The compilation of evidence against three men charged with sparking the device which killed Daphne Caruana Galizia continued on Friday after a four-month absence.

Self-confessed murder middleman Melvin Theuma was cross examined, a day after a marathon compilation of evidence session against Yorgen Fenech, the man who is charged with ordering the assassination. 

Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, his brother George,  known as iċ-Ċiniż, and Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, have been charged with sparking the bomb which killed the journalist in October 2017.

Highlights from Friday's session:

  • Theuma tells magistrate that Fenech ordered him to murder Caruana Galizia;

  • Suspect Vince Muscat had spoken to a fellow inmate about the murder case;

  • Keith Schembri told Fenech he would have "burnt" Caruana Galizia if he could, after she uploaded a blog post claiming he had a fatal disease;

  • Middleman says he never spoke to Schembri about Caruana Galizia, or the murder;

  • Alfred Degiorgio had asked for €150,000 to carry out the crime.

That's it for today

2.30pm Magistrate says she will appoint two or three officials to carry out the transcripts. She also appoints expert to carry out the optimisation of tapes.

After five hours, people file out of the hall. The two accused are led away. Vince Muscat stops to have a word with his lawyer while two guards stand by, watching closely.


Clarifications

2.20pm Inspector Zahra tells the court there are 10 more pages of transcripts to go through. Defence lawyer William Cuschieri excuses himself from the sitting. 

We're hearing another recording... and once again it's peppered with swear words. 

Zahra asks for clarification to the statement: 'ġewwa huma, ġewwa kullħadd'.

But Theuma can't give a clear explanation. "Everybody, but I don't know... me too."


Cardona's name mentioned

2.05pm Theuma says he figured that Cardona and others were involved in the crime, and that the former minister's name had also been mentioned by Fenech and Cremona.

But he says that he only can identify Yorgen Fenech: "Ms magistrate. Yorgen sent me to kill her".

He says Mario Degiorgio had told him that Cardona had "ignored" his brothers, but we don't know the context of this. 

Theuma recalls Fenech saying he wasn't fond of lawyers, describing them as animals who became millionaires in a day.

Chris CardonaChris Cardona


'Ġewwa huma, ġewwa kullħadd'

1.50pm Another recording: this time we’re transported to the Żebbug farmhouse where Fenech is preparing a meal. 

Theuma tells Fenech about the FBI testimonies in court.

"They pressed them too much," he says, meaning that they had sound evidence against the Degiorgios.

Mario Degiorgio had relayed him a message from his brothers, threatening, “If they're locked up... so will everyone else.” (Ġewwa huma, ġewwa kullħadd)

Parts of the tape being played cannot be deciphered.


Suggestion to speak to PM

1.30pm We are listening to another conversation. There's talk about Caruana Galizia's laptops sent to Germany. Theuma feared that investigators would ultimately trace the crime to him and Fenech.

Theuma is heard urging Fenech to fix the issue of bail for the three suspects.

He suggests speaking to then prime minister Joseph Muscat about it but Fenech replies: "that's the biggest mistake I can make".

Fenech had told him that if the hitmen’s trial were to start then, they would win. 

Theuma says he had reached the conclusion that the Degiorgios would escape if they were granted bail.


'I screwed up'

1.20pm When Fenech told Keith Schembri about his involvement in the crime, the then chief of staff told him: 'you couldn't have told me a worse thing'.

Theuma's voice is raised as he angrily tells Fenech "tell me what I should tell them" in reference to the bail promise made to the hitmen.

Fenech replies: "You cannot change the tune. I will carry the weight. I screwed up after all."

Daphne Caruana Galizia in a file photo.Daphne Caruana Galizia in a file photo.


Il-Koħħu spoke to inmate about crime

1.15pm The middleman harks back to his controversial comment about Judge Antonio Mizzi.

Fenech had claimed that Keith Schembri, then the OPM chief of staff, had spoken to "Mizzi" to urge him to grant bail to the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat, bail.   

Theuma apologised to the judge, saying he was just echoing what Fenech had told him, not aware if it was true or not. 

He also reveals that Fenech once told him that Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu had spoken to a fellow inmate, serving time for drug charges, about the Caruana Galizia case.

It was the inmate who had allegedly leaked the information, sparking Muscat to speak.

