Updated 5.40pm with Silvio Valletta's reaction
Daphne Caruana Galizia's killers were receiving information from a former minister, former deputy police commissioner and other high-profile figures, one of her assassins testified on Thursday.
Vince Muscat named ex-minister Chris Cardona, his associate David Gatt, chief of staff Keith Schembri and former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta as being linked to the men wanted for murder.
Breaking a three-year silence, the hitman, known as il-Koħħu also revealed how the desire to kill the journalist was so strong he was told they should plant the bomb in the car even at the risk of other passengers being blown up.
Muscat, who was arrested in December 2017, registered a guilty plea in the case last month and will now serve as a witness in proceedings against two brothers, with whom he had formerly shared the dock.
His testimony was mainly based on information he received from Alfred Degiorgio, who together with his brother George, are accused of planting the bomb. At no point did he give any indication about the potential mastermind.
Wearing a bullet-proof vest, he started the sitting by apologising to the victim’s family, many members of whom were present in a court room tight with security.
Muscat confirmed he had accompanied Alfred Degiorgio to meet Cardona in Valletta at the time of the murder plot and said his murder associate had told him the former economy minister was giving him information on the looming police raids.
The suspects were so well informed that they even decided to keep a dog away from the site knowing the police were swooping in on December 4, 2017. The alert was raised two to three weeks before the actual raid.
Cardona was perceived to be the man who could potentially keep them out of jail.
Muscat said Gatt would go to the Marsa shed and one time started gesturing a thumbs-up sign to him. George Degiorgio told Muscat: “do you know who told him? Keith (Schembri) il-Kasco’. We had thought it was Chris Cardona but it was Keith il-Kasco.”
Gatt, he said, would mimic noises of an explosion and he understood that the thumbs-up was a reference to the ‘number one’ in Malta - Schembri.
He also said that at one point Alfred Degiorgio was receiving information from the former deputy police chief. Silvio Valletta resigned after his connections with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech were revealed.
In a two-line statement after the testimony, Valletta said: "I categorically deny that I ever relayed information to anybody. This is something I will keep repeating. It's a blatant lie."
Corroborating much of what murder middleman Melvin Theuma had said, Muscat confirmed that the decision to proceed with the murder was taken one to two weeks after the 2017 general election.
The convicted hitman confirmed that the journalist was tailed for several weeks to establish her trail and establish how they would eliminate her.
The initial plan was to shoot Caruana Galizia but the plot was aborted after George Degiorgio feared their escape from the scene could be foiled by a police roadblock.
Just weeks before the execution, the hitmen followed the car parked outside the Phoenicia in Floriana. They considered placing the bomb there but Muscat said he expressed fear she would not return alone.
"They said – ‘we'll go ahead, even if others are with her in the car," Muscat recounted in one of the day’s most shocking revelations.
The hitman said that the bomb and weapon suppliers knew the identity of the target and said that George Degiorgio had even attached a plastic bottle with petrol to cause maximum devastation.
Il-Koħħu also revealed that George Degiorgio hit the detonation button before his brother gave him the go-ahead, and insists he never heard the blast but only saw a plume of smoke.
Muscat’s admission and sentencing proved to be a momentous turning point in the ongoing investigations into the murder, resulting in the immediate arrest of the suspected bomb suppliers, Ta’ Maksar brother Robert Agius and Jamie Vella.
As it happened:
Tense sitting wrapped up
3.45pm Arnaud says that as far as the accusations are concerned, the police have wrapped up everything.
A tired Muscat is escorted out of the court room.
Magistrate also asks about Theuma saying there is a security issue.
It is not ideal to have both Muscat and Theuma testify at the same sitting.
Defence lawyer Cuschieri said he would rather wrap up full testimony of Muscat.
The court decides: on March 16 Muscat will be cross examined, and the following day Theuma will follow.
We'll be back shortly with a wrap-up of Thursday's sitting.
Preparing for the raid
3.35pm Muscat says Alfred Degiorgio threw away his phone on his way to St Paul's Bay. Kohhu threw it away on the way home while George Degiorgio disposed of it in the sea in the Grand Harbour.
Muscat has now mentioned that before the arrests he had accompanied the Degiorgios to Mile End in Ħamrun. “I knew they were going to speak to Chris Cardona because they had told me so. I told them, shall I come with you and they told me, ‘No, Ċens, better not.’”
Muscat said he knew he would be arrested on December 4, 2017, but Alfred Degiorgio assured him they would walk away free "with all the help they would get". George Degiorgio was not completely in the clear though.
