Police investigating alleged corruption did not interview the people involved and instead waited for more information from foreign jurisdictions, the inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has heard.
Superintendent Ray Aquilina and his colleague Antonovitch Muscat said they did not send for Yorgen Fenech, Keith Schembri or Konrad Mizzi despite revelations that they held secret offshore companies.
Here are the key points from today's evidence:
- Police did not even send for anyone involved in offshore companies revealed by Daphne Caruana Galizia, waiting instead for more information from foreign jurisdictions;
- There was "zero cooperation" from Dubai, with letters asking for information returned closed from the Dubai justice ministry;
- A possible breakthrough into the investigation is on the horizon, police superintendent Antonovitch Muscat said, and he remains hopeful of Dubai's eventual cooperation;
- Documents lifted from Yorgen Fenech, who stands accused of murdering the journalist, show that 17 Black has been renamed Wings Development Ltd and that together with MacBridge it was to make payments to Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri;
- There is no evidence that any money has been transferred so far;
- The police have found nothing out about the other company mentioned in the Panama Papers, Macbridge, "anywhere in the world"
- Witnesses said they received the FIAU report without relevant police files and that this was not normal
- Investigations into Nationalist leader Adrian Delia are ongoing regarding money going into a bank account from prostitution
Read the detailed account of the inquiry, as it happened, below
Inquiry concludes for today
4.45pm Inspector Muscat says that he "never" met either Keith Schembri or Yorgen Fenech.
The inquiry appears perplexed about why people were not "confronted about their own emails".
And with the superintendent steps off the stand.
Lawyers inform the board that they wish to summon journalists Monique Agius and Caroline Muscat on some incidents at Castille. The next hearing is set for next Wednesday.
In a few minutes, we'll have a summary above.
'We have nothing on Macbridge'
4.37pm Superintendent Antonovitch Muscat has been giving evidence for about a hour now. He is now talking about the elusive company Macbridge, which was listed as a target client for Panama companies Tillgate and Hearnville, owned by the former prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi respectively.
For years now, people have been trying to find out who owns Macbridge. Muscat admits that police have not got anywhere with this.
He says that some documents obtained from 17 Black owner and Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech were a "breakthrough" and that the police now know that 17 Black has been renaned Wings Ltd.
"As for Macbridge no one knows anything about it anywhere in the world. So far we have got nothing about it," he says.
€5000 daily payments
4.28pm The questioning turns to the €5000 daily payment to be made into Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri's accounts.
This refers to emails that mentioned how 17 Black was going to be the vessel for this payment.
Muscat confirms there had been attempts to open accounts with eight banks in five different countries, with the last one in the Bahamas.
"Didn’t you suspect anything about the daily payments of €5,000", Azzopardi asks. "Weren’t these enough facts to send for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi?"
"Couldn’t you at least have sent for these people and asked for an explanation to say the least?"
"The trouble was that there was no transfer of funds," the witness says.
"So what! Wasn’t there an attempt?" Azzopardi exclaims.
"You cannot put the cart before the horse. We were waiting for information from Dubai," says Muscat. "I’m convinced that we will finally see a breakthrough with Dubai."
Dubai letters requesting 17 Black data returned unopened
4.22pm Dubai gave "zero co-operation" in attempts to get information relating to offshore company 17 Black, Muscat reveals.
"The envelope came back to us closed as we sent it," he says, to the board's surprise.
"We tried to get through to them via Europol but still Dubai would not cooperate with the EU," Muscat says.
"We are hoping for a breakthrough. It’s the first time I have had to deal with Dubai. You’re basically at their mercy."
Police did not send for Schembri or Tonna
4.17pm Muscat says the economic crimes unit "didn't send" for Keith Schembri or Brian Tonna because his superiors did not give him instructions to do so.
"Did police treat them differently because they were politically exposed persons?" the board asks.
Muscat reiterates earlier comments that it was not normal for him to be given only part of a file. The inquiry board agrees.
He says that he ought to have received the file from Abdilla.
Azzopardi points out that Malta was given a low rating by MoneyVal on the rate of convictions.
"An officer does not prosecute until he feels he has enough evidence for a conviction," he says.
