One of Daphne Caruana Galizia's alleged killers suggested contacting then minister Chris Cardona when it appeared the murder plot would fall through, a court heard on Friday.
Giving evidence against his former co-accused, George and Alfred Degiorgio, self-confessed hitman Vincent Muscat said one of them was a "close buddy" of the former Labour deputy leader.
Muscat told a court on Friday that the hired assassins were close to giving up on the 2017 hit because they could not find an opportunity to kill the journalist at her Bidnija home.
Alfred Degiorgio had even asked Muscat for his deposit back, but il-Koħħu had appealed for them not to "let it go" because he had gambling debts to pay.
It was at this stage, Muscat testified, that Degiorgio suggested he speaks to Cardona. Muscat encouraged him, replying, "If not, Cardona, then who else?" and told the court that the minister would be in a better position to get information on the journalist's movements, such as travel abroad.
He then drove Degiorgio to Valletta for a meeting with Cardona, who has denied any involvement in the murder.
Muscat has been sentenced to 15 years for his role in planting the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia in October, 2017.
In his testimony, he also referred to a previous plot to kill her in 2015, and said there was "another person involved" in this failed attempt but did not name anyone in court.
He was being cross-examined on Friday by defence lawyer William Cuschieri, who questioned whether Muscat had first-hand knowledge about who supplied the bomb and the mobile to activate it.
The defence suggested Muscat was assuming the weapons were supplied by Robert Agius and Jamie Vella, who have both been charged.
However Muscat stood by his evidence throughout, saying at one point: "No-one can contradict my truth."
11.46am The sitting is over and the next sitting is set for Wednesday 21st. Thanks for following our coverage. We'll have a summary above shortly.
Two names redacted
11.43am The prosecution and the defence thrash out which parts of the testimony presented earlier should be omitted.
Inspector Arnaud says two names need to be redacted. Or, at least, when the defence questions Muscat, those names must not be mentioned or published in the media.
Cross examination suspended
11.40am The defence want to suspend cross examination. Cuschieri wants more time to read further into Muscat's testimony to prepare more questions.
Muscat is allowed to leave for today, under tight security. The accused ask to go to the toilet.
Operating the bomb
11.38am Muscat has something to add. He says that one day at the Naxxar garage, he had seen Robert Agius and Jamie Vella explain to Degiorgio how to operate the bomb.
That's all he wishes to add.
Notte Bianca plot
11.32am The defence takes the witness to the time when the plot was to place a bomb under Daphne Caruana Galizia's car while she was at Floriana.
Cuschieri: "So why did you say that the Degiorgios said at the time, 'we'll kill her, whoever is with her'? You didn't even have the bomb at the time."
Muscat insists that when they searched for her on the night of Notte Bianca, the bomb was ready and close by and repeated that the brothers both said they would "do it, whoever is with her".
Cuschieri: "You just sat there silent!"
Muscat: "I couldn't tell them something like that. Anyone who knows me, knows what kind of person I am."
11.24am Muscat says he doesn't recall if the bomb was in a box or a sack but it was "definitely there" and he "saw it with my own eyes".
Cuschieri accuses him of a having a rusty memory.
Muscat isn't sure if there was a mobile (to act as a detonator) with the bomb but the first time he saw that mobile was at the potato shed.
He says it wasn't with the bomb under the boat but he saw it in the shed and George had taken it and told him that it was to be operated via a "very long message".
He didn't buy it or see anyone buy it, he says, under questioning. It did not look like the other burner phones.
The message was inputted by "either Robert or Jamie", definitely not George or Alfred Degiorgio, he says.
"As far as such things are concerned - bombs and so forth - it would have to be Robert or Jamie."
Bomb under a boat
11.19am The defence turns to Muscat's claim that the bomb was, at one stage placed under an overturned boat at the Marsa potato sheds for collection.
Cuschieri: "And what if I tell you that the bomb was never put under the overturned boat? For obvious reasons."
Muscat: "No. Definitely not. When we went to look, we found it there."
Cuschieri: "But there were other people around, no? There was Darren Debono too, at the sheds, no?"
Muscat: Yes. He would come over in the morning for a coffee and then move on."
Cuschieri: "Were there cameras around?"
Cuschieri: "And why leave it under the boat rather than inside? That's logical."
Muscat: Mhux hekk! No one can contradict my truth! (Hadd ma jista' jmeri il verita tieghi!)
Muscat is sticking to his version.
Then the bombs arrived
11.14am Cuschieri returns to the time when Muscat handed back his deposit to Alfred Degiorgio.
Cuschieri: "Alfred effectively told you that nothing was to be done about the murder."
Cuschieri: "Then the bombs arrived."
Robert Agius and Jamie Vella were to import three bombs, Muscat says. George Degiorgio complained about the delay but one day they arrived.
Cuschieri: "Did you ever request a bomb?"
Muscat: "No. Me, never."
He was not present when the bombs arrived.
11.10am The defence reads from Muscat's testimony. When he and Alfred Degiorgio were keeping watch before the plan to shoot the journalist, George Degiorgio "appeared to be uneasy" about the plot.
