Yorgen Fenech donated money to the Nationalist Party and was also given stories about the party to leak to rival media, former PN executive Pierre Portelli confirmed under oath on Wednesday.
Portelli, who headed the PN’s media arm between 2017 and 2019, confirmed that Fenech’s Tumas Group was among firms that donated money to the party, albeit “not regularly”.
He recalled sending Fenech a text message in March 2019 asking the business magnate for help to process a donation that the PN needed to pay for workers’ salaries.
Fenech, who is charged with complicity in Caruana Galizia’s murder, had already been exposed by Times of Malta and Reuters as the owner of secret company 17 Black at that time. Leaked emails show the company was due to send money to offshore firms owned by former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi.
Portelli did not say, specifically, how much money he had received from Fenech in donations to the party during his time there.
The former PN executive was testifying in a public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was one of two witnesses testifying on Wednesday, following former PN leader Adrian Delia.
€20,000 a claim 'a lie'
Delia told the inquiry that he had “no relationship whatsoever” with Fenech and insisted that, during his time as leader, the PN had never breached party financing rules to accept under-the-table donations or agreed to any trading in influence deals.
Portelli acknowledged receiving funds from Fenech, but dismissed allegations that he collected €20,000 a month from him as a lie.
“I didn’t collect regularly,” Portelli told the inquiry.
Delia also dismissed the €20,000-a-month claim as a lie, saying the PN’s treasurer and financial controller had confirmed to him that there was no truth to the claims, made to the inquiry by former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“If there’s one person I wouldn’t believe, it’s Keith Schembri,” Delia said.
Delia acknowledged visiting Fenech’s Żebbuġ farmhouse “once”. When asked whether other PN members were present, he said he “could not recall”.
Portelli also said he had been invited to the farmhouse for dinner, saying he was invited there once or perhaps twice.
In his testimony, Portelli admitted to judges leading the inquiry that he had leaked two stories about the PN itself to Fenech, in the hope of having them published in other media, arguing that he had to do so as he needed to “fight fire with fire”.
The PN was torn in a “civil war” at the time that was being fuelled by the Labour government, he argued, and leaking to Fenech was the only avenue he had left.
One of the stories he gave Fenech was published in Labour-leaning newspaper L-Orizzont, Portelli added.
But he "never influenced media reports" himself, Portelli claimed, neither within the PN's own media or at The Malta Independent, where he served as a director before joining the PN.
Fenech would also pass him information about prominent Labour Party figures, Portelli said, including James Piscopo.
Piscopo, a former Labour Party CEO, resigned as head of the Lands Authority late last year, weeks after Times of Malta reported that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had claimed to police that Piscopo had six-figure sums hidden away in offshore accounts.
In two hours of testimony, Pierre Portelli also claimed that:
• It was a “lie” that he had discussed hindering PN MEP David Casa’s re-election chances. The party was banking on him being re-elected, he said.
• OPM officials had told him that the government would not advertise with any outlet that published Daphne Caruana Galizia’s writing.
• Keith Schembri had approached him in 2012 and offered him a deal to swap compromising photos of prominent people within PL and PN. Portelli said he rejected the deal.
• He had dined at Fenech’s Żebbuġ farmhouse with “business people”, possibly twice.
• Yorgen Fenech wanted to team up with fellow entrepreneur Silvio Debono in his bid to build a media empire, starting with The Malta Independent.
In his testimony, Adrian Delia also said that he:
• No longer has copies of texts he exchanged with Yorgen Fenech and could therefore not speak about their dates or contents of them. He said so even when cautioned by the judges.
• Never received any money from Fenech and never asked Portelli about claims that he received money for the party from him.
• Categorically denied having any hand in trying to stop David Casa from being reelected
• Regretted calling Daphne Caruana Galizia a “biċċa blogger” but the journalist had “showed no interest” in his explanations to her questions about Gozo investments he held
• Said he never said the chats with Fenech reproduced by Times of Malta were fabricated. He said “they were reproducing chats, re-writing words as though they’re there.”
• The party had discussed whether or not to file court cases about the Electrogas power station (which Fenech was a director of) and 17 Black revelations, but there was "no legal direction" to do so, unlike with the Vitals case concerning the privatisation of state hospitals.
