Maltese prosecutors have charged businessman Yorgen Fenech with complicity in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
Yorgen Fenech, one of Malta’s wealthiest men, pleaded not guilty to that charge and four others including membership of a criminal gang.
Relatives of Daphne Caruana Galizia were present in the court in Valletta.
The investigation into the blogger’s death has rocked the Maltese government. PM Joseph Muscat is under pressure to resign.
The prime minister’s chief aide, Keith Schembri, resigned this week amid reports he was being questioned by police, while Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi also quit and Economy Minister Chris Cardona took the decision to suspend himself.
Three people are awaiting trial for the journalist’s murder in a car bombing but the police investigation is now focusing on who ordered the killing and why.
Yorgen Fenech has been repeatedly questioned over the killing since trying to leave the island on his yacht on November 20, and sought a pardon in return for providing information but his request was rejected.
According to Maltese media, Yorgen Fenech was familiar with Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver with links to criminal enterprises who has been described in local media as a potential “middleman” in the murder.
The businessman is a well-known figure in Malta who has served as head of the Tumas business group and a director of energy company Electrogas but recently resigned from both positions.
Yorgen Fenech was identified last year as being the owner of a mysterious Dubai-registered company, 17 Black.
17 Black was listed in the Panama Papers – confidential documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm in 2016 which revealed how the wealthy and powerful use tax havens to get around the law.
Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about 17 Black eight months before her death, alleging it had links to both Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
However, Joseph Muscat stressed there could be “no justification… in any way” for such action.
“I will not rest before justice is done.”
On October 16, thousands of people attended a candlelit vigil in the resort town of Sliema.
Malta Television reported that Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a complaint to the police two weeks ago to say she had received threats but gave no further information.
Police have opened a murder inquiry.
Newspaper reports said the explosion had left debris from the rental car she was driving strewn across the road and in a nearby field.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death comes four months after Joseph Muscat’s Labor Party won an election he called early because of the blogger’s allegations linking him and his wife to the Panama Papers scandal.
The couple denied claims that they had used secret offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan’s ruling family.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s popular blog had also targeted opposition politicians, calling the country’s political situation “desperate” in her final post.
Malta has asked for international help – including the FBI in the US – to find the perpetrator, the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family has requested that the magistrate in charge of the investigation be replaced, the Malta Independent reports.
It said the current magistrate had on a number of occasions been the subject of criticism by Daphne Caruana Galizia.