Joseph Muscat left a controversial group chat with Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech shortly after news of imminent arrests in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case but says he only did so because the conversation had become “inactive”.
The private group conversation over messaging platform WhatsApp was cast in the national spotlight last week after former chief of staff Schembri and ex-minister Konrad Mizzi were both taken in for police questioning.
Muscat had previously been questioned over his exchanges with Fenech back in August.
Responding to questions sent by Times of Malta, Muscat said he had “left the chat after it was inactive for quite some time” and “as part of a regular exercise where I get out of group chats which are no longer in use”.
Sources said Muscat had left the group conversation in October 2019 just as Times of Malta revealed that “a major businessman” was among the main suspects in the Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
I do not recall and was not shown by police any pictures of women
Schembri left the group two days after Muscat and Fenech was arrested the next month following a crescendo of developments in the murder investigation.
Muscat had been aware that Fenech was a suspect in the case for more than a year.
Sources have told Times of Malta that the majority of messages sent in the group conversation were “harmless” while there were others which could be perceived as “dubious”, especially in the context of a number of ongoing investigations.
The WhatsApp chat group between the three originally began between Muscat and Fenech and it was at a later stage that Schembri was added to the conversation.
Investigators have some 250 pages of chats between Schembri and Fenech, however, the group conversation that included Muscat is understood to have been far shorter.
Muscat said he had answered police questions related to the group chat and insisted that the police had said he was not being investigated over the matter.
The former prime minister, who resigned on the back of growing pressure from revelations in the Caruana Galizia case, also disputed reports on the content of the conversation.
“May I add that I do not recall and was not shown by the police any pictures of ‘women’, which I definitely did not send, or any text referring to an offer for ‘a secluded room’, which I never asked for and was never made to me,” he said.
Reports of Muscat’s presence in a group chat with Fenech have also raised doubts about his previous statements in November 2019 that he had not met Fenech for some 12 months.
Muscat said he stands by what he had said about meeting Fenech.