Melvin Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder was back in court on Thursday for his cross examination a day after a marathon court sitting.
What we learnt from Thursday's case
- Theuma says Schembri gave Fenech sensitive information about the investigation;
- Middleman reveals that he knew about his own arrest a month before the police swooped in;
- Cremona and Camilleri had approached Theuma and accuse him of being the mastermind behind Caruana Galizia's murder;
- Recordings aired in court;
- Theuma says he once gave Daphne Caruana Galizia a lift in his taxi.
2pm The European Trade Union Confederation said in a statement it supported the European and International Federations of Journalists and other organisations who have called on EU leaders meeting to push the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to guarantee that all investigations and legal proceedings related to the murder are carried out efficiently, transparently and without interference.
In other news:
- The European Council starts meeting in Brussels, and pressure is also building there on Joseph Muscat to step down at once.
- The European Parliament is expected to deliver a statement in connection with the political crisis in Malta around 4pm.
- The two contenders for the Labour leadership have kicked off their campaigns.
- And the UK goes to the polls, which will effectively decide the fate of Brexit...
It's also Christmas Day in less than two weeks.
1.25pm After four hours of cross examination, the case has been adjourned. We will be returning shortly with the more salient points raised during Thursday's sitting.
Protest in Brussels
1.23pm Members of the Maltese community are meanwhile holding a protest outside Malta House, near the European Commission’s offices in Brussels, demanding justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Alerted about his own arrest
1.20pm Last April, Fenech spoke to Theuma about Caruana Galizia's laptop.
"What if that laptop were to be brought back from Germany?" Theuma had asked the businessman.
"It would be better for me because Daphne wrote about many persons and they (investigators) would certainly not have any clue to who was behind it," Fenech apparently told Theuma.
Theuma reveals that he knew about his arrest a month before the police swooped in.
"I was informed by Johann Cremona (involved in the gaming scene)," Theuma says.
Theuma drove Fenech to Schembri's house
1.15pm In recordings, Theuma said he would send Degiorgio's relatives to Schembri's Mellieħa home.
How does he know this?
"Because I sometimes drove to Keith's home," Theuma reveals.
Asked about the contents of the plastic box found by police when he was arrested, Theuma says he decided to include the picture of him posing next to Schembri because he wanted to pressure Fenech to make him help get bail for the men in jail.
On Thursday morning, Theuma filed receipts for lawyer’s fees amounting to €79,000, Azzopardi tells the court.
When Kenneth and Johann paid a visit
1.05pm Azzopardi asks about the visit by Kenneth Camilleri from OPM and Johann Cremona to his home in 2018.
Camilleri showed him a paper with mobile numbers on it, one of them had Theuma's old phone.
Camilleri told Theuma “you are the mastermind behind Daphne's murder”, a claim Theuma flatly denied.
"When the two came to my home, Kenneth made the call... I assume it was to Keith. I assume,” Theuma stresses.
After that, Camilleri told him about bail and a payment of a million euros each.
No information on Electrogas deal
1pm Theuma confirms that he was the one who had written the letter where he mentioned both Fenech and Schembri.
"I included Keith Schembri in that letter to show Yorgen Fenech what I knew but under oath I never got orders or money from Schembri. But that’s only what I know. I don’t know what went on between Yorgen and anyone else. Had Schembri spoken to me about the murder, I would have recorded him too. But Yorgen did tell me that Keith passed on info to him."
Asked about the Electrogas deal, Theuma says that he knew nothing about it.
He tells the court that he was unaware that Schembri would allegedly receive €80 million over 18 years from the deal.
Back to Caruana Galizia, Theuma repeats that he did not get a single cent.
"On the contrary, I forked out money from my own pocket. I even didn’t charge him fully for rent on a betting shop in Qormi."
The letter written by Theuma and published by Times of Malta last week implicating both Fenech and Schembri.
Keith Schembri told Fenech
12.55pm Fenech became aware that Vince Muscat, one of the three men charged with murder had started talking to police.
The lawyer asks: "How did Yorgen known il-Koħħu was talking to police?"