"But to prosecute you have first to investigate," one of the judges remarks.
The €100,000 loan
4.13pm Muscat is now being asked about two payments of €50K each, paid by two Russians for passports.
This money was paid into Schembri's account by Tonna. "Wasn’t this a flashing red light?", he is asked.
"Yes," Muscat answers.
"According to the auditors’ code of ethics, an auditor could not pay funds to a client. Wasn’t that sufficiently a red light?" he is asked again.
"It did raise suspicion but not enough to prosecute," Muscat says.
"Who reached that conclusion?"
"Me and Abdilla," he replies.
What was Operation Greenpower?
4.03pm Operation Greenpower is now the focus of questions. This is the first time in the inquiry that the mysterious operation has been mentioned.
Muscat says this investigation was in March 2018 and was specifically about Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi and 17 Black.
It was launched after an FIAU report: Interpol and Europol were involved in it too.
'I never got instructions to investigate Panama Papers'
3.57pm Muscat says that the first Operation Green report was linked to the Panama Papers and was based on media reports by Daphne Caruana Galizia and others.
The board says it is surprised that in other countries people were brought to justice in the fall out from the global Panama Papers leak.
"How come in Malta we had nothing of the sort? The perception outside is that there was no sufficient intervention by authorities," the board says.
Muscat says that police and Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit had taken a joint decision to push on with investigations.
"But I never got instructions to investigate Panama Papers," he says. "That’s all I can say. Instructions would have come from rank of superintendent upwards."
Foreign banks did not help 17 Black investigation
3.53pm Regarding 17 Black, the "major" part of the companies involved were in foreign jurisdictions. When letters rogatory were sent to these foreign jurisdictions, many did not reply, Muscat explains.
They contacted foreign banks involving local people with accounts outside of Malta, namely Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
Operation Green and Operation Green Power
3.51pm As if all these reports and operations were not confusing enough, Muscat mentions that apart from Operation Green - the investigation into Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna - there was another Operation Green Power, which was a later probe in March 2018.
'I only got part of the file'
3.49pm Muscat is explaining how the FIAU split up the files into the three areas, as mentioned earlier on by Aqulina.
Muscat only received "part of the file" - the FIAU report, but not the police report relating to it. This was not normal procedure, he said.
Willerby, Tonna and Schembri
3.45pm Muscat is asked about a report on Willerby, Tonna and Schembri.
He says he was asked to read the report by Abdilla and then sent official documents requesting to ID Malta, Pilatus Bank and another entity.
Abdilla decided to "mark time", Antonovitch says, given that there were more reports on the people involved in the case.
Superintendent Antonovitch Muscat gives evidence
3.42pm Antonovitch Muscat, also from the economic crimes unit has taken the stand and is giving some brief background information about his rank. He is now superintendent.
3.40pm Inspector Ray Aquilina's evidence has concluded and the inquiry is taking a short break. While you're waiting, you might want to catch up on some news that emerged about the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
In court earlier today, we heard claims that Silvio Valletta, the former deputy police commissioner, leaked information to murder accused Yorgen Fenech about the investigation.
He has now come out to deny that.
3.27pm Aquilina confirms that the decision to prosecute is either taken by him or in conjunction with his superiors.
Referring to the Panama Papers revelations that uncovered secret accounts held by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, Aquilina is asked if he considered prosecuting on possible attempted breach of money laundering laws.
"That is envisaged in the law but I couldn’t take action because I never got the direction," he says. He says the file on this did not come back to him and remains with his superior, head of the economic crimes unit Ian Abdilla.
He says that "possibly" the direction from his superiors was to analyze further.
Asked if it was the "rule or exception" for a superior to issue restrictive instructions, Aquilina says this was "exceptional".
On his contact with Yorgan Fenech or Keith Schembri, Aquilina says he sent out letters of rights to Schembri but not to Fenech.
"Inquiries are still ongoing. But that’s all I can say since I do not have the file."
Aquilina's evidence ends.
'I could not manage'
3.21pm We're now hearing about a resource problem within the money laundering unit.
