The Malta Independent 13 December 2019, Friday

Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation: a timeline of political turmoil

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 1 December 2019, 09:00 Last update: about 11 days ago

The past two weeks have seen a political shake-up in the country, with the government shedding some of its most controversial figures, who have been the cause of Malta’s damaged international reputation over the past years.

The arrest of 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech on Wednesday, 20 November set off a chain of political events, which included the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff and a minister, the suspension of another minister, and countless calls for Muscat himself to step down

 

Timeline

 

20 November

5.30am: 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech is arrested.

10.40am: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is hounded by journalists, and says that, based on the information he had at that time, no politician was connected.

11.40am: The first public calls for the dismissal of Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi by civil society groups. It is pertinent to note that 17 Black was listed as a target client of Mizzi and Schembri’s companies set up in the secretive jurisdiction of Panama according to leaked documents.

1.30pm: Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia says that Prime Minister Muscat must shoulder political responsibility for keeping Schembri in his office.

4pm: Labour Party MPs are reluctant to say whether Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi should resign in light of the arrest.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, on his way to Parliament, is asked whether Keith Schembri will be returning to his office the next day. He says that “we should let the whole process take its course.”

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi reiterates that he does not know who owns the company 17 Black and has absolutely no association with it.

4.55pm: The Opposition walks out of Parliament after Muscat fails to answer questions on whether he intends on dismissing Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri from their respective positions.

6pm: Protesters gather and heckle ministers leaving Parliament. The protest escalates at the end of a demonstration which begins outside the prime minister’s office at the Auberge de Castille, moving towards the Law Courts and ending outside Parliament House. Two police officers are slightly injured, with one apparently hit by a minister’s car as it is being driven away while surrounded by protesters and police.

 

21 November

12.20pm: Speaker of the House of Representatives Anglu Farrugia urges the police to take action against protesters who “exceeded the limit” on Tuesday evening.

1.30pm: Muscat urges calm and sensibility in order to move ahead. Muscat is also asked whether Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi will now be removed, given that members of the public took to the streets on Wednesday evening calling for such action. “In order for my comments not to be construed as criticising one person or another, I'll just say that I do not think that the behaviour of some people yesterday reflected the thoughts of even those who are critical of me. Having said that, I will make all the necessary considerations once this case is closed, and I hope it is closed within the next 24 hours. It might be closed within the next 48 hours; it might be closed within the next couple of days. Once the case is closed, I will make the necessary considerations.”

5pm: The Nationalist Party's parliamentary group holds an urgent meeting at the request of Opposition leader Adrian Delia.

6.50pm: Delia delivers a speech and says that by refusing to take action against Schembri and Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has become complicit. He is speaking on Net TV, shortly after the PN Parliamentary Group meeting, during which it is decided that the party will join a second anti-corruption protest on Friday evening, organised by civil society groups.

 

22 November

8am: Police search Yorgen Fenech's boat.

10am: Muscat is asked whether there could be a conflict of interest if he were to decide on a plea bargain should Yorgen Fenech request one. He says: “So should we let the leader of the opposition decide? No, I am here to decide. I haven’t sheltered anyone, I have taken the best decisions to my knowledge for the Maltese people and for our country, and I will continue to shoulder that responsibility.” 

1pm: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family issues a statement describing the arrest of Yorgen Fenech as “an important and overdue development in the investigation into our wife and mother’s assassination.”

“As investigators now turn to Fenech’s corrupt links with the Maltese prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and cabinet minister Konrad Mizzi, we are dismayed to see the prime minister putting himself at the centre of the investigation.””

5.30pm: Opposition leader Adrian Delia asks President George Vella to step in and address the “constitutional imbalance” created by the prime minister’s absolute power over the country’s institutions.

6.20pm: The Office of the Prime Minister is slammed by the Institute of Maltese Journalists for failing to invite certain media houses to his briefings on the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.

6.30pm: A crowd gathers in front of the Office of the Prime Minister in Valletta for a second anti-corruption protest. The event is organized by a number of civil society groups calling for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s resignation in the wake of the week’s developments.

8.50pm: Sources tell The Malta Independent that the police are mulling the idea of offering Yorgen Fenech a plea bargain.

 

23 November

10.30am: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo says that justice needs to achieved “without fear or favour” in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.

11.30am: Adrian Delia says that the prime minister should not serve as a spokesman for the police commissioner, nor should he take on the role of attorney general and head of the armed forces. He is referring to Muscat’s detailed knowledge of the investigation as well as his decision to personally update the public.