As it happened
Live blog ends
5.11pm We cannot report any more of Portelli's testimony, so this live blog will end here. Thank you for joining us. The inquiry will continue this Friday, March 12.
We'll have a summary of the key points of testimony from Adrian Delia and Pierre Portelli available at the top of this article shortly.
Portelli to continue testifying in private
5.06pm Portelli is done testifying in public. The rest of his testimony will take place behind closed doors.
As with Adrian Delia, the Caruana Galizia family's lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia have no questions for the witness.
No knowledge of Debono/Schiavone approach to Fenech
5.04pm Portelli is asked about PN MPs Kristy Debono and Hermann Schiavone soliciting help from Fenech. He says he knew nothing about it.
He says he doubts Times of Malta would have ever managed to reveal Fenech as 17 Black’s owner “without the funds of Reuters”.
Portelli asked Fenech for 'help' over unpaid donation
5.01pm Portelli says that in March 2019 there was “one donation from Tumas that had not been collected”.
“So I sent Yorgen a message telling him ‘help me out’.”
He says the money was needed to pay workers their wages.
4.59pm Portelli complains about the media and claims there was an “interest” in some stories not being given prominence.
“Such as when the Opposition walked out of parliament. It was on page 4/5 rather than the front,” he says.
Fenech and 17 Black
4.55pm Portelli says the meetings happened before Fenech was exposed as 17 Black’s owner.
“Yorgen Fenech sent me a long email, categorically denying that he was the owner of 17 Black. He complained that the story was harming the company. But after all this time, the group is still operating, Siemens are still here, and so on.
Dinner at Fenech's farmhouse
4.54pm Portelli is asked about the meeting at Yorgen Fenech’s farmhouse (which Delia testified about).
“It was a meal with businessmen. I was there.”
Was it just the one time?
Portelli: With Delia, I think it was only once. It could be that I went there twice, because Ray Fenech (Yorgen’s uncle) was there too.
Portelli denies Casa reelection 'lie'
4.49pm Portelli is asked about the alleged €50,000 donation to block David Casa’s reelection.
He says he backed David Thake's calls for an internal inquiry and said the party had no reason to try and block Casa's reelection.
“Our surveys showed that Casa, Metsola and Psaila were the most likely successful candidates. Our target of three was important.
“We were facing a group of people who were pushing for a block vote. And we were trying to convince them to vote for all, because otherwise only PL would stand to gain.
“We could never entertain the idea of Casa not getting reelected. And besides, I had a long-standing relationship with him. That was another absolute lie!"
Fenech offered information about Piscopo
4.48pm Portelli: When Yorgen Fenech approached me with information about Piscopo, I didn’t pass it on to party media, to keep him away.
Said Pullicino warns: “We’re in the knife-edge of impunity.”
“But then, we used to invite business people to give testimonials at party gatherings.”
'Attacks came from Castille'
4.43pm Portelli: “I had no other way. I had no power left at The Malta Independent. Delia was blocked out. I had no contact with PL media.
“There was a constant attack against me, Daphne, Simon (Busuttil).
“It was all coming from Castille. It was a manoeuvred attack to weaken the party.”
Said Pullicino: These sort of manoeuvres lead to what they did, because of the influence (of politics and business)
Portelli: I agree that politics and business are too close. And the silver lining in this horror story is that today we no longer take things for granted.
Portelli admits he gave Fenech stories to leak
4.40pm Portelli pulls out papers which he says detail 130 stories leaked from within the party.
“I decided to fight fire with fire. So I turned to this person, Yorgen Fenech. I told him: ‘a coup against the leader is brewing.’ I asked if he had a way of leaking this.”
Portelli says he passed two stories to Fenech. “One of them was published on L-Orizzont.”
“And what I said would happen, did happen. They went to the President etcetera until they overthrew Delia.”
'Fenech would send me info about Labour figures'
4.37pm Judge Lofaro asks about a Lovin Malta article claiming that he wanted Fenech to push for an article attacking MZPN.
Portelli: “That wasn’t the only one. Journalism has changed.”
