Maltese PM Joseph Muscat says he will RESIGN after protests over murder of journalist

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat says he will RESIGN after protests over murder of journalist


Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tonight confirmed he would resign after protests over his response to the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

His government has been rocked by an ongoing probe into the death of Caruana Galizia, described as a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks,’ who was killed in a car bomb in October 2017. 

Muscat, a friend of Tony Blair’s, announced he would step down despite his Labour MPs giving him their unanimous backing at an emergency meeting earlier on Sunday. 

In a televised message on Sunday night, Muscat said he would quit as leader of the governing Labour Party on January 12 and that ‘in the days after I will resign as prime minister.’ 

Joseph and Michelle Muscat with Tony and Cherie Blair in 2007. Prime Minister Muscat said he would step down as the Labour Party leader on January 12 and in the days after as the PM

Joseph and Michelle Muscat with Tony and Cherie Blair in 2007. Prime Minister Muscat said he would step down as the Labour Party leader on January 12 and in the days after as the PM

Critics including members of Caruana Galizia’s family have accused Muscat, 45, of protecting those involved in murdering the popular journalist and blogger who exposed cronyism and sleaze within the tiny country’s political and business elite.

Earlier Sunday a party insider said after a four-hour crisis meeting: ‘The entire group was supportive of Joseph Muscat, and we told him that it’s for him to choose when to step down.’ 

Muscat's government has been rocked by an ongoing probe into the death of Caruana Galizia, described as a 'one-woman WikiLeaks,' who was killed in a car bomb in October 2017.

Muscat’s government has been rocked by an ongoing probe into the death of Caruana Galizia, described as a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks,’ who was killed in a car bomb in October 2017.

Meeting at Muscat’s summer home, the MPs also agreed to reinstate Chris Cardona as economy minister and deputy leader.

Cardona had announced last week that he was ‘suspending himself’ as the investigation into the killing of Caruana Galizia in a car bomb attack implicated top government officials.

Last week, the scandal claimed the scalps of Muscat’s top aide Keith Schembri and the former tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi.

Police sources said Fenech had identified Schembri as the ‘real mastermind’ behind the killing.

Caruana Galizia had accused Schembri of corruption along with Mizzi and Cardona.

Caruana Galizia’s family and thousands of protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets calling for Muscat’s resignation.

Last week, the Council of Europe’s special rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt also called on the Labour PM to step down ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’.

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech pictured leaving court yesterday. He was this evening charged with complicity in murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech

Yorgen Fenech (pictured yesterday), a Maltese hotelier and director of the Maltese power company, was charged in the evening courtroom hearing with being an accomplice to causing the explosion that killed the 53-year-old reporter as she drove near her home

Timeline of murder of Malta journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia  

Car Bomb – October 16, 2017

On October 16, 2017 Daphne Caruana Galizia is killed in a car bomb targeting her vehicle not far from her home in the north of the island.

Aged 53, she was known for investigating high-level corruption, including contributing to the 2016 Panama Papers data leak.

Her killing triggers an outpouring of grief on the island, one of her sons accusing Muscat of being complicity and turning Malta into a ‘mafia island’.

On December 4, 2017, authorities arrest eight people in connection with the murder.

Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured in 2011) was killed by a car bomb in October 2017

Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia (pictured in 2011) was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 

Charges – July 16, 2019

On July 16, 2019, three suspects are formally charged in connection with the assassination: brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, as well as Vince Muscat, all in their fifties.

The mastermind has not yet been identified.

On September 20, the government announces a public inquiry into the killing, just ahead of the expiry of a three-month deadline by the Council of Europe to set up such an investigation.

Legal Immunity – November 20, 2019 

On November 20, Maltese police arrest tycoon Yorgen Fenech in connection with the murder as he is sailing away from Malta on his yacht.

Fenech owns a Dubai company called 17 Black that Caruana Galizia had reported had connections with the government.

The arrest comes a day after the prime minister promises to pardon an alleged middleman if he names the person who ordered the assassination.

On the 23, Fenech demands legal immunity before revealing what he knows about the case. He is released on bail three days later.

Ministers quit – November 26, 2019

On November 26 Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and his tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi, resign. They had been accused by Caruana Galizia of being involved in corruption, which they denied.

Economy minister Chris Cardona says he is ‘suspending himself’.

Schembri is arrested but released two days later without charge, sparking accusations of a cover-up. Some sources claim Schembri was the mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s killing.