"Because obviously Keith (Schembri) told him," Theuma replies.
"Yorgen told me himself he was getting help from Schembri. Keith would do anything in Yorgen's defence."
Azzopardi says Schembri was mentioned many times in the recordings.
"Yes," Theuma replies. "That was about the same time I began to record Yorgen. I was afraid that the two would collude to get me out of the way."
Warning of a raid
12.40pm Azzopardi points out that one month after the bomb, no one had information that the police had already traced the SMS which went on to help identify those who planted the bomb, except for the police, the service provider and Malta Security Services.
"And Yorgen," Theuma promptly adds.
"Hold on. How was Fenech getting the information," Azzopardi asks.
"I believe he was getting the information from Keith Schembri. But I can't vouch for it. I never asked him outright," Theuma says.
What about the December 2017 raid which rounded up the suspects?
Theuma says that on the Thursday before the raids, Fenech had spoken to him at Portomaso and warned him of the "very big raid". He told him to warn the men.
"I guess they appreciated that," Azzopardi says.
"I guess so," Theuma replies.
Two days before the raids, Fenech had told him that he was going to speak to someone.
After the arrests, Theuma prepared his final will.
"I was afraid," he tells the court.
Did Fenech threaten him?
"No and he always gave me the money," Theuma replies.
They unraveled the code
12.35pm Theuma says he received pay cheques even though he never showed up at the ministry. But he did not get paid the €1,200 monthly cited, he says.
Theuma once called Fenech when a cheque failed to reach him.
"He told me, you'll receive it don't worry. Then the cheques stopped in August (2017)."
After May 1, 2017, Fenech told him to put the murder plan on hold.
Did he no longer fear that Daphne would disclose information?
"I don't know."
He says Fenech told him to use WhatsApp or Signal when communicating since those calls could not be tapped.
Reference is made to persistent calls by Fenech to get on with the murder "because Daphne was going to release information."
After the murder was carried out, Theuma had gone to Portomaso where Fenech was in a meeting.
"A certain Turab was there. I knew him because I sometimes drove him in my taxi."
The lawyer shows a photo of Turab Musajev, a director of Electrogas from Azerbaijan.
"I drove him several times," Theuma confirms, recognising the image shown by Azzopardi.
Some months after the murder, Fenech told Theuma that the police had unraveled the coded message that had set off the bomb.
Theuma on the spot
12.17pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is asking a series of uncomfortable questions: Didn’t he find it all strange that he was being treated like this by the Office of the Prime Minister? Did Keith Schembri tell him anything? Did he say anything to imply that he knew more? Did he tell Theuma that a door led to the Prime Minister's office?
"You have a good memory, you must tell the truth," Azzopardi tells Theuma.
The middleman replies by saying he recalls a lot of paintings hanging on the walls at Auberge de Castille.
Theuma recalls the names of the people who met him in connection with the job, including Sandro Craus and Tony Muscat.
"The interview lasted no more than 5 minutes. I told them straight that I had a taxi and could not report for work."
'The worst person in the world'
12.13pm Azzopardi asks about the call in April 2017 when Fenech first told him to contact George Degiorgio and tell him to murder Daphne.
"Had you ever had such a request before? Was it normal? Would a friend put you through this?"
Theuma replies that at the time he only trusted Fenech.
"I realise after the hell I've been through these two years that he was not a true friend. He is the worst person in the world."
Theuma says he did not know Caruana Galizia.
"Actually I once was at my taxi, Daphne’s car tyres had been slashed and I drove her to her destination and did not even charge her."
Theuma explains how he once was introduced to Keith Schembri at Fenech's farmhouse at Żebbuġ, before recounting how he landed a job with the government without needing to show up for it.
Who is ix-xiħ?
12.02pm Case resumes. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Theuma who was "ix-xiħ (the senior man)" that was referred to in one of the recordings.
"I once told Yorgen that if I were him I would go to the Prime Minister," Theuma replies. This is in connection with the bail request.