“It’s not the first time that Yorgen Fenech passed me information about people in Labour, including (former Lands Authority chief) James Piscopo. But I never tried to influence stories, both at The Malta Independent nor Medialink.”
'That famous lie'
4.31pm He says Schembri had then filed libel suits against him (he cites one about signatures on a bank document) and “then came up with this famous lie that I got money from Tumas Group.”
Portelli says he told the police that he did not have a copy of his chats with Fenech, and asked for a copy.
“They said I was possibly a witness, not a person of interest.”
Keith Schembri's offer of a dirty deal
4.27pm Portellli says Keith Schembri has long had it in for him.
“Back in 2012, I received a call from someone, telling me Keith wanted to meet me. I went to Mosta for a meeting. He removed the battery of his Blackberry, to show me that he wasn’t recording me.
“He proposed an exchange of compromising photos of people in either party.”
Portelli says he refused that offer, and their relationship deteriorated.
“Later, I was told that it was Keith Schembri who pushed to have me axed from (TVM show) TVam.
'Tumas gave money, but not regularly'
4.23pm Portelli says Tumasgave the PN money.
“Yes, they gave. But not regularly.”
Keith Schembri said otherwise. He claimed €20,000 a month, he is told.
Portelli: “That was a lie. I didn’t collect money regularly.
He is asked why he did not sue for libel, and says it’s not worth the time and effort.
“There is an inquiry, and my name will be cleared there.”
Portelli approached Tumas Group for funding
4.22pm Portelli is asked about ties between big business and politics.
“Today, all politicians say they are business-friendly. Joseph Muscat started that. Party people would be crazy to give in to that influence.”
“We had lists of donors. We all tried to approach these people. My list featured around nine people or companies I had done work with before. The Tumas Group was among them."
'Biċċa blogger video'
4.17pm He recalls being “very shocked” when he first saw the video in which Delia called Daphne a “biċċa blogger”.
“He was very angry there. I advised him to find time and place to apologise. I even contacted the editor of The Sunday Times of Malta for an interview with him. That interview took place but the editor sought a comment from the family - Portelli points towards Caruana Galizia’s sister, Corinne Vella - and that killed off the story."
Correction: A previous version stated that Portelli said that the interview was "never published".
'Circumstances were impossible'
4.14pm Portelli speaks about his troubled time with the PN.
“The biggest problem Delia faced was with his parliamentary group. I joined Medialink and immediately realised the massive financial problems there. I spent 16 to 18 hours a day there. I abandoned my family, my private businesses.
“But the leaks got to me. And when Daphne was killed I told Delia ‘there’s no way they’ll let us work now.’
“The circumstances were impossible. Malta’s greatest journalist had been killed. She had outright broken up with the PN.”
'I backed Delia. What followed was terrible'
4.11pm Portelli recalls the “great disappointment” of the PN’s 2017 general election loss.
“How could a party with all those scandals win with an even larger majority? I was active in the party. I knew Delia because he was my lawyer in a personal case. I decided to support him. What followed was terrible. Old friendships were shattered.
“Even Daphne had called me, to ask if it’s true that he was supporting Delia. Her last messages to me were in the end of September, beginning of October,” he says.
4.04pm Portelli says Efimova told him that she had been barred from revealing anything by the magistrate.
He says he kept in contact with her and was promised documents, but never received them.
Magistrate (now judge) Aaraon Bugeja had summoned him about those documents, which Portelli says he was shown on an iPad. But Portelli would not disclose his source. The magistrate insisted this was a matter of national interest and told him to get those documents.
Portelli says he was also questioned by the police.
"I asked police if they asked if third parties, indicated by Bugeja, could have falsified those signatures.
"My thesis, and Daphne’s too, was that the account was opened to funnel funds into Pilatus bank, irrespective of whether Muscat and his wife knew. I explained all that to the magistrate too," Portelli says.
Egrant and Efimova interview
4.01pm Portelli now turns to the Egrant affair. (Portelli had interviewed former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova for The Malta Independent and handed in documents as part of an inquiry into her claims).
Portelli says he first handed in “extracts” (siltiet) for the magistrate to investigate.
