Former Labour minister Konrad Mizzi refused to answer more than 100 questions when he was forced to testify at the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The now-independent MP was tight-lipped as lawyers and the inquiry board asked about his secret Panamanian company revealed by Caruana Galizia in 2016 and his various controversial projects.
He gave only two brief statements during his appearance on Friday.
His first statement was to insist that he "never took kickbacks or rewards" during his political career and that all his actions were "given the go-ahead" by then prime minister Joseph Muscat.
In his second statement, he said he was "very sorry" for the journalist's family but that he had no involvement in her murder.
Mizzi had made an eleventh-hour attempt to avoid being summoned but was ordered to testify.
On Thursday, he labeled the inquiry, lead by three judges a "charade" that had been "politicised". And in a defiant statement on Friday morning he said he would not answer questions, which is what he did for most of the two-hour session.
Konrad Mizzi's no comment
12.07pm Our reporter Jacob Borg caught up with Mizzi as he was exiting the law courts. But the former minister was not in a speaking mood.
"I issued statements and I gave my reasons [for not speaking] in court," he said before getting into a car and being driven away.
11.43am After more than two hours where Mizzi refused to answer over 100 questions from the inquiry board and the lawyers representing the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, his testimony is over.
The judges retire to chambers until the arrival of the next witness, today: former MFSA chief Joseph Cuschieri, who resigned just this week.
Libels still stand
11.41am Comodini Cachia asks him to confirm whether the libels still stand today.
"I believe there’s still one," he says, "concerning my family."
'I had great grief over Daphne'
11.40am After a series of unanswered questions from Azzopardi, questioning turns to the day Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017. Azzopardi asks him: Did you know of any plan regarding the murder?
Mizzi says he will make a statement.
"Mrs Daphne Caruana Galizia was a vocal critic," he says. "But I had great grief when she passed away. Perhaps her family won’t accept it, but I want to express my sincere condolences."
He says he was abroad at the time, possibly in Ukraine, with the then-president Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.
"All were shocked. The president was shell shocked. She shut herself in her room. I spent quite some time with her," he recalls.
He said he was shocked and recalled the prime minister's statement wanting to get to the bottom of what happened.
"It impacted my ministerial ambitions: I had formulated a vision," he said "And obviously I’m very sorry for the family. I understand that they are hurt. And angry. How can’t you be? Of course I understand them."
Justice Said Pullicino says the board is worried about the fact no steps were taken before hand that could have avoided certain things happening later.
Mizzi said he had libel proceedings against the family.
He said he had no involvement in the murder plot.
"I'm very sorry," he said.
11.31am Lawyer Jason Azzopardi intervenes and is asked to exercise caution by Judge Lofaro.
"If you never had any kickbacks why were you ousted from the party this year?"
'I won't reply'.
"Do you agree that the prime minister used a different yardstick with you and Michael Falzon? [a minister who resigned after corruption scandal]"
Not relevant, the board says.
Relationship with Muscat
11.26am Comodini Cachia turns to his relationship with former prime minister Joseph Muscat. What led you to resign as party deputy? Did Muscat ever ask you to remove New Zealand structures? What’s your relationship with him today?
What was your role as minister without portfolio at OPM? What was your role in PL pre-2013 ? Was it only you, Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri on the working group regarding the energy sector? Was the group set up in 2008 or later?
He again refuses to answer.
A letter from London
11.21am Comodini Cachia brings up Shillings, a law firm in London briefed by Mizzi to send a letter to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. She asks how he was introduced to the law firm, and points out that it was also used by Keith Schembri. Why?
She reads the last paragraph of a seven-page letter. The title is 'Matthew Caruana Galizia', one of ICIJ's employees, and Caruana Galizia's son. It states that Caruana Galizia is a public supporter of Christian Democratic Party and "our client considers with a clear vendetta and is perpetrating a smear campaign with a focused political agenda."
It writes: "We respectfully suggest you adopt a cautious approach to your sources and not those with a political axe to grind."
