Malta was left stunned today with the news that Yorgen Fenech, one of the nation’s most powerful businessmen, was arrested on suspicion of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
But who is the man suspected of carrying out this brutal murder?
Yorgen Fenech is the son of the late businessman George Fenech and the grandson of Tumas Fenech, after whom their business group was named.
With a foothold in five industries – hospitality, property, gaming, energy and shipping – the Tumas Group is one of the most powerful business groups on the island and its assets were worth over €350 million as of 2017.
It owns the Portomaso Business Tower, which is currently Malta’s tallest building and which houses Club Twenty Two, one of the country’s most luxurious nightclubs. It also owns the adjacent Hilton Hotel, Portomaso Casino and the Blue Elephant restaurant.
Along with the Singapore-based Portek Group, Tumas owns Valletta the Gateway Terminal, a company which in 2006 was awarded a 30-year concession to operate and manage the Grand Harbour.
And along with the Gasan Group, Tumas is behind the Quad Business Towers in Mrieħel, which looks set to become one of Malta’s next major business hubs.
It is also in negotiations to enter into a joint venture with MIDI, the consortium behind a major Manoel Island development project.
Then in 2013, Tumas branched out into the energy sector as part of the ElectroGas consortium which was eventually selected to build and operate the LNG power station in Delimara. This project was a major electoral pledge by the Labour Party back in 2013, with its argument being that it was necessary reduce electricity tariffs.
Former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi had heavily promoted this project ahead of the election, while Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had gone so far as to promise to resign if the project wasn’t completed on time, a promise he ended up breaking.
ElectroGas is equally owned by three companies – German conglomerate Siemens, Azeri state energy company Socar and GEM Holdings, a Maltese business venture.
Tumas and Gasan own a third of GEM Holdings while the other third is split into thirds. Two thirds are owned by the Apap Bologna family, while the remaining one third is held by a company owned solely by Yorgen Fenech. Fenech is personally listed as one of three ElectroGas directors.
In April 2018, Fenech was revealed to be the owner of 17 Black, one of two Dubai companies named in a leaked email that Nexia BT partner Karl Cini had sent Mossack Fonseca, requesting the Panamanian law firm to open bank accounts for Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies with the Witherbotham bank in the Bahamas.
In the email, Cini stated that Schembri’s and Mizzi’s main target clients will be Dubai companies called 17 Black and Macbridge and that these two companies will transfer €150,000 a month to Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies.
The Daphne Project, an international journalistic collaboration set up to complete Caruana Galizia’s work, revealed that 17 Black’s bank account at the Noor Bank in Dubai had received three payments – one single payment of €161,000 from Mario Pullicino, the local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station, and two separate payments amounting to €1.1 million from an Azeri security guard.
The identity of Macbridge has not been revealed, but Schembri has said that both it and 17 Black had been included in draft business plans for his Kasco business group as potential clients, but that neither he nor any of his companies had ever conducted any transactions with either of them.
Daphne Caruana Galizia herself had announced the existence of 17 Black in a cryptic blogpost published in February 2017, but she gave no indication that it was owned by Fenech. Indeed, Caruana Galizia only mentioned Fenech once in her blog – back in October 2013 after ElectroGas was announced as the winning bidder for the power station project.
However, a few months before her assassination in October 2017, the journalist received a massive cache of documents from ElectroGas, including the original version of the government’s contract with the consortium.
These documents were later released to the Daphne Project, which reported that the contract is seeing Maltese taxpayers losing out on tens of millions of euro. This is because Malta’s energy company Enemalta has bound itself into purchasing a set amount of LNG from ElectroGas every year for 18 years. Electrogas in turn has agreed to purchase LNG from Azeri state-owned Socar, one of the three Electrogas partners, for ten years.
A number of energy experts had questioned the logic behind this deal, arguing that it was unusual for ElectroGas to pay millions to Socar to act as a middleman instead of purchase its LNG directly from Shell.
Earlier this year, Yorgen Fenech was named as a minority shareholder of Maltese gaming company, L & L Europe Limited, during an investigation into gaming companies operating illegally in Norway.
The Tumas Group’s website names one of the business group’s interests as the Tumas Fenech Foundation for Education in Journalism, a social corporate responsibility initiative which was set up to train Maltese journalists.
In a bitter turn of events, the Foundation last year sponsored the Institute of the Maltese Journalists’ Gold Award, its highest recognition for people working in journalism. The award winner just so happened to be Daphne Caruana Galizia…