“Then the whistleblower (Efimova) came along. Daphne was of the view that she should be given more coverage and came up with the idea of interviewing her instead of writing about her on her blog.”
The plan was to alter both Efimova’s voice and blur her face. But they eventually only blurred her face.
Fenech's Electrogas involvement
3.55pm Did Portelli know that Fenech was involved in the Electrogas consortium?
“Yes. We were strongly criticised (by them) over a story about concrete piles there. We ran quite a few stories about Electrogas.”
He mentions stories the paper ran about Swiss leaks, an interview about the LNG tanker and libel cases the newsroom received.
'It's not you, it's her'
3.52pm Portelli is asked whether he believed George Fenech wanted media influence.
“He never said that to me. I assumed there was a family connection between Fenech and Dalli.”
Portelli says he had long-established links through his job, “even with people in the Labour Party”. He says the leaks he and others received back in the day probably caused the downfall of Alfred Sant’s government.
Did his links mention Daphne?
“Not always. But they sometimes told me, ‘it’s not you at the newsroom (who’s the problem), it’s her. I was once even invited onto Stagno Navarra’s show (on Labour TV) to defend her position, since she wouldn’t go.”
Portelli's relationship with Fenech
3.47pm Portelli is asked about his relationship with Yorgen Fenech.
He says he knew his father initially. George Fenech had told him that John Dalli had told him (Fenech) not to work with Portelli.
“I’m always very wary of John Dalli. I confronted Dalli about it, he denied it.”
Portelli says George Fenech had then introduced him to Yorgen. The two had subsequently met casually with the CEO of a TV station owned by the Fenech.
“He then approached me regarding The Malta Independent buyout. That’s when we started messaging each other. I had moved up into media management, I was no longer a journalist.”
Fenech denied wanting to silence Daphne
3.41pm Portelli is asked if he linked the Fenech acquisition bid to an attempt to silence Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He says it had crossed his mind and he had warned Fenech “If you think you’re buying this paper to silence Daphne, you’re making the worse mistake of your life.”
“I clearly recall him saying ‘no, of course not’ (Le, ma tarax).
Portelli says The Malta Independent was “nothing” without Taste & Flair (a magazine which Caruana Galizia edited for the media house).
'OPM said they would not advertise if Daphne wrote for paper'
3.38pm The judges ask Portelli about Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was a columnist for The Malta Independent when he worked there. Was there ever any attempt to stop her?
“I think there was some attempt,” he says. “I once messaged the former prime minister about adverts in the media. The Malta Independent was excluded. Nothing was done.
“I wrote again to the prime minister. I was invited to Castille for a meeting with communications people there. I got to know that they would not support any newspaper which featured Daphne Caruana Galizia.”
He mentions two OPM officials - Johann Grech and Matthew Carbone - who were at those meetings.
Which one of them told him they would withhold advertising?
"It was a heated discussion. I can't tell which one."
Fenech involved Silvio Debono in TMI bid
3.34pm Portelli says discussions about the sale continued, but he was not involved.
He then learnt that Fenech was bringing Silvio Debono (chairman of DB Group) on board.
“Yorgen Fenech was always interested in media. He had joined up with Debono because he wanted to buy a TV station, too. I told him it was a crazy idea because TV stations were not faring well.”
Portelli says he “never met them both”.
Fenech's bid to buy The Malta Independent
3.31pm Portelli is asked about Yorgen Fenech’s attempt to buy The Malta Independent.
“I was on the board at the time. I know details reached there. But I’m bound by secrecy so I’d rather testify behind closed doors.”
The judges note that other company directors have testified in public.
Portelli reacts with surprise.
“Did they? I wasn’t aware of that! Then ask what you wish.”
Portelli says the board had been approached about selling the paper, and then Fenech had approached him personally.
“Fenech had asked ‘would you be interested?’”
Request to testify in private
3.28pm Portelli immediately asks to testify behind closed doors.
Some questions will be answered in open court, however.
He tells the court that he worked for The Malta Independent until 2017, when he resigned to join (PN media arm) Media.Link. Nowadays he is self-employed.
Pierre Portelli testifies
3.26pm Pierre Portelli is the next witness. He has entered the courtroom and takes the oath.
