Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered as she was preparing for a full-blown exposé of a failed power station project, her son testified in court on Thursday.
Matthew Caruana Galizia stood on a podium just metres away from the man who is charged with killing his mother during a tense sitting, which confirmed that Yorgen Fenech had been privy to the wording of a presidential pardon lined up for the middleman shortly before the businessman’s arrest.
It was the first time that a member of the victim’s family was summoned as a witness in the compilation of evidence.
Matthew Caruana Galizia revealed emails his mother had received in 2017 exposing the big financial problems faced by the Electrogas project. He provided evidence to show that Fenech was the project’s key contact with the government and claimed that other shareholders feared him.
Kindly slow it down on Portomaso. Currently Yorgen is sick and cannot do anything about it
One email from Electrogas commercial director Catherine Halpin to Fenech showed the investors were very worried that the banks were getting nervous. Another message showed they were not interested in financing the deal.
"Mother was to publish this but it was interrupted by the murder," Caruana Galizia said, during testimony repeatedly interrupted by defence lawyers.
He read another email between two employees on October 16, 2017, the day of the murder, which said: “Kindly slow it down on Portomaso. Currently Yorgen is sick and cannot do anything about it."
Fenech was the 'key' person
"Decisions were taken by him. Every time they needed a favour from Konrad Mizzi or the Prime Minister it was always Yorgen they went to. He was the key person. So, mum and I directed our investigations on this key person. That’s why after the murder I quickly passed on the information to others."
Questioned by lawyer Jason Azzopardi, lead investigator Keith Arnaud gave the reasons why the police believed that Fenech was planning to flee Malta shortly before his arrest in November 2019.
He confirmed that on the eve of his arrest, Fenech had told a relative to take care of his children, that there was a plan for him to travel overland from Italy and that he had been told not to use his credit cards overseas.
Meanwhile the businessman also contemplated leaving Malta via a private plane, and in one chat he told his uncle that he had even asked the airport CEO if he could leave the country “discreetly”. The CEO said this was not possible.
But the defence lawyers challenged Arnaud to prove that Fenech had no intention to return. After all, Fenech was never reluctant to return from his many overseas trips.
As the arrest was looming, Fenech appealed to the then OPM chief of staff not to leave him alone.
At one point, Fenech asked Schembri: "Will they come today? – the former chief of staff assured him: "No".
Arnaud revealed that an image was found on Fenech’s phone showing the presidential pardon that murder middleman Melvin Theuma had negotiated to reveal the murder details.
Grilled on whether it was Keith Schembri who had leaked him the details, Arnaud said the former chief of staff had rejected the claim but his phone had not yet been found. Meanwhile, the businessman said it was Schembri who had sent him the details.
The police investigator also revealed it was former prime minister Joseph Muscat who set up a WhatsApp group with Fenech and Schembri just two days after the three alleged hitmen had been arrested in December 2017.
In January 2019, Muscat had sent a message to Fenech telling him they needed to talk during his birthday party at Girgenti.
"We need to talk, me, you and K," the message read.
But in another conversation, Fenech seems to apologise for not having managed to talk to Muscat at Girgenti “because he was surrounded by people."
Arnaud also revealed that a photo had been found in Fenech's phone showing the details of 10 to 12 criminals, including the alleged hitmen in Caruana Galizia’s murder.
As it happened:
Lawyers in legal wrangle
12.30pm The last witness has left the room but the lawyers are still engaged in a legal wrangle.
Fenech's lawyers are insisting about an earlier request to obtain voice recordings found on Melvin Theuma's devices, which are currently subject to the money laundering inquiry.
"Was the request forwarded by the prosecution? And why haven’t we been notified?" Charles Mercieca asks.
They say that recordings should be selected by prosecution and defence lawyers, to see what’s relevant to the murder compilation or not.
Arnaud says that three quarters of recordings in existence have already been presented in court.
"It's a very strange situation," the defence team protests.
Case to resume on February 2
12.18pm Matthew Caruana Galizia steps down from the witness stand.
Yorgen Fenech's mother is seen whispering something in his wife’s ear.
Fenech returns to his seat as he walks away from his lawyers.
The case will resume on February 2. Fenech’s lawyers appear keen to have cross examination of some witnesses on that day.
We will be back shortly with the highlights from Thursday's sitting.
