Malta Regulator Sentenced for Leaking Secrets to Journalist Murder Suspect

Posted on: May 28, 2024, 06:10h. 

Last updated on: May 28, 2024, 06:11h.

Malta’s former chief gaming regulator, Heathcliffe Farrugia, has been convicted of leaking official secrets to the casino owner suspected of organizing the car-bomb assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Heathcliffe Farrugia, Yorgen Fenech, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta Gaming Association, MGA
Heathcliffe Farrugia leaked sensitive information to Yorgen Fenech, right, a casino owner who is facing murder charges for his alleged role in the death of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, center. (Image:

On Tuesday, Farrugia was sentenced to a conditional discharge, which means he will avoid prison if he does not commit a crime in the next three years. He was found guilty of providing sensitive information to Yorgen Fenech, who is awaiting trial for murder.

Farrugia was found to have fed Fenech information about rival casino operators, as well as details of an anti-money laundering investigation that was being carried out on Fenech’s Portomaso Casino. Until his arrest, Fenech headed Malta’s biggest land-based casino operator, the Tumas Group.

Damning Messages

Farrugia was the chief executive of the Malta Gaming Authority, which is charged with overseeing the gaming sector in the Mediterranean island nation, one of the world’s foremost online gaming hubs.

But he resigned in October 2022 shortly after being questioned about incriminating conversations that police had found while examining Fenech’s phone. This was in the course of their investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Farrugia claimed he was merely attempting to “console” Fenech when he provided the information. Fenech was angry about the anti-money laundering investigation and claimed the MGA was making Tumas Gaming look bad.

The then-chief regulator told him that the Tumas review was not public, adding that he would try to bide time and delay the release of the report. During the conversation, Farrugia revealed that Casino Malta, which is owned by a rival operator, was also under investigation.

The Times of Malta has suggested the charges against Farrugia were initially hushed up in order to avoid tarnishing the reputation of the country’s gaming industry.

Political Meltdown

Caruana Galizia was killed in 2017, possibly because she was looking into a government contract to build a power station which she believed had been corruptly awarded to Fenech’s company in 2014.

Fenech was arrested as he allegedly tried to flee Malta on his yacht in the early hours of November 20, 2019.

Brothers Alfred Degiorgio and George Degiorgio were each sentenced to 40 years in prison for planning and executing the assassination, along with their associate Vince Muscat, who received 15 years.

A so-called middleman, Melvin Theuma, has been pardoned for testifying against the others and identifying Fenech as the orchestrator.

Fenech’s ties to the highest echelons of Malta’s government brought down the administration of then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The casino tycoon denies involvement and has accused three members of Muscat’s administration of arranging the murder.

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