Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's former chief of staff Keith Schembri made a brief but dramatic public appearance on Tuesday after he earlier failed to appear as a witness in court.
Mr Schembri, who has barely been seen in public since his resignation last month, was due to be a witness in a case brought by Daphne Caruana Galizia murder accused Yorgen Fenech.
Mr Fenech is attempting to remove police inspector Keith Arnaud from the murder investigation over a potential conflict of interest because of his alleged close relationship with Mr Schembri.
What we learnt today
12.50pm It's been a busy couple of hours, both inside and outside court. Here are some of the highlights:
- Keith Schembri failed to turn up to court, where he was due to be a witness. He said he wasn't notified and only learnt about it from our blog. He will appear as a witness on Wednesday.
- Inspector Arnaud told the court the first time he ever met Mr Schembri was during police briefings at Castille about Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder in the weeks before the December 2017 arrests.
- The secret recordings Theuma made of his conversations with Fenech were deemed by investigators to be a "breakthrough" in the murder case.
- Inspector Arnaud said that he only began communicating with Keith Schembri to arrange meetings, after (now retired) Police Assistant Commissioner Silvio Valletta stepped away from the case in June 2018.
- Inspector Arnaud said that Dr Adrian Vella admitted passing on notes from Keith Schembri to Yorgen Fenech when he was under arrest for the murder
- Inspector Arnaud said that he was so keen to move on the initial arrest of Mr Schembri that the arrest was carried out before waiting to get a warrant from the magistrate.
'What about the leaks, Mr Schembri?'
12.37pm: A smiling Keith Schembri has just left court. Our reporter Ivan Martin asked him about claims he was leaking information to murder accused Yorgen Fenech.
Schembri said only that he will say what he has to say tomorrow morning in court. We'll be live to report proceedings so do join us.
Keith Schembri to testify tomorrow
12.30pm The case has been adjourned until tomorrow at 10.30am. Keith Schembri will be the first to testify, followed by Melvin Theuma.
CCTV footage was also presented by a police witness and will go into the records of the case. This footage relates to Yorgen Fenech, recording every movement by and around him while at the lock up.
'We worked around the clock'
12.20pm Arnaud has just come to the end of his testimony. He described some actions he took on the case.
They included arresting Keith Schembri without a warrant so as not to "waste time"; persisting in the arrest of Dr Vella; and taking action "when I got to know of an upcoming story in a local paper."
"The story was changed. Names were not revealed. I thank them for cooperating. I took that action to save the case," he says.
He confirms once again that Keith Schembri was mentioned in Theuma's recordings, and that Theuma landed a government job. The investigation into that job was being handled by other investigators.
He confirms that Fenech passed on to him a copy of an agreement leading up to the pardon of Theuma but said the data had not been found on Fenech's phone yet.
Keith Schembri arrives in court
12.13pm Our reporter Ivan Martin has just spoken to Keith Schembri, who has arrived in court where he is due to testify.
Schembri says that he first heard he was called to be a witness today, when he read about it on this very blog.
Melvin Theuma's letter
12.04pm Dr Camilleri, representing Fenech, is asking Inspector Arnaud about Melvin Theuma's letter, where he mentioned both Fenech and Schembri as being connected to the Daphne Caruana Galizia case.
Arnaud says that Theuma told police that he had mentioned Schembri in the letter because he was afraid that Fenech would use his friendship with Schembri to eliminate him.
"Don’t you see a conflict there?" Dr Camilleri asks.
"No," Arnaud replies.
Dr Camilleri asks if Arnaud gave more weight to what Theuma said verbally over what he said in the letter.
"The reason is that when we asked Yorgen Fenech about the letter, he corroborated what Melvin Theuma had said about it," Arnaud replies.
Arnaud says that Schembri was arrested only when they got hold of the notes allegedly passed between him, Fenech and the doctor.
Role of the inquiring magistrate
11.51am Arnaud is being asked about the role of the inquiring magistrates Neville Camilleri and Anthony Vella. Arnaud says he doesn't think the magistrate was informed about operational meetings.
Magistrate Camilleri was told about the pardon, was played the recordings and was part of the discussion about "they way forward", Arnaud explains.
"The magistrate left the matter in our hands as investigators," he sais.
Asked about the close relationship between Schembri and Fenech, Arnaud says "no one" brought it to his attention.