Knowledge of 17 Black
12.15pm Just before or after the Panama Papers publication in 2016, Daphne had asked her son about 17 Black.
"I knew nothing absolutely about it at the time. Nor (secret company) Macbridge. This was long before she wrote about it."
He understood that his mother knew about 17 Black some other way, not through the Panama Papers.
Jason Azzopardi asks about an amount for the bridge loan but Charles Mercieca asks the court if the witness is a prosecution witness or otherwise.
"110 million was the first amount, ballooning to 360 million," Matthew Caruana Galizia replies.
'Yorgen is sick'
12.05pm After Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered, Matthew maintained contact with the whistleblower and the leaks continued.
"I could see what happened in the day of the murder. Kindly slow it down on Portomaso. Currently Yorgen is sick and cannot do anything about it. This was an email between two employees on the day of the murder."
He doesn’t read on but he says they actually discuss the murder itself.
Electricity supply was in danger
12pm There was also an ongoing difficulty with Enemalta. An email to an Electrogas official refers to three incidents of electricity interruptions at a time when consumption was high.
"There was no evidence of reliability at the facility. Enemalta was not prepared to use Electrogas as a source of power became it was unreliable. (Then Enemalta chairman) Frederick Azzopardi said that correspondence was being copied to the government of Malta.
"We kept saying let’s get as much as we can to make sure we covered as much material as possible. Such an investigation would normally take about a year and it was just us two. I had another job. Mum had the magazine and a website too."
Another email from Socar representative Turab Musayev showed he had spoken to Konrad Mizzi and David Galea about a plan to agree with lenders but the extension of bridge was not on the table.
That meant that electricity supply of country was in danger.
"Tomorrow morning Yorgen and I shall speak to Konrad and David again."
That confirmed Fenech was the key contact with the government.
'Interrupted by murder'
11.55am Matthew Caruana Galizia explains that he and his mother would normally work with other journalists because of sheer size of material available but they decided to keep the information to themselves and be very careful who to tell about it.
"After the murder, besides whistleblower I was the only one who knew about it."
Yorgen Fenech moves to the lawyers' table to have a chat.
Halpin wrote to Fenech saying they were very worried that the banks are getting nervous.
He reads an email saying the banks were not interested in financing the deal.
"Mother was to publish this but it was interrupted by the murder."
Trouble at Electrogas
11.50am Around mid-May 2017, an email was sent about bridge extension, a loan for the power station project.
"We concluded there were problems with financing of the company."
'Trouble brews at Electrogas power station,' Daphne's blog post read.
Matthew Caruana Galizia says he is aware of the late payments to employees.
Again, the defence lawyers raise objections, but the magistrate over-rules them.
"My mother had the most experience to judge and interpret financials of company. She had worked as a journalist for years and that brings experience."
Magistrate gives Daphne's son go-ahead
11.45am Daphne Caruana Galizia continued to publish follow-up stories about 17 Black, including Keith Schembri's refusal to appear before a committee and Joseph Muscat claiming not to know anything about it.
"Around that time we started to see a lot of worry at Electrogas. We saw that from the emails."
Parte civile lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia prompts Caruana Galizia to read from the emails but Fenech's lawyers again interrupt: “He’s no expert. It’s an opinion.”
Magistrate minutes that although witness is not an expert in terms of law, the court allows him to testify, even give an opinion about facts which he confirmed personally.
"These are leaks he was working on with his mother," magistrate says firmly.
Charles Mercieca continues to interrupt. "It’s almost hearsay. Needs to be corroborated with direct and concrete proof."
'We saw everything coming together'
11.40am Matthew Caruana Galizia reads from the documents at hand. A note dated March 2017 shows that Fenech's shareholding.
"Of course my mother had published some blog posts about what was going on at Electrogas and had generated interest. Foreign media had picked that up and published it."
Around the time of leaks, investigations about Fenech deepened.
"Mum received info regarding communication between Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri. She received phone numbers and asked me to check out some numbers myself. One of these was in fact Fenech's."
Fenech's lawyers insist that the witness must present the documents he’s testifying about.
In a February 22 blog post, Daphne cited the company 17 Black.
"She knew companies had been incorporated in UAE but at that point we saw everything coming together. I had started working on the Panama Papers and she was working in Malta. We saw everything coming together: the shell companies, Electrogas."
