Yorgen Fenech lawyers deny Caruana Galizia claim mastermind funded Degiorgios’ defence

Son of Daphne Caruana Galizia says hitmen’s defence funded by Yorgen Fenech, after Degiorgios request intervention of European Commissioner into refusal by government to grant them pardon

Matthew Caruana Galizia (left) at a demonstration marking the anniversary of the assassination of his mother
Matthew Caruana Galizia (left) at a demonstration marking the anniversary of the assassination of his mother

The son of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has claimed the alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech is funding or had funded the defence of the two brothers charged with having a role in the assassination.

Alfred and George Degiorgio stand accused of triggering the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on 16 October, 2017. The two men are protesting the refusal of a presidential pardon in return for information on major crimes, by the Maltese Cabinet, whom they accuse of a conflict of interest.

On Wednesday, the Degiorgios wrote to European Commissioner Didier Reynders saying they could connect former Labour minister Chris Cardona to a 2015 plot to kill Caruana Galizia, for which money had already been paid; and sitting Labour minister Carmelo Abela, a former HSBC employee, to the 2010 heist on the bank. 

The letter, recieved by Brussels, accuses the Maltese government of a conflict of interest in refusing them a pardon for what could implicate both a former and sitting minister.

“He who pays the piper. The defence of the hitmen was/is funded by Yorgen Fenech, who is himself being prosecuted for complicity in the assassination,” he tweeted in reaction to a report on Wednesday revealing the contents of a letter the alleged hitmen sent to European Commissioner Didier Reynders.

The assassination middleman, Melvin Theuma, had previously told a court that he had requested €30,000 from Yorgen Fenech to pay for the legal defence of the Degiorgio brothers. He had said Fenech said he had expected he would be asked to pay. Theuma said he would send the mony to the Degiorgio’ brother Mario, and that Fenech had said that should the Degiorgios get bail, he would also pay them.

In a statement, the lawyers to Yorgen Fenech called the claim “baseless and unfounded” and accused Caruana Galizia of attempting to “distort and adversely influence the trial of Yorgen Fenech”.

“For the avoidance of doubt, any claim that Mr Fenech funds the defence of the Degiorgio brothers is being categorically denied. Rather than focusing on diversionary tactics one is invited to re-focus their attention on the search for the truth.”

Both Cardona and Abela have denied involvement in any of the criminal cases mentioned. Opposition leader Bernard Grech insisted that the prime minister should remove Abela from the Cabinet, pending police investigations into allegations he was involved in the attempted HSBC heist in 2010.

“Robert Abela cannot allow Malta’s reputation to continue taking one hit after another with his minister implicated in a very serious crime. This does not only cast a dark shadow on the minister and Robert Abela but it also casts a shadow on our country,” Grech said. “Our country cannot have a minister with such a heavy shadow hanging over him. These are accusations without precedent on a sitting minister and Robert Abela’s indecision continues to confirm that he has his hands tied.”

The Degiorgios have already filed a constitutional case to protest the denial of their pardon by the Cabinet in which Abela sits. “My clients’ requests for a Presidential Pardon have been rejected by the President of Malta acting on the recommendation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Government after advice was tendered by the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police. Contrary to what happened in the cases of the Presidential Pardons granted to Melvin Theuma and Vincent Muscat, the authorities mentioned did not question my clients about the information they hold. No meetings were held and no information was requested,” Cuschieri told Brussels.

The lawyer said it was impossible for the State to fairly assess his clients’ requests.

“My clients are willing to meet your good self or a person of your trust, members of the EUROPOL, the Maltese Prime Minister and members of the press and explain the details of the information they hold as well as their genuine concerns regarding the possibility of existence of a vested interest in protecting the above-mentioned persons,” Cuschieri said