The man who says he served as a middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia on Wednesday appeared before a public inquiry into the crime.
Melvin Theuma testified before the three-person board of inquiry, which has been tasked with looking into whether the State did enough to prevent the assassination and whether it caused an immediate risk to Caruana Galizia's life.
Theuma said that:
- Yorgen Fenech was fed information by both Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta, though he trusted Schembri more.
- Fenech was irked by MEP David Casa's interest in 17 Black, and had offered the PN money to ensure Casa was not reelected. [In a statement, Casa said that the allegation was not new but that attempts to silence him had "clearly failed"].
- Fenech had told him that it was Keith Schembri who sent Kenneth Camilleri to his (Theuma's) house, to discuss bail for the Degiorgios.
- Fenech's business associate Johann Cremona was well aware of the murder plot and had told him to pin it on Chris Cardona.
- Theuma, Fenech and Cremona met three times to discuss the murder.
- Mario Degiorgio, a brother of Alfred and George's, had told him that lawyer David Gatt had threatened to kill the Degiorgios if they were to "expose" Cardona.
- He could not recall any other politicians being mentioned in his conversations about the murder.
- He relayed information given to him by Fenech about the murder investigation and upcoming raids to the Degiorgios.
As it happened
Live blog ends
11.47am This live blog will end here. Thank you for having joined us. A summary of the key points from Theuma's testimony will be available at the top of this page shortly.
Azzopardi makes a private request
11.45am Lawyer Jason Azzopardi has a request to make, but he would like to ask it in private. Journalists and others inside the courtroom are asked to leave and the morning's events draw to a close.
Lawyers plan future sessions
11.37am On Friday, acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri is scheduled to continue his testimony before the board of inquiry, which will also hear from a technical witness.
Proceedings will then resume on Wednesday, June 24 at 9.30am. Inspector Kurt Zahra and a "Dr Grech" - possibly attorney general Peter Grech - will testify during that session.
Theuma ends his testimony
11.35am Theuma is still looking emotionally fragile, and the judges ask him how he is feeling.
"I confessed and received the Holy Eucharist last Monday when I visited a monsignor at the Rabat seminary," he says. "I can't just settle".
He shakes his head as tears stream down his face.
Theuma is told he can step off the witness stand. The judges tell him that he will be summoned back should they need him again.
'He used to say Daphne only has 4,000 followers'
11.34am Azzopardi asks Theuma why he and Fenech were bothered by civil society protests.
"I was scared because of them," Theuma says, recalling how Fenech would downplay Daphne Caruana Galizia's following.
"He would tell me that Daphne only had 4,000 followers," he says.
'He does whatever I tell him to'
11.29am Theuma drives home his point about being under Fenech's control.
"He once told my partner 'he does whatever I tell him to'," he tells the inquiry.
Judge Lofaro: "But was there no limit?"
Theuma, in tears: "It's only now that I realise it".
Emotions run high
11.26am Azzopardi shifts his line of questioning. What about Theuma's conscience? How did he feel about having murdered a woman and a mother?
[In an earlier sitting, a similar question had moved Theuma to tears]
Theuma says he "had to obey Yorgen Fenech".
Was Fenech, a wealthy and powerful man, just a friend to Theuma?
Theuma: "He let me have the taxi and took me abroad. I used to tell him 'yes' to everything. Now I know what that costs. I felt overpowered. I even paid money out of my own pocket and bought the Degiorgios a dog worth €5,000.
"At 3pm on October 16, 2017 my life ended," he says.
Theuma bursts into tears.
"Daphne Caruana Galizia lost her life," Azzopardi says.
"And I as much as her," Theuma says.
Theuma's refusal to guard Schembri's house
11.23am Azzopardi asks Theuma to say what Fenech had asked of him on election day of 2017.
Theuma: "Yorgen called me and asked me to guard Schembri's house 'because he