At the time, lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was trying to get Muscat to reveal the plot, but the accused feared retribution and his wife and daughter would end up victims of an acid attack.


The anger at Daphne

1.05pm Theuma says Fenech had told him Schembri would have "burnt" Caruana Galizia if he could, after she uploaded a blog post saying he had a fatal disease.

Fenech is heard in the recording threatening to throw the journalist from Portomaso tower.

He continues testifying that Yorgen Fenech had sent him a message to go speak to tal-Maksar because the bomb was made there.

The Agius brothers from tal-Maksar had been arrested in December 2017, but have never been charged.


Fenech told Schembri he ordered murder

12.55pm Theuma listens attentively as a recording is played.

Theuma says that Fenech had told him that Schembri had summoned Kenneth Camilleri to his office, asking what him what he had told the middleman about the promise of bail.

It was then that Fenech had told him that Schembri would "step in the fire" for him.

When Fenech told Schembri that he had ordered the assassination of Caruana Galizia, "Keith went cold".

"I have recordings about that. Yorgen had told Keith Schembri 'now, I have no other way'".


'Schembri, Valletta leaked information'

12.45pm The recording continues where we left off. Theuma is asked about a pardon requested by Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu, one of the three alleged triggermen.

Theuma says Fenech was getting leaks about the pardon request from Keith Schembri and former police deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta.

Muscat was allegedly telling police that he met the middleman at Busy Bee confectionery.

"But Koħħu never met me. I only met il-Fulu at Busy Bee," MT explains.


Back in court

12.35pm We're heading back to the session.

Theuma has been provided with a chair behind a microphone so that he may continue to testify seated.

Between yesterday and today he has spent hours at the witness stand. 

He left the court room on Thursday looking exhausted.


Never spoke to Muscat

11.45am Arnaud leaves the hall to be replaced by Inspector Kurt Zahra. 

Theuma confirms that he is the "man with the luggage" referenced in one of the recordings. 

Theuma says that he never spoke to Vince Muscat about the murder.

The magistrate orders a short break.

We'll be back shortly.


Theuma's fears

11.30am Before the murder, Fenech had told him to do what was needed to kill Caruana Galizia but to never forget that he had a son.

After the murder, Theuma was terrified, saying he went to Fenech's home the very next day when it was announced that the FBI would be assisting in the case.

After the arrests of the three suspected hitmen, he says his fears grew, especially when Times of Malta reported last October that a businessman and a man involved in the betting business were involved in the crime.

Yorgen Fenech outside court in November. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaYorgen Fenech outside court in November. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina


Demands for money

11.25am In the recording, Theuma heatedly tells the businessman that he sent a message to Keith Schembri.

“Kenneth told me something which I relayed to Keith,” Theuma says in the recording.

Kenneth Camilleri had voiced concern about the Degiorgios upping their demands for money. Theuma had reassured him that he would step in to block such claims for more money.


A tense conversation

11.20am A conversation we're hearing between Fenech and the middleman is rather tense.

There’s mention of "Keith", and Fenech tells him that it was Keith Schembri who had actually sent Kenneth Camilleri.

"I didn’t speak to Keith but I did pass on messages to him through Johann and Kenneth."

The Degiorgio brothers listen attentively, their eyes fixed on the witness in his stand, closed off behind a Perspex screen.

Keith Schembri leaving court last December. Photo: Matthew MirabelliKeith Schembri leaving court last December. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli


€150,000 to carry out the crime

11.10am Arnaud zeroes in on a recording where Fenech tells Theuma “I've got a lot to worry about".

Asked why he said that, Theuma replies that it was ultimately Fenech who ordered Caruana Galizia's murder but the hitmen only knew him (Theuma).

Alfred Degiorgio had asked for €150,000 to carry out the crime, €30,000 up front forfeitable if the murder did not go ahead. Fenech had given Theuma €150,000 in cash.

Theuma immediately passed on €30,000 to Degiorgio and kept the balance elsewhere.

He repeats that a tipsy Fenech called him right after the 2017 general election telling him to go ahead with the murder.


'You're in trouble'

11am Another recording is played out. We can hear Fenech's voice at level 21 at Portomaso, the businessman's office.