"We were to call him to come with the getaway car. But George appeared to cough up an excuse about a police roadblock," the testimony reads.
Cuschieri says there is a contradiction in the times mentioned. Was it 11.30pm or 2am?
Muscat declines to answer.
Cuschieri says he has no right to refuse and the magistrate tells Muscat he can answer this.
Muscat says the times were approximate.
Cuschieri: Was it 11.30 or 1/2am?"
Muscat: "It was late."
11.08am A stolen Toyota Vitz is mentioned. Inspector Arnaud interrupts. Should there be any self incriminating questions, Muscat is to be cautioned, he says.
The defence does not agree but the magistrate cautions the witness.
Asked what happened to that stolen car, Muscat chooses not to reply.
Cuschieri asks a barage of questions: "What did you do with that car? What became of the money? Did you hand them over to anyone? Were they confiscated?"
Muscat: "I choose not to answer."
10.56am Turning to the weapons, Muscat says they were provided by Robert Agius and Jamie Vella, but Muscat was not present.
Muscat says he once went to the Naxxar garage (where the weapons were stored) alone. But he was not present when the weapons were put there.
He recalls that the weapons were rusty.
Cuschieri asks him if he made this up.
"Of course not," he says, saying they had examined them by car light at the garage.
The weapons were then removed by Jamie or Robert because they were the ones who could do that.
1.52am Asked about burner phones, Muscat says he didn't recall any numbers. He describes once being "on watch" when Theuma called Alfred Degiorgio on the phone.
Degiorio told him,"Ara Cens, he's pressing me too much! He's probably going to call off the job."
But Muscat never heard Theuma say this.
Degiorgio 'close buddies' with Cardona
10.47am Questioning continues on Chris Cardona.
Cuschieri: "You didn't tell Alfred not to tell the minister on the murder?"
Muscat: "No. Quite the opposite. I told him, that if not Chris Cardona, then who?"
He also says that was biċċa waħda ma' Chris Cardona or close buddies with Chris Cardona.
Cuschieri asks about Muscat's claim that he saw Daphne Caruana Galizia at a Naxxar cafe. "And you weren't armed?"
He says he wasn't.
10.43am Muscat says that Alfred Degiorgio sought his opinion on speaking to former economy minister Chris Cardona.
"I agreed. If you don't talk to Chris Cardona, then who?"
Muscat says this happened before the murder and that he knew Cardona.
Cuschieri asks for a clarification on this.
"Chris Cardona as a minister could check such things, to check if she was abroad. He would be in a better position than us to find out."
He says he escorted Degiorgio to Portomaso to speak to Cardona. And in 2015, lawyer David Gatt would come along too.
10.39am Muscat explains that Alfred Degiorgio wanted the money back because he feared that if the situation dragged on then Muscat might not refund the cash. Degiorgio did not want to "made out as a fool" in front of Theuma.
Cuschieri charges that Muscat urged him on saying "Let's keep going! Let's not let it go" (Inkomplu, inkomplu! Ma nerhulhiex). He wanted the money because he was a gambler and he needed it.
Muscat doesn't deny it and says they thought that maybe they could carry the plot out elsewhere.
Asked for money back
10.38am Turning to the later plot, in 2017, Muscat describes watching Caruana Galizia's home some months after getting the go ahead.
Cuschieri: "And then Alfred asked for your deposit back. Is that so?"
Muscat: "Yes because we had spotted nothing and it seemed we could do nothing."
Cuschieri: "So it seems that Alfred wanted to stop the whole thing?"
Muscat: "Yes... no, not stop it." He also adds, as an aside, that he has sight in one eye and the limited use of his arm.
Cuschieri: "Ah, so you only joined for company!"
Muscat: "When we saw that things were taking long, Alfred asked for money back."
10.29am Cuschieri asks if this other person is "some invention of yours". The name of this person is not mentioned in court.
He asks if Muscat drove Alfred Degiorgio to Daphne Caruana Galizia's home and indicated the place. Muscat confirms.
"And was your role just birdwatching or what?" says the defence.
Muscat says that in 2014/15 he would keep watch. He says George Degiorgio would come "on site" and remembers him joining him for some three days back then.
Another person involved
10.25am Cuschieri accuses Muscat of coming up with a version of events to "blame it all on Alfred Degiorgio". Muscat denies it.
He says that in 2014/15 there was some agreement to shoot. At this stage Alfred Degiorgio was in jail.
"Was it you who was to shoot," Cuschieri asks.
"Can I answer, your honour?" Muscat says.
"I don't know what you're about to say," the magistrate replies.
"In 2014/15, there was another person involved. Not there with us but spoke to us," Muscat says. "Was in touch with us".
'Who doesn't know how to pull a trigger?'
10.20am The defence turns to the plan to murder the journalist in 2017. The first scheme was to shoot her. In previous evidence, Muscat had said that Alfred Degiorgio would shoot, "not me, obviously". Asked why not, Muscat says Alfred Degiorgio was "good at shooting".
And what about you? You know how to shoot?
"Who doesn't know how to pull a trigger?!" Muscat exclaims.
