Malta investigates former police chief for journalist murder links

Nick Squires
Police Assistant Commissioner Silvio Valletta addresses a news conference about investigations into the assassination of the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia - REUTERS

Police in Malta are investigating a former police chief who went on overseas trips with a business tycoon who is accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Police said on Tuesday that they have questioned Silvio Valletta, a former head of the criminal investigation department, who attended two football matches with Yorgen Fenech, a multi-millionaire businessman who is in prison and accused of masterminding the car bombing.

The first was the Champions League Final in Kiev, Ukraine, in May 2018, when Liverpool played Real Madrid, and the second was a Chelsea FC fixture in London in September 2018.

At the time of the Kiev match, Mr Fenech had been identified as a person of interest in the investigation into the car bombing of the journalist.

“By that date, it was well known to the CID, headed by Valletta, that Fenech was a person of interest in a murder investigation,” said Jason Azzopardi, an MP and a lawyer who represents the murdered journalist’s family.

The MP said he wanted to know whether Mr Valletta traveled on the tycoon’s private jet and whether the trip was known to Joseph Muscat, the prime minister at the time, who resigned this month after weeks of pressure by campaigners.

“We know that in May 2018, the police, then led by Silvio Valletta, secured a warrant to tap Yorgen Fenech’s phone,” Paul Caruana Galizia, one of the three sons of the murdered reporter, wrote on Twitter.

Questioned by Maltese journalists about whether he regretted the trips, Mr Valletta said that in hindsight he should not have gone on them.

The revelations of the relationship between Mr Fenech and Mr Valletta prompted the former police commissioner’s wife, a government minister, to resign on Monday.

Justyne Caruana insisted that she was “totally extraneous” to the affair and would remain as an MP with the ruling Labour Party.