George Degiorgio called for Muscat around 4am and the two headed to their usual haunt at Marsa.
"I wasn't feeling comfortable. At one moment I was going to a nearby bar to get a toast but George called me back. Come back Ċens, he said. Shortly after, we heard the sirens and police arrived."
In-number one ta' Malta!
3.25pm Before the murder, lawyer and Cardona associate David Gatt went to the Marsa shed and made a gesture with his thumb.
Muscat asked Alfred Degiorgio: What does he mean? Does he know?
"You know who told him. It’s Keith (Schembri) il-Kasco," Degiorgio told Muscat.
And another time, Gatt went to Muscat and said: “how long are you going to take to get rid of her? She’s the witch of Bidnija.
How long are you going to take to get rid of her? She’s the witch of Bidnija
"He kept doing the thumbs up sign. It didn’t mean thumbs up, but reference to number one ta' Malta meaning the former chief of staff."
Muscat asked: "So does Keith Schembri know about it too?"
Degiorgio told him: "He must have told him."
After the murder, David Gatt went to the potato shed and made an explosion-like gesture with his hands and mouth.
3.20pm We're back. Both the defence lawyer and parte vcivile say they do not plan to cross examine Muscat today.
The sitting continues. He goes back to that afternoon on October 16, 2017.
Alfred Degiorgio began calling his brother as soon as the sensor on Caruana Galizia's house gate started flashing.
"Alfred was meant to give the order 'now'. But he never gave that order."
Muscat says they were concerned when they learnt the FBI had been roped in.
3pm Almost five hours in, we're on a short break.
Info from different sources
2.55pm Muscat says they went to a bar next to the Siggiewi church to look for Cardona.
"But Cardona was not there. We chatted with some people, among them il-Biglee."
Arnaud: "Why did you go to look for Cardona?"
Muscat: "To check about any possible movements leading to our arrests."
Muscat says he had no idea that a mobile phone top-up would have led to their arrests.
Alfred Degiorgio told them they would interrogate Cardona and a high-profile lawyer.
A week before the arrest, Theuma had visited the potato shed and told Alfred Degiorgio that they were to be arrested on December 4. Degiorgio and Theuma were getting information from different sources.
Leaks about raid from Cardona
2.45pm Muscat says George Degiorgio went to pick him up at 5am and headed to the Marsa potato shed so that they would be all arrested together.
He says he got to know many things since the bombing took place, even during the court testimonies.
Alfred Degiorgio had told him that he was getting the information about the raid from Chris Cardona.
"Toni l-Iblaħ was sent by Cardona rather than Alfred going to Cardona himself. I once drove Alfred to meet Toni and they both seemed worried. I waited in the car."
Warned of looming raid
2.35pm Some time later, he saw Alfred Degiorgio calling him through the iron grid at the shed.
"Haven’t you gone fishing?"
"What fishing! They’re going to arrest my brother. There’s going to be a raid. Go tell my brother."
Muscat walked to the bar and told George Degiorgio.
"I’ve been long expecting it," Degiorgio told him.
"What do you mean?" Muscat asked.
He said that they knew of the looming raid on “the 4th (of December 2019)” some two to three weeks before it actually happened.
"We knew that 100%. In fact we had removed our Labrador and some 'Halloween' things and so on so that police would find nothing."
That was some three weeks before the arrests.
The money for the deed
2.35pm A week after the bombing, Alfred Degiorgio met Muscat and told him to drive where George Degiorgio was waiting for his own share of the money to collect from Theuma.
"It was in cash. In packets of €5,000. I got €40,000, €30 plus the €10,000 deposit I had returned earlier. All bundles tied with rubber bands."
The aftermath of the bombing
2.25pm Muscat switched on his car radio and heard the news. That afternoon the men met at the Marsa potato shed and admitted they were shocked at the reaction that the bombing had provoked.
Alfred Degiorgio told him that within days they would get the rest of the money.
After the bomb exploded, Alfred Degiorgio called Theuma to dispose of his mobile phone. The men changed their burner phones because a relative of Theuma’s had used it.
Bomb detonated earlier
2.15pm Muscat says George Degiorgio decided to detonate the bomb before his brother gave him the go-ahead. Alfred seemed to have been taken aback.
“We heard nothing. That loud explosion that was mentioned, I swear we never heard that, your honour!”
Back in the car, Alfred Degiorgio leaned on the steering wheel.
