Two former police commissioners declared under oath on Thursday that they had not issued any order to withdraw police protection afforded to Daphne Caruana Galizia, which relatives of the assassinated journalist say was stopped after John Rizzo was replaced as commissioner. 

When testifying in the public inquiry into the assassination, Peter Paul Zammit, who served as police chief between 2013 and 2014, said he gave no order to withdraw protection but left matters as they stood before.

"But we were told that protection had stopped. What have you to say about that?" came the next question by the judges presiding over the inquiry.

"I did not reverse any order,” said Mr Zammit, pointing out that shortly after his appointment, there had been a parliamentary question which had touched upon the subject. 

There was a fixed point at election time and frequent patrols. I confirmed whether that was all and I left matters as they stood," he said.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Mr Rizzo had recalled how police were already keeping regular watch on the Caruana Galizia family home in Bidnija when he had taken over as commissioner and could not recall how or when that protection had ended.

Drawing comparison to other risk-exposed persons, Mr Zammit mentioned former Nationalist MP Franco Debono who had been given fixed point protection back in 2012 and still had the same protection after a review of his risk assessment. 

Asked about his appointment as police commissioner, Mr Zammit explained how he had been summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office and offered the post which he later, admittedly resigned after a “divergence of opinion" between him and the police minister's former chief of staff Silvio Scerri.

"I wanted more input in education," he said "but the former chief of staff’s word carried weight.”

As for the John Dalli affair, Mr Zammit said that he had “gone through the whole file" and noted "certain shortcomings".

He had sent for Mr Dalli and investigated the bribery allegations "partly alone and partly with (Angelo) Gafa (current CEO), discovering a report drawn up by the Olaf supervisory committee, which had “been hidden up to 2014”.

Asked whether anyone from the authorities had spoken to him about the Dalli case, Mr Zammit replied in the negative.

"I can assure you. There was not enough evidence to prosecute. I reached that conclusion after seeing a report of the supervisory committee that Rizzo had not seen."

Under questioning by lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, Mr Zammit said that he was not “directly” related to Mr Dalli but admitted that the former EU Commissioner and PN Minister was “a third degree relative” of his wife. 

Asked about the police handling of FIAU reports during his time, Mr Zammit said that it was “normal practice” to pass on such reports for investigation.

Most reports concerned suspicious transactions and would go directly to the Economic Crimes Unit. But “more serious" reports would go through the commissioner. 

"Like Panama Papers?" asked the board.

"It would definitely go on to be investigated," replied Mr Zammit. 

Thursday’s second witness was Michael Cassar, former police commissioner between December 2014 and April 2016, who had immediately asked about the level of protection being afforded to Caruana Galizia.

“I had asked about it and was told of patrols, frequent patrols. I told them to add greater attention to the residence, not just to drive past,” said Mr Cassar, adding that "it honestly crossed my mind to introduce a fixed point”. 

However, he had not carried further the idea after being told by his officers “that she had refused a fixed point by Rizzo”.

Asked whether authorities had ever interfered in his decisions, Mr Cassar replied with a “No, never. They wouldn’t even dare”.

When questioned about the police handling of FIAU reports, the former commissioner explained that there was "no interference" into reports from the FIAU, who had "wider and greater powers" than the police to get information.  

He said that when he was in the role there was a money-laundering investigation team, who received 15 to 16 reports annually, including a report about the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri and Nexia BT's Brian Tonna.

Referring to 'Operation Green', which was opened in April 8, 2016, and which mentioned politically exposed persons, Mr Cassar said that no one had spoken to him about that report.

“No. I went abroad the next day. It was planned. At the time I was determined to leave. I had taken the decision in December.”

“Did anyone interfere in your job, Mr Cassar?" the board asked.

"Not in investigations but administrative-wise it was a different matter," came the reply, which prompted the board to suggest that since they were “after the truth” perhaps the witness would prefer to reveal further details behind closed doors.

That was when the public was ordered to leave the hall from where Mr Cassar emerged some 50 minutes later.

The inquiry continues on Monday when former police chief Ray Zammit and MDA president Sandro Chetcuti are to testify. 

Former Judge Michael Mallia, Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro are presiding over the inquiry. 

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