Lawyers told off
11.35am Another email from SOCAR directed to Halpin asked for an explanatory note on an Malta Today story about the government's links to Azerbaijan.
"On the link to Bangladesh which we had begun to investigate, Fenech had asked Halpin to supply information on power plans to effect carbon copy in Bangladesh."
This appears to have been done without knowledge of other directors or shareholders. In a nutshell, Fenech was using the information to replicate the project there, Caruana Galizia tells the court. Fenech was to have 30 per cent interest in the project. He was acting alone.
Charles Mercieca interjects: "Opinion".
"No, it's not."
Magistrate: "It's the witness's conclusion."
She tells off the lawyers saying the witness is perfectly competent to reach such a conclusion.
"I don’t want to hear another comment of the sort!"
Victim's son 'cannot express an opinion'
Defence lawyers say Matthew Caruana Galizia's motive for the murder is an "opinion" not an expert confirmation.
Azzopardi interjects: "He's the victim's son."
Fenech's lawyers say that as witness, Matthew Caruana Galizia cannot express an opinion.
Fenech had emailed Haplin about a Times of Malta advertising request, but the businessman was indignant, saying they had “some courage” to do so since the news organisation was investigating the company.
He continues: the emails cover a long period from start of project. Fenech had an extremely close relationship with (Electrogas commercial director) Catherine Halpin. She would lean on him when questions from the media came through.
Matthew said the emails came from a leak and he had no intention of endangering the life of a whistleblower.
The magistrate reminds the court that media sources are protected.
"Otherwise someone would kill them," Azzopardi says.
Shareholders 'feared' Fenech
11.20am Matthew Caruana Galizia says he worked throughout the night with his mother making notes on the follow-ups needed. That work continued after she was murdered.
"We had behind-the-scenes information about Electrogas and we knew from day one that the person in the lead was Yorgen Fenech. The other shareholders feared him. In fact there was little interaction with other shareholders.
"Decisions were taken by him. Every time they needed a favour from Konrad Mizzi or the Prime Minister it was always Yorgen they went to. He was the key person. So mum and I directed our investigations on this key person. That’s why after the murder I quickly passed on the information to others."
Defence lawyers object.
Daphne wanted to do 'big splash' on Electrogas but...
11.15am Matthew Caruana Galizia is asked about the stories his mother was working on in the months before her murder.
The biggest investigation was Electrogas in early 2017 but the suspicions about the case started long before.
"We started to receive leaks in early 2017. Because of sheer volume I was helping my mother. We were planning to do a big splash at the end of the year. But she was murdered before that could happen. I was in communication with the whistleblower."
After her murder, one of first things he did was to pass on data to certain journalists.
"Besides the whistleblower and I, no one else knew. So if anything happened to me..."
11.15am Jason Azzopardi asks: on the eve of Fenech's arrest, did Fenech tell a relative to care for his kids? Was there a message about this?
Yes there was, Arnaud replies.
Was there a message from his uncle to try "buy time".
"I believe so."
Arnaud's testimony comes to an end. Next up is Matthew Caruana Galizia.
Who leaked the email?
11.10am Charles Mercieca asks Arnaud who had access to the memorandum of understanding on Theuma's pardon.
Arnaud says that around the discussion table there was himself, former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, former AG Peter Grech, his deputy Philip Galea Farrugia, possibly inspector Kurt Zahra and Theuma's lawyers.
It was Cutajar who circulated an email to inspect and amend as necessary.
Mercieca: "So who leaked the email?"
Arnaud: "Someone who had access to it."
He is asked if he investigated that leak but Arnaud says it is investigated by an inquiry looking into leaks.
Mercieca: "Did you ask Keith Schembri about it?"
Arnaud: "Yes we did, but he denied it... We haven't found Schembri's phone."
The evidence on the phone
11.05am Arnaud tells the court it was clear to the police and members of task force that accused had no intention to come back if he left in November 2019.
He told his uncle to care for his children, there were arrangements about travelling out and to refrain from using credit cards.
"There is no text in phone indicating that he intended to come back. He also told us that. But the chats showed he wanted to leave discreetly."
But the lawyer hits back: "What if I tell you that in the phone there’s concrete proof that Yorgen had every intention to come back? Not just proof to return but he wanted to do so to fight his case. Did you find that evidence?"