“I thought it didn’t go off, it was no good.”
Then they looked back and saw a plume of smoke.
"We then saw a female driver in a Pajero, probably going to pick up some schoolchildren, go by."
Alfred Degiorgio drove Il-Koħħu to his car parked nearby.
"We agreed to throw away the mobiles away on the road," says Muscat, adding he never called George Degiorgio on his burner phone.
'She's coming out'
2.15pm Alfred Degiorgio and Muscat returned to their Bidnija vantage point before 6am. It was a new vantage point, purposely planned for that day.
Degiorgio was to call his brother who was out on his boat to detonate the bomb.
Meanwhile, as they waited, they spotted a man fix a water tank on a nearby room. Had he looked in their direction, he would have seen them.
"We knew that Daphne would stop upon exiting to collect her mail. Then she would turn down to the road in the valley."
At some point, they spotted her.
“She's coming out” Alfred alerted his brother. Then: “Hang on, because she's going back in." (Her son says she returned home to pick up her cheque book)
Placing the bomb
2pm The trio transported the bomb in a shoebox under a tree. Alfred Degiorgio carried a haversack in case they need to flee the scene.
Wearing hoods, the hitmen walked through some sticks when approaching the residence, making sure they left no footprints. The bomb wires were not attached to the bomb at this stage.
Alfred Degiorgio picked the lock, the same way he had done with the practice model. He opened the back door behind the passenger seat, operating in the dark in case some car went by.
He then leaned over to open the opposite door. He walked round to the other side and placed the bomb beneath the driver’s seat.
Alfred Degiorgio invited him to stay at his St Paul's Bay place since they had to return in about three hours or so.
Car parked outside the gate
1.50pm Coming to the eve of the murder, Muscat says he was driving with his family from Siggiewi when a call came from Alfred Degiorgio around 8.30pm.
“Cens, her car is parked outside."
Degiorgio told him to get the bomb.
"What! Alone? But I couldn’t say no. You can’t say no to these kind of men. And like an idiot I had to handle the bomb alone. It was a big risk."
He drove his family home, and headed to the Santa Venera garage. He collected the keys, took the bomb and mobile phone, and headed to Bidnija.
Alfred Degiorgio called his brother to join them. They agreed that if Caruana Galizia's car was parked outside the gate, they would plant the bomb.
Help from Cardona
1.45pm Degiorgio called Muscat after an hour or so.
"He told me that there was no need to wait for him as he's getting a lift back with Toni l-Iblaħ (Cardona's driver)."
He says they went to Cardona "long before the arrest".
Arnaud: "Why did you go?"
Muscat: "Maybe he could help us."
Leaks by Valletta, contact with Cardona
1.40pm Asked how he got to know about the Naxxar coffee shop that Caruana Galizia frequented, he says Alfred Degiorgio had told him the information came from Melvin Theuma who got the details from the "person who commissioned him".
Muscat also says he used to drive Degiorgio to Valletta to drop him off because he was going to meet (then minister) Chris Cardona. This happened four to five times.
One time, Alfred Degiorgio told him "Cardona sent me a message. He mentioned the €150,000. He said there are two groups… they quoted the same price.”
He says he saw Degiorgio enter Castille through a side door.
"I don’t know if that led to Cardona or not, but I saw him go into Castille." He also mentions "Triq tal-Monti".
Muscat says that Alfred Degiorgio had also told him information was being leaked by former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta.
Breaking into a car
1.25pm Asked to explain how they unlocked the car, Muscat says they got an identical model, took it to the Marsa shed and practised picking the lock.
"Robert Maksar had directed us to a car hire garage. Alfred and I collected a white Peugeot 107, same model as Daphne’s. That car was parked outside the garage. The owner or employee were expecting us. They knew we had been sent by Robert."
This exercise was carried out some 2/3 months before October 2017 when the hitmen were in possession of the bomb.
Prepared to plant bomb outside Phoenicia
1.15pm Witnesses are gathering back in the court. Arnaud resumes his questioning.
Muscat says they had spotted Caruana Galizia at the Phoenicia and thought she would return there in the first week of October when Notte Bianca was taking place.
Arnaud: "Did you have the bomb?"
Muscat: "Yes. We looked for her and her husband's cars. Had we spotted their cars we would have planted the bomb. Then we would have sent the message (to detonate) not at Valletta since there were too many people around but once she got to Bidnija."
