Former government head of communications Kurt Farrugia testified on Friday at a public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Farrugia led the government's communications team from 2013, when the Labour Party rose to power, until July 2019, when he was appointed CEO of Malta Enterprise.
Farrugia said that:
• He did not know Yorgen Fenech and "had no idea" that Fenech and Keith Schembri were close.
• Schembri seemed surprised by the amount of detail journalists had about 17 Black and Yorgen Fenech and Farrugia believes that in hindsight, the answers he received from him “were not satisfactory”.
• Konrad Mizzi's first reaction Daphne Caruana Galizia's hints about his offshore dealings was that it was all "a bluff, hogwash".
• He never saw Electrogas investors Yorgen Fenech, Paul Apap Bologna or Mark Gasan at Labour Party headquarters.
• The Muscat government’s work had been tarnished by "certain things [that] seem to have been done for the personal gain of some. But I was not aware of that".
• He sensed that Muscat’s relationship with Mizzi and Schembri degenerated following the Panama Papers revelations and that from then on Muscat began "taking a more reserved stance" towards his chief of staff.
• It "could be" that Nexia BT had an office at Castille, but he did not see or know of it.
• He was with Joseph Muscat when they learnt of the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia and that he was the one who broke the news to Muscat that she was the victim.
• He did not attend cabinet meetings concerning the Caruana Galizia murder and only attended one OPM briefing about it, at Joseph Muscat’s request.
• The press was not invited to cover an infamous 2014 trip to Azerbaijan because it was deemed unnecessary and that in hindsight this was a mistake.
• His relationship with Daphne Caruana Galizia was courteous and he had no instructions to ignore her questions.
As it happened
Court session ends
12.49pm That’s all from Vella and from today’s court session.
The inquiry will resume next week on Wednesday, when minister Evarist Bartolo will testify. On Friday, MEP David Casa and a foreign reporter are due to appear.
Thank you for having joined us this morning. We will have a summary of the key claims made in today’s testimony available at the top of this article shortly.
Police PR 'vanished' from their website
12.47pm Vella cites a blog post by her sister dated March 7, 2017 concerning a press release by the police.
The PR (PR 115/17) was a rebuttal by the police to a story published by in-Nazzjon about Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi being charged.
It “has mysteriously been removed from the police’s website,” she notes.
'They portrayed her as the PN's blogger'
12.43pm Vella presents the inquiry with a file detailing episodes when her sister was allegedly harassed and targeted by people like Glenn Bedingfield and Neville Gafà.
“The point was to portray Daphne as the PN’s blogger,” Vella says, recalling how someone had once published a photo of her greeting [then PN leader] Simon Busuttil during the feast of St Paul in Valletta.
Farrugia will be recalled
12.37pm Vella tells the board that her sister often said that her questions to Kurt Farrugia would go unanswered.
Farrugia had once called her [Daphne Caruana Galizia] at 6.30am to tell her to remove something she had written on her blog, and then continued to chase her throughout the day.
Judge Abigail Lofaro says that Farrugia will be called back and asked to respond that, in the interest of fairness.
Corinne Vella presents recording
12.33pm Corinne Vella, one of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sisters, is next.
She is presenting a voice recording of her sister which she says is “very important”.
As she is doing so, Farrugia and his lawyer Pawlu Lia leave the room.
The recording is played but it is hard to make out what is being said.
Vella explains that is an interview with Daphne, held weeks before she was killed. In it, Daphne spoke about the threats she received and said she had been turned into a national scapegoat for 30 years.
'Perhaps the outcome could have been different'
12.30pm Farrugia is asked by judge Said Pullicino what he makes of the lack of information given to journalists by the government concerning certain deals, such as the Vitals Global Healthcare one.
“There may be mercenary interests not related to government,” Farrugia says.
“In hindsight, perhaps had we adopted a different approach and published certain documents, such as those related to Electrogas or the hospitals deal earlier, the outcome would have been different.”