Arnaud says the phone data is huge but that he would check.
The lawyer says Fenech confirmed with the police under questioning that he wouldn't dare leave Malta and his children.
Arnaud: "Yes, he told us that many times that he never intended to flee... But the phone messages appear to indicate otherwise. It was travelling with a difference,” I would say."
No reluctance to return to Malta
10.58am Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca has some questions for Arnaud.
Before the arrest, the police had no warrant to force Fenech not to leave Malta.
"That's right. We had never spoken to him."
Mercieca: "Had Keith Schembri told him he could leave Malta?"
After a pause, Arnaud replies: "No, I think the message said the contrary. I don’t think so.”
The investigator repeats the messages Fenech sent to Schembri: Don't leave me alone. Give me support. are they coming today?” And Schembri replied: "No."
The magistrate pushes on: "Did you ask Yorgen why he spoke in plural?"
Arnaud: "No, we didn't."
Just weeks before, Fenech had travelled abroad and always returned. There was never any reluctance to return.
Arnaud: "No, it was always normal. It was after that message from uncle Ray that fear of police about attempt to flee set in."
The casino case
10.50 am Arnaud is asked about an account at Noor Bank dealing with foreign currency. But the inspector said he will confirm this since it was a matter handled by a task force.
Azzopardi asks about a letter Fenech allegedly received from Schembri where reference is made to damages and losses suffered by Fenech because of the Dragonara casino.
“They blackmailed me not to appeal about the casino,” the message read.
The casino matter was described as "disgraceful".
Contacts in Bangladesh
10.45am After his arrest, Fenech's lawyers told the police that he would be requesting a presidential pardon. Meanwhile, the police played out one of the secret police recordings.
Arnaud is reading out the times that Fenech met with his lawyers during this period.
During investigations, did the police determine that Fenech has contacts abroad particularly in Bangladesh?
Azzopardi: "Did he contact Keith Schembri and (former PN information director) Pierre Portelli expressing satisfaction that a friend became minister in Bangladesh?"
Defence lawyers interrupt: "What's the relevance? That's his private life. He had business contacts."
Matthew Caruana Galizia whispers something in Azzopardi's ear.
"Ah yes, he’s reminded me about something Daphne was working on. But he can confirm this under oath."
Theuma went to Fenech for money
10.40am Arnaud is asked about the eve of Keith Schembri's arrest in November 2019. Did the police confirm that late that night he was present at Muscat's home in Burmarrad?
"Yes. It was around 9.35 that evening and his mobile was linked to cell tower there."
Theuma testified that the day after murder he went to Portomaso? Did the police get evidence to confirm this?
Arnaud: "I don’t recall that off hand but I can confirm from geolocation data."
Azzopardi: "Can you confirm that on two occasions Fenech's employees told him that Theuma was waiting downstairs to speak to him?"
That corroborates Theuma saying that just a week before his arrest he had gone to Fenech for money.
Muscat created group chat
10.35am What about group chat between Muscat, Fenech and Schembri?
Arnaud says it was set up two days after arraignment of hitmen in December 2017.
It was Muscat who created the group "if I’m not mistaken".
Arnaud confirms that Muscat was asked about this during his questioning last August.
The chats had nothing to do with the murder itself.
In one conversation, Fenech seems to apologise for not having managed to talk to Muscat at Girgenti “because he was surrounded by people."
'We need to talk'
10.30am Arnaud confirms that Fenech was a police suspect since 2018.
Who else in the police hierarchy knew that the businessman was a suspect?
"I had told superiors, members of task force. In 2018, we had just a hint of his involvement. I had told Silvio Valletta, but needed to investigate further. Later on, evidence confirmed that yes, Fenech was a suspect. But I hadn’t told Valletta any more. He had since moved out after the court judgment."
Azzopardi turns his focus to Joseph Muscat's birthday party at Girgenti in January 2019.
"The PM wanted to speak to him, it seems. Did you come across messages from Muscat saying 'we need to talk once you're here at the party."
The defence lawyers again object.
Arnaud confirms the message: "We need to talk, me, you and K."
Pictures on a phone
10.23am A memorandum of understanding about Melvin Theuma was signed on November 18, 2019. The image on Fenech's phone showing the presidential pardon was the final one, Arnaud says.
By then, Theuma had started talking to the police.