But he says he doesn't know how to use that type of weapon, which was a telescopic firearm, and that Alfred Degiorgio always took the initiative to explain about the shooting.
Busy bee meetings
10.14am Muscat says he was never present when Alfred Degiorgio met middleman Melvin Theuma. "Alfred would tell me what was discussed," he explains.
He says he took Degiorgo five times to the Busy Bee cafe in Msida for meetings with Theuma.
"What did he tell you after each visit?" Cuschieri asks.
The first time, it was about the price, the second time the price was agreed, the third time Theuma handed over 1,500 euro. "Alfred gave me some 300 or 500 of those", he says.
The fourth time, Degiorgio came back with an envelope with 30,000 euro and the fifth time, he gave us the 150,000 euro.
Fixing the price
10.10am Cuschieri asks Muscat how the price was fixed for the 2017 murder. Muscat says they met at the Marsa potato sheds and agreed on 150,000 euro.
"Because that was the same price as the previous plot?"
They also agreed to ask for 5,000 euro for extra costs such as buying a telescope for the stake out.
They asked for a deposit of 30,000 euro "in case they changed their mind".
10.07am Muscat denies having Theuma's number or telling Darren Debono about their hit. He says he never saw Debono talking to Theuma.
"And when Alfred told you about the big job to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia, didn't you tell him that you had been involved in a previous plot in 2015?" Cuschieri asks.
"Yes I did. I told him that I even knew where she lived," Muscat says.
He says he told Alfred Degiorgio that he would keep watch on her home while Alfred was in jail. And that we had asked for 150,000 euro for the 2015 job.
'You enter macabre deal as though it was going for coffee'
10.03am The defence continues to quiz Muscat on the link to the election, but Muscat says that he "hardly questions" and it wouldn't be the sort of thing he would ask.
"You've known Alfred for 40 years and you don't question?" the lawyer responds. "You enter into something so macabre just as though you were going for a coffee!"
Muscat sticks to his position.
9.57am Muscat highlight's Muscat's evidence that Theuma would go to the Marsa sheds "a lot". Muscat now says that Theuma "would come but not that frequently".
He says that is why Degiorgio bought mobile phones so they could stay in touch.
The phones were bought "the time of the upcoming elections. He was not to come until the election was over."
Once the election was over, Alfred Degiorgio had bought the mobile to make contact.
"What did the election and the murder have to do with each other?" the defence asks.
Muscat says Theuma was to give Alfred Degiorgio the "go ahead" once the election was over.
He says he doesn't know what the election had to do with it.
Theuma at the potato shed
9.54am The defence moves on to Melvin Theuma and Muscat's evidence that he went to the potato shed and spoke to a person called Darren Debono [not to be confused with the ex-footballer facing money-laundering charges].
Muscat confirms this.
"Do you recall that Melvin Theuma gave a different version when testifying in court?"
Theuma's recollection is that he spoke to Alfred Degiorgio.
"Which is the correct version?"
Muscat replies that Alfred Degiorgio had told him Theuma had spoken to Darren Debono telling him that he had a big jojb.
Vincent Muscat takes the stand
9.51am Vincent Muscat takes the stand and the defence fires the first question. It's about a potato shed in Marsa, where Muscat and the Degiorgio brothers regularly met, and were ultimately arrested.
He asks him about the potato shed. The description given previously was that 'they built it'. Who?
"I meant George Degiorgio," Muscat replies. "Alfred was in jail at the time. But George didn't lift one brick: he had others to do it."
9.49am The deputy registrar of Magistrate Neville Camilleri takes the oath to present a copy of the transcript of Muscat's testimony. There statements were made on February 12 and 14 of this year. They are now presented to court.
Testimony from magisterial inquiry
9.44am The prosecution will begin by presenting the testimony Muscat gave to the magisterial inquiry into the murder. Inspector Keith Arnaud is speaking now: he says parts of this testimony that aren't relevant to the case, will be omitted. The defence have no trouble with this.
9.41am We're in hall 22. Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit has taken her place at the bench.
What happened in the previous sitting?
09.28 In the last sitting, a court ruled that the two accused, George and Alfred Degiorgio could get access to former co-accused Vince Muscat's testimony that he gave during a magisterial inquiry into the murder.
This decree, by judge Edwina Grima, paved the way for Muscat to face cross examination.
Who are the protagonists?
- In the dock are brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, also known as ic-Ċiniz and il-Fulu, accused of planting the bomb that killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The pair are represented in court by lawyer William Cuschieri.
- Vincent Muscat, who also faced murder charges, admitted the crime in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence and testimony related to other crimes. His lawyer is Marc Sant.
- Businessman Yorgen Fenech is accused of masterminding the murder and his compilation of evidence is ongoing in a separate case.
- Taxi driver Melvin Theuma has admitted being the middleman, hiring the hitmen to carry out the murder, and has been granted a state pardon.
- Robert Agius, known as one of the Tal-Maksar brothers, and his associate Jamie Vella are accused of supplying the bomb.
- Lawyers for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia are Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi.
- Police inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are leading the investigation into the assassination. For the prosecution is Attorney General lawyer Anthony Vella.
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