MaltaToday managing editor denies Darren Debono’s claims in Times report

Saviour Balzan denies claims by alleged fuel smuggler who said he would not believe Debono over former OPM official Keith Schembri

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan has denied claims against him made by alleged fuel smuggler Darren Debono in a Times of Malta report on Sunday.

“This morning Jacob Borg, a journalist with The Times, carried a story after a conversation with top criminal Darren Debono, and repeated his claim that I told him (Darren Debono) that I believe Keith Schembri and not him. That is a fat lie. An untrue and an invented story,” Balzan said in a Facebook post.

The Times of Malta reported on Sunday that Debono, who was arrested in Sicily over alleged links to illegal fuel smuggling, claimed there were attempts “from the very top” to frame him for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He went on to claim that during an unannounced visit at the MaltaToday offices in 2019, co-owner Saviour Balzan had said that he would not believe him “over Keith Schembri”.

“Darren Debono a shady character arrived unannounced at the office of MaltaToday asking to see Matthew Vella the editor, and I accepted to be present in this meeting with him in my office. He went off into a rant about the fuel smuggling stories and not being the murderer of Daphne Caruana Galizia together with irrelevant stories about his wife and children. He asked me to pass on messages to Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri, and I simply replied that I was no one’s messenger,” Balzan said, denying the claim.

Former MaltaToday executive editor Matthew Vella has also rubbished the claims, detailing Debono’s visit to the newspaper’s offices.

“He wanted to send a message to Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat; to tell them (remember, we’re in the summer of 2019 now, with the investigation on the DCG assassination edging closer to Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech, and hence Castille...) – to stop pushing the rumour that he is involved in the assassination,” Vella said.

“Now Saviour Balzan had testified to that extent in the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, that Castille had attempted to derail the media by spinning this narrative. And MaltaToday was certainly not pushing that line. Saviour Balzan laughed off the request. We wanted to know exactly what the Americans had on the Maltese government’s secret refuelling of the Kuznetsov…”

Vella was also faced with “understated threats” from Debono.

“And then finally, in late 2018, a nice WhatsApp text from Darren Debono – where he sent me a photo, my own WhatsApp profile pic of me walking with my daughter, telling me “nice photo,” Matthew Vella said. “Very subtle. I guess Debono thought he was channelling Tony Soprano on his WhatsApp at that point. “Oh, I don’t mean anything by it...” Debono replied when I challenged him on why he was sending me a photo of me with my daughter. “Family is precious… I have five children… I take care of FAMILY as well.”

READ ALSO: Darren Debono wanted the fuel smuggling stories to stop. So he texted me a photo I had of my daughter from my WhatsApp profile