Former police commissioner John Rizzo and current parliamentary speaker Anglu Farrugia testified on Tuesday as part of a public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The three-person inquiry has so far heard testimony from various members of the Caruana Galizia family. They have been scathing in their criticism of police, government and the attorney general and said police protection was withdrawn after Mr Rizzo was replaced in 2013.
• Distanced himself from Joseph Muscat’s Labour leadership, saying he was never a fan of outgoing Prime Minister and that the feeling was mutual.
• Said he had nothing to do with the party’s power station plans or 2013 electoral campaign and was kept in the dark about them.
• Recalled how MDA chief Sandro Chetcuti was one of the business moguls who had an office on Labour’s fabled ‘fourth floor’, which was keycode-protected and which he had no access to.
• Said Keith Schembri was regularly there but that he never saw Yorgen Fenech at the party’s headquarters.
• Declined to delve into specifics despite pressure from the three-person inquiry, saying “I have no names to give”.
Read a full report about Anġlu Farrugia's testimony.
• Said he had wanted to prosecute John Dalli and had discussed the case with then-minister Manuel Mallia, but that he was transferred out of the corps before anything was done.
• Recalled how he had met with Joseph Muscat and discussed moving to the Malta Security Services, only to be told the following day by Keith Schembri that the new prime minister wanted him to head the CPD and take on a €10,000 consultancy role. Mr Rizzo said he rejected that out of principle.
• Told the inquiry that Daphne Caruana Galizia was already receiving police protection when he became police commissioner in 2001 and that he could not recall ever ordering it to end.
• Said he never discussed cases with the Prime Minister. When the oil scandal broke, then-Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had congratulated him when learning that police had started investigations that same day.
• Was adamant that all FIAU reports passed to the police during his tenure were investigated.
• Recalled how Joseph Muscat had called him up shortly after the 2013 election result was announced and asked whether “the Bidnija woman was OK”.
Read a full report about John Rizzo's testimony.
As it happened
That’s all for today
4.21pm We will have a summary of the key points from Anġlu Farrugia and John Rizzo’s testimony available shortly. Thank you for joining us this afternoon.
Rizzo's testimony ends
4.15pm Mr Rizzo's testimony is over and the day's session is over.
The inquiry is adjourned to this coming Thursday afternoon, when former police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit and the current one, Lawrence Cutajar, are expected to testify.
Muscat called to ask about Daphne
4.14pm Right after the 2013 election result, Mr Rizzo received a phone call from the newly-elected Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat. Vote counting was still going on, he recalls, and there was a lot of noise in the background during the call.
“Tal-Bidnija orrajt?” [Is the Bidnija woman OK?] he had asked.
“I realised he was speaking of Daphne Caruana Galizia and told him yes,” Mr Rizzo tells the inquiry. “At least, that’s what I understood he meant.”
Rizzo discussed Dalli with minister
4.10pm Lawyer Comodini Cachia wants to know whether Mr Rizzo had spoken to anyone else about the John Dalli case.
“I believe I had spoken to then-minister Manuel Mallia,” Mr Rizzo says, recalling a Malta Today article which had prompted a conversation about the Dalli case between himself, minister Mallia and Silvio Scerri, who served as the minister’s chief of staff.
“It was during the opening of the Good Friday exhibition at police headquarters. I clearly remember telling them we had a case against John Dalli.”
Mr Rizzo also recalls how later, the Prime Minister had shaken his hand and told him “I’ll speak to you later”.
“But he never got back,” Mr Rizzo says.
Rizzo struggles to recall protection details
4.05pm Mr Rizzo is again asked about police protection of Ms Caruana Galizia.
He says he was not told to remove police protection but cannot recall whether he had given any order to remove protection himself.
Instructions to remove protection could be given verbally, he notes.
“As much as I try, I honestly don’t know,” he says. “It was a time of change and transition. The upheaval was also felt within the police corps.”
A €10,000 offer, refused
4pm Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia takes Mr Rizzo back to the time he had discussed a move to the MSS with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Mr Rizzo recalls how Dr Muscat had offered him any post, save for that of remaining as police commissioner. He had wanted to remain in the corps and suggested the MSS. Dr Muscat gave him time to discuss it with his family.
“But the next day I was met by Keith Schembri, who told me that the Prime Minister wanted me at the CPD and had offered me a consultancy role with a €10,000 pay rise. I did not accept that, out of principle”.
3.56pm What about FIAU reports, Mr Rizzo is asked. Were they investigated?
“Mhux ovvja! [Obviously!] exclaims Mr Rizzo. “They were always passed on for investigation. I was duty-bound to do so, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to do otherwise.”
“Most investigations start off from allegations,” he explains. “That’s how things were done when I was in the corps. Not so now”.
