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Malta: High-Level Officials Resign As Police Probe Journalist’s Murder

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By  Orlando Crowcroft  Reuters

A senior minister and the prime minister’s chief of staff resigned while another minister suspended himself from duty in Malta amidst a probe into the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi resigned Tuesday, while economy minister Chris Cardona suspended himself until the investigation is complete.

In a statement, Cardona said he had “absolutely no connection” with the case but after being asked for “further clarifications” from the Maltese police, he was “duty-bound to take the decision.”

Mizzi said that he was resigning “in light of the political situation in the country”, and said that he had “no connection and nothing to answer about in relation to the case”.

Schembri, who is helping police with the investigation into the 2017 murder of Galizia, has not spoken publicly on his decision, but Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that his chief of staff resigned to “ensure that this government continues to function in the best possible manner.”

Muscat himself said he has no intention of standing down after the resignation of Schembri.

He said that at a meeting of the government, he had requested a secret vote of confidence in his leadership, “which was approved unanimously.”

“I will continue to take decisions to assure this country’s stability,” he said

On the case of Caruana Galizia, he said could not comment on an active and on-going investigation.

Taxi driver

Also on Tuesday, a taxi driver who was suspected of being a middleman in Caruana Galizia’s death, Melvin Theuma, received a presidential pardon, indicating that he may have provided evidence that could lead to a conviction of the person who ordered the killing.

Theuma was arrested in November as part of a separate investigation into money laundering in Malta, but offered to provide information on the murder of Galizia, Reuters reported.

The fact that Theuma has received a presidential pardon suggests that the evidence he provided could help convict whoever ordered the killing. Three men are currently awaiting trial for planting the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017.

Muscat said last week he would recommend a pardon if Theuma’s evidence was corroborated and could stand up in court. A day after news of Theuma’s arrest was leaked, police detained Yorgen Fenech, a prominent businessman regarded as a person of interest in the case.

Theuma, 41, is a taxi driver who regularly worked at an apartment complex owned by Fenech. Previous court appearances have shown that he was also involved in many illicit activities, including running a secret, multi-million euro lottery and as a loan shark, offering loans at extremely high-interest rates.

Neither Theuma nor Fenech have made any public comments since their arrests.

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