11.51 Fenech's lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran is cross-examining Arnaud about the meetings.
He asks if Malta's Security Services were present. They were.
Asked if Schembri told him about the job he had given Theuma, Arnaud reiterates, no. "Our meetings were purely informational."
"Did he ever say how close he was to Yorgen Fenech?"
"No," Arnaud replies.
Arnaud objects to the term “feeding of information” used by defence, describing it as misleading.
He says Europol was not present at Castille and that he would brief them later.
Arnaud resumes testimony
11.40am After a brief break, Inspector Arnaud is back and discussing the phone tapping. Arnaud says that he didn't hear all the recordings, just those passed on by his colleagues in the Malta Security Service.
He is also being asked about his contact with the Security Service. He says he was not at their meetings, because he is not a member but that they discussed issues about the case including Yorgen Fenech's alleged involvement.
Keith Schembri spotted
11.33am Back to Mellieħa and Keith Schembri's home today. He's been spotted. He says he wasn't notified that he was to be a witness at court today and the second he found out, he got dressed and walked out.
Phantom job inquiry
11.28am Arnaud says he is not involved in the inquiry into the government job Theuma was given by staff from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Asked if he spoke to Keith Schembri on any other matters besides setting up the meetings, Arnaud said they spoke of "football and family while waiting for meetings to start".
"But there were no discussions regarding jobs," Arnaud states.
Searches of Keith Schembri's home
11.21am Back to the evidence in court now on Keith Schembri's initial arrest last month. Arnaud is being asked what searches were carried out.
He says Schembri's home was searched and his offices at Castille. No electronic devices were found at his offices.
His laptop and his wife's laptop were both seized from his home.
He said Schembri was arrested initially for 30 hours, then rearrested for another 20 hours. Investigations are "100 per cent" still ongoing, he says.
POLICE DESCEND ON KEITH SCHEMBRI'S HOME
11.17am We're moving away from the court momentarily to bring you some news. Police have descended on Keith Schembri's Mellieha villa on Tuesday morning after judge Lawrence Mintoff ordered a warrant for his arrest over a court no-show.
The police were first seen ringing the doorbell before later entering the garage complex leading to his villa.
Mr Schembri's former private secretary Kenneth Azzopardi was seen escorting the police inside moments later.
Dr Vella arrested
11.12am Fenech presented investigators with two notes, Arnaud recalls, that were allegedly passed on to him by Dr Vella from Keith Schembri.
After finishing interviewing Fenech, around 10:00pm Arnaud says they immediately sent out a team to search for Dr Vella at found him around 5am. He took a long time to answer the door and was unwilling to speak at first.
The doctor confirmed that notes were collected from Keith Schembri. Dr Vella said he did not see them.
The notes included details regarding the evening of the arrest, mentioning Keith Schembri.
11.07am Arnaud is describing evidence lifted from Fenech's office on his arrest. Arnaud, who wasn't present, said it included a handwritten paper, signed by Melvin Theuma and a photo of Keith Schembri and Melvin Theuma.
Both Theuma and Fenech were asked about the letter and they corroborated each other. A copy of the letter is to be exhibited in court records.
Keith Schembri's arrest
11.03am Arnaud says that Keith Schembri was first arrested because of information supplied by Melvin Theuma at around 8.05pm on November 25. Arnaud had then proceeded to reach Dr Adrian Vella, who proved very difficult to get. At around 5.30am the following morning, police went to Keith Schembri's home, Arnaud says.
"When Keith was arrested I was the first to ask him if he had passed on information to Yorgen Fenech", Arnaud says.
"Before his arrest, did you inform Keith Schembri?" Dr Camilleri asks.
"Of course not," Arnaud replies.
'I was living in great danger' - Arnaud
10.57am Dr Camilleri asks Arnaud if he investigated the leaks.
"If there were such leaks, I was the first person at risk. I think I was living in great danger," Arnaud says.
"Criminals knew I was lead investigator, so I faced the greatest risk."
Dr Camilleri asks him if he investigate people at the meetings about the leak. The judge points out that Melvin Theuma was not present at the meeting so could not have leaked the information.
Arnaud says it was a priority for him to investigate the leaks.
"If someone chose to eliminate me for my work, I could have been killed too, just as Daphne was," he stresses.