Schembri was present at murder briefings
11.58am Meanwhile, Minister Owen Bonnici has told our reporter Kristina Abela that the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri was present at all briefings about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Read the story here.
Mr Schembri resigned after he was called in for questioning in connection with the murder probe.
11.43am Arnaud says that prosecutors have no further questions for Theuma. The questioning now goes to parte civile who, however, ask for a brief break. The court is suspended for a few minutes.
The Degiorgios stand up to stretch their legs but remain in the courtroom. Muscat remains seated, head lowered, wearing dark spectacles, never exchanging a word or glance with the co-accused.
Recordings aired in court
11.41am A CD is being played in court recording the voices of Alfred Degiorgio, Theuma and a third party.
- A call, dated March 22, 2018, runs as following: "Aw ħi. Orrajt? Fredu. Kif aħna? Jien ma smajt xejn. S’issa bil-għaqal. S’issa!"
(Hi, are you OK? Fredu. How are you? I haven't heard anything. So far, he's quiet, so far.)
"Ħa nibda nirranga ma dan," (I'm going to start coordinating with this one) Theuma told Degiorgio.
From then on he would send money through Mario Degiorgio.
- In another call from March 29, 2018, Theuma tells George Degiorgio that he would try to get permission to visit him.
- A call from May 2018 carries Mario Degiorgio's voice: "Are you OK? As long as you're fine, then we're fine as well."
Alfred Degiorgio replies in reference to the bail request: "I believe something could be done".
- A phonecall October 2018 is full of expletives. Theuma explains that was the result of the fact the Degiorgios had not yet been granted bail.
- In another phonecall, George Degiorgio is heard swearing profusely, evidently angry. He tells Mario Degiorgio to go speak to lawyer and very briefly talks to Theuma. At one point there is a reference to "ix-xiħ" (the old one) before the call ends.
'Yorgen told me about Cabinet discussing Muscat's pardon'
11.07am Theuma insists he had never mentioned Fenech's name with anyone.
"I would only reveal his name had he not paid. But I was afraid that they would either put me behind bars or kill me, just as he killed Daphne."
He claims there were sums that he paid out of his own pocket, some €400 weekly, to the Degiorgios, a fact he did not reveal to Fenech.
Fenech had always insisted that Muscat, one of the three triggermen, was speaking to police and was asking for a pardon to tell all.
"He once even told me that the issue of the (Muscat's) pardon was being put to cabinet."
10.55am Theuma is asked about the time he visited together with the police last month the tat-Tarġa spot overseeing the Caruana Galizia home in Bidnija. He confirms that he led police to the spot and that footage was taken.
He tells court that Fenech told him to stop continuing communicating over the phone because it had been tapped.
Theuma says Fenech sent him messages, hard copies of which were put in the plastic box, and which were opened before the magistrate after the middleman's arrest.
Delivering money... and cheeselets
10.45am Theuma enters the court room and takes the witness stand, less than 24 hours after testifying in Yorgen Fenech's compilation.
When visiting Mario Degiorgio, around March 2018, he says he would sometimes talk to the Degiorgios on their brother’s phone.
“Just to say hello,” he says.
Asked about the €300 passed to the inmates, Theuma says that after getting to know Mario Degiorgio he began to hand money, chickens and cheeselets to hand over to the Degiorgios in jail.
Background: The Degiorgio brothers were arrested in December 2017 for sparking the bomb which killed Caruana Galizia. They are awaiting the start of the trial after a lengthy compilation of evidence.
The phone logs from prison
10.35am Next witness is a prison representative to present recording of phone calls. He is the officer stationed at the prison control room. Police asked Corradino Correctional Facility to present recorded calls by Alfred and George Degiorgio.
Asked to explain the prison system, he says each newcomer is given a unique PIN code to be used when making calls. There is a phone in each division.
Lawyer Marc Sant ask if it is possible for an inmate to disclose PIN code to someone else. This is possible but it's illegal.
Worrying message from Brussels
10.20am It has just emerged that European Parliament president David Sassoli has written to European leaders urging them to take a stance on Malta following “alarming” findings by an ad-hoc mission earlier this month. An EU council summit kicks off today.