And that’s the end of Farrugia’s testimony. He steps off the witness stand.
'I never saw Brian Tonna working at OPM'
12.27pm Farrugia is again asked whether Nexia BT had an office at Castille. Again, he replies that they did not “as far as I know”.
“I never saw [Nexia BT owner] Brian Tonna at Castille doing work for OPM,” Farrugia says.
12.23pm Azzopardi asks whether Farrugia [who is now Malta Enterprise CEO] is paid by the OPM and whether there has been talk of him returning there.
Farrugia’s lawyer, Pawlu Lia, objects to the questions. Farrugia insists he only receives one salary.
12.21pm Farrugia is now asked about Sandstone, a private intelligence firm which was allegedly hired by UK PR firm Chelgate to do work for the Maltese government, according to the EU Observer.
Farrugia replies that he knows nothing of it.
SLAPP and another interruption
12.18pm Azzopardi asks about SLAPP [Strategic lawsuit against public participation] action sought by Joseph Muscat.
Farrugia confirms that Muscat had told him that he had sought advice from a foreign law firm.
There’s more tension in the courtroom, with Lia objecting to questions from Azzopardi about who paid for that legal advice.
Lawyers argue in court
12.13pm There’s a bit of a kerfuffle in the courtroom now, as lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Pawlu Lia argue over the questions Azzopardi is asking the witness.
Lia, who is representing Farrugia, is arguing that Azzopardi is asking political questions which should not be allowed by the board.
The three judges restore order and Azzopardi is allowed to continue his questioning.
'Muscat began distancing himself from Schembri'
12.08pm Farrugia says Joseph Muscat’s relationship with Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri worsened after the Panama Papers revelations.
“How could it be otherwise, with reports about people you had to sit down with every day emerging. Those were very difficult times,” he recalls.
He is asked whether cabinet members had pushed for Mizzi and Schembri to resign, and says “yes”.
Farrugia says he sensed Muscat was distancing himself somewhat from Schembri, “taking a more reserved stance”.
He then defends himself.
“My discussions at all levels and decisions were always based on goodwill. It’s useless denying certain problems, but that does not mean that power station was not necessary”.
'I did not hear talk of resignations'
12.02pm Azzopardi asks for more detail about the meeting concerning the 17 Black revelations. Was there talk of resignations?
“If the prime minister asked Keith Schembri to resign, I did not hear it,” Farrugia replies.
He adds: “My position was known. People involved in such financial structures had no place in public office. I told the people concerned, point-blank”.
How Keith Schembri reacted to 17 Black revelations
11.58am Azzopardi asks Farrugia whether he ever confronted Keith Schembri about his offshore dealings.
“Yes, I did, to get direction for statements. It was generally just us two, and sometimes the prime minister was there too.”
“Was he upfront and honest?”
Farrugia says he would rather not comment, “in light of certain facts revealed by the media”.
Azzopardi again asks Farrugia whether he saw Yorgen Fenech at Castille.
“No, just on those two occasions [mentioned previously in Farrugia’s testimony].
“When did you find out that he was 17 Black’s owner?”
Farrugia says it was through Reuters or Times of Malta, as he had received questions about the matter from the two newsrooms in 2018. [Times of Malta and Reuters had revealed in November 2018 that Fenech was 17 Black’s owner].
Farrugia: “I sought answers, but now I think they were not satisfactory. Keith Schembri had said, I think, ‘yes it could be’. I think he was surprised by the amount of detail in the journalists’ questions.”
Farrugia is asked what Joseph Muscat had said.
“He referred me back to Keith,” Farrugia says.
No replies to Daphne's questions
11.54am Azzopardi now presents a blog post by Caruana Galizia, dated January 22, 2017, in which she says that Farrugia had failed to reply to her questions about offshore companies owned by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.
Farrugia says he does not recall the questions. “I deny having been instructed not to reply to Daphne Caruana Galizia,” he says.
