Yorgen Fenech has named Keith Schembri as the mastermind behind the plot to kill journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, according to multiple sources, but investigators are treating his claims with caution.
Businessman Mr Fenech, who has been answering police questions since he was apprehended trying to flee the island last Wednesday, has told investigators that Mr Schembri was the man who commissioned the October 2017 murder.
Investigators are now treating Mr Schembri as a ‘person of interest’ in the case, but sources said that the police had reason to be apprehensive about everything Mr Fenech is telling them.
Sources said Mr Fenech had provided interrogators with some unreliable information prior to making the claims about Mr Schembri. They also fear Mr Fenech is making the claims in a bid to secure leniency from prosecution for his own alleged role in the crime.
Alleged boat escape
The businessman has also claimed while under interrogation that Mr Schembri tried to organise an escape to Dubai for Mr Fenech, a week before he was caught on his yacht attempting to flee.
He claims that the plan was hatched with the help of family doctor Adrian Vella, who is known to both men.
According to Mr Fenech, the plan was that he would go to Tunisia by boat, then travel to Dubai, where he would be shielded and safe from any prosecution in connection with any criminal cases.
He claims that the three held a meeting at Dr Vella's farmhouse in Gozo to discuss the plan, but that he refused to accept the deal and left the meeting.
But investigators are also hesitant to believe the claim at this stage, sources said.
Dr Vella is understood to have been arrested, released and then called back to the police depot a short while later, after investigators heard of Mr Fenech's boat escape claims.
The doctor was first arrested on the suspicion that he passed Mr Fenech messages from the former OPM chief of staff last weekend, while Mr Fenech was under police supervision.
Medical sources told Times of Malta that the doctor is regularly used as a doctor on call by hotels owned by the Tumas Group, which Mr Fenech led as CEO until his arrest last week.
Mr Fenech is seeking a presidential pardon in exchange for immunity from prosecution and has claimed to have information linking Mr Schembri to criminal activity.
Mr Schembri served as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff until late Monday, when he resigned before being called in for questioning on Tuesday morning. Police officers were spotted seizing items from his Mellieħa home later that day. He is being held under arrest.
Phone data shows that the two were in regular contact and that Mr Fenech called Mr Schembri in the hours before his arrest.
Ms Caruana Galizia was assassinated in October 2017. Three men stand accused of having planted and detonated the bomb that killed her.
A Birkirkara taxi driver, Melvin Theuma, is alleged to have acted as a middleman in the crime. Mr Theuma has secured immunity from prosecution in exchange for information about the crime and others. He is due to testify in court on Friday.
Attempts to contact Mr Schembri's lawyers for comment were unsuccessful.