Malta PM’s chief of staff quits as Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry continues | World news | The Guardian
Keith Schembri understood to be assisting police in case of journalist killed in 2017
Juliette Garside in Valletta
The Maltese prime minister’s chief of staff has resigned in an escalation of the political turmoil surrounding the investigation into the murder of the prominent anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
“Yesterday evening, my chief of staff informed me that from today he would be relinquishing his post,” the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, confirmed at a brief press conference on the steps of his office on Tuesday morning.
Keith Schembri is understood to have been taken to police headquarters for questioning in relation to the Caruana Galizia case. Schembri himself made no immediate comment.
The chief of staff had been accused of corruption by Caruana Galizia. He has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Schembri’s resignation followed reports on Monday night that a businessman arrested in connection with the murder last week was preparing to make allegations against him.
Opposition politicians have been calling for Schembri’s resignation since Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb in October 2017, but Muscat has stood by his chief lieutenant.
Asked whether he would consider his own position, the prime minister said: “My role right now is to make sure that the country has stable leadership. I don’t intend seeking re-election. I don’t intend to serve more than two terms. My role right now is to make sure that we navigate through this turbulent time in the best possible manner. Once this chapter is closed with the arraignment of person or persons on this case I will make my consideration.”
Schembri had been facing pressure to resign following the arrest last week of the businessman Yorgen Fenech, who was detained as a person of interest in the Caruana Galizia investigation and had alleged business links with Schembri.
Melvin Theuma, a man who claims to have been a middleman in the alleged murder plot, was told last week he would be granted a presidential pardon in return for information he had given about the case.
Fenech, who resigned as head of his family business earlier this month, was apprehended while sailing away from Malta onboard his luxury yacht at about 5.30am on Wednesday morning.
Shortly before her death, Caruana Galizia received a massive leak of data from an energy company co-owned by Fenech.
Investigations have revealed Fenech as the owner of a secretive offshore company, 17 Black, which Caruana Galizia was looking into at the time of her death. It was later revealed 17 Black was due to make payments to other offshore companies belonging to Konrad Mizzi, Malta’s then energy minister, now in charge of tourism, and Schembri.
Schembri and Mizzi have both previously said they had no knowledge of any connection between 17 Black and Fenech, or of any plan to receive payments connected to Fenech.