No questions from Azzopardi or Comodini Cachia
3.21pm That’s all from Delia. Caruana Galizia family lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia, who are also PN MPs just like Delia, have no questions for the witness.
Portelli's media influence
3.17pm Delia says it is the party that gives its media its political direction.
What about The Malta Independent, he is asked.
Delia: That’s not mine.
Didn’t Pierre Portelli have a hold there? (Portelli served as director at that news outlet until Delia's election as PN leader in 2017).
Delia: He can answer about that.
Judge Lofaro cuts to the chase.
“Could your friend have been approached by someone to publish something on The Malta Independent, and then he would publish on L-Orizzont?
Delia denies any knowledge of that, “in any way and under oath”.
“That’s why we cautioned you,” the judges tell him.
Judge Lofaro: You deny categorically.
'No trading in influence'
3.12pm Delia again reiterates that big business had not infiltrated his PN.
“There was no sign of trading in influence. There was never an instance when someone stepped forward with some donation, money or whatever to trade influence. People’s perception is another matter.
'I know nothing about murder motive'
3.06pm Questions turn to his relationship with Keith Schembri.
Delia describes him as a “political adversary”.
He is asked what he knows about Caruana Galizia’s murder.
“What is in the public domain,” he replies.
Does he have any information about the murder motive?
“I have no information, nor was I privy to any information about that. Absolutely not.”
“God forbid I were to withhold any information about this,” he tells judge Said Pullicino.
The judge says that the murder and political elections converged at some point.
Delia: The fact that someone uses a stronger tone than others, does not mean that that person also uses lifts a hand to strike (jerfa’ jdejħ).
Schiavone and Debono's visit to Fenech
3pm Delia is asked about PN MPs Kristy Debono and Hermann Schiavone approaching Yorgen Fenech (revealed by Times of Malta in April 2019).
Delia: I had no idea about the visit. I asked them about it, they told me there was nothing untoward. Schiavone had taken a step back pending an internal investigation. I was not involved and did not know. I deny that they went there on behalf of the party.
So had Debono and Schiavone gone out of their own free will?
Delia: They certainly were not sent by me or the party. They’re in a better position to explain.
'You knew who Fenech was'
2.57pm Judge Mallia notes that Yorgen Fenech was linked to 17 Black in November 2018 (when Times of Malta and Reuters exposed him as the company’s owner).
“You knew who Yorgen Fenech was. The WhatsApp chat published by Times of Malta was dated 2019. So you knew.”
Delia: “I have to see the chat to be able to answer that. Otherwise we would be speculating.”
Judge Mallia: Could it be that the Times got the date wrong?
Delia: Whoever published that is best placed to answer that. So many chats have been reported, so many allegations. Get them, publish them!
Delia 'cannot recall' other guests at Fenech meal
2.54pm Judge Lofaro: That time when Delia visited the Fenech farmhouse, were there others from the PN present?
Delia: I cannot quite recall. There were various meals organised.
Lofaro: But you didn’t organise that one.
Delia: We were at Mr Fenech’s place. He was there too.
Lofaro: Was it a meal?
Delia: Yes. I was seated and chatting. I don’t know if it was one or two bottles (of wine) served.
'We never breached party financing laws'
2.51pmDelia speaks about his efforts, as PN leader, to improve the party’s finances. He lists a series of initiatives he undertook.
So what about the impression that political parties depend on businesses?
Delia: I can assure you that in my time, party financing laws were never breached. We never received any donations in excess of that allowed by law.
Delia visited Fenech farmhouse
2.49pm Delia confirms he visited Fenech’s farmhouse “once and in the presence of others”.
He says he had no interest in bringing Fenech onboard as a party funder.
“I receive chats from many people. It doesn’t imply any particular interest. I never did business. This claim regarding Casa is not true. A party leader does not speak against a party member.
It happens, the judges note.
“But not in my case,” Delia replies.
2.44pm Judges return to his chat messages with Fenech.
Had he asked Portelli about the chats?
What about his claims that the WhatsApp chats were fabricated?
Delia: I didn’t say that. I said they were reproducing chats, re-writing words as though they’re there.
Were there chats between himself and Fenech?