1.30pm: Yorgen Fenech formally requests a presidential pardon in exchange for information relating to Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

In addition, Economy Minister Chris Cardona is hauled in for questioning on Saturday morning, sources tell The Malta Independent.

4.30pm: The Speaker of the House of Representatives rejects an Opposition request for the House to be convened urgently on Saturday evening to debate the national situation.

 

24 November

8.30am: The Malta Independent reveals that the Labour Party’s parliamentary group is split over Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's future, but is in almost unanimous agreement that Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi must resign.

8.40am: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo warns that the country cannot protect murderers and money launderers.

9am: Opposition leader Adrian Delia says that the rule of law requires separation of powers. “Over the past few days, we have seen all these powers taken up by one person.”

10.30am: Prime Minister Muscat says that “this is a very delicate moment and my duty is to give the country the leadership it has trusted me with.”

“I will be there to lead and take the decisions that need to be taken, as I have always done. At this time, I am there to ensure that the country keeps going forward. I am 100 per cent focused on leading the country.”

4pm: The PN’s administrative council and executive committees issue a resolution calling for the removal of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, while also thanking former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil for his work.

 

25 November

7am: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo says that OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and Minister Konrad Mizzi leave now to save the Labour Party and the people it is supposed to serve. The Malta Tourism Authority’s head of events, Lionel Gerada, openly defends Minister Mizzi and criticises Minister Bartolo for the “earring issue” (a policy banning on all piercings at school, with the exception of studs) and says nobody is totally clean. He describes Bartolo as a traitor.

9.20am: Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi says that he will not publicly respond to criticism levelled by some of his colleagues within the Labour Party, arguing that such attacks only help the PN.

9.24am: The police question at least one member of the economy minister’s secretariat.

11am: Cyrus Engerer, who was one of the Labour Party’s MEP candidates, re-posts Bartolo’s opinion on Facebook, adding that the Labour Party has worked to give a voice to the people and jobs to the unemployed. “This cannot be lost. The legacy of Joseph Muscat cannot be overshadowed by the selfishness of the few,” he writes, confirming his support for Muscat.

Noon: Keith Schembri walks past reporters waiting for him outside his office, refusing to comment on his future as pressure mounts for him and Konrad Mizzi to go.

12.30pm: Embattled Konrad Mizzi insists that he has “nothing to do” with 17 Black, adding that he “stands tall” as the situation unfolds. Mizzi is quizzed by journalists as he makes his way to a PL parliamentary group meeting, held at the Office of the Prime Minister.

“What this country needs right now is that justice prevails. That’s all we care about. This government worked really hard so that justice prevails,” he told members of the press.

1pm:  PL MPs and Ministers walk into the Parliamentary Group meeting, hounded by the press.

3.40pm: The Labour Party parliamentary group  unanimously declared full confidence in Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

4.30pm Muscat said that he will not speak about the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia because he had been accused of meddling when he did so.

5pm: An Opposition request to hold an urgent debate on the current political situation was turned down by the Speaker on Monday evening, but PN Leader Adrian Delia still got his way and managed to speak about the subject.

6.20pm: A large crowd gathered in front of Parliament on Monday evening as the third anti-corruption protest in the space of a week was held.

 

26 November – Black Tuesday

7am: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo once again strongly hinted that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should do away with people close to him who are causing damage to the government.

9.30am: Keith Schembri resigns as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. He was later taken in for questioning by the police and was eventually arrested.

11am: The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia calls for the immediate prosecution of Keith Schembri.

Noon: Delia says that by his own yardstick, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should follow in the footsteps of Keith Schembri and also resign.

3pm: Konrad Mizzi resigns as Tourism Minister after a Cabinet meeting. Chris Cardona suspended himself as Economy Minister.

4.20pm:  Muscat finally leaves Castille as protesters outside shout “barra, barra” (out, out). He did not give comments to the press. He was ushered into a car as barricades held back protesters, and was taken to Parliament.

5pm: Delia says in Parliament that the government "has evidently been hijacked by a criminal organisation.”

6.20pm: protesters gathered outside parliament this afternoon chanting "Mafia", and calling for the Prime Minister's resignation. This is the fifth time protesters have gathered since 16 November.

7.31pm: The PL executive unanimously backs Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in a vote of confidence.

 

27 November

7am: The slogan used by the Labour Party in its run up to the 2017 election – ‘L-aqwa zmien’ (the best of times) – was shunned this morning as Education Minister Evarist Bartolo spoke of a country that is passing through “very difficult times”.

9am: The Labour Party advertised a mass event on Sunday, while the Nationalist Party postponed a national protest just hours after it announced it.

