Three men have been awaiting trial for setting the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia but so far the authorities have failed to track down the person who hired them.
The case has moved quickly in recent weeks since a middleman suspected of introducing the killers to the person who ordered the hit was pardoned in return for testimony.
Earlier on Friday, Muscat’s cabinet turned down a request to pardon a businessman, Yorgen Fenech, over the murder in return for testimony that Fenech’s lawyers said would implicate senior government figures, including Schembri.
Fenech, who was arrested last week while trying to leave the island in his yacht, was also freed on bail on Friday.
He appeared in court later for a hearing at which he hopes to remove the lead investigator from the case for his alleged links to Schembri, the former chief of staff to the prime minister. He will be questioned by police again tomorrow.
“I fear for my life, I’m ready to go all the way for justice to prevail and the truth to come out,” Fenech told reporters outside the court.
The investigation focuses on Fenech, a businessman whose empire included property, retail, hospitality, gambling and energy companies. He handed the business reins to his brother a day before attempting to leave Malta.
In a letter to the president, Fenech’s lawyers said he was prepared to give information involving Schembri and two cabinet ministers – Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and Economy Minister Chris Cardona. Mizzi resigned on Tuesday and Cardona has suspended himself from his duties. All three deny wrongdoing.
Dunja Mijatovic, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, said she was “seriously concerned by recent allegations of political interference in the investigation” and called on Muscat to prevent the appearance of collusion.
Before she was killed, Caruana Galizia had revealed the existence of a secret offshore company called 17 Black. A Reuters investigation last year revealed Fenech was the owner of the company, named in emails as a vehicle to fund secret Panama companies owned by Schembri and Mizzi.
There is no evidence that money changed hands and Mizzi has said there are no links between him and Fenech’s company. Cardona has also denied involvement.
One of Fenech’s companies formed part of a consortium which was awarded a government contract in 2015 to build a power station. Other partners in that consortium included SOCAR of Azerbeijan and Siemens <SIEGn.DE>. Siemens and SOCAR have both denied their staff was involved in wrongdoing.
In a separate case on Friday showing how the corruption allegations have closed in on the government, a court ordered Mizzi, Cardona and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna to face a criminal probe over the granting of a contract to run hospitals. The three all deny wrongdoing in that case.
(Reporting by Chris Scicluna and Stephen Grey; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Giulia Segreti, Crispian Balmer and Angus MacSwan)
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