Malta PM called to resign over journalist's murder

Malta PM called to resign over journalist's murder

Malta PM called to resign over journalist's murder

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told reporters that his chief of staff, Keith Schembri, resigned when police intensified his investigation into the murder in 2017 of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who repeatedly denounced corruption at the highest levels of the government.

The resignation of Keith Schembri marks the biggest political fallout to date since Caruana Galizia was killed in a auto bomb in October 2017.

Earlier on Tuesday, government chief of staff Keith Schembri also resigned and police sources said he was being questioned in connection with the murder investigation.

A former reporter for the local Sunday Times and the Malta Independent, Caruana Galizia was best known as the publisher, from 2008 onwards, of her widely read blog, Running Commentary.

RSF said these developments were due to the sustained campaigning by Daphne Caruana Galizia's family and Maltese and worldwide civil society "in the face of tremendous pressure", as well as "courageous investigative reporting". Both men have denied the claims.

Caruana Galizia's murder sparked outrage and protests in the Mediterranean island.

Shortly before that announcement, the Malta Today reported, police searched Schembri's home and began questioning him.

Failure to bring them to justice "will have fatal consequences for Malta's democracy", the family said in a statement.

Caruana Galizia often targeted members of the Muscat government in her blogs, including Schembri and Mizzi.

"We remind Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that the assassination investigation implicates his own office and his closest officials, " the family said in a statement Friday.

Muscat must take "political responsibility when it [the murder probe] is about his cabinet", Manfred Weber, the German head of the EU's centre-right bloc, the European People's Party, said.

A Reuters investigation a year ago revealed that Fenech was the owner of a secret company called 17 Black, which was named in emails as being the vehicle to fund secret Panama companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi. He lost that ministry portfolio, but after the 2017 election which kept Muscat in power, Mizzi became tourism minister, his current post.

Mr. Schembri and Mr. Mizzi had been facing pressure to resign from opposition politicians and Ms. Caruana Galizia's family due to their purported financial ties to businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was detained last week as a person of interest.

Fenech was arrested a day after Muscat revealed that an unidentified man offered to provide details about the murder if he was given immunity of all crimes he committed. That decision is pending.

Similar allegations were made by a key source in the case, the taxi driver and alleged intermediary between those who commissioned the murder and the killers, Melvin Melvin Theuma. Theuma is now expected to go before a judge to repeat what he has already told the police.

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