A visit to Azerbaijan with no media present
11.47am Farrugia is asked about a 2014 trip he made to Azerbaijan with Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, which the media was not invited to.
Farrugia says that it’s because “any statements could be handled by me”.
He insists all meetings were official ones and says he had returned to Azerbaijan with Muscat in 2015 for a meeting concerning a think tank with the Azeri president.
The DOI and public broadcaster TVM were invited to that meeting “but had connection trouble and were stranded in France,” Farrugia says.
“Why was the media not invited? Don’t you find that strange,” Farrugia is asked by Azzopardi.
“We had discussed it but deemed it unnecessary. With hindsight we learnt from that mistake. The visit was so public that we were met with guard of honour, their website was constantly being updated. It was all above board. The hype around that visit was all hot air,” he says, adding "I don't think the power station was discussed".
Replying to Daphne's questions
11.42am Azzopardi asks Farrugia whether he stopped replying to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s messages after 2016.
“That’s not true. I sometimes replied, and sometimes did not”.
Azzopardi says Caruana Galizia’s sister, Corinne Vella, will be presenting a dossier concerning that later on. That prompts another interjection from Farrugia’s lawyer Pawlu Lia.
“He can’t be confronted with that. Present it beforehand”.
Azzopardi insists Farrugia stopped answering Caruana Galizia’s questions after the Panama Papers affair came to light.
Farrugia says that’s not true.
“You’re making allegations and beating around the bush. I haven’t come here
prepared with these details”.
He tells the board of inquiry he will present evidence of correspondence between the two.
A €1 million reward, silently offered
11.38am Azzopardi asks Farrugia about a €1 million reward the prime minister had offered right after Caruana Galizia was murdered, for information to help solve the case.
He asks Farrugia how many times the government had reminded the public about the reward.
“It was mentioned in the media,” Farrugia replies.
Azzopardi presses further.
“Could you please give us that evidence, because our search gave us no results. It was not mentioned in parliament either.”
Farrugia says he’d have to look into that.
'We never excluded journalists'
11.32am Farrugia is asked questions about journalists being invited – or excluded – from government press conferences.
He tells the inquiry that a daily events sheet [published by the DOI] is published online.
“We never stopped anyone from attending government conferences in seven years,” he says.
“Obviously we would check who it was, whom he worked for,” Farrugia adds.
[Meanwhile, Azzopardi says he has found the 1843 magazine article written by the journalist mentioned previously. Farrugia says that does not mean he worked for the Economist. "He could have sold the story to the magazine," he says].
11.24am Farrugia is asked about uproar that arose when debate arose over reforming media laws.
"There was talk about the government wanting to stifle media freedom," he recalls.
"I was a journalist myself and had a press tag. But nowadays anyone can set up a blog or Facebook page and say he is a journalist. If a person takes a picture and uploads it on Facebook, is he a journalist? Daphne Caruana Galizia had a way of doing that," he says.
Farrugia says the government "does not pick who it communicates with".
"When [The Shift News co-founder and former PN campaign manager] Caroline Muscat was at Times of Malta, I was in contact with her. It was a serious relationship. I once even went over personally."
A suspicious email from a journalist
11.21am Azzopardi asks about Muscat’s refusal to take interviews and asks Farrugia what instructions he received to refuse them.
“We would check the source of the request and decide accordingly,” Farrugia replies.
He is asked whether he would tell journalists not to ask about the Caruana Galizia murder.
“No,” he replies. “We once received an email from a journalist claiming to be with the Economist. But the email had been sent from a Gmail account. When I checked, his name could not be traced. I asked a person from the Economist and the reply I got was that this person did not feature on their books.”
Farrugia says that the journalist was called ‘Alexander’ and that since he was in Malta, he [Farrugia] had met him.
Azzopardi says that he will provide evidence concerning this evidence. Farrugia asks to see it, but Azzopardi demurs.
