Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech had told a high-ranking Castille official that he had paid a journalist called ‘Ivan’ €10,000 to run a story.
Newspaper Illum reported today that this unnamed Castille official had messaged Fenech in January 2019 to tell him to push a story against one of his government colleagues in Times of Malta or The Malta Independent.
Fenech responded that he spoke to “Ivan” and paid him €10,000.
In January 2019, Times of Malta had employed three journalists called Ivan – Ivan Fenech, who died a few months later, Ivan Camilleri, who was sacked later that year, and Ivan Martin, who still works there.
Martin said the dates in the Ilum story show it couldn’t have been him, as his first communication with Fenech – simply to request his comments to a developing story – was in April 2019.
“We had never spoken before. I guess it must have been some other ‘Ivan’,” he said.
Although the Illum story didn’t say so, Martin said the unnamed Castille official was none other than Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Meanwhile, Camilleri told Lovin Malta the allegation that he’d accepted €10,000 from Fenech was a “total fabrication” and that his lawyer is working on a response.
Police inspector Keith Arnaud has confirmed that on the eve of his arrest, Fenech had messaged his uncle to inform him that “Ivan from the Times” had tipped him off on his newsroom’s monitoring of the Portomaso marina.
Camilleri was fired from The Times after MaltaToday published a report naming him as the tip-off, and the former journalist has since sued MaltaToday for libel and Times of Malta for unfair dismissal.
However, university lecturer Simon Mercieca claimed on his blog this week that it was Martin, and not his namesake Ivan Camilleri, who had tipped off Fenech about his impending arrest.
Martin vehemently denied it and said he had immediately offered Times of Malta access to his communication devices as soon as he learned Fenech had referred to an ‘Ivan from the Times’.
“Times of Malta concluded what was obvious from the start. I had nothing to do with any of this,” he said.
“I will not accept blame for the actions of others who may share my first name. Meanwhile, as a journalist, freedom of expression is a right I feel strongly about.”