Police are investigating how Yorgen Fenech, an alleged conspirator in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, swapped a high-end property with a businessman for a luxury car as part of a wider organized crime investigation and money laundering.
The 2019 deal saw Fenech and car dealer James Zammit agree to swap part of a Portomaso apartment, valued at over a million euros, for a lavish Rolls Royce Wraith, worth $100,000. around €250,000.
They also agreed to swap another luxury vehicle, a Porsche Panamera sports car, with investigators looking into suspicions that large amounts of cash may have changed hands.
The case is under ongoing investigation at the Financial Crimes Investigation Department of the police. It is part of a broader investigation into Fenech’s commercial activity.
Contacted for comment, Zammit insisted police had not spoken to him and were not aware of any investigation into him.
He also insisted that his property swap with Fenech was a legitimate business deal and that no money changed hands.
The word “cash”, he said, had been used in discussions with Fenech as “slang” and intended to indicate that the money would be paid in full.
Zammit said the real estate transaction was primarily financed with a bank loan.
He added that he wished he had done more business with Fenech because those who did had always done well.
Sources said the deals being investigated by police came just months before Fenech was arrested aboard his luxury yacht as he attempted to leave the country in 2019, days only after murderous middleman Melvyn Theuma was arrested.
Police suspect that while he was negotiating with Fenech, Zammit had just been told by a local bank that they would be ending their relationship with him.
It is believed to have been the result of concerns about suspicious financial activity being escalated to authorities for further investigation.
Zammit said he held regular meetings with the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and no issues were raised.
Sources said that at some point during his negotiations with Fenech, Zammit struggled to register the luxury vehicle in the Tumas tycoon’s name. Indeed, Fenech had pending arrears on other vehicles.
Incidentally, the Rolls Royce that Zammit swapped with Fenech is the same vehicle that former Assistant Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta would later be filmed having fun in.
Valletta has resigned from the police force amid suspicions he may have leaked information about the investigation into the murder of Caruana Galizia in Fenech. He vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
Who is James Zammit?
Zammit owns luxury car dealership Cars Unlimited, but also a larger business empire that falls under Zammit Holdings.
According to public documents, he is a major shareholder and director of Finance House Plc, which finances loans for the purchase of cars.
Last February, he appeared in a Malta weather report which detailed how he was the registered owner of a luxury Range Rover which was used in an ownership swap by alleged mobster Christian Borg.
Borg, along with five of his associates, is accused of kidnapping a former employee and threatening to torture him and have his sister raped.
During this time, Zammit also did business with another group of suspected organized criminals, brothers Agius Robert and Adrian, known as Ta’ Maksar.
Like Fenech, the two are also in court for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Caruana Galizia and the 2015 shooting of lawyer Carmel Chircop.
One of the luxury Mercedes sedans confiscated from the Maksar brothers when they were transported by police in 2021 has been traced to Zammit. He had also been involved in a real estate deal with Robert Agius.
Property searches on Zammit show that in 2015 he had reached an agreement to buy part of a piece of land in Żebbuġ in an area known as “tal-Għarbi”, which belonged to the Agius brothers.
Asked about it, Zammit said he only bought the property following a court order.
Ultimately, as a businessman, if the opportunity for cheap property presented itself, he would try to grab it, Zammit said.
Zammit, the Maksar brothers and Borg had all used the services of Robert Abela before he became Prime Minister.
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