Delia: Yes, I said that in public. I couldn’t identify their date. There was no friendship.
'There was no €20k donation. I checked'
2.40pm Judge Mallia notes that Keith Schembri had testified about the matter (Fenech funnelling money to the PN through Portelli) in this inquiry.
Delia: If there’s someone I don’t believe, it’s Keith Schembri.
Why hadn’t he sued Schembri?
Delia: There are enough ongoing cases.
Does he exclude taking action in the future?
Delia: One has to look at the bigger picture. But I can assure you that when I was there, I checked with the treasurer (party) and financial controller. There was no €20,000 donation. I checked that.
Delia did not ask Portelli about money claims
2.36pm Did Pierre Portelli know Yorgen Fenech?
Delia: Yes, I’m told he did.
Did he ever speak to you (Delia) about him?
Delia: Absolutely not. When I asked party financing people about the allegations, I was told they were not true.
Had he asked Portelli himself?
Delia: At the time, I believe he was no longer in the party.
Didn’t he nevertheless confront him about it, when the news emerged?
Delia: I tried to verify and gather information. But had no need to inquire further.
So he did not speak to Portelli, judges ask.
Using party media
2.34pm Delia is asked if he used party media to communicate his message.
“To reply to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s criticism,” he confirms. “I couldn’t use party media before I was elected leader.”
'No business relationship whatsoever'
2.32pm Delia continues.
“There was no friendship, I didn’t know Yorgen Fenech prior to that. There was no intimacy, no business relationship whatsoever.”
Delia is asked about Fenech’s message to him that “this is not on you”.
“That was about the MEP elections,” he says, “not about (David) Casa.”
(Casa was reelected to the European Parliament in those elections)
Delia and Fenech's chat messages
2.29pm Delia is asked about chat messages between Yorgen Fenech and himself (revealed by Times of Malta last July).
“I don’t know where these chats came from,” he says.
He is asked if he sued Times of Malta for libel.
“There was nothing libellous there. I don’t believe there was any reference to money in those chats.”
Judge Lofaro: There was talk of a meal, of asking Pierre (Portelli) to organise it. Was that true?
Delia: We were organising meetings with business people. So those chats could have referred to that. But those chats refer to a meeting/meal that did not take place. Unfortunately I don’t have those chats, so I cannot confirm it.
'I never received money from Yorgen Fenech'
2.25pm Delia faces questions about PN financing.
He says there is a distinction between the party itself and its media arm. The party relies on fundraising telethons, rental property income and income from the cedoli scheme introduced before his time, he says.
Judge Said Pullicino cuts him short. “What about big business?”
Delia: In my time, there was no donation or financial dependancy on any big business.
What about allegations of donations by Yorgen Fenech?
Delia: “I deny that. I absolutely never got money from Mr Fenech and whenever someone gave me money for a (fundraising) marathon, I always passed it on.
“I have denied it under oath and will do so again today.”
Could the money have been given to Mr (Pierre) Portelli?
Delia: “I deny knowing about that.”
'I know nothing about those'
2.22pm Judge Said Pullicino tells Delia that they are here because of chat messages which are “in the public domain”.
“These issues are important to us because they might reveal some link between people in your party and others,” he tells Delia.
Delia says he can only answer about things he knows about and “I don’t know what’s in those (chats).”
17 Black and Electrogas
2.17pm Judge Lofaro: What about 17 Black? You filed no case about that. You did about Vitals (Delia is suing to have the hospitals privatisation deal given to Vitals annulled).
Delia says that in the Vitals case there was a precise legal direction that could be taken. I was the only one prepared to take on that.
Judge Lofaro presses on. What about Electrogas? Wasn’t that serious for you too?
Delia: We held discussions about that, but did not proceed to institute proceedings. I was told that discussion had taken place earlier (under Simon Busuttil) but no express legal direction was given to file a court case to rescind the contract.
Judge Lofaro: 17 Black's ownership was revealed.
Delia: But there wasn't enough to start a court case.
What about Panama Papers?
2.15pm Delia is asked what he makes of the Panama Papers.
“It certainly shouldn’t be me to praise Daphne Caruana Galizia for her courage to investigate certain matters, for example Vitals. Not everyone has the courage to pursue these things.