Prime Minister to step down  – November 30, 2019 

On November 30, party sources say Muscat will step down on January 18 once those behind the murder of Caruana Galizia have been charged

‘He always said that he will be leaving soon and he feels that now is the time to go,’ said one party source.

But Muscat himself insisted he would remain in power until the case was ‘closed’.

On Saturday, party insiders said Muscat was ready to go once those behind the killing had been charged.

The Labour Party would then elect his successor on January 18.

‘The prime minister has said from the outset that he will leave no stone unturned to solve this despicable murder under his watch, and he delivered exactly that with the arraignment of someone who is believed to have commissioned the murder,’ a party insider said.

Meanwhile a European Parliament delegation is due to arrive on Malta late Monday and stay until Wednesday.

Led by Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld, it will examine doubts about the judiciary’s independence and investigate allegations of high-level corruption.

‘Malta is part of Europe,’ in’t Veld tweeted. ‘This concerns us all.’

Leaked emails revealed in court indicated that both Schembri and Mizzi stood to receive payments from a Dubai company called 17 Black, owned by Fenech.

The murder probe gained momentum following last week’s arrest of the tycoon, whose business interests span the energy, casinos and tourism sectors.

His detention came after an alleged middleman in the murder, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, was offered immunity in exchange for identifying others who were involved.

Although Schembri, Muscat’s former chief of staff, was arrested Tuesday, his release on Thursday sparked accusations of a cover-up.

Anti-government protesters were set to hold fresh rallies outside the parliament in Valletta on Sunday.

A Maltese court is expected to rule Monday on a request by Fenech for the chief investigator in the case, Keith Arnaud, to be removed amid allegations he also had close ties to Schembri and the prime minister.  

It comes after party sources said Muscat will step down on January 18.

Insiders said on Saturday Muscat would step down once those behind the killing had been charged and once his Labour Party has chosen a new leader.

‘He always said that he will be leaving soon and he feels that now is the time to go,’ said one party source.

First however, he wanted to see that the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder was solved on under his watch, as he had promised, sources added.

‘After the mastermind or masterminds are arraigned in court, he plans to announce that he will be stepping down and that there will be a leadership election on January 18,’ a party source said. 

The sources stressed that he would not stay beyond January 18. 

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Valletta Friday evening after Muscat refused to give immunity to the main suspect in the 2017 murder, tycoon Yorgen Fenech, to disclose what he knows about the case.

It was the sixth such demonstration in two weeks.

Fenech has identified Schembri as the mastermind behind Caruana Galizia’s 2017 car bomb killing, according to sources.

Schembri was arrested on Tuesday, but his release on Thursday sparked accusations of a cover-up.

Parents of the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Rose, left, and Michael Vella, right, attend a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Parents of the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Rose, left, and Michael Vella, right, attend a protest outside the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat 

People holding placards and photos of killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia stage a protest called by Galizia's family and civic movements on November 29

People holding placards and photos of killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia stage a protest called by Galizia’s family and civic movements on November 29 

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat makes a statement to media on the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta on November 22

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat makes a statement to media on the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta on November 22 

A protester holds a photo of Daphne Caruana Galizia outside the prime miniser's office on Friday

A protester holds a photo of Daphne Caruana Galizia outside the prime miniser’s office on Friday 

Caruana Galizia’s family, who have accused the prime minister of protecting his long-time chief of staff had repeatedly called for him to go.

‘We share Malta’s shock and anger at the release of Keith Schembri,’ the family said in a statement.

‘At least two witnesses and multiple pieces of physical evidence implicate Schembri in the assassination of our wife and mother.’

They accused Muscat of playing ‘judge, jury, and executioner in an assassination investigation that so far implicates three of his closest colleagues’.

Muscat said Friday he had recused himself from the decision on whether to grant immunity to Fenech.

A police van carrying entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech leaves the Malta Law Courts in Valletta on November 30, above and below

A police van carrying entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech leaves the Malta Law Courts in Valletta on November 30, above and below

Fenech was arraigned in court and charged with complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Fenech was arraigned in court and charged with complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia 

The prime minister later said he had reported Fenech to the police for attempted blackmail, saying the mogul had threatened to implicate him in the affair if he was not given a pardon.

Fenech, a tycoon whose business interests span the energy and tourism sectors, was arrested on his yacht last week after an alleged middleman in the murder, taxi driver Melvin Theuma, was offered a pardon to identify those involved.

That arrest was followed swiftly by the resignation of Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, while economy minister Chris Cardona said he was ‘suspending himself’. 



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