“The inquiry will see to that,” he says, adding that the evidence is currently not at hand.
Farrugia's lawyer Pawlu Lia tells Azzopardi he should have prepared himself "before bringing this up".
Farrugia tells the inquiry that the journalist in question had written some articles for 1843 magazine [published by the Economist] but that it seemed he was a freelancer.
“When I had checked at the time, a Google search had returned one article, and it was not published by the Economist,” he says, adding that the journalist had written to him using language that was "not worthy" of the publication.
Fourth floors and 'distorted letters'
11.16am Jason Azzopardi takes over questioning. His first question is about people who worked on the PL HQ’s fourth floor.
“There were many volunteers, too,” Farrugia quips.
“And you were the engine room,” Azzopardi replies.
He denies seeing [Electrogas directors] Yorgen Fenech, Mark Gasan or Peter Apap Bologna there, and reiterates that denial when pressed by judge Said Pullicino.
Azzopardi asks Farrugia about an accusation made by PEN International, that Farrugia had “distorted” an open letter it sent slamming Jason Micallef, who at the time led the Valletta 2018 Foundation. On whose orders had he distorted the letter, Azzopardi asks.
“That was their opinion, it was not correct,” Farrugia replies.
Security at Castille
11.11am Farrugia is asked about Castille security and says he cannot recall any internal set up to regulate it, save for one occasion when commissioner John Rizzo had placed a security detail with Joseph Muscat.
He says that he always dealt with journalists professionally, adding “obviously our work was sometimes more difficult, given the stories being published.”
'Daphne was often wrong'
11.08am Farrugia disagrees with an assertion, made by one of the judges, that Caruana Galizia’s blog was an open source of information.
“Her writings were not always correct and she attacked on a personal level. I also experienced the Egrant affair with the prime minister and knew all along that most of the time her information was not correct,” he says.
“Joseph Muscat would tell us ‘they cannot say anything about my wife from a financial aspect. He never thought his family would be attacked”.
Farrugia says that they had heard that the “Simon Busuttil faction” within the PN were preparing video clips about the Egrant claims.
“But I was absolutely convinced that what she was saying about Joseph Muscat and his family was false”.
Attending cabinet meetings
11.05am Farrugia tells the inquiry he did not attend cabinet meetings in which the murder was discussed.
Answering a question, he tells the inquiry that statements he drafted would be guided by the prime minister’s directions.
“I was only asked to attend [cabinet] when the government wanted me to publish information about a government project. The prime minister would ask me to attend to get information”.
Mizzi's ministerial demotion
11.02am Farrugia is asked about the government’s reaction to the Panama Papers revelations.
He says Konrad Mizzi was stripped of his energy portfolio as an attempt to “reduce the furore” that had erupted.
Power station talks
11am Farrugia is asked about negotiations concerning the power station project.
He says various people had come forward with proposals to cut electricity bills. Some people “who I did not personally meet” had put forward two practical ideas. One proposed generating energy from olive pits.
Farrugia is asked whether he met [Electrogas investors] Paul Apap Bologna or Yorgen Fenech. He says he did not.
'Konrad told me the Panama claims were all bluff'
10.56am Judge Mallia asks about offshore companies set up just days after the 2013 election.
Farrugia says he doesn’t recall the exact dates, but that when Daphne Caruana Galizia had first posted hints about Panama and New Zealand [where Schembri and Mizzi’s trusts were set up], he had grown suspicious.
“I realised Daphne wanted to get a message across. I had asked, but Konrad Mizzi told me that it was all bluff and hogwash,” Farrugia says.
Dodgy deals and good faith
10.53am Judge Said Pullicino wants Farrugia to speak more about what tarnished the government’s work, and specifies the power station deal as an example.
Farrugia defends his work on that deal.
“We worked long hours, into the night, to set up the power station to be able to cut electricity bills. We strived to get our message across to the public. Everything I did was done in good faith, out of loyalty to government principles,” he says.
