Yorgen Fenech is insisting he was not the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, urging the prosecution to “do its job well and find the true mastermind”.

“The true mastermind is a third party. Do your work well and you will find him,” Fenech’s lawyers claimed on behalf of the businessman who stands accused of complicity in the murder. 

That was one of the snippets of information that emerged on Wednesday when the case resumed in its pre-trial stages before the Criminal Court.

The case is presided by Madam Justice Edwina Grima, who heard submissions about various requests and issues raised by the defence. 

Keith Schembri. File photoKeith Schembri. File photo

As the hearing progressed, the name of Keith Schembri, former chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, cropped up several times. 

Keith Schembri's phone

One of those mentions was in relation to electronic devices which police had seized from Schembri as they investigated him for suspected financial crimes. 

Schembri’s mobile phone, however, had disappeared on the eve of Fenech’s arrest. It has never been found. 

Fenech’s lawyers told the court they want prosecutors to produce the other phone which had been seized from Schembri in the financial crimes investigation, and which had replaced the earlier one allegedly lost. 

The prosecution questioned the relevance of that later device but Fenech’s lawyers insisted that that phone was indeed “relevant”.

Melvin Theuma. File photoMelvin Theuma. File photo

“It disappeared on the eve of the arrest. Schembri is mentioned in all Melvin Theuma’s [secret] tapes. His name cropped up in statements and testimonies.”

When Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in the murder, was arrested, he was found in possession of an ice cream box inside which police found a photo of Theuma shaking hands with Schembri at Castille. 

Melvin Theuma with Keith Schembri at Castille.Melvin Theuma with Keith Schembri at Castille.

“It wasn’t a photo with Yorgen Fenech,” said lawyer Charles Mercieca. 

Keith Schembri: 'Most interesting and relevant'

And in a handwritten note penned by Theuma before the plot was uncovered, he had mentioned Schembri as “the one who dragged him into this whole mess.” 

Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia acknowledged that “Keith Schembri is most interesting… and relevant” and was also included in the prosecution’s witness list.

However, the device being requested by the defence was preserved in the records of separate proceedings which involved third parties, he argued.

If it were to be produced in Fenech’s case, those records were to be kept confidential. 

“My duty is to produce all evidence and I will,” said Galea Farrugia. 

Madam Justice Grima stated that should the requested evidence be exhibited, it would remain under seal. 

Defence wants Tumuluri and Debono to testify

Two other names cropped up during Wednesday’s hearing. 

Those were Darren Debono and Ram Tumuluri who, the defence claimed, could prove to be relevant witnesses. 

Both mentioned incidents which allegedly occurred before and after Daphne’s murder and which were relevant to Fenech’s defence. 

Ram Tumuluri. File photoRam Tumuluri. File photo

Tumuluri had said that sometime before the murder, Schembri had told him that he was looking for someone to kill Daphne, claimed Mercieca. 

On another occasion, after the assassination, Schembri had allegedly warned Tumuluri that “he would face Daphne’s same fate”.

As for Debono, the oil trader currently facing money laundering charges in court, claimed that he “was the victim of a frame-up by Keith Schembri,” went on Mercieca. 

“In truth, Debono alleged that someone had tried to frame him. It’s in the public domain. Investigators and the general public were trying to understand the motive [behind the murder]. Although Darren Debono’s name was never mentioned, he felt that he was framed by Castille. But that’s an opinion,” rebutted Galea Farrugia. 

“He would have to explain at the witness stand as to what led him to that conclusion,” observed the judge. 

And Tumuluri had allegedly been warned by Schembri along the lines “be careful because you might end up like Daphne,” went on the prosecutor.

“Does that mean that he [Schembri] was involved,” asked the lawyer, drawing a parallel to several social media comments which emerged in the wake of a recent femicide case. 

As the prosecution questioned the relevance of that evidence in the murder proceedings, Fenech’s lawyer countered that “if Schembri is potentially the mastermind and also allegedly behind the frame-up, then it is relevant”.

Another issue raised by the defence related to criminal proceedings currently ongoing against a number of former public officials, including Schembri, as well as Fenech himself, concerning Theuma’s phantom job

Theuma had been granted a presidential pardon in exchange for his testimony in any proceedings related to a list of specific crimes. 

But when called to testify in that phantom job case, his lawyers had sought reassurance that Theuma was covered by the pardon. 

The police prosecuting in that case had clearly stated - and that statement was minuted in the court records - that Theuma was covered by the pardon.

Yet, in spite of that clear statement, Theuma had refused to testify.

'Theuma's pardon should be withdrawn'

“And on that occasion, bear in mind that he chose not to testify when he was supposed to do so in Schembri’s presence,” pointed out Mercieca, adding that, by opting for silence that day, Theuma had breached the terms of his pardon. 

Thus, that pardon ought to be withdrawn. 

The judge directed the defence to file a note, attaching that particular court minute from the phantom job case.

Another issue thrashed out on Wednesday concerned a report by a Europol expert which apparently is missing from the records of the case. 

The document seems to have been presented in the murder inquiry back in 2018, but could not be found in the relative proces verbal. 

The case continues. 

Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia prosecuted. Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca were defence counsel. 

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