Was it you who gave the law firm that information about Caruana Galizia and her son? Was that your opinion of her? What was not true in what she wrote about your structures in Panama? What political axe to grind did she have against you?
Did you ever receive questions from Matthew Caruana Galizia? What did you fear Daphne Caruana Galizia might disclose about you to ICIJ?
11.12am Comodini Cachia asks about the Montenegro wind farm project:
Did you participate in negotiations? Starting off in 2014? What were your involvement in negotiations about the price of wind farm? Was Chen present? Did Enemalta grant approval beforehand? Where did meetings take place? Did he already know Turab Musayev? Were Fersa owners of the project? Who was the middleman in negotiations? How often did he attend the negotiations? And what about the difference in price of around €7 million?
Comodini Cachia asks about Vitals:
What about the privatisation of hospitals? Was it his or the prime minister’s or others’ idea? Former minister Chris Cardona said that he was not involved in negotiations re VGH.
Comodini Cachia asks about offshore structures:
Was it strange that Chen opened a company in BVI at the same time as negotiations with Mizzi? At the same time as Mizzi’s New Zealand trust?
Comodini Cachia asks about Yorgen Fenech:
"Between 2013 and 2016 you met Fenech at Castille 19 times. Why? Fenech was the contact point with Mizzi re electrogas? Did you discuss excise duties? Who was present? Did you take decisions alone or consulted Keith Schembri or cabinet? Did you meet Musayev and Fenech on a particular date? Before you reply, there is documented email from Musayev to Electrogas shareholders. What about the involvement of Ronald Mizzi in amending media press releases on the project. Like replies by Socar to The Guardian. Did you report to cabinet regarding meetings at Qatar?"
Comodini Cachia asks about offshore structures:
"Did you start the process of creating offshore structures in March 2013? Who introduced you to Nexia? Was there anyone else involved? Did you know who was the owner of 17 black at the time? Did you call Yorgen Fenech after receiving questions from Reuters on 17 black to seek direction on replies? What was the purpose behind Hearneville? Cini sent Mosaack Fonseca an email regarding the opening of a bank account. Did you personally take documents to Dubai? Why did you ask for no audit and total secrecy?"
Mizzi gives no answer to all of these. At one point he asks for water.
Comodini Cachia questions
10.57am Comodini Cachia asks a litany of questions about the Montenegro windfarm deal regarding negotiations, where and when they happened and who participated in them.
But Mizzi replies to none of them.
He also remains silent on her questions about a series of other topics including the privatisation of hospitals, and the purpose of meetings with Yorgen Fenech, links to Dubai, his offshore structures and 17 Black.
'I never took kickbacks'
10.53am Mizzi returns.
"My lawyers have given me the go-ahead for a short statement," he begins.
"I always got the go-ahead from the prime minister, I consulted with him and information was given to cabinet. What was reported in the media does not reflect what happened. There are cabinet minutes.
"For every major decision, the prime minister was informed and he gave the go-ahead. I sought his direction. My only aim was to help the people, to cut down tariffs, waiting lists."
He said "certain decisions" were not mine but were made by companies.
"I simply worked for the best interest of the country. I never took kickbacks, or rewards," he says before thanking the board.
Mizzi asks to make a statement
10.51am Mizzi says he wants to make a brief statement and steps out to consult his lawyers.
'Other witnesses point finger at you'
10.50am The board has run out of questions. It points out to Mizzi that other ministers have appeared and other witnesses have all pointed their finger at him.
"If you have any statement to make to rebut them, you have the opportunity to do so. Take it. We are not a criminal court here."
From Vitals to Montengro
10.42am More questions on a litany of controversial projects Mizzi was involved in, from a deal to privatise hospitals to investment in Montenegro wind farm.
Do you know Cheng Chen? Any commercial ties?
What was your involvement in Vitals Global Healthcare? Your link with Tumuluri? Were you involved in transfer from Vitals to Steward? Your role in Mozura wind Farm? Your instructions to Kevin Chircop regarding the project?
What was the function of Projects Malta? Was it you alone who handled these projects? Was a board involved? Did you have instructions to appoint Nexia? How were direct orders issued?
