Updated 11.20am

A magisterial inquiry led by magistrate Josette Demicoli is now at a “crucial stage”, assistant police commissioner Alexandra Mamo testified on Wednesday.

The inquiry was opened in 2017 following claims that more than €600,000 in suspicious transactions flowed between former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman.

Money is alleged to have passed through domestic and offshore personal accounts, bank accounts in the names of domestic and offshore companies and through a domestic investment firm.

Schembri was arrested last September following the conclusion of a separate inquiry into other money laundering claims. That inquiry, led by magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, concerned alleged kickbacks on the sale of passports.

Schembri and three directors of financial services firm Nexia BT, who were also arrested, remain on police bail but have not yet been charged with any crime.

Testifying on Wednesday, Mamo provided no further details about the two inquiries or their status, save for saying that neither magistrate Demicoli nor Galea Sciberras had ever alerted the police to any possible loss or tampering of evidence. 

Assistant commissioner Alexandra Mamo. Photo: Matthew MirabelliAssistant commissioner Alexandra Mamo. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Mamo, who heads the police’s financial crimes department, was testifying in a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The assistant commissioner took over that role from Ian Abdilla on July 1, as part of a shake-up introduced by new police commissioner Angelo Gafa’.

Testifying on Wednesday, Mamo declined to answer questions about her predecessor in open court and instead said she would answer such questions in private.

She said that:

  • Data extracted from Yorgen Fenech’s electronic devices is likely to be useful to the public inquiry

  • Police commissioner Angelo Gafa is taking a great interest in the Caruana Galizia case
  • She receives weekly updates on all major cases under her supervision

  • She met with the Caruana Galizia family in August

  • The number of police officers assigned to the Economic Crimes Unit has been increased since she took over in July

  • Her predecessor Ian Abdilla had told her it was important to look into media reports about alleged financial crimes.

As it happened 

Live blog ends

10.39am With Mamo now testifying in private, this live blog will end here. We will have a summary of her key points of testimony available at the top of this article shortly. Thank you for having joined us.

Public inquiry to continue Friday

10.37am Mamo is the only witness scheduled to testify today. 

The inquiry will continue on Friday, when former attorney general Peter Grech is expected to appear as a witness. 

Mamo continues testifying behind closed doors 

10.35am And that's all we'll be hearing from Mamo - the rest of her testimony will take place behind closed doors. Journalists are asked to leave the courtroom. 

Meeting Caruana Galizia family 

10.33am Mamo tells the inquiry she had made it a point to meet with the Caruana Galizia family. The meeting took place at police headquarters on August 4. 

Commissioner Gafa joined the meeting too, and an inspector was also present. 

Mamo: “I believe in the Victims of Crime Act and I believe in the rights of the victim. I feel we owe support and empahy to all victims.” 

She says she plans on having another meeting with the Caruana Galizia family soon, “especially [with] Matthew”. 

“During the meeting, I noticed that his eyes spoke volumes,” she says.

Data analysed 'will be useful' 

10.27am Mamo says that there is a huge amount of data on Fenech's devices to go through for the Caruana Galizia case and that they have until the end of November to evaluate it. 

Judge Abigail Lofaro asks whether that data will be useful to the inquiry. 

“I think it will be useful,” Mamo replies. 

Offering inspectors support 

10.23am Mamo tells the inquiry she had called a meeting on July 9, in which she told her officers that they should uphold their oath of office and could count on the backing of herself and the unit’s superintendents. 

She says she asked inspectors to speak to her personally if they sensed any conflict of interest and she would transfer them to another unit.  

"We will work together as a team," she recalls telling them. 

Mamo says that her officers' faces lighting up when she said that, and says the relief was written all over their faces. 

Mamo says she decided to call that July meeting – and another one on October 14 - after she was approached by colleagues and magistrates. But again, the witness says she would rather provide details when testifying in private. 

Analysing Yorgen Fenech's chat messages

10.17am Mamo tells the inquiry that police are analysing electronic data extracted from Yorgen Fenech’s devices [Fenech stands accused of complicity in Caruana Galizia’s murder]. 

Each chat exchange extracted from the device is analysed by herself and superintendent Frank Tabone, Mamo says, reporting to the commissioner. 

If a chat merits investigation, one is opened. In fact, a number of criminal investigations are ongoing, she says. 

Therese Comodini Cachia asks the witness to clarify something. Mamo has told the inquiry that investigations were still ongoing even after a magisterial inquiry was concluded. 

“Could those investigations have been done in parallel with that inquiry, or did you need to wait for its conclusions?” 

Mamo says she would rather testify about that in private. 

Investigations into Schembri and Nexia BT 

10.13am Mamo says that she found two magisterial inquiries about that topic. One was concluded by magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras. 

“On September 22 we sought an arrest warrant and arrested four people,” she says. “They are still on police bail”. 

[Mamo does not name anyone involved, but the four in question are former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and Nexia BT’s three directors]. 

