Blair’s pal is ousted as Maltese PM af­ter jour­nal­ist’s mur­der

Daily Mail - - News - By Larisa Brown Po­lit­i­cal Correspond­ent

‘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

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