Was there any other information of people known to the police?
"The task force had analysed the data. There was a photo found in Fenech's phone showing 10-12 people known to us. Among those were the three hitmen. There were names, date of birth and the crimes they’re associated with," Arnaud says.
Azzopardi asks about the other individuals.
"They're involved in organised crime and violent thefts."
'Don't leave me alone'
10.15am Questions turn to Keith Schembri.
At one point, Fenech told the then OPM chief of staff: "don't leave me alone."
Fenech told Schembri: "Will they come today?"
Schembri replied: "No (Leeeeeee)".
Arnaud says Fenech asked Schembri for the draft of Melvin Theuma's presidential pardon. It is not clear if he sent it to him.
However, Arnaud says they found message with wording of pardon on Fenech's phone.
The magistrate asks: "was it from Keith Schembri?"
Arnaud: "So far the sender has not yet been confirmed. But Yorgen told us he got it from Keith Schembri."
Plan to drive overland
10.10am Fenech decided it's better to leave the island on his boat.
There is a reference to "K" in the chats, who the police believed to have been a reference to Keith Schembri. There is also a reference to Times of Malta journalists.
Defence lawyers object, asking the court what is the point of regurgitating the evidence. Magistrate allows questions to prove the evidence that the accused wanted to leave Malta.
Arnaud says the plan was for Fenech's brother to collect him by car in Italy and then proceed elsewhere overland.
Meanwhile there seems to have been a parallel plan to make use of a private jet.
'Discreet' exit from Malta
10am The chats clearly state that Yorgen Fenech intended to leave the island but he wasn't in a hurry, Arnaud says.
Another chat linked to a story uploaded on Times of Malta.
Amid protests by the defence lawyers, Azzopardi asks what was holding the police back.
Arnaud says that chat between Ray Fenech and his nephew started on November 18 and continued the next day.
Yorgen Fenech told his uncle that he was leaving the country and that he is to be picked up from Sicily. He had been told not to use his credit card.
In the chat, Yorgen Fenech tells his uncle that he made contacts with the MIA CEO if he could leave the country "discreetly" and the answer was "no".
Fenech's chats with uncle
9.55am Azzopardi refers to Arnaud's December 2019 testimony when the police inspector said the police were afraid that Fenech might attempt to leave Malta.
The lawyer asks Arnaud to read the communication that the accused had with his uncle Ray Fenech on the eve of his arrest.
Ray Fenech had sent him chat links on events taking place in the country at the time. There was a reference to then prime minister Joseph Muscat making a speech about a pardon.
Stuck in traffic
9.48am The magistrate takes her place and we're off.
We are prepared for Matthew Caruana Galizia to testify but he's caught in traffic, Keith Arnaud and Jason Azzopardi inform the court.
So until he arrives, Azzopardi says he has some questions for Arnaud.
But before that, defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks about a request for cross examination.
Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran points out that if questions refer to matters heard behind close doors, then the court must exercise caution.
"You're right," the magistrate replies.
Chat with lawyers
9.45am Fenech stands up and approaches his lawyers. They are engaging in a private chat.
Meanwhile, relative of Caruana Galizia's family have settled into the court room.
9.30am We're in hall 9 as witnesses and family members start to gather. Fenech has just been escorted in. There are five guards in the court room and another two outside.
Lead investigator Keith Arnaud is present after his absence from court last week.
The magistrate has allocated more than three and a half hours for Thursday's sitting. But you never know.
Who are the main players?
Yorgen Fenech: the businessman accused of being the mastermind behind the murder;
Melvin Theuma: the self-confessed middleman in the murder;
Vince Muscat, Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio: the alleged hitmen;
Keith Arnaud, Kurt Zahra: the lead police investigators;
Keith Schembri: the OPM's former chief of staff;
Lawrence Cutajar: the former police commissioner;
Kenneth Camilleri: a member of Joseph Muscat's security detail;
Johann Cremona: a business associate of Yorgen Fenech's.
Edwin Brincat (Il-Ġojja): a friend of Lawrence Cutajar and Melvin Theuma;
Rachel Montebello: the presiding magistrate;
Gianluca Caruana Curran, Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca: the lawyers appearing on Fenech’s behalf;
Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia: the lawyers appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.
Philip Galea Farrugia: representing the AG’s office and assisting the prosecution.