The second inquiry, by magistrate Josette Demicoli, remains ongoing and is at a “crucial” stage, Mamo says. 

Mamo is asked for more specifics but says she will answer those questions behind closed doors. 

Neither of the two magistrates leading the inquiries ever drew police attention to possible loss or tampering of evidence,  she says. 

Abdilla and media reports

10.10am  Each case is assigned an inspector, Mamo says. Some cases require more than one inspector to be assigned. 

Mamo recalls her predecessor Abdilla telling her that it is important to follow media reports, scrutinise them and open a file should there be the need for criminal investigation.

Judge Said Pullicino: “What about the Panama Papers? That began from a journalist’s report”. 

Mamo: “Without wanting to sound disrespectful, I cannot answer that,” Mamo replies. 

Hard work over Moneyval 

10.06am Mamo says the unit is working especially hard due to Moneyval scrutiny [the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering body is assessing Malta]. and that she hopes Malta will obtain positive results in that assessment.

She says that the unit has solved a number of money laundering cases in the past months, leading to arraignments. 

Questions about Abdilla 

10.04am  Mamo is asked whether her predecessor, Ian Abdilla, gave her a handover.

“Yes,” she says. “But I’d rather testify about that behind closed doors”. 

Mamo is asked whether Abdilla kept proper files. Again, the witness says she’d like to testify behind closed doors.

Alexandra Mamo's predecessor as ECU chief, Ian Abdilla. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaAlexandra Mamo's predecessor as ECU chief, Ian Abdilla. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

'Tens' of active investigations

10.02am  Mamo says she has a very good working relationship with attorney general Victoria Buttigieg. 

She is asked if the controls she has in place were adopted before she was appointed. 

“I don’t know,” she replies. 

“I found tens of ongoing investigations, all active. All were being handled.” 

She says there is a backlog of cases, many concerning different topics. She cites cases concerning usury and others featuring politically exposed persons as examples. 

Mamo is asked whether the commissioner is interested in her work. 

“Of course,” she replies. “A lot”. 

She returns to her weekly Sunday briefings. 

“Every Sunday, investigating inspectors send me their updates via email, copying in the two superintendents heading each unit. Each inspector has his working file. Each has his own policy. Some keep information in the official file, others in the working file. File movement is tracked.” 

Mamo receives weekly update of major crimes

9.54am Mamo says that she receives an update of major cases once a week. 

"When I took over, the Commissioner passed on major ongoing cases. Every Sunday I’m updated on their progress. If nothing has been done, I'm told why or what more needs to be done." 

Mamo says she summons officers or superintendents responsible to discuss specific cases when necessary. 

"We hold meetings before, during and after operations. We are adopting the four eyes rule," she says. [The four eyes rule is an internal control principle that states that two people must approve or review some action before it can be taken].

Complexity of financial crimes

9.52am Mamo says that the complexity of modern financial crimes cases require more analysts if police are to keep up. 

“We receive reports from the FIAU which needs to be translated into raw evidence, and there are media reports which have to be examined. If they are founded, an investigation begins.” 

Police have to make several assessments at this stage, she says. 

“Do we need a request for information? Do we need an attachment order, valid for six months and possibly extended further? Reports from financial institutions need to be analysed in depth. Foreign jurisdictions may be involved. The process is a long one.”

How the police's economic crimes unit is set up 

9.48am Mamo explains how the department is set up. It has two squads – one for money laundering and another for economic crimes. 

Superintendent Frank Tabone heads one, James Grech heads the other. Each squad had eight inspectors. Today, there are 12 inspectors in the money laundering squad, another on tax compliance and tax evasion, as well as the eight inspectors who work on economic crimes. 

There is also a Financial Crimes Analysis Unit as well as a task force investigating the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, she says. 

There are 94 officers in the unit in total. 

The judges ask whether she's happy with that. 

"As far as resources go, there's never enough," she replies. 

Mamo begins testimony 

9.42am Mamo takes the oath and begins her testimony. She tells the inquiry that she is stationed at the financial crimes department, which was formerly known as the economic crimes unit.  

Mamo recalls police commissioner Angelo Gafà calling her on June 22 and telling her he wanted to meet the next day. [Gafà was officially appointed commissioner on June 23]. 

Mamo says she was initially shocked when Gafà told her he wanted her to lead the department, as he had faith in her. 

"It was not my field," she tells the inquiry. She was formerly involved in family and civil matters. She says she put Malta's interests first, accepted the offer and started her new job on July 1. 

Judges begin session

9.40am The three judges who make up the board of inquiry take their place and the day's inquiry session can begin. 

Reminder: the last time the inquiry was in session was on Friday when, entrepreneurs Joe and Mark Gasan testified.

Mamo in attendance

9.34am The day's key witness, Alexandra Mamo, is in the hall and waiting for the session to begin. So too is one of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters and lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, who is representing the family. 


9.25am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. We're in hall 20 of the Valletta law courts this morning, where the Caruana Galizia inquiry is due to resume. 

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