2.12pm Delia is asked about claims that Yorgen Fenech had paid him to stop David Casa from being reelected. The issue was assigned to magistrate Doreen Clarke for investigation.
“I had expressely asked (PN MP) David Thake about it after his public declaration. He told me he hadn’t been referring to me. (Thake had asked, on TV, if it was true that Fenech had offered some €50,000 to Delia).
“And when (PN MEP) David Casa testified, he also said he knew nothing about me.”
Where did Casa testify, Delia is asked.
Delia: "I believe I read it somewhere".
Delia is cautioned and asked if he is denying this.
"Not only do I categorically deny but I also submitted an affidavit in court. I physically swore it at the court registry."
'She showed no interest'
2.09pm Delia recalls another issue Caruana Galizia wrote about: property investments of his in Gozo.
“I explained my 9 per cent in that company. I invited her to meet, so I could show her all the documents. I was willing to answer her questions. But she showed no interest.”
“Police never summoned me after she wrote about that London flat,” he adds.
2.03pm Delia says he also filed “a number of libels” against Caruana Galizia.
Judge Lofaro: “About that flat in London?”
Delia: “I don’t recall. I’d need to check. If I’m not mistaken there were four (libel suits).”
He is asked if he spoke about her in public.
“I called her a ‘biċċa blogger’ [two-bit blogger]. That one stuck.”
Why had he used those words?
“Mostly because of these events. It’s something I’ve apologised for. It was a tense moment.”
Judge Mallia says Caruana Galizia had a right to express herself that way, and he had a right to react.
Delia: “On that same occasion, I had said that although I did not agree with what she wrote, I would continue to fight for her right to say so.”
'That hurt me'
2pm Delia gives examples of his gripes.
“That I spoke to (current justice minister and Labour MP) Zammit Lewis, that my car was parked in a dark alley at Ħandaq, with the implication of drugs etcetera..”
He recalls being in Qormi when “two or three” police cars approached.
“Officers wanted to search my car. I said ok, go ahead. I did not ask for a warrant. Nothing was found.”
“But then there were allegations about money laundering, and that hurt me a lot. I worked as lawyer for 25 years. I reacted to that too.”
Did Delia speak to Daphne?
1.57pm The judges note that Caruana Galizia was critical of him when he was elected PN leader. Did he ever communicate with her?
“There was no professional relationship. I spoke with her once accidentally, at a public protest,” he says. “She used to send me WhatsApp messages. I sometimes answered her. I don’t exclude that there may have been phone calls too.”
Delia is asked if he responded to her blog posts.
“At first I ignored them. Then when I sensed escalation and things that were untrue, I answered her.”
Delia takes the oath
1.54pm Adrian Delia will be the first witness. He takes the oath and provides his personal details.
Notes filed in proceedings
1.53pm Judge Mallia makes reference to two notes: one filed by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers and another by Comodini Cachia. He orders both to be filed in records of the case.
The notes concern a complaint by Fenech’s lawyers about Comodini Cachia quoting from messages extracted from Fenech’s phone - a reference to last week's testimony of tax chief Marvin Gaerty.
1.46pm Both Delia and Portelli are outside the courtroom, waiting to be summoned to testify.
The three judges who make up the inquiry - Michael Mallia, Abigail Lofaro and Joseph Said Pullicino - take their place and proceedings can begin.
Inside hall 20
1.37pm Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sisters are in the courtroom, as is state advocate Chris Soler.
The Caruana Galizia family's lawyers, Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia, are also present.
There’s still no sign of either of the two men we expect to appear as witnesses during today’s court session.
This is not the law courts' smallest room, but it is not its largest one either. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing, that is a concern for people working within it.
Reminder: many non-urgent court cases have been put off to next month, following a directive by the chief justice to that effect.
1.25pm Hello and welcome to this live blog direct from hall 20 of the Valletta law courts, where the Caruana Galizia public inquiry is set to continue.
Today's session follows a lengthy hearing in the compilation of evidence against men accused of supplying the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia, Robert Agius and Jamie Vella.
We live-blogged proceedings from proceedings in that case too - read all about it.
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