Lawyers representing Yorgen Fenech told a court they recently came to know of correspondence from Italian prosecutors referring to a recording handed to Italian authorities that allegedly hinted at “possible masterminds who paid to get rid of Daphne Caruana Galizia".
And those masterminds were not Fenech, they said.
The issue was raised during the resumption of the compilation of evidence against Fenech, who stands accused of complicity in the 2017 car bomb murder of the journalist.
Lawyer Charles Mercieca said the recorded conversation appeared to have been between two Maltese individuals, with one of them saying he had paid “some €40,000 to get rid of Caruana Galizia”.
The conversation was, apparently, recorded using a watch.
“The prosecution keeps saying that Yorgen Fenech is the mastermind. Fenech has been denying this from his very first statement to the police,” he said.
The defence, he added, got to know about this recording when they received an updated copy of the murder inquiry. By that time, it was well past the legal time limit when they could file pleas and add witnesses to their list.
Prosecuting lawyers said the Attorney General's Office had received that communication via Eurojust and presented it in the murder inquiry.
But when pressed by the defence to state the date when the AG had received that information, the prosecution could not supply a date, saying they needed to check the acts.
“If they received it while the compilation was still ongoing, the prosecution was bound to present all evidence for and against the accused,” argued Mercieca.
After hearing submissions on this issue, the court upheld the defence’s request to add a number of individuals linked to their list of witnesses.
No further details about the alleged recording were given.
Report by court-appointed experts held by Europol
The court on Monday also heard that a report by foreign court experts on possible scenarios behind the Caruana Galizia murder was being held by Europol with the experts having so far ignored orders to hand it in themselves.
The report was based on data extracted from Caruana Galizia’s cloned mobile phone. It was prepared by former Europol expert Marinus Martin Van Der Meij, who previously testified that he had presented a physical copy to then-inquiring magistrate Anthony Vella back in May 2018.
But lawyers for Fenech were not given a copy and the document could not be found anywhere in the records.
Although Van Der Meij together with his former colleague Konstantinos Petrou, were repeatedly ordered by the Criminal Court to present a copy of the report, the orders had still not been complied with. The experts no longer work at Europol.
AG lawyer Anthony Vella informed Madam Justice Edwina Grima that Europol had suggested that they could send the report via the Sienna system - a police-to-police system. The court could then appoint an expert to download the document, sent in encrypted form. Europol would supply the necessary password to the appointed expert.
However, the court was clearly not impressed by that convoluted process, with the judge arguing that this was a report by a court expert and it should not be presented by anyone else.
Prosecutors said Van Der Meij is no longer at Europol and did not have the report.
Mercieca replied that when Van Der Meij testified in separate constitutional proceedings that he still had a copy but could not divulge its contents because it “was the property of the criminal court.”
“I cannot understand why the court has to go through Europol to get the report. This is unheard of,” Judge Grima said.
“The court deplores the fact that the report of a court expert appointed by the inquiring magistrate is in the hands of Europol, a third party extraneous to the case and that the court is being constrained to request the agency for a copy,” minuted Judge Grima. She ordered both experts to testify.
The court also ordered a Europol representative to testify and explain why a report by a court expert was in possession of the agency.
Caruana Galizia’s laptop
Digital forensic expert Martin Bajada was questioned over several briefs in the murder case.
Asked by the defence about the journalist’s laptop, Bajada explained that after the murder, German authorities had informed the inquiring magistrate they no longer had the laptop.
“They said they had given it back to whoever had taken it to them. They did not say who that was.”
Fenech’s lawyer handed over a document to the witness. It was correspondence from the German authorities to their Maltese counterparts following a European Investigation Order related to the murder.
The German prosecutor said that “the family of Ms Caruana Galizia asked to have the data saved on the laptop of the deceased deleted,” read Bajada, pointing out that he had never seen that document before.
Court to get full copy of data from Daphne’s cloned phone
Bajada was then tasked by the court with producing a copy of all data from the victim’s cloned mobile phone.
That copy will be kept under seal and accessible only to the court, whereas the parties would get a redacted version without any reference to names, numbers, dates and times to safeguard sources.
Strictly personal data would not be included in the redacted version and any doubts about particular pieces of information would be left to the court to decide upon.
Closer to the trial, the defence will request the court to go through the jurors’ list published in the period relative to the trial to identify any names which might have featured in any of the journalist’s correspondence.
The defence, unlike the prosecution, was not given access to that list.
The case continues.
AG lawyers Anthony Vella and Godwin Cini prosecuted.
Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are defence counsel.
Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are appearing parte civile.