at Corradino Prison, is indicted in separate proceedings, accused of masterminding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was assassinated in a car bomb explosion outside her home in Bidnija on 16 October 2017. 

Fenech had been arrested in late November 2019, whilst trying to leave the Portomaso marina on his yacht, the Gio, less than 24 hours after a pardon was announced for the middleman in the murder, Melvin Theuma, in return for Theuma’s cooperation in the murder investigation. Despite several attempts to apply for bail, Fenech remains in custody.

He is also facing separate proceedings in which he is accused of money laundering. As a result of these ongoing proceedings, Fenech’s assets have been frozen at the orders of the court.

In a judgement handed down today in the First Hall of the Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction by Mr. Justice Grazio Mercieca, the judge noted that Fenech had failed to use the several remedies which were available to him under ordinary law and had instead opted to immediately file constitutional proceedings.

The court sought to ascertain whether or not the freezing order had been imposed for legitimate aims and whether or not it was disproportionate.

The order’s legitimacy was immediately confirmed by the judge, who observed that the proceeds of a crime need not be derived directly from it and could be any derivative economic or other benefit. “The constant suspicion in the investigation into the Caruana Galizia murder was that the motive was that she be eliminated before she revealed a story about corruption relating to the Electrogas project in which the applicant was involved.”

On the issue of proportionality, the judge noted that although no evidence about the applicant’s assets had been exhibited in the case, it was a well known fact that Fenech was one of the wealthiest people in Malta and owned many legitimate businesses.

“Therefore, in the opinion of this court, both the assets acquired before the Electrogas project could have been connected, directly or indirectly with the crimes he is charged with and therefore should be subjected to the freezing order. Assets acquired later should be assessed on their own merits.” 

Fenech had chosen not to request the revocation of the freezing order within the time period stipulated by the Criminal Code, and his argument that there was no possibility of financial gain from the crime of murder could have been made to the Criminal Court, independently from any evidence.

Besides this, Fenech had also not used the option of requesting a reduction in the amount frozen under the order. The assets which Fenech had inherited had in fact been excluded from the freezing order, said the judge, pointing out that only the Criminal Court could order such a reduction.

Rejecting all of Fenech’s requests, the court directed him to first use the ordinary remedies which it had mentioned so that the suggested proportionality criteria could be satisfied.

It is understood that Fenech intends to file an appeal.

Lawyers Charlene Camilleri Zarb and Maurizio Cordina represented the State Advocate in the proceedings. Lawyer Charles Mercieca assisted Yorgen Fenech.