9.17am: Dr Adrian Vella was arrested by police after Yorgen Fenech told investigators about a handwritten note that the doctor had passed on to him from Keith Schembri, sources have told this newsroom. Sources told The Malta Independent that Schembri allegedly told Fenech – through the doctor – not to expose anything about him (Schembri).

2.40pm: The recent events in our country are of a great concern to the business community and “we all deserve better,” the GRTU - Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises said in a statement.

3pm: Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi  accused former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri of being a “criminal mastermind” behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

5pm: PN MPs walked out of Parliament this evening, as Prime Minister Joseph Muscat refused to carry political responsibility for the actions of his former Minister and Chief of Staff.

5.30pm: There were tense moments when the demonstrators found the road leading to Castille Square blocked off by police barriers.

 

28 November

7am: Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, one of the strongest critics of slaim journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia,  praised her “courage and tenacity” in exposing people who were using their connections or position to weave a web of corruption which has put our country to shame”.
10am: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tells journalists he will only comment once the investigations are over, “hopefully in the next few hours.”

11am: It was announced that the European Parliament will be sending an urgent mission to Malta to find what first-hand what is taking place in connection the investigations into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

11.30am: The Malta Independent reveals that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was on the verge of resigning the previous Sunday but was convinced to stay on by cabinet advisor and former deputy prime minister Louis Grech and Lands Authority CEO James Piscopo.

3pm: President George Vella postpones a trip to London.

6pm:  Adrian Delia makes an impassioned appeal, in particular to all those who are in decision making positions, "to take decisions that safeguard the highest interest of the country without looking at faces, without fear or favour."

7.30pm:  Maltese flag, photo of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and banner reading 'Maltese citizenship for sale here' were among the items affixed to the doors outside of the Maltese High Commission in London.

9.40pm: Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri was released by the police. Schembri was investigated in connection with allegations made against him in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

9.50pm: Yorgen Fenech writes to President of Malta George Vella, arguing that it should not be Cabinet that decides whether such a pardon be granted due to the people Fenech wants to reveal information about. His letter, written by his lawyers, read that "the information he is ready to offer is, inter alia, regarding Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and others, all people close to the Prime Minister and up until yesterday all attended Cabinet meetings."

10pm: Delia says that Cabinet Ministers discussing a Presidential pardon in the presence of Joseph Muscat will be complicit in perverting the course of justice.


29 November

4am: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Cabinet, that was convened for an urgent late night meeting, unanimously decided not to recommend that Yorgen Fenech receive a pardon. Muscat said he left for the part of the meeting where this was deliberated.  There were tense scenes inside and outside the Office of the Prime Minister as unknown ‘security’ officials clashed with demonstrators and briefly blocked journalists from exiting the Auberge de Castille.

9.30am: In its leading article today, the Times of London writes that Malta is “riddled with corruption and organised crime”.

1pm: an impromptu protest was called blocking traffic near the University campus.

2.10pm: The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to the Prime Minister and called on him to keep any form of political interference out of the investigation into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

2.20pm: Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia  once again called for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
2.30pm: Sources had told The Malta Independent that it is Muscat's intention to call a leadership race, with the new Prime Minister expected to be in office by mid-January 2020. The PL's political activity, that was set to be held in Fgura this Sunday, has now also been cancelled.

A government statement was issued later in the day that read that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will only speak about the road ahead after the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation is closed.

5.30pm: Keith Schembri denies leaving Malta, following rumours circulating that he had left the island, tvm.com.mt reports.

6.40pm: Another anti-corruption protest took place in front of the Office of the Prime Minister.

6.50pm: Pieter Omtzigt, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's rapporteur on 'The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta, has welcomed the rumoured pending resignation of Prime Minister Muscat as a "belated recognition of his political responsibilities and a necessary step to allow investigations into the murder and other serious offences to proceed free of the stench of political interference".


30th November

10.30am: Labour MEP Miriam Dalli said that she feels angry and betrayed, adding that she knows that many people are sharing her emotions and feeling “disoriented”, including Labourites. Writing on Facebook, Dalli said that what is happening is not a question of Labourites and Nationalists. “This is a question that concerns the whole country”.

Matters should not be prolonged and all questions need to be answered. Justice needs to be carried out and be seen to be carried out. “We must protect our country before anything else because this is the Malta and Gozo where my children will grow,” she said.
In a reaction, Matthew Caruana Galizia challenged Dalli to join the protesters against Joseph Muscat.

11am: Protesters turned up in Valletta, once again calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister.

11.30am: Adrian Delia put the onus on the Cabinet of Ministers, telling them that they must do the honourable thing and tell Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign.

8pm: Yorgen Fenech charged with complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

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