Blair’s pal is ousted as Maltese PM after journalist’s murder
‘Malta needs a new chapter’
MALTA’S prime minister last night said he would resign after facing mounting pressure over the murder of a journalist.
Joseph Muscat said he had informed the island’s president that he would quit as leader of the governing Labour Party on January 12.
‘Malta needs to start a new chapter and only I can give that signal’, Mr Muscat said on national TV. He made the decision after a four-hour meeting with his parliamentary group.
The embattled leader had faced rising calls to step down over the inquiry into the car-bomb killing of anti- corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
Pressure intensified after a probe led to charges on Saturday against a prominent businessman with alleged ties to ministers and senior officials. Yorgen Fenech was charged with complicity in the murder.
Mr Muscat, in power since 2013, was already under fire after his former chief of staff Keith Schembri was linked to the 2017 killing. He was among the government members targeted by her reporting. Last month Schembri resigned before being questioned by detectives. Mr Muscat has been described as Tony Blair’s ‘mini me’ and in 2017 Mr Blair hailed him as a ‘ great example of what progressive politicians could do in power’.
In the same year, Mr Blair and his wife Cherie went to Malta for a private visit during which they met Mr Muscat. Former spin doctor Alastair Campbell also flew to the Mediterranean island as recently as four weeks ago to speak at an investors’ conference with Mr Muscat.
Miss Caruana Galizia, one of Malta’s best-known investigative journalists, was murdered as she left home in northern Malta in October 2017.
The prominent blogger had highlighted cases of alleged corruption, often involving politicians. Video showed the burned-out wreck of her car lying in a field several yards from the road.
In the months before her death, Miss Caruana Galizia accused Mr Muscat of corruption. In a televised statement after the killing, he said: ‘I will not rest until I see justice done in this case. Our country deserves justice.’
Former chief of staff Schembri, 44, had been facing pressure to resign because of his alleged financial ties to businessman Fenech. The alleged murder plot middleman, Melvin Theuma, was granted a presidential pardon in return for information he had given about the case.
Local media reported that he had handed over audio recordings while it was alleged Schembri’s name was mentioned by Fenech, who was reportedly willing to provide information on corruption if he too was given immunity.
Old friends: Cherie Blair, Joseph Muscat, Tony Blair and Mr Muscat’s wife Michelle