“We don’t dispute that, but some others unravelled all your work,” the judge says.
Farrugia admits that’s true.
“Certain things seem to have been done for the personal gain of some. But I wasn’t aware of that”.
He is asked whether he’s referring to 17 Black or Enemalta’s Montenegro deal [which Times of Malta and Reuters revealed made millions for Fenech through his company 17 Black].
“I had gone to Montenegro,” Farrugia says, adding that he knew nothing of the 17 Black deal.
Labour's fourth floor and Muscat's modus operandi
10.47am Judge Said Pullicino asks about Labour Party meeting with the business community.
“Was that why the fourth floor [at PL HQ] came about?” he is asked.
“Not at all,” Farrugia replies. “It was a floor intended to help the party improve its work. In fact I had an office there to meet people”.
Farrugia says Muscat would also have meetings there, adding “every politician has professional relationships and friendships of his own.”
The PL wanted to have contacts within the business world, Farrugia says, adding that it was a key part of their political strategy.
“There were hundreds of meetings with organisations both in and out of business – not public figures – to gauge economic trends and then tailor our policies. That was Joseph Muscat’s approach,” he says.
“Unfortunately that work was tarnished by certain things but I’m very proud of our work on civil rights and the economy,” he says.
Interactions with foreign press and agencies
10.42am Farrugia is asked whether the name ‘Chelgate’ rings a bell.
“It’s a foreign company that offered some consulting services to the government,” he says.
“I spoke to them about the position the government would be taking, especially with respect to foreign media”.
Farrugia says he spoke with the company’s representative Robert Winstanley, who sometimes came to Malta.
Farrugia is asked whether he had any interaction with Austrian news outlet Republique. He says he had spoken to them in reaction to documents issued by the Caruana Galizia family.
“This news portal alleges that you handed over documents with missing paragraphs,” Mallia says.
Judge Lofaro says the outlet suspected the information withheld was about Pilatus Bank.
Farrugia pushes back against that suggestion.
“There was no information I held back,” he says. “The journalist would post and tweet about it. I would reply that I did not have the information”.
Murder briefing meeting
10.35am Farrugia is asked whether he was present for briefings concerning the Caruana Galizia murder.
He says he was called in once by the prime minister at a meeting concerning the operations to arrest the suspects. He says he cannot recall the full details but that the prime minister, Keith Schembri, AFM brigadier, Keith Arnaud and police commissioner were there.
Answering a question, Farrugia says he cannot recall [former deputy commissioner] Silvio Valletta being there.
At that meeting, the prime minister had instructed those present not to use the names of the suspects.
Mizzi and Schembri denied offshore claims
10.33am Farrugia is asked whether he asked Schembri and Mizzi for detailed explanations about their offshore companies.
“I did, and their reaction was ‘it’s not true’. They denied being involved in those companies,” he says.
Farrugia says statements issued would reflect the government’s position, not those of the two men.
“What about 17 Black?” he is asked.
“Again I had asked and they told me they had nothing to do with 17 Black”.
“And you stopped there,” judge Mallia says.
“I did not defend their position but that of government,” Farrugia insists.
'I had no idea Keith and Yorgen were close'
10.29am Farrugia tells the inquiry he had “no idea” that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech were so close.
“I knew that Keith Schembri had contacts with people from all social classes,” he says.
“But didn’t you know they had a quasi-fraternal relationship,” he is asked.
“No. I learnt that through the media”.
Farrugia says he saw Fenech at Castille at a public event concerning the Electrogas power station [which Fenech was a shareholder in] and again at a reception which he [Fenech] attended with his brother.
Judge Joseph Said Pullicino asks whether Fenech could have entered Castille without his knowledge.
“I can’t exclude that,” Farrugia replies. “I would go up and down between floors. But I didn’t see him”.
