The alleged mastermind of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder claimed under oath that the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Keith Schembri used to constantly feed him key details he obtained through his “close relationship” with leading prosecutor Keith Arnaud.
Yorgen Fenech said Mr Schembri had even informed him his phone was being tapped and tried to deliver notes to him while under investigation, according to the shocking testimony on Thursday.
Taking the witness stand in the constitutional case he filed calling for the removal of Insp. Arnaud from the murder investigation, Mr Fenech divulged information allegedly passed on to him by Mr Schembri, thereby proving that the inspector was “not in a position to investigate fairly.”
Right from the start of investigations after the October 16, 2017 car bomb explosion, the former chief of staff had kept up a continuous flow of information to Mr Fenech, his long-time friend, keeping him updated on developments and even mentioning December 4 as the date of the expected raids which ultimately led to the arrest of the three suspected murderers.
Mr Schembri had also once sent Mr Fenech a message via Signal app containing the text of the pardon that was being negotiated for one of the alleged murderers, namely Vincent Muscat, Mr Fenech said.
He had even been informed about the arrest of alleged middleman Melvin Theuma, Mr Fenech said.
Friends since they were young
Asked to describe his relationship with the former chief of staff, Mr Fenech said the two had been friends since younger days, going abroad together, meeting up even twice a week and going to each other’s homes to cook.
"Our relationship was brotherly," said Mr Fenech.
More recently, during a casual conversation, Mr Schembri had told him how he had “helped” Insp. Arnaud to secure a job for his wife at Infrastructure Malta.
He still trusted his friend Mr Schembri when he was informally questioned by the police, recalling how he had been first met at the depot by Insp. Arnaud who had warned him of the difficult times ahead.
"There is a dark tunnel ahead but in the end there will be light," Insp. Arnaud had allegedly told Mr Fenech, telling him also to be “responsible” and take care “who to involve”.
Looking back to that stage, Mr Fenech explained he had understood that he was to “take a step back” and not mention his friend Mr Schembri.
At first, the police had taken matters step-by-step, Mr Fenech said. However, he had noticed a marked change as soon as Mr Schembri’s name had cropped up during police questioning.
“There was suddenly a frenzy and a rush,” to speed things up, said Mr Fenech, recalling how investigators had barely allowed time for one of his lawyers to attend to his duties as best man at a wedding, before taking down the suspect's formal statement.
After his arrest, Mr Schembri had passed on to him two notes via his doctor, once when under police bail, it was “a script on how I was to speak to police”.
Mr Fenech said investigators appeared to have treated him differently to the way they handled Mr Schembri, explaining how his home and office had been searched by police, in the presence of Europol officers, who removed all electronic equipment including the mobile phones of his wife and two minor children, as well as his secretary’s laptop.
While not complaining about investigations in his regard, Mr Fenech wanted to point out that Mr Schembri’s office had remained “untouched.”
When his office was searched, police had retrieved a letter from the alleged middleman, Melvin Theuma, together with a photo of Mr Theuma with Keith Schembri at Castille and an employment contract granted to the middleman.
“That contract was granted on condition he would not be made to report for work," Mr Fenech testified.
He was worried by the fact that owing to his [Arnaud’s] “close” relationship with Keith Schembri, the inspector had a clear conflict of interest.
“My preoccupation based on the evidence is that Arnaud is not in a position to investigate serenely,” concluded Mr Fenech, insisting that, “justice must be done without fear or favour. No one is above the law.”
Cross-examination was reserved for a later stage.
The case continues.
Lawyers Victoria Buttigieg and Maurizio Cordina from the AG’s Office assisted the respondents. Lawyers Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran assisted Mr Fenech.