Theuma speaks about Johann Cremona, a friend he visited regularly at his garage. He was there one day when Kenneth Camilleri (an OPM security detail) came along and showed him three mobile numbers. One was an old one belonging to Theuma.

Cremona told Theuma: “you’re in trouble, you are the mastermind of the Caruana Galizia murder.”

Theuma hit back: "Oh no, I’m not. Yorgen Fenech is."

He says it bothered him on days when Fenech was out of reach.

"It bothered me because of money and also because Yorgen always calmed me down, reassured me that all would be well, that there would have been a forewarning."

Theuma says he would have to fork money out of his own pockets to pass on to the Degiorgios and Fenech would reimburse him later, although the middleman made some payments out of his own funds.


Bail would have kept them quiet

10.50am Theuma is asked why getting bail for the Degiorgio brothers was so important to him. He answers that bail would have 'kept them quiet'.

The magistrate points out that the case would have still proceeded, irrespective of bail.

"But then there is honour (irġulija)," Theuma replies. 

In one recording, Fenech is heard saying that Keith Schembri could not sort out his own cases in court, so how could he fix the matter of bail for the alleged hitmen. 

George Degiorgio leans towards his brother and the two exchange a brief word.

Meanwhile, Vince Muscat (Il-Koħħu) is seated farther behind the brothers, wearing sunglasses plus mask, covering practically all his face. His head is bent down most of the time.

The Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat (right), who stand charged with sparking off the device.The Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat (right), who stand charged with sparking off the device.


Never spoke to Keith about murder

10.30am Arnaud asks Theuma how he had associated the promise of one million euros with Keith Schembri.

"It was because of Kenneth who worked at OPM and afterwards Yorgen Fenech confirmed it. But let me repeat, I never spoke to Keith Schembri about Daphne, or the murder."

Arnaud asks how he was aware that the former OPM chief of staff lived in Mellieħa.

"I once drove Yorgen to his house. But I don’t know exactly where he lives because it was only that once that I went there," Theuma replies. 

Melvin Theuma entering court on Thursday. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaMelvin Theuma entering court on Thursday. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina


'I felt Keith Schembri was in it too'

10.25am Theuma says he ended up depressed as he felt his involvement in the crime was about to be uncovered. 

"I was sure they wanted to get rid of me, and I felt Keith Schembri was in it too."

Inspector Arnaud asks if he spotted anything suspicious. 

Theuma replies: "I once spotted a person hovering close to my car. I snapped a photo and passed it on to Yorgen to check who the stranger was."

The Degiorgio brothers are spotted laughing.


Yorgen 'stood to benefit' 

10.20am Theuma says Fenech and former OPM security detail Kenneth Camilleri had mentioned lawyer Arthur Azzopardi who was assisting il-Koħħu to tell all.

That to Theuma was “a betrayal”.

"How could il-Koħħu spill the beans if I never had anything to do with him? I only dealt with Degiorgio," Theuma says.

The middleman says he always thought that Keith Schembri had been involved in the crime, especially after Kenneth Camilleri was sent with a message on the alleged hitmen's bail.

"Yorgen Fenech would stand to benefit if I was eliminated. I never mentioned Yorgen with the hitmen. They only knew me," Theuma says.

In one of those messages, Fenech had told him to go to tal-Maksar where bomb was allegedly manufactured.


First recording played

10.05am Theuma takes the oath. We're hearing the first recording, which was done in a car. He says he had collected Yorgen Fenech and his children from the airport after watching a football match.

He cannot recall the date but it was definitely after il-Koħħu had started spilling the beans on the murder plot.

That was when Theuma decided to start making the recordings. 


We're off

9.45am IT court expert Keith Cutajar is the first to testify. He was asked to make copy of recordings in inquiry done by Magistrate Vella. Two of the tapes are still in Europol's possession, he says.

Data has been extracted on an external drive. He made a table of each of the 257 audio files. He says that some of the recordings are not clear. 

Lawyer Kathleen Grima, appearing for Melvin Theuma, requests a copy for her client. Defence lawyer, William Cuschieri objects, pointing out that Theuma is just a witness so far.

The teams

Lawyer William Cuschieri is defence to the Degiorgios. Muscat is assisted by lawyer Marc Sant. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is appearing parte civile.

Prosecutin is led by inspector Keith Arnaud.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding.

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