German authorities told the magistrate investigating the Egrant affair that they could not hand over Daphne Caruana Galizia’s laptops because they had no legal jurisdiction over them.

In a lengthy exchange of correspondence that is included in the 1,500-page Egrant inquiry report, Magistrate Aaron Bugeja made an impassioned plea for the German authorities to hand over two laptops and three hard drives full of data that belonged to Ms Caruana Galizia.

The devices had been handed over to the German federal police by a Frankfurt legal firm acting on behalf of undisclosed third parties.    

However, despite repeated attempts by Magistrate Bugeja, the German authorities insisted that the original owners of the devices still reserved full rights of ownership over the laptops and accompanying hard drives.  

In the correspondence, Magistrate Bugeja also raised concerns that because the chain of possession of the devices had been broken over the course of six months, it was uncertain whether the devices could even be used as evidence. 

A lengthy process would likely have had to be undertaken to ascertain whether the devices had been tampered with, before they could be used.  

“Any defence lawyer worth his salt can easily shoot down at once these documents during the course of a trial by jury,” Magistrate Bugeja wrote in one email to the German prosecutor’s office. 

The magistrate even asked whether it was possible for copies of the hard drives be handed over, however, this too was not accepted by the German authorities.  

In response, the German authorities offered to search for keywords through the devices. But Magistrate Bugeja insisted that given the gravity of this case, and others that could seek to use these laptops – including at that point, the inquiry into Ms Caruana Galizia’s assassination – the actual devices would be required for in-depth analysis.  

Despite his repeated requests, the German prosecutor’s office insisted the German federal police were not free at law to hand over the devices.  

“As long as in Germany no investigation procedure is carried out, under which these laptops are seized, we have no authority over these laptops. It is for this reason that no transfer of laptops or hard drives is considered,” the German authorities wrote. 

According to the correspondence, both hard drive slots of one of the laptops were empty while the other laptop did not even function.

The three hard drives were 160 gigabytes, 250 gigabytes, and 500 gigabytes.  An analysis by German IT forensics found that the 160 gigabytes had some form of physical defect meaning that some of the data stored had been rendered unreadable.  

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