'I know nothing about case'
10.10am Next up on the witness stand is Lawrence Pace, known as il-Lolly, a Marsa resident who knows the Degiorgio brothers.
Asked what he knows about the case, he replies: "Nothing".
Pace says he known Theuma because he sometimes met him in bars and tea shops where they discussed racehorses and football.
The magistrate tells him to speak clearly reminding him he is under oath.
Do you know a certain Brincat, nicknamed is-Sukku?
He says Theuma once gave him €300 early in 2018 and this happened about five times.
He would ask me to hand those sums to the shop owner, Brincat, to hand them on to the Degiorgios.
A meeting at sunset
10.05am The third man who got the money takes the witness stand. He works with Theuma as maintenance assistant and also at the Marsa racecourse.
He says he received a call from Theuma "possibly" last year who told him that he was going to forward him some money.
Theuma told him: "I’m going to forward you a mobile number, call and hand the money to the person."
The witness says he cannot remember any further details about the man who took the money, his car, nor his name. All he recalls is they met one evening at sunset.
"I had called this man from an unregistered mobile number. I had lost my own mobile phone at the time, but I don’t recall the number."
€15,000 in cash
10am The woman says she once got a call from Theuma who was abroad to hand over €15,000 in cash to a third party (whose publication of name was banned by court on Wednesday). She met the man near Regina Auto Dealer in Ħamrun in the evening. But she had no idea what the money was for.
And after that, she said nothing to Theuma at all.
Background: Theuma was given a presidential pardon to tell all in connection with the bombing which killed Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
A woman with no name
9.55am After a 20-minute delay, the court case kicks off in front of Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit.
A woman takes her place in the witness stand. Lawyers are asking for a ban on her name. She is assisted by Kathleen Calleja Grima and Matthew Brincat. They say that investigations are ongoing in her regard and that those investigations are not related to this case.
Arnaud says that the woman is not being investigated in relation to the murder. she is related to the middleman.
Asked what she knows about the case she says she knows nothing save for facts being revealed on the media.
9.44am Many reporters have entered the court room. Daphne Caruana Galizia's parents, her children and sisters are also present together with Alfred Degiorgio, his brother George, and Vince Muscat, who have been charged with the murder.
An armed guard will be sitting between the Degiorgios and Muscat at the dock.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is in court appearing parte civile. Marc Sant and Josette Sultana will be assisting as defence.
Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are also in the court room. Philip Galea Farrugia from the Attorney General's office has just arrived.
Many security guards are stationed outside in the corridor.
Memorial clean-up caught on camera
9.15am Footage emerged on Thursday morning of cleansing department workers clearing up the makeshift memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia at the foot of the Great Siege monument once again.
What emerged from Wednesday's court sitting:
- Theuma said for him, Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind of the murder.
- He said he cannot under oath state that former chief of staff Keith Schembri ever handed him money or ever spoke to him about the murder.
- Fenech told him to hurry up the murder because “she (Daphne) is going to release my information”.
- Fenech told him Schembri could do nothing about getting the Degiorgio brothers' bail.
- He implicated Schembri in a handwritten letter because he knew Schembri and Fenech were close friends and he was worried that they would collude to put him in prison.
- Johann Cremona and Kenneth Camilleri from the Office of the Prime Minister had gone to his house to discuss the Caruana Galizia murder.
What we know so far
9.15am Yorgen Fenech was arrested aboard his yacht at the crack of dawn, less than 24 hours after the prime minister confirmed that talks were under way to give a middleman in the case a presidential pardon in exchange for information about the case.
That middleman – taxi driver Melvin Theuma – has testified that Fenech was the sole mastermind behind the Caruana Galizia murder plot.
He has said he surreptitiously recorded Fenech and is scheduled to continue testifying on Thursday.
Here's our report on Theuma's first testimony before the courts.
Theuma also wrote a letter in which he named the prime minister's former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, as a co-conspirator.
Fenech says Schembri was the real mastermind and is seeking a pardon in exchange for information.
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