Updated at 4.29pm with video

A government minister has quit and another has suspended himself in the wake of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder probe.

Konrad Mizzi announced he has resigned from his post as Tourism Minister on Tuesday, just a day after telling media he would fight on.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona said he was 'suspending himself' until current investigations into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia are concluded.

Dr Mizzi announced his resignation after a Cabinet meeting but it was not immediately clear if the minister had volunteered to step down or was forced to go.

"I felt it my duty in the context of current political circumstances to resign in loyalty to the people, the PL and the Prime Minister.

Konrad Mizzi speaks outside Castille. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

"I want to make it clear once more that I have had no association, directly or indirectly with 17 Black or Yorgen Fenech,” the minister said.

Dr Mizzi will stay on as MP. He said he looked forward to continue working in politics and to seeing the government continue to work serenely for the rest of this legislature. He also insisted that there were no irregularities in the building of the power station, and the project had been audited by the EU and other authorities. 

His departure came mere hours after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced the resignation of chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri had been facing huge pressure to go following the arrest last week of Yorgen Fenech, a top businessman and shareholder of the power station company Electrogas.

Mr Fenech was revealed to be the owner of secret company 17 Black.

That company had been named as being the vehicle for funds to be deposited into secret Panama companies owned by Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri, although it is not known if any money transfers were actually made.

From star candidate to shadow over government

Dr Mizzi was a political newcomer in 2013 when he was widely credited as being one of the architects of Labour’s return to power that year, having come out with plans for a steep reduction of power tariffs, along with the plans to build a new power station.

As Energy Minister he was responsible for the granting of the contract to Electrogas and the building of the power station.

He also reformed Enemalta, bringing in Chinese giant Shanghai Electric as a minority shareholder with an injection of capital which brought a turn-around for the corporation.

As minister also responsible for health, Dr Mizzi controversially brought in the then unknown Vitals Global Healthcare group to run St Luke,s Karin Grech and Gozo hospitals, a deal which is still subject to court cases.

The employment of Dr Mizzi’s wife Sai as a government envoy in China with a compensation of some €13,000 a month was among the earliest controversies the government was forced to weather.

But a bigger storm erupted when the Panama Papers were leaked, showing Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri as the owners of secret companies in Panama with trusts in New Zealand.

Dr Mizzi insisted the arrangements were made for family reasons and strongly denied wrongdoing. The prime minister stood by him. He contested the election of Labour deputy leader and, despite the controversy, was elected. But as the pressure mounted, he stepped down within days.

In a half-hearted bow to public pressure, Dr Muscat removed him as Minister of Energy and Health, but kept him in the Cabinet as minister without portfolio in what amounted to little more than a name change.

The 2017 general election saw Dr Mizzi strongly re-elected. 

He was made tourism minister, overseeing a rapid growth in arrivals numbers. He ditched plans by his predecessor to sell Air Malta and set about returning it to profitability. 

He also negotiated with Ryanair for the setting up of MaltaAir, as a Ryanair subsidiary based in Malta.

Dr Mizzi will long be remembered for shouting “Shame on you” at the opposition during many fiery TV and parliamentary debates, a cry taken up by his supporters in many political activities but one his detractors will now take ownership of.


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