What we've learnt so far
After two-hours of gruelling testimony so far Muscat's more salient points were:
- Decision to go ahead with the murder was taken one to two weeks after the 2017 general election;
- The initial plan was to shoot Caruana Galizia but the plan was aborted as Degiorgio feared a police road block;
- The suppliers knew the intended victim of the bomb;
- Alfred Degiorgio once said he was prepared to place bomb inside car even if Caruana Galizia was carrying other passengers in the car with her.
- Bomb contained more than 500gr of explosives attached to a bottle of petrol for bigger impact.
- Fear that Caruana Galizia was going to publish 'some details'.
12.45pm The magistrate orders a short break. The Degiorgios, who have been silent so far, are led out.
Amid tight security, Muscat stands up and talks to Arnaud, before also being escorted out.
12.35pm A month or two before the murder, Alfred Degiorgio saw the family leave their home with luggage. Degiorgio feared they were leaving for good because the suitcases were large.
They followed them all the way to the airport.
Another time, the hitmen followed Caruana Galizia to Valletta.
Her car was parked outside the Phoenicia. The hitmen considered placing the bomb there but Muscat feared she would not return alone.
"They said - we'll go ahead, whoever is with her in the car, even if she's with others" But they decided not to go ahead with the plan.
There are reactions from the Caruana Galizia family members inside the courtroom.
Bottle of petrol tied to the bomb
12.30pm Muscat says he had heard Robert Agius or Jamie Vella say that it contained some 500 g of explosive.
During one of the chat, George Degiorgio had told them he hoped it was not like the one placed in Romeo Bone's car (he survived the blast in a shocking car bomb in Msida).
Jamie Vella replied that in that case, the bomb was not put under the seat but near the wheel.
Then Alfred Degiorgio got a small water bottle, filled it with petrol and tied it to the bomb to make its impact even more devastating.
He got a small children’s shoebox and placed the explosive device covering it with a lid. He first placed it at the Naxxar garage before moving it to Santa Venera.
The bomb plot
12.25pm Around two to three days after the failed plot, the hitmen were told that Jamie Vella and Robert Agius were to provide the bombs.
Meanwhile, Muscat had an argument with the Degiorgio after he asked for his €10,000 deposit back. It seemed that the plan was going to be shelved.
But after returning the money, they still decided to keep watch at Bidnija.
Caruana Galizia never left her car outside the periphery of her home apart from the eve of her murder.
The hitmen were told that the bomb was to be put under an overturned boat wreck and they were were to retrieve it from there.
"It was made of stainless steel, sophisticated, clearly foreign made. It had a casing, some 6 inches by 5 inches and some 1.5 inches thick. It had a slot for a SIM card."
The bomb was to be activated through another mobile phone which came with the bomb.
"It had a particular message which would activate it. We were told that there was some seven seconds interval until it went off."
12.10pm Then one night, the hitmen went to Bidnija. They agreed with George Degiorgio to go on site as they gave him a call. There was a wooden gate leading to a field near her home. Alfred Degiorgio was ready with the rifle under the tree.
"I was ready to call George so that as soon as he fired, he would come with the getaway car. We had weapons in the car (AK47) in case something happened on our way to the garage. George was to come for us in a stolen Toyota Vitz garaged at Naxxar. But George got cold feet because of a possible road block. It was around 11pm."
There was a discussion between the two brothers.
"Alfred said nothing to me but I sensed it. And George always wanted to use a bomb."
That night Caruana Galizia was at home.
The men hid their belongings, George Degiorgio picked them up with a different car and the shooting did not take place.
12pm Muscat says he saw the rifles which were meant to be used at an underground garage.
He had gone there with Alfred Degiorgio and Robert Agius was present.
"Alfred always had the key to that garage. Jamie and Robert got the rifles. The Degiorgios told them that the weapons were no good. But one of them, with a telescope, some metre long, was found to be ok."
But when they returned the weapon, they were given a bomb to use instead.
"They (Jamie Vella and Robert Agius) knew why we wanted it. That it was to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia. In fact, that’s why we had the Naxxar garage. It was close to that area."
Muscat is asked how he knew that the two men knew the bomb was intended for Caruana Galizia but his answer is incomprehensible.
Preparing to shoot Daphne
11.55am One night they decided to venture close to Caruana Galizia's home on foot.
Through a window they could see the journalist seated on a sofa. They were at an elevated point vis-a-vis their target at a distance of about 10 metres.
They had filled some bags with sand, placed them on a wall to steady the rifle when shooting. At night it was easier to keep a watch.