However, he said that at that stage in the investigation, "we had to choose whether to focus on the main picture or on the leaks".
Schembri's name came up 'many times' in recordings
10.52 am Arnaud says he only communicated with Schembri to set up meetings and that the last communication was around October/November this year.
It was after Theuma was arrested that Arnaud became aware that there had been a leak of information.
This was when they listened to recordings, Arnaud says.
"Keith Schembri's name came up many times," he says. "In one conversation Yorgen Fenech and Melvin Theuma mentioned me too."
Reference was made to briefings, to Silvio Valletta, Ix Xih (the senior one), and Owen (Bonnici).
10.43am Melvin Theuma's phone was tapped "around April 2018", Arnaud says.
He says he never discussed this fact at meetings with Schembri and was not present at Security Services meetings, if it was discussed there.
Arnaud says Schembri's name "never cropped up" in police investigations until last month, November 14, when Theuma was investigated.
"He never came up as suspect or in any way involved in the case," he said.
Asked when Yorgen Fenech's name came up, Arnaud said his name was mentioned by Theuma.
"The case rested on those recordings. That was the breakthrough in the investigations that came to light in 2018."
At that point the investigating team had to gauge if the recordings were enough to go about an arrest.
The Economic Crimes Unit was called in, after money laundering allegations came to light. But Arnaud was not involved in these operations, he says.
All that interested him were the recordings.
Dr Camilleri asks if Keith Schembri was mentioned in the phone intercepts. Once, replies, Arnaud, "when he was very angry".
Arnaud said he "listened to selected parts" of the recordings. The existence of the recordings were known before Theuma's arrest but not the content, Arnaud says.
Melvin Theuma's involvement
10.37am Arnaud said that it was around May 2018 when police sensed that Melvin Theuma was involved. Between May and August of that year, they got to know that he had recordings in his possession but they weren't sure that they were linked to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.
He said that he knew of intercepts but was not involved in the phone tappings.
Towards the end of 2018, investigators realized that the murder case "rested on those recordings".
"So were you discussing this with Keith Schembri?" Dr Camilleri asks.
"No, no," replies Arnaud.
10.30am Arnaud is being questioned by Fenech's laywer Marion Camilleri. She asks him why Arnaud used secure messaging service WhatsApp to communicate with Schembri.
"No particular reason. I use WhatsApp all the time, like everyone else," he replies.
"Do you still have those messages?" Dr Camilleri asks.
"Some were lost when I changed mobile, others were regularly deleted," he responds.
He is not clear if he communicated with Schembri's personal or official number and cites it in court.
The communications were not about the subject matter of the investigation, Arnaud says and reiterates that until May or June 2018, he never arranged the police briefings and he never contacted Keith Schembri.
He insists Schembri never called him to ask for information but would message him to suggest dates for briefings.
Silvio Valletta handover
10.24am Arnaud says the briefings at Castille, where he says he first met Keith Schembri, were initially organised by Police Assistant Commissioner Silvio Valletta.
In June 2018, Valletta pulled out of the investigation. It was at this time that Arnaud began to contact Schembri.
Before that, he says it was Valletta who fixed these meetings, even when discussing the proposed pardon for Vince Muscat.
The judge has ordered a ban on details linked to Muscat's pardon.
Keith Schembri was present at all of the meetings Valletta arranged. When he left the investigation, it was Arnaud that was tasked with setting up the police briefings and he communicated, usually via WhatsApp with Schembri.
Police briefings at Castille
10.13am Arnaud is being asked about the briefings he gave to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, after claims Keith Schembri was able to pass on details of these to Fenech.
Arnaud says that his first briefing and his first visit to Castille where he met Prime Minister Joseph Muscat "for the first time", was some weeks before the arrest of the three murder suspects in December 2017.
Those present included Police Assistant Commissioner Silvio Valletta, the prime minister and Keith Schembri.
"It was the first time I saw him (Schembri) in my life."
Arnaud says he is not sure if the Attorney General and other Ministers were present.
At that first briefing there were no dates for the arrests.
There was a second, short briefing, days before the arrests on a week day, possibly the Wednesday before the Monday arrests. The same people were present.
"However, even at the second briefing the date for arrests was not determined yet, " he said. "We mentioned 4th,5th and 10th (December).
"We were still gathering evidence. So we couldn’t set a fixed date."
