Updated 5.11pm with Repubblika statement

Former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta travelled abroad with Yorgen Fenech when the business magnate had already been identified as a person of interest in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

On September 29, 2018, Mr Valletta, who had been part of the team of investigators working on the Caruana Galizia case, travelled to London with the business tycoon to watch a football match at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge stadium.

Valletta reacts

Contacted on Saturday, Mr Valletta conceded that he had travelled with Mr Fenech but insisted that he had paid for his flights and that he had not been working on the Caruana Galizia case since June 2018.

In a statement on Sunday after the Times of Malta story was published and picked up by other media, Mr Valletta reiterated that he had never known of Fenech's involvement in the case. 

He pointed out that after the Constitutional Court decision of June 13, 2018, he immediately informed the Police corps that he was stepping back from his investigation of the case, as he in fact did.

He said that while he served on the FIA he was 'not privy of the reports, or about whom'. 

He said he had decided to retire from the police because of criticism targeting his wife. He said his relationship with his wife was a professional one in that they did not discuss work. 

"I never did anything wrong and would certainly never have gone abroad with anyone who I would have thought, or known to be under investigation," he said. 

Fenech a potential suspect in May 2018

Mr Fenech was identified as a potential suspect in the murder plot by May 2018.

Still, the two caught an early morning Air Malta flight to Heathrow and sat together in business class.

A witness said that during the flight, Mr Fenech was heard telling his children to “hold uncle Silvio’s hand”.

The two watched Liverpool hold Chelsea to a 1-1 stalemate from a private box at the stadium. 

The businessman was eventually arrested and charged with his involvement in the murder last November, two months after deputy commissioner Valletta had retired from the police force.

His withdrawal from the case came 10 months after activists campaigned for Mr Valletta to be barred from holding a role at the FIAU due to a conflict of interest because of his marriage to Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana.

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The FIAU is a government body that investigates money laundering and terrorism funding.

When Mr Valletta travelled abroad with Mr Fenech, the FIAU had just handed police an intelligence report detailing how Mr Fenech, the Electrogas power station director, was the owner of mystery Dubai company 17 Black. 

The once-secret offshore company was first revealed in the Panama Papers as one of two sources of income for the offshore companies Hearnville and Tillgate, which were set up by OPM consultants Nexia BT for former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the then prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

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Just a few days after his trip to London, a Court of Appeal had ruled that Mr Valletta could no longer be involved in the investigation into the assassination of Ms Caruana Galizia because of his marriage to a government minister.

His presence, the court had ruled, breached the fundamental rights of the journalist’s family. 

Mr Fenech’s arrest and subsequent arraignment sparked an earthquake at the heart of the government especially after his close links with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri had been revealed.

In a reaction on Sunday morning, Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami said this scandal was Prime Minister Robert Abela's first test and he should proceed with sacking Gozo Minister Justyne Abela. 

Repubblika demands removal of Justyne Caruana, Edward Scicluna

Civil society group Repubblika in a statement said the revelations made it incumbent on the prime minister to remove Dr Caruana from her post as Minister for Gozo. It said the prime minister should also remove Finance Minister Edward Scicluna, who had appointed Mr Valletta to serve on the FIAU. 

The group observed that Mr Valletta had travelled with Yorgen Fenech when allegations of corruption involving Mr Fenech had already been made. On this basis alone, instead of travelling with Mr Fenech, Mr Valletta should have investigated him. 

The group also pointed out that just days before Mr Valletta and Mr Fenech travelled together, Robert Abela, then an MP, had accused Ms Caruana Galizia's sons of interfering in the murder investigation. 

The group also recalled how, a few days after the trip, civil society activists had written to minister Scicluna asking him to remove Mr Valletta from the Board of Governors of the FIAU because of his conflict of interest since he was married to a minister.

The minister did not even send an acknowledgement. 

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