Aquilina says he was first assisted by Antonovitch Muscat and two other officers. Later, that went down to just one person - himself. For a short while he had one other officer. Then that was cut again to one officer.
"How did you handle your workload?" he is asked.
"I could not manage," he admits.
"Did you inform your superiors?" the board asks.
"Yes I did".
In 2018, the anti money laundering unit was joined by four officers. There are currently four inspectors and two financial analysts.
Chris Cardona, Adrian Delia and prostitution
3.16pm The inquiry turns to allegations about money going into a bank account from prostitution. This refers to a company run by Nationalist leader Adrian Delia, which Ms Caruana Galizia had written about.
"There are no inquiries on this, as far as I know, but investigations are still ongoing," Aquilina says.
The inquiry board asks whether former Economy Minister Chris Cardona was also involved in this last case.
"No", he replies.
3.08pm The questioning now turns to Daphne Caruana Galizia's investigative journalism on money laundering.
Aquilina says that an investigation was once started on money laundering allegations by a particular person. The name is not mentioned.
He speaks of another report regarding other allegations by Ms Caruana Galizia. "Investigations still ongoing," he says.
Dubai does not disclose information
3.03pm Aquilina says that letters rogatory - documents making a request through a foreign court to get information - were sent to various countries including Dubai.
There was also a request for information from Latvia and other countries in the EU.
"Does Dubai disclose information?" Azzopardi asks.
He says police found two bank accounts in foreign jurisdictions which they did not know of before.
2.57pm Jason Azzopardi, lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, is asking Aquilina about the dates involved.
He says he sent the information he had gathered back to assistant commissioner Ian Abdilla in 2017. "From that date, I never saw the file again," he says.
Azzopardi asks him if the 17 Black file was sent to Abdilla in November 2018.
"I had referred that file to my superiors before going on leave for a lengthy term," he says and adds that he retrieved that file from Abdilla to adjourn it in the light of developments in a magisterial inquiry by Charmaine Galea.
"I handed back the file in November 2019."
Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi mentioned in 17 Black report
2.51pm Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were mentioned in the report on 17 Black, Aquilina says.
"It started off from Electrogas, a payment from a local bank to 17 Black," he says. The report included the timeframe, travels abroad, contracts signed and people involved.
"Were there money transactions?" he is asked.
"I can’t recall but there was a whole network of who met who, how persons were at the same place at the same time," Aquilina explains.
"Did police have enough to prosecute?" he is asked.
"Until now I have insufficient evidence to press charges against anyone. We had sent for one person to ask him for an explanation. I had bank material I could confront him with. But that was all," Aquilina says.
The identity of this person is not disclosed.
The Global File
2.43pm Aquilina is asked about 'the global file' he referred to earlier. He says it is a file on all persons of interest and has been with the economic crimes unit since March 2018.
He says investigations are ongoing and he last spoke to his superiors about it three months ago.
Asked about the dates of this file and the report into 17 Black, Aquilina says the first preliminary report was received by Michael Cassar. No date is given but, for reference, Michael Cassar resigned as police commissioner in 2016.
'Voluminous' 17 Black report
2.41pm Aquilina now refers to a report on 17 Black, the secret company owned by Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of conspiring to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Aquilina describes the report as "voluminous", something "not to be read in one day". He says he went through it and talked to about it with police assistant commissioner Ian Abdilla and his colleague Antonovitch Muscat.
After being absent for health reasons, when he got back he says he sifted through information received "from foreign countries" and sent out letters for more details.
"We filed those letters in the inquiry so that the information therein would be preserved," he says. "That inquiry is still ongoing."
Ray Aquilina testifies about Operation Green
2.29pm Today's evidence in the inquiry has begun. Superintendent Ray Aquilina from the police economic crimes unit is appearing.
He is asked about Operation Green, the name of the investigation into the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri and Nexia BT's Brian Tonna.
He says he attended a meeting at the FIAU regarding that operation. Police were told that FIAU analysis was still pending.
The FIAU split up the investigations into three directions:
- Investigations into former tourism Konrad Mizzi, Brian Tonna and Willerby Inc, an offshore company set up in 2013
- Keith Schembri and former Allied Newspapers Adrian Hillman
- A global report