George Degiorgio would call for them when they phoned him.
"We waited near the reservoir and he came for us there. We didn’t want to leave the car there.
"We had prepared the spot for the shooting. We removed some stones, put the sandbags. We had been given three rifles by Robert tal-Maksar, Jamie Vella."
Daphne was going to 'publish some details'
11.48am One day, Degiorgio took Theuma to their vantage point to show him how things were panning out.
"You have to hurry because she’s going to publish some details!" Theuma would persistently tell Degiorgio.
Degiorgio would reply that they couldn’t find a way of doing the job, but they were working on it.
The magistrate asks: "What were you doing all those hours?"
"Sitting. We even took cushions with us. Keeping a close watch through the telescope."
Koħħu was a heavy smoker, going through three packets a day. Alfred Degiorgio was a smoker too. They used to put the butts in an empty water bottle to remove any traces.
'Get it over and done with'
11.43am Alfred Degiorgio would call Muscat to go to their vantage point.
Meanwhile they had discovered a better spot in Bidnija. It was higher up, discreet and quieter.
Close by a farmhouse was being refurbished and workmen would sometimes speak to them.
They used to go to the site early in the morning and sometimes stayed on till very late.
He says Theuma was pressing them to take action.
"Get it over and done with because they're going to stop you."
He said they were told that some details were going to be published.
"The months went by, August came along and it was tremendously hot. They pressured us more and more."
Four mobile phones
11.35am Muscat said they had bought four mobile phones, including one for Theuma.
They bought them from a Marsa shop which would make it difficult for police to trace.
"I always carried it even if I happened to split up with Alfred, we would call on that phone."
They started studying the routes that Caruana Galizia would normally take: they scoured all the roads in that Bidnija area, the Burmarrad area and so on.
They started using a rental vehicle, a Peugeot 406, rented in Alfred Degiorgio’s name. After a while they opted for a smaller car because of the narrow Bidnija roads.
They made sure they removed any identifiable marks from the vehicle.
11.25am The suspects made use of binoculars to take a closer look at the Caruana Galizia home.
"We never saw her car outside. Sometimes we saw her drive away, do her shopping and come back. We went there almost every day.
"George (Degiorgio) did not come along. There was no need. So Alfred suggested asking Theuma for her whereabouts. Once a week or so her maid would come along in a red car. Then one day I drove Alfred to coffee shop in Ħamrun, Melvin's favourite haunt."
Alfred Degiorgio returned and told him that Caruana Galizia frequently went to a Naxxar coffee shop. They spent about a week going to that area, to watch her moves and one day they spotted her car.
"Ċens, go check if she's in there," came the order.
He went to the coffee shop and saw Caruana Galizia all alone at a table, with her iPad and a coffee.
"Good. So she comes here for sure," Alfred Degiorgio told Muscat.
This happened a week or two after the 2017 general election.
11.20am Il-Koħħu took Degiorgio back to Busy Bee to get the €30,000 deposit. After some 30 minutes or so, Degiorgio returned with a bag.
"10 for you Ċens, 10 for me and 10 for George." All the money came in €50 notes.
They went back to the shed and started working on the task. They began to follow Caruana Galizia's footsteps at Bidnija.
"There was some fencing, and a tree nearby. We used to go there. We went through the fence, removed some rubble to make it more comfortable and sat on the wall overlooking the road leading to her villa. We had a very good view, including her car and door."
Initial plan to shoot Daphne
11.15am When Theuma was told the price, he replied: "give me a chance, let me tell them."
Theuma said they would likely have no problem with that price.
After a third meeting, Theuma accepted the €150,000 price tag.
Once the price was agreed, Theuma told Alfred Degiorgio that he would give the go ahead once the elections were over. At one point they thought that nothing would happen.
Kohhu thought that Degiorgio would use a rifle to shoot Caruana Galizia.
"Why Alfred," Arnaud asks.
"He had to shoot, obviously it couldn't be me," Muscat replies.
The plan was to follow her tracks and shoot her.
After the elections, Alfred Degiorgio said Theuma gave the go-ahead to proceed with the plan.
Election stalls murder plan
11.10am Then one afternoon around 3pm, Muscat drove Alfred Degiorgio to Msida.
He parked his car and waited while Degiorgio met Theuma at Busy Bee. That was before the 2017 elections.
"After some 45 minutes or hour, Alfred returned. They had to fix the price and so forth. We went to George and agreed on €150,000."