[In a previous sitting, Schembri's PA had testified that she had sometimes seen Fenech at Castille]
'That was Bedingfield's style'
10.25am Farrugia expounds on the Bedingfield blog.
“There were times when I showed Joseph Muscat certain pieces and he would block publication because he deemed the content too harsh or personal,” he says. He recalls one instance about a private court case concerning a member of a rival political party. Farrugia says he was ordered to block publication.
“Bedingfield was a journalist and argued that it was his style. He was at ONE News when I worked for the Labour Party. I didn’t agree with him when he attacked personally”.
On fuel smuggling and Glenn Bedingfield
10.22am Farrugia is now asked about links between the murder and fuel smuggling. When the media wrote stories linking alleged fuel smugglers to the murder, did Farrugia follow his sources?
“What sources?” Farrugia replies. “Journalists would contact us verbally and in writing seeking some form of official statement by government. I would reply that investigations were ongoing and that we would carry on until this murder was solved.”
Farrugia says he heard about the fuel smuggling links “even in foreign media”.
The inquiry asks whether he was involved in Glenn Bedingfield’s blog [written when Bedingfield was an OPM official].
“He had political aspirations,” Farrugia replies. “He had a political voice and had a right to voice it like anyone else.”
Did Farrugia talk to Bedingfield about his writing style, given that he was a person of trust at the OPM?
“Yes. We did speak with him and tell him he could have done without certain things he wrote.”
Was he ordered to tone things down?
“It wasn’t an order. It was more of a personal discussion, I would even advise other journalists not to attack people personally”.
On Konrad Mizzi
10.15am Farrugia is asked about Konrad Mizzi.
He tells the inquiry that Muscat had called him into his office before 2013 and told him that Mizzi, who was living abroad at the time, was to be a PL electoral candidate.
Mizzi would speak of the economy and energy prices “of his own will”.
“He would prepare himself before public debates. He firmly believed that utility bills should be reduced because that would benefit the economy”.
On Yorgen Fenech
10.12am Farrugia is asked whether he saw [businessman and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech] at the PL at the time.
“No, I didn’t even know him. I knew the company but his father, George, was more well known.”
He says his first idea of Fenech was as the man who led Tumas Group.
“I always saw Yorgen Fenech at public events, attended by the public”.
Judge Lofaro asks “like mass meetings?”
“No,” the witness replies. “I remember an unveiling event at Castille and he [Fenech] was among the guests”.
On Keith Schembri
10.11am Farrugia is asked about his relationship with Keith Schembri.
“I only knew him on a hello and bye basis before 2008,” he says. “After that, we would speak of politics. He was a man in business.”
“Did you know he was a friend of the prime minister?”
“Yes, I knew that from the start,” he says. “After 2008, 2010, he began getting involved in the Labour Party”.
Press briefing about murder
10.08am Farrugia is asked if he knew that Daphne Caruana Galizia was dead.
“Yes, I had been told that the person in the car was dead.”
He says the media was summoned to a press briefing, as many journalists were calling him to confirm the rumours.
Farrugia says that at that point, he left Muscat and Schembri to get on with his work.
The day Daphne was killed
10.05am Farrugia is now asked about the day Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered [in October 2017].
“We were at a Sliema company which had just set up business,” Farrugia recalls. He says the government was working “with a certain calm” that summer.
Daphne had eased off the government and had shifted her writing focus to events within the PN, he says.
As they were driving to Valletta, the prime minister [Joseph Muscat] received a message about a bomb in Mosta, Farrugia says.
“His first reaction was that that was the route his wife took when collecting the children from school. Then his thought went to his father,” Farrugia says, echoing what Muscat told the press last month.
Farrugia says Muscat asked him to call the AFM brigadier, but he got no confirmation.
He then called the police commissioner [Lawrence Cutajar], who told him that it was suspected that Daphne Caruana Galizia was the victim.
