Europol threatened to walk away from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation in 2019 unless action was taken to arrest self-confessed murder middleman Melvin Theuma, multiple sources have confirmed.
Local investigators were reluctant to swoop in on Theuma, fearing they lacked enough evidence, even when intercepts indicated that he had recordings that could shed further light on the murder plot.
The recordings and Theuma’s testimony have since been used by the police to build a case against Tumas business magnate Yorgen Fenech.
The details emerged through the Daphne Project, an international journalistic collaboration, which includes Times of Malta.
A spokesman for the Hague-based Europol declined to comment when contacted by Daphne Project partners Reuters, but said the organisation had “dedicated hundreds of man-days in operational support” to the case and was still actively involved.
The Maltese police said in reply to questions that they are in constant communication with Europol, with weekly meeting being held as well as Maltese officers spending time at Europol’s headquarters to facilitate ongoing investigations.
Theuma popped up on the police’s radar as early as April 2018, six months after the journalist was assassinated outside her home by a car bomb.
Vince Muscat, who by that time had been arrested and charged over his alleged role in the murder, offered up Theuma’s name in a bid to obtain a presidential pardon.
'Mounting pressure from abroad'
Fenech told police last November that then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had warned him in early 2019 that the police would be forced to act on Theuma due to mounting pressure from abroad.
The murder suspect also claimed that the Prime Minister asked if his chief of staff Keith Schembri featured in the recordings.
Muscat strongly denies such a conversation ever took place.
As the summer of 2019 dragged on without any police action against Theuma, the victim’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia threatened to go public with the middleman’s name.
“We had known what was being alleged about Melvin Theuma for months,” Caruana Galizia told The Guardian.
“And it reached a point where I just wanted to go into the street and spraypaint his name on a wall. Like, I wanted the world to know that he was the middleman to just push the police into action.”
Eventually, at a meeting with inspector Keith Arnaud in August 2019, Caruana Galizia says Arnaud asked for one more month.
In October, Times of Malta published a story alluding to how a prominent businessman and a suspected middleman were on the police’s radar. The story had also reported that the middleman had even drawn up his last will shortly after Alfred Degiorgio, his brother George, and Vince Muscat were arrested and charged in court in December 2017.
A month later, the police swooped in on Theuma, securing the recordings.
The Daphne Project is coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a French NGO set up to continue the work of murdered journalists. Times of Malta is one of 18 media outlets around the world involved in the project.