Malta PM to Resign in January 2020


Embattled Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced plans to resign in January after coming under enormous pressure for his handling of the political and legal debacle stemming from the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Muscat's decision comes in the wake of criticism he faced for the alleged interference in the investigation into the brutal killing of renowned investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had probed corruption among Malta's business and political elite, in 2017.

Muscat, who has come under fire over his handling of the probe into the investigative blogger's slaying two years ago, said Sunday he would step down after his replacement is chosen in January.

A small crowd of protesters threw eggs and insults at both Muscat and Bonnici as they arrived at government headquarters for Tuesday's meeting. "There is no alternative explanation", the Caruana Galizia family said in a statement. "[Yorgen] Fenech wasn't acting alone".

Pressure on Muscat to step aside has grown since businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested last month in connection with the Caruana Galizia's murder in 2017. A leading investigative journalist, she was part of the team who published "The Panama Papers", a global investigation detailing the shadowy efforts of the super-wealthy to hide money and power from tax authorities and others. He has offered to provide information he says he has on the journalist's death in exchange for a pardon.

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"Look at this photo", Caruana Galizia's sister told the police, holding up a photo of the journalist brutally killed in a auto bomb on 16 October 2017. One of the journalist's final investigations was a leak of data from his businesses. He denies any wrongdoing.

This had led to Fenech being impeded "for some time and in a most deceptive manner" if not also in breach of the law, from passing on all the information he had to the competent authorities, he claims.

Caruana Galizia, a mother of three described as a "one-woman WikiLeaks", was blown up in a vehicle bomb attack near her home in October 2017.

Schembri was arrested last week, but released two days later, fuelling accusations of a cover-up. Having said on 29 November that he would stay in the job until the investigation into the murder was complete, on 1 December in a televised address he announced that he would stay on until a new leader of his ruling Labour party was elected in January. Police said they had no reason to hold him any longer.

On 26 November, some journalists' groups voiced concerns that the prime minister may have a conflict of interest since his wife and administration were at the centre of Caruana Galizia's reporting. The prime minister expressed "deep regret" for Caruana Galizia's murder and spoke of the need for a "fresh page".