They agreed on €30,000 deposit in case they wasted a month and nothing was done. They agreed to get a cut of €50,000 each.
Did Melvin Theuma act alone?
"As far as I know Theuma was tasked by someone but I don’t have any name."
Some days later, il-Koħħu again took Alfred Degiorgio to Busy Bee. Theuma told him that he had the €150,000 but the plan had to be stalled for a while since a general election had been called.
Muscat said he never went into Busy Bee, never saw the two others chat but always waited near the church.
'He wants us to kill Daphne'
11.05am Muscat says he has known the Degiorgios for the last 35 years or so, and they used to meet at the Marsa potato shed.
Arnaud tells Muscat to go back to October 16, 2017, the day of the explosion.
"I went to the potato shed in 2017, as usual, around 9.30am. Alfred Degiorgio came to him and said: "Ċens, Melvin showed up and he's got something good for us."
Koħħu and Alfred Degiorgio went to look for Theuma at Marsa, then Ħamrun. He cannot remember where they located him.
Alfred Degiorgio spoke to Muscat telling him: “you know what? He wants us to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia."
Apologises to Daphne's family
10.57am Muscat says he wants to apologise to Caruana Galizia's family and that he was now paying for his crime.
He makes the statement in the presence of the victim's family.
They are the first words he has made publicly since his arrest in December 2017.
Ban on names
10.55am Il-Koħħu's lawyer, Marc Sant, requests a ban on the names that his client will mention.
Magistrate orders ban on names of those who were never mentioned or have nothing to do with these proceedings.
Muscat called in
10.50am Vincent Muscat is called in, surrounded by three security guards.
Arnaud asks if it is possible that the witness testifies while seated. We understand this could be for security reasons.
Lawyer Cuschieri wants the chair of the witness to be moved to the centre. But Arnaud objects and the magistrate intervenes.
“You appreciate that there are also security concerns and the witness doesn’t need to be in front full view,” magistrate Claire Zammit Stafrace tells the lawyer.
Extracted audio clips
10.45am IT expert Keith Cutajar takes the oath first. He extracted audio clips which couldn’t be accessed by lawyers.
There are eight clips which he extracted from originals.
A court official tasked with transcribing recordings in March, is here to present her work.
Police investigators Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra have meanwhile joined the prosecution bench.
Off we go
10.40am The Degiorgio brothers are escorted into the court room. Their lawyer is William Cuschieri.
The court is in session.
10.30am We're in Hall 22, one of the larger halls in the court, as it tries to continue hearing the important cases amid the pandemic.
Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia is in the room as are Caruana Galizia's sisters, son Matthew, and husband Peter.
There is tight security with a number of armed guards keeping watch.
10.15am Welcome to our live blog. We're informed that Muscat will be the main witness in Thursday's case.
Two vans, accompanied with heavy security, have just driven into the court garage.
His connection with the crime
Times of Malta had already reported last year how Muscat told investigators that the initial plan was to shoot Caruana Galizia from a vantage point overlooking her Bidnija home. He told investigators that Robert Agius and Jamie Vella initially supplied three rifles with telescopic sights for them to try out. The plan was eventually ditched in favour of a car bomb.
He was arrested and arraigned in December 2017, along with the Degiorgio brothers.
Muscat has been trying to gain some form of immunity from prosecution since April 2018, when he first offered up middleman Melvin Theuma’s name in connection with the Caruana Galizia case.
When that request failed, Muscat changed tack, instead trying to reach a plea deal about the murder. The deal never came to fruition, and Muscat launched a fresh bid for a full pardon in December 2019 covering a litany of murders and violent heists.
His request for this wide-ranging pardon was turned down in January.
However, Muscat immediately re-opened negotiations for a plea deal in the Caruana Galizia case whilst putting in a pardon request for the Carmel Chircop murder.
Both requests have now been granted.
Who is il-Koħħu?
Muscat is a career criminal who has been linked to a string of murders and assassinations. Apart from his prosecution in the Caruana Galizia assassination, he is also waiting to stand trial over his alleged role in a bungled 2010 HSBC heist.
Il-Koħħu told investigators last year he can name an individual, believed to be a former high-ranking Labour politician, who helped plan the heist on the bank’s headquarters.
However, the HSBC case did not form part of the plea bargain thrashed out for the Caruana Galizia assassination.
In 2014, Il-Koħħu was left critically injured after being shot three times outside his home.
The person charged with attempting to murder him was himself shot and killed that same year.
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