Investigation into Malta  murder expands its scope

The investigation into the stabbing of Hugo Chetcuti continues, as police consider whether international criminal elements may have played a role.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Investigation into Malta  murder expands its scope - NewsMavens
Hugo Chetcuti. Youtube still

Why this story matters:

Hugo Chetcuti owned various entertainment and catering establishments in Malta's entertainment hub -- the Paceville neighbourhood, a hotbed of crime on the otherwise safe island. His brands extended from the Steam strip club to Hugo's Burgers, Hugo's Lounge, and Hugo's Pizza. He owned clubs and hotels as well, and shaped the entire hospitality and entertainment industry for around three decades. He was stabbed on July 6 during an event and died six days later.

When it transpired that the suspect is Serbian, media and commentators immediately raised the question of whether the "Balkan mafia" have infiltrated Malta and are now roaming freely.

This claim circulated in the Maltese-language newspaper, L-Orizzont, and One News television before being refuted in Lovin Malta. Still, the police are looking to cooperate with law enforcement in other countries, as other motives for the killing cannot be ruled out. The main hypothesis now is that the motive was personal. In an interview for a Serbian news website, the Serbian staff of Chetcuti's empire claimed the suspect had suffered from mental issues and had some criminal history -- this, they said, was a pattern, as convicts go to Malta to find jobs and hide from law enforcement.

The mogul had earlier made headlines by claiming that human trafficking for sex exploitation doesn't exist in Malta, and asserted that this was certainly not happening within his empire.

In its annual reports, the US Department of State repeatedly pointed out that nightclub workers from Central and Eastern Europe are vulnerable to human trafficking, yet not a single conviction happened over the past years. Chetcuti owned several strip clubs (called "gentlemen's clubs" in Malta) and advocated legalizing prostitution.

The murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia considered him the epitome of the nouveau-riche mentality in Malta and wrote about his dealings with police officers

Claims of dubious activities notwithstanding, many big names of the Maltese entertainment business praised Chetcuti, stating that he had transformed Malta, was kind to his staff and contributed to charity.

Details from the story:

  • Hugo Chetcuti, 52, founder and CEO of Hugo's Group conglomerate, was stabbed on July 6 during an event and died six days later.
  • The main suspect is Bojan Čmelik.
  • Joe Giglio, the lawyer representing the family of the late Hugo Chetcuti, claims that the man was fired eight months ago for being drunk.
  • The mogul boosted the rush to transform historical buildings into boutique hotels (even at an eyebrow-raising cost), and was associated with the rapid boom of the Paceville neighbourhood, a key entertainment hub.
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