Did Panama Papers merit investigation?
3.54pm Mr Rizzo is now asked whether he would have ordered an investigation into Panama Papers claims.
“The police must investigate whenever a report is filed, even if it is anonymous,” Mr Rizzo says.
“In the Dalli case, we received a report from the Attorney General through [EU anti-fraud agency] OLAF. We investigated everything from scratch," he says.
Oil scandal investigation
Mr Rizzo is asked whether he always took action when important figures were involved in suspected crimes.
“Yes, of course,” he says. “When I saw a report on Malta Today about the oil scandal, I immediately ordered an investigation. Then the Prime Minister called me,” Mr Rizzo recalls.
“’John,’ he told me. ‘Did you see the article?’”
“I told him ‘yes, we’re already investigating’,” Mr Rizzo says.
“Prime Minister Gonzi told me ‘well done’”.
A changed police force
3.49pm Mr Rizzo says the police force has changed “a lot” since he left it in 2013, though not necessarily for the worse.
"I leave that to you to judge," he says.
He says he hears that there is now less a greater focus on continuous training and work at the police academy.
“The most important thing is for the police corps to be independent. That doesn’t mean that it is not accountable,” he notes.
An MSS promise, then a CPD move
3.46pm Mr Rizzo tells the inquiry board how Joseph Muscat had summoned him and offered him a post in the Malta Security Services.
Dr Muscat had asked him where he wanted to go.
"Anywhere but [police] commissioner," Mr Rizzo recalls him telling him.
But nothing came of it, and instead he had been spoken to by Keith Schembri, who told him that the prime minister needed him to head the Civil Protection Department.
Mr Rizzo was offered a €10,000 consultancy role on top of that, but refused it.
"I spent four years there, got fed up and left. End of story."
'Water under the bridge'
3.40pm “At the time, Dalli was abroad,” Mr Rizzo recalls. “In fact he came [to Malta] the day after I resigned. I resigned on Friday, and Dalli arrived in Malta on Saturday”.
“Acqua passata [water under the bridge],” judge Said Pullicino remarks.
The John Dalli 'incident'
3.37pm Judge Said Pullicino now asks about the “incident regarding John Dalli”.
Mr Rizzo had wanted to arraign Mr Dalli, a former politician and European Commissioner who was made to resign his Brussels post following a bribery investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF.
He tells the inquiry that local police had carried out their own investigation and he believed we had enough evidence to go to court”.
“All the other officers involved, including the current Attorney General, were of the same view. Then my successor decided there wasn’t enough evidence. That was Peter Paul Zammit”.
PM was never involved
3.34pm Was the Prime Minister or a minister ever involved in cases or investigations, Madam Justice Lofaro asks.
“No,” Mr Rizzo replies. “There was never any interference and I had absolute freedom to do what was best for the corps,” he says.
3.32pm Mr Rizzo is asked whether the Justice Minister was ever involved in the decision to provide the Caruana Galizia family with protection.
“It was normal to discuss matters with the home affairs minister,” Mr Rizzo replies.
“The Malta Security Service would also provide information. I would sometimes ask for [phone] intercepts of suspects and the MSS would then brief me about them”.
'I felt we had a duty to protect'
3.28pm Mr Rizzo recalls that protection was upped whenever officers noticed suspicious activity or cars close to the Caruana Galizia family home.
The state never interfered, he said, and there was no pressure to provide protection.
“But I did feel that it was our duty to provide protection,” he says, citing an incident when the family’s front door was set alight.
Mr Rizzo says he is “100% sure” that the family had police protection during the 2013 general election. But he does not know when it stopped.
Judge Mallia wants to know whether he had any instructions to stop protection. Mr Rizzo says no.
Police protection for Daphne
3.24pm Madam Justice Lofaro asks Mr Rizzo about the protection afforded to Ms Caruana Galizia.
Police protection was already in place under previous commissioners, Mr Rizzo explains.
“There were fixed points and frequent patrols. We provided protection depending on what the situation demanded. She [Daphne] never actually asked for it.
Perhaps there were times when it even bothered her.”
John Rizzo takes the stand
3.20pm Mr Rizzo, who served as police commissioner for more than a decade until he moved on to the Civil Protection Department in 2013, takes the oath.
3.17pm Dr Farrugia came to court with two lawyers assisting him – Ian and Mark Refalo. It’s worth noting that Prof. Ian Refalo was originally meant to sit on the board of inquiry himself.
The inquiry was later reconstituted following objections by the Caruana Galizia family.
In Prof. Refalo’s case, the main bone of contention was that he also represented the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman and medical equipment supplier Technoline.
Ms Caruana Galizia had written frequently about all three.
