Maltese society is still waiting for all people involved in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination to face justice, a court has declared, as it rejected Yorgen Fenech’s latest request for bail.
With criminal investigations having reached “a very sensitive stage”, producing fresh evidence and targeting other persons of interest with potential links to the crime, the court again denied bail to the man accused of being behind the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà had declared on February 24 that, based on the evidence then, all suspects in the murder had been caught. But subsequent developments now appeared to show otherwise, the court said.
In fact, both the attorney general and the prosecution declared that investigations had not yet been concluded. “It is this declaration that interests the court,” Magistrate Rachel Montebello said in her decree, issued last Wednesday.
Moreover, it had been affirmed there were other persons of interest linked to this murder. The court could not ignore these developments, nor the fact that the magisterial inquiry was still active.
Among those being actively investigated were former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, former OPM security official Kenneth Camilleri as well as others, like Fenech’s former business associate Johann Cremona, who appeared to be intimately linked to the facts of the case, observed the court.
This was a “very sensitive stage” of investigations. With other people potentially still to be roped in as witnesses or accomplices, the court lacked reassurance that the accused might not try to interfere in the course of justice.
The integrity of investigations, the magistrate said, was fundamental to ensuring the integrity of evidence and the search for truth. This, after all, formed the basis of every criminal trial.
Ensuring that all masterminds and accomplices were brought to justice was a matter of public interest. In this case, such interest could tip the scales against the right to personal freedom.
Fenech was arraigned in November 2019. Although his 17-month arrest in pre-trial detention could be termed as prolonged, each case was to be assessed on its own facts and according to its specific features, the court decreed.
That decree brought down the curtain on a marathon six-hour sitting in the murder compilation against the business tycoon.
It echoed a statement made by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia, in objecting to bail for Fenech, that “no one is convinced that all have been arraigned”.
Text messages from Fenech’s mobile phone appeared to indicate that an escape plan had been hatched for him. One family member had told him: “Go while you’re still in time.”
Fenech was eventually arrested at dawn on November 20, 2019, when the AFM intercepted his luxury yacht Gio just after it left Portomaso marina.
The court noted that Fenech’s arrest did not seem to have been planned in that way but it was purely the circumstances of his departure that had sparked the need to arrest him at that stage.
Ongoing investigations were both far-reaching and very complex, observed the magistrate. The risk of collusion and interference in the course of justice could not be minimised through any bail condition imposed by the court. The risk of tampering was “very real and not merely hypothetical”.
Granting bail at this stage would also likely spark a public disturbance in society “that is still waiting for all persons involved [in this murder] to face arraignment”.
The court also said that Fenech’s significant financial means and contacts had to be considered in the court’s assessment of the risk of absconding.
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