“I broke the news to the prime minister,” Farrugia says. “Just then, Keith Schembri entered the room with the same news. There was shock all round”.
Muscat had immediately called the opposition leader [Adrian Delia] and started preparing a statement, writing the speech himself.
On Nexia BT at Castille
10am Farrugia is asked whether Nexia BT's Brian Tonna or Karl Cini had offices at Castille.
“I saw Tonna but not Karl Cini,” he says somewhat evasively.
The board asks Farrugia whether he spoke to Nexia BT. He says he did not.
“I felt I didn’t need to speak to people who did not fall within government structures. I did not ask third parties for the government’s position”.
They press him about talk that Nexia BT had an office at Castille.
Farrugia says it “could be” that “in the early days” they were there, as they did audit work for the government.
“But I don’t recall them having a specific office at Castille. My office was on the first floor, though. I never had an office on the second floor”.
On the Panama Papers
9.54am Judge Michael Mallia asks Farrugia whether all this was between 2008 and 2016.
“What was your reaction to the Panama Papers?”
“I obviously checked what she had written, then sought the way forward”.
“Did you speak to her?”
“Did she ask you about Keith Schembri and the Panama Papers?”
“Offhand, I don’t recall.”
Farrugia goes into more detail about the government’s initial reaction to the Panama Papers revelations.
“I asked Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and then drafted a reaction. I honestly don’t remember the statement that went out through the Department of Information but their first reaction was ‘it’s not true’. I wrote that statement after consulting them and was assisted by Matthew Carbone [who succeeded Farrugia as head of government communications].
Daphne's writing style
9.51am Farrugia is now speaking about Daphne’s writing tone.
“She called me all sorts of things. Short, fat, stupid, ignorant, anything. That was her style. Her writing was gossip, intended to hurt. She also targeted politicians’ children. But we took her in our stride. We discussed it and chose not to react. We said ‘let’s keep calm’.
“Then her style changed over the years. There was a shift, it became more aggressive, especially after the Panama Papers”.
Jeers at University debate
9.48am Farrugia recalls a somewhat heated incident at university, during a debate being held there [in 2008].
At the time, university students had booed and jeered [then Labour leader] Alfred Sant. Daphne was in the crowd, Farrugia says.
“I had written about the atmosphere at the debate and mentioned her. A ONE TV cameraman had filmed her and there was even a minor incident with her son Paul,” he says.
“But other than that, my interactions with her were always as chief communications and journalist, doing our jobs”.
Farrugia on his relationship with Caruana Galizia
9.44am Farrugia is asked about Daphne Caruana Galizia and her blog.
He says that she started blogging before 2013 and was always critical of the Labour Party and journalists working for the party.
Farrugia recalls how she was very harsh on the party during the previous general election, in 2008. He says he was editor of [now defunct Labour portal] Maltastar.com at the time.
“I did not have many interactions with Daphne Caruana Galizia, but the work-related ones I had were courteous,” he tells the inquiry.
Growing staff numbers
9.42am Farrugia tells the inquiry that he served as the Labour Party’s director of communications between 2008 and 2013 and after that as the head of government communications. He was employed in that role as a person of trust, with his contract renewed on a yearly basis.
He is asked whether he took decisions alone.
“I obviously took decisions but I answered to a structure,” he replies, explaining how he had staff who handled logistics, marketing and so on.
He initially had three staff members, but that number grew over time.
Inquiry session begins
9.38am Farrugia takes the oath as he prepares to testify. Lawyers Charlon Gouder and Pawlu Lia are assisting him.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is here on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family.
9.35am Farrugia was originally due to appear before the inquiry in March, but his testimony was put off as he was overseas at the time.
Many of his colleagues during his time at the Office of the Prime Minister - from Joseph Muscat's PA Ray Barbara to mystery official Neville Gafa' - have already given their testimony to the inquiry.
The courtroom is relatively empty - journalists, lawyers and one of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters are present.
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