'I have no names to give'
3.12pm Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, who is also appearing on the Caruana Galizia family’s behalf, intervenes. She notes that Dr Farrugia has been reluctant to name names.
Would he like to reveal names behind closed doors, she asks.
“There’s no need,” Dr Farrugia says. “I have no names to give.”
And with that, Dr Farrugia’s testimony comes to an end. The board calls for a five-minute recess before hearing from the day’s second witness – former police commissioner John Rizzo.
Sympathy for Cardona
3.09pm Judge Said Pullicino wants to know why Dr Farrugia had told minister Chris Cardona that he sympathised with him following an alleged frame-up attempt because he had “experienced myself”.
“You can never take it for granted that others are being genuine,” Dr Farrugia says. “I couldn’t grant Cardona protection, but I wanted to give him some advice”.
“He is a lawyer like me but obviously when caught up in many things, it can be hard to see things clearly. So I wanted to pass on that message”.
Answer the question, judge Mallia tells the witness.
“Even in politics, you might find yourself working alongside people hatching plans,” he replies.
3.03pm A barrage of questions by Dr Azzopardi.
“Was Franco Debono once sent to Xarabank instead of you?”
“We all know the story,” Dr Farrugia replies. [If you don’t, you can read all about it.]
“Did you ever hear of a power station deal?”
“Do you know who that person you said you once bumped into at Labour headquarters was?”
“Did you ever accompany Muscat on trips to China and Libya in 2010?”
“No,” Dr Farrugia says, saying he had not been asked.
The 2013 electoral campaign
3pm Dr Azzopardi, who is also a Nationalist Party MP, wants to know if Mr Schembri was running the show during Labour’s 2013 electoral campaign.
Dr Farrugia says he had nothing to do with the entire campaign, which was precipitated by political events. [Note: then-Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had called the election after failing to pass a Budget vote and struggling to retain his one-seat majority].
“It was a strong campaign,” Dr Farrugia says.
“Why?” Dr Azzopardi asks. “Do you mean financially?”
What about Keith Schembri?
2.58pm Dr Azzopardi is now asking about Keith Schembri. He notes the oddity of having Mr Schembri roaming freely across the fourth floor of the Labour Party’s headquarters, while Dr Farrugia – at the time the party’s deputy leader – was locked out.
“Yes, he [Schembri] was there,” Dr Farrugia reiterates.
Super magistrate proposal
2.55pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi rises to question Dr Farrugia.
Reminder: Dr Azzopardi is appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family.
His first question concerns a ‘super magistrate’ proposal which Dr Farrugia had first floated during Sant’s 1996-98 Labour government.
The proposal would have led to the creation of a magistrate with broad investigative powers.
Dr Farrugia says that then-leader Alfred Sant was very much in favour of the proposal, but it needed a two-thirds majority and did not get it.
Farrugia pushed for names
2.52pm The judges are again pushing Dr Farrugia to name names and list events. This time it’s Madam Justice Lofaro’s turn to press the witness.
“Can you give us hard facts?” she asks. “Can you give us names?”
No sign of Yorgen Fenech
2.50pm Asked by the judge whether he saw [businessman and Caruana Galizia murder suspect] Yorgen Fenech at Labour headquarters, Dr Farrugia says no.
'I knew nothing of power station'
2.48pm Judge Said Pullicino nudges Dr Farrugia back to his claims in that 2013 Times of Malta interview – go back and give it a read.
“I had once proposed that anyone linked to corruption, even remotely, should have no place in the party,” Dr Farrugia tells the inquiry.
The judge asks if he knew that Labour was in talks to build a power station before it rose to power [in 2013].
“I resigned in 2012. Energy was the cavallo di battaglia [trump card] of the party. So there must have been something before. After December 20, when I resigned, there was more talk of the power station. I was deputy leader and knew nothing about it.”
Farrugia on Labour's power plans
2.41pm Dr Farrugia washes his hands of Labour’s power station plans.
“I was kept in the dark,” he says (no pun intended). “I was not told that Labour intended to cut electricity bills.”
“I was uneasy by the situation,” he says. “Discussions with business people did not involve me. I was not in favour of the so-called [Labour] movement”.
Irked by Micallef
2.35pm Dr Farrugia had little time for Marisa Micallef, he says.
“I was bothered by her English-isms,” he says.
Marisa Micallef was an advisor to Joseph Muscat and also served as Housing Authority chair.
On the other hand, he had plenty of time for others like George Gatt.
“He continued to love the party,” he says. “True Labourites loved the party and asked about issues related to living a decent life.”
'I had no access to the fourth floor'
2.30pm Dr Farrugia says that the fabled fourth floor at Labour headquarters was closed off and required a security code to enter.