"I won’t reply."
Was Projects Malta still under your portfolio when you changed ministry?,
An NAO report said that you refused to meet the auditor re ITS deal? Wasn’t that under your portfolio? The first element considered by NAO was good governance. The purpose of disposal of the site remains unclear. No information supporting the decision to transfer was available. Who took the decision behind that land transfer?
'There are inaccuracies in the questions'
10.39am Mizzi moves from his pattern of not answering questions to criticising the questions.
He says that there are inaccuracies in the questions being put forward, pointing out that he was minister without portfolio for instance.
There are ripples throughout the hall.
10.34. The barrage of unanswered questions continues. When you presented large projects to cabinet, did you give an overview or details? Did you keep the prime minister informed? Who organized tenders? MOUs were signed by you or some other minister?
How often was the Electrogas project discussed at cabinet?
'I won't answer'.
Did you know [Electrogas shareholders] Yorgen Fenech, Paul Apap Bologna, Mark Gasan? No replies.
It is being alleged you met Yorgen Fenech at Castille 19 times. Why? When did you last communicate with Yorgen Fenech? Who introduced you to Paul Apap Bologna and Mark Gasan?"
"I won’t reply," he replies.
10.30am Questioning turns to Keith Schembri, who also was revealed to have had a mystery company in the Panama Papers. Did you know Keith Schembri before political involvement? Did you take directions from him? Was he involved in meetings? How did both of you set up Panama accounts? Do you have any shared business interests?
What was your relationship with Keith Schembri? Did you discuss Daphne Caruana Galizia's writings?
We have heard of a kitchen cabinet. Were you one of them?
10.28am Mizzi is asked about an email that was sent to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that mentioned his secret company, Hearnville. Did you ask for documents?
"Ma nweġibx", Mizzi repeats in a soft voice.
The email from Nexia BT accountant Karl Cini had read that the client preferred to “avoid banks here”. Why? Did you declare that trust with local tax authority? Did you have an account at Pilatus? Did you meet Ali Sadr [Pilatus bank owner]? Did you take action against Daphne Caruana Galizia or other journalists regarding the Panama allegations?
Have you engaged a London firm?
Comodini Cachia interrupts: “I have a copy of that letter” regarding the English law firm.
"May I see that, please?" Mizzi asks. A copy is handed to his lawyers.
Who is UBO of Macbridge?
10.22am The questions continue with the same reply.
Who is the UBO of Macbridge? Have you any ties thereto?
"Ma nweġibx (I won't answer)", he replies.
How could you say this if you were expecting €150,000 monthly from Macbridge? Besides Hearneville and Rotura Trust do you have other foreign structures? Did you close those structures?
According to Panama Papers, Hearneville was set up for consultancy services. But you said it was for family purposes. How do you explain? Did you have a bank account in Dubai? Did you go to Dubai when minister? How many times?
10.15am Mizzi remains tight-lipped when asked the following:
Was it you who first put the idea to the Labour Party regarding Electrogas? Did you know Joseph Muscat before your political involvement? Did you discuss with him these projects? What was your reaction to the Panama papers story in February 2016? Did Joseph Muscat ask about those allegations? What was the reaction of the government to the Panama Papers? How do you explain the structures mentioned in the Panama Papers?
"I won’t answer," he responds.
What was your letter of engagement to Nexia? Is this the first time you used the services of Nexia? Did you instruct them to set up bank accounts abroad? Were you in business before you became an MP? Were you aware of Daphne Caruana Galizia writing about this?
Did you know about 17 Black? Why it got 200k dollars from a local agent? Do you know Mario Pullicino? Orion Engineering? Did you know Meyer Trans Ltd paid 1.4 million to 17 black?
'I choose not to answer'
10.09am Mizzi tries to speak about Comodini Cachia and Azzopardi, how they are wearing "two hats, MPs and lawyers". He is cut short by Mallia who fires the first question about his ministerial role.
"I choose not to answer".
Laughter breaks out in the room: this was expected.
