Robert Abela says friendships with Yorgen Fenech before murder charge not problematic

Prime Minister draws a line on when friendships with Yorgen Fenech become problematic but will advise ministers who had some form of relationship to stay out of Cabinet discussions that may deal with a pardon request

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Robert Abela has rejected calls to demote ministers who may have had a friendship or relationship with Yorgen Fenech before murder charges were filed.

The Prime Minister drew a demarcation line when asked about a claim made last Sunday by the son of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that two ministers and a parliamentary secretary had some form of contact, friendship or relationship with Fenech.

In comments to Times of Malta, Abela said it would be a problem if someone in Cabinet had contact, or maintained a friendship or relationship with Fenech after the murder charges were filed.

“It depends whether the friendship or intimate relationship was before or after Yorgen Fenech was implicated in the [murder] case. To me that is the demarcation line… It is not right that you and some are trying to give the impression that just because a person had ever spoken to or had a friendship with Yorgen Fenech it is wrong,” Abela said.

However, the Prime Minister said he would advise anyone who had some form of friendship to desist from participating in any Cabinet decision should it be asked to consider a presidential pardon for Fenech.

In a tweet on Sunday, Paul Caruana Galizia claimed: “A minister has a history with one of the hitmen and, after Fenech’s role in the murder was known, a junior minister had an affair with him and another minister was in constant contact with him.”

The first time that Fenech’s role in the murder became public was in November 2019 when he was arrested and indicted as a person of interest.

Prior to that there was no public information linking Fenech to the journalist’s assassination despite investigators identifying him as a potential suspect in 2018.

In November 2018, Fenech had been outed as the owner of Dubai company 17 Black, which had featured as a target client on bank account opening forms for the Panama companies that belonged to former minister Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Abela insisted that the media must not “humiliate” people, with clear reference to the claim that a member of his Cabinet had an intimate relationship of sorts with Fenech.

“I have proven that I am ready to take tough decisions… but I will not let anyone dictate the government's agenda,” he added.