"I once had to talk to someone there and almost had to break the door to get in," he says.
Keith Schembri was there too, he tells the inquiry.
Dr Farrugia's forced resignation
2.28pm Dr Farrugia says he had made his objections to Dr Muscat’s leadership very clear.
“I never retracted what I said and Muscat never asked me what I meant. I was very clear about what was bothering me: my resignation letter was not a one-liner.”
Dr Farrugia recalls how he was abroad when he received a call asking him to resign.
“I asked why. I was told it was about my speech at a mass meeting in Rabat. I was told I had attacked the judiciary, but I had done nothing of the sort”.
“I had no access to the fourth floor,” he adds. The ‘fourth floor’ is allegedly where Dr Muscat’s Labour Party negotiated with big business prior to its rise to power in 2013.
'Please identify people'
2.21pm Dr Farrugia goes on about his relationship with Joseph Muscat.
“When Muscat became leader, I was not his favourite. I was deputy leader, focused mostly on party affairs. I pushed to bring old Mintoffians back into the fold. Many Labourites were not voting,” Dr Farrugia tells the inquiry.
But judge Joseph Said Pullicino wants specifics.
"You did not resign, you were sent off." he tells Dr Farrugia. "Please identify people. Politics is done by people".
'I never supported Muscat'
2.16pm Dr Farrugia disavows the current prime minister.
"Under Alfred Sant, there was continuity in the beliefs I shared," he says.
"I never supported [current leader Joseph] Muscat. I was not familiar with his style".
Judge presses for answers
2.13pm Judge Mallia urges Dr Farrugia to provide further details.
"You implied that there was undue influence," he tells the parliamentary speaker.
Dr Farrugia replies by talking about his family history - "my father was a pharmacist and did not give great importance to money" - and dwells on his career as a teacher and police officer.
'Sandro Chetcuti had an office there'
2.10pm Judge Mallia presses Dr Farrugia to name names.
"Sandro Chetcuti," he replies. "He had some office there".
Mr Chetcuti heads the Malta Developers Association.
"I was brought up in the party and its left wing, with [former leader Dom] Mintoff," he says.
"Once I was there at around 11pm. I went to the bathroom and came across a person. I asked him what he was doing there. He said he had a meeting with someone. It wasn't with me, [and] I didn't ask Toni Abela at the time.
Mr Justice Abela, now a judge, was also a Labour deputy party leader at the time.
Farrugia's 'fourth floor' claims
2.06pm Dr Farrugia had previously said (in 2013) that big business was too close to the Labour Party. He had just been forced out by Joseph Muscat at the time.
He's asked about those claims by judge Mallia.
"I had seen certain things which I didn't like," Dr Farrugia says.
"I saw certain people going into Labour headquarters - people I never saw before in the PL".
Anġlu Farrugia to testify
2.03pm Dr Farrugia has served as parliamentary speaker since 2013. Prior to that he was the Labour Party's deputy leader, and before his political career he served in the police force.
Ms Caruana Galizia had little time for Dr Farrugia: she had accused him of having forced her to sign a false confession when she was just 19 years old and he was a police inspector, in the 1980s.
Dr Farrugia had denied the claims.
Family in court
2pm The courtroom is now open. Ms Caruana Galizia’s parents and one of her sisters are here. Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia, Jason Azzopardi and Andrew Borg Cardona are appearing on the family’s behalf.
We spotted Mr Rizzo earlier. Dr Farrugia is also in court, assisted by lawyers.
Who has testified so far?
1.57pm Ms Caruana Galizia’s husband, sons, sisters and parents all appeared before the inquiry in December.
Her husband Peter recalled the human toll her work had on her and their family. “People would spit at Daphne,” he said.
So did her parents and two of her sisters.
Her mother told the inquiry that while in hospital after suffering a stroke, a hospital worker had told her, out of the blue, “it’s probably because of Daphne”.
Ms Caruana Galizia’s sons and her sister Corinne were more focused on the political climate surrounding Daphne. Her son Matthew accused authorities of allowing Keith Schembri to work freely to derail the murder probe, while her son Paul said the government had “caused an immediate risk” to his mother’s life.
The family noted that regular police protection outside their Bidnija house was withdrawn once commissioner John Rizzo was replaced in 2013.
What is the public inquiry about?
1.53pm The inquiry is chaired by judge Michael Mallia, with judge Joseph Said Pullicino and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro making up the other two members.
The inquiry has been tasked with assessing the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s October 2017 murder and seeing whether things could have been done to prevent it.
A 2pm start
1.48pm Today's session is due to begin at 2pm. The courtroom is still closed, though Mr Rizzo has been spotted milling around the law court corridors.