He said the final decision on the date, December 4, was taken at Malta Security Services.
"Was Keith Schembri present?" Arnaud is asked.
"Certainly not. The decision was taken at Malta Security Services. The Prime Minister had entrusted the decision in our hands. He told us ‘you know what’s best’."
"Who did you pass on information to?"
"Not even Keith Schembri?"
"I didn’t even know him."
Inspector Arnaud takes the stand
10.09am Inspector Arnaud, the lead investigator in the case, and the man Fenech wants removed from the murder probe, has taken the stand.
He confirms he has been involved in the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017 "from day one".
He worked alongside Kurt Zahra and Europol as well as officials from the FBI. They set up a task force made up of 10 or more officials focusing on the murder alone, he says.
He was also involved in other high profile cases throughout 2018. At these times he would leave the Daphne Caruana Galizia case and then go back to it, but the task force would continue his work.
Notes from a doctor
10.06am Fenech is now being asked about the notes passed between him and Schembri through family doctor Adrian Vella.
He says the first note was passed while he was at the police lock up.
Fenech says that he was always assisted by a lawyer, though not when he was first spoken to by Arnaud, informally.
How did Schembri get the information?
09.59am Dr Buttigieg is asking whether Schembri discovered this information during police briefings.
"I was never present at those meetings between Keith Schembri and Arnaud but Keith Schembri always told me that he had a close relationship with Arnaud," Fenech replies.
Dr Buttigieg asks: "Was Arnaud ever present when you were with Schembri?"
"No, but he sometimes got messages from Arnaud and he would tell me 'look, a message from Arnaud,'" replies Fenech.
'Schembri told me about raid on middleman'
09.55am Fenech is going over some of the information he claims he received from Schembri.
Aside from the negotiations over a potential pardon for one of the murder accused, Vince Muscat, Fenech also says he was privy to details about the alleged middleman, Melvin Theuma.
Fenech says Schembri told him that police were watching Theuma, his money sources and the upcoming raid. Fenech also says he was aware the motive for the raid was financial but that they were intended to find secret recordings Theuma had made on Fenech.
Schembri supplied this information around January or February 2019, Fenech says.
Conversations between Arnaud and Fenech
09.53am Fenech said Arnaud had spoken to him at the police 'lock up', and at another time.
Asked did Arnaud ever mention Schembri, Fenech recalls a conversation where he referred to someone.
"I told him 'do you mean Keith Schembri?'", Fenech said.
"Arnaud said 'Yes, 100%'"
Asked to explain a "sweeping statement" about Schembri being briefed by Arnaud, Fenech goes over the information he received during the murder probe such as details, arrests and the pardon request for Vince Muscat.
Yorgen Fenech takes stand for cross examination
09.44am In a previous hearing, Fenech claimed Schembri passed him information supplied by Inspector Arnaud.
Fenech is now being cross-examined about that by lawyer Victoria Buttigieg for the Attorney General's office.
He claims Schembri told him he got the information from Arnaud but not how or under what circumstances. He suggests possibly during briefings at Castille.
About information he previously supplied on Arnaud's wife being offered a government job, Fenech doesn't recall under what circumstance he was told that information.
Warrant of arrest for Keith Schembri
09.40am The judge has issued a warrant of arrest against Keith Schembri after he could not be notified to appear as a witness. It's expected to be issued within the next couple of hours.
Yorgen Fenech arrives
09:34 Fenech has just been escorted into court under the usual tight security. He is seated in the middle of the hall, with an armed guard at either side and two at the doors to the hall.
Inspector Arnaud is inside too.
Judge Lawrence Mintoff is in his place. We're about to start.
Who will appear as witness today?
09:26 We expect Yorgen Fenech to be cross examined today. The witnesses also due to appear include:
- Inspector Keith Arnaud
- Alleged murder 'middleman' Melvin Theuma
- A Jobsplus official
Keith Schembri unable to be notified as witness
09.16 We're due to resume the constitutional case that Daphne Caruana Galizia murder accused Yorgen Fenech has filed against the lead inspector Keith Arnaud, in an attempt to have him removed from the case.
Key to Fenech's argument is his claim that Arnaud has a "close relationship" with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
He was due to appear as a witness today but he was not notified. We should find out why in the course of today's proceedings.
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