And so there is a repeat of what happened with two previous witnesses, Nexia BT accountants Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, who also remained tight-lipped through their appearance.
Mizzi can testify
10.08am Comodini Cachia, lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, says she objects to the allegations made by Mizzi in the earlier Facebook post.
Meanwhile, after some discussion,Peralta says that Mizzi can testify about that which does not pose risk of self-incrimination.
That settled, Mallia minutes this. He says that Mizzi will be cautioned and may choose what to answer.
Three inquiries and a police probe
10am Mallia asks Mizzi if he is subject to inquiries. Mizzi says he doesn’t know how many inquiries there are. "I get to know through the media," he says.
There are three inquiries and one police investigation, which involves police bail.
Mizzi said that inquiries were about operations of his ministry. And asked about police bail, he said he didn’t know. "How can you not know!?" the judges express disbelief.
Is he investigated or accused? judges ask. "Investigated", Peralta says.
"So he can answer questions and refrain from answering those that could incriminate him," the judges say.
"You are bound by law to give us disclosure," his lawyers say.
"Tell us which provision of law says that. Go on, look for it. There are two of you. Go on, find it," Lofaro urges.
It's a quite heated atmosphere between the former magistrate and the inquiry judges.
'Journalists ask questions'
09.57am Mizzi points out to the board that their order issued Thursday evening, ordering him to appear, went to Times of Malta.
Said Pullicino intervenes: "Journalists have great interest in this case and continuously send questions. Our deputy answers them."
His lawyers point out that the news was out on Times of Malta within an hour of their receipt of it from the board
"Everything we do here is public," the judges point out.
Caruana Galizia family lawyers 'agenda'
09.51am Mizzi refers to "agenda" of the Caruana Galizia family lawyers, Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia, who are also Nationalist MPs.
To the judges, he says: "I respect you 100% and trust how you handle this, but I cannot say the same for my opposition colleagues. So let me rephrase my comment. They are using the inquiry for political agenda."
Mizzi expresses trust in the members of the board and declares they are integral and unprejudiced.
But the third member of the inquiry panel, Joseph Said Pullicino says this is "not enough" and adds, "please retract any derogatory remarks in our regard".
Peralta says he isn't aware of any.
'We expect an apology'
9.46am Former magistrate Carol Peralta, who is defending Mizzi, explains that he he wishes not to testify, not because of self-incrimination but because of ongoing magisterial inquires in his regard.
"But before we reach that stage, we expect an apology in our regard," inquiry judge Michael Mallia says. "The post alleged that we are being used by PN etc..."
Judge Lofaro says: "We are here for no political party!"
She reads out his post: "If this is not contempt then I don’t know what is."
Mizzi takes the stand
9.43am Mizzi, wearing a mask, takes his place at the stand and takes the oath: "I swear to tell the truth".
He is immediately challenged about his application to avoid testifying and his comments on the inquiry.
One of the three inquiry judges, Abigail Lofaro, reminds him to be aware of contempt of court.
"We believe that certain comments therein were contemptuous in our regard."
'I won't take part in theatrics'
9.39am Just before entering court, Mizzi posted on Facebook:
"This inquiry has gone beyond its original scope and it is clearly being used by Nationalists to drive their political agenda. While I have always collaborated with all investigations, I am definitely not going to answer questions from Nationalists Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia.
I have no obligation to allow political assassins to take advantage of this public inquiry. I am therefore not going to answer any question and have no intention of taking part in their theatrics."
Mizzi arrives - but says he won't speak
9.37am Konrad Mizzi has just arrived but he has already given an indication that he won't speak. In a Facebook post earlier, he said he would not answer questions.
A controversial witness
9.15am. We are waiting for the appearance of one of the most controversial witnesses in the public inquiry. As energy minister, Mizzi was responsible for the Electrogas power station deal that has since been mired in corruption allegations.
In 2016 Caruana Galizia revealed he and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri held secret companies in Panama. And later Times of Malta would reveal that they were due to receive money from a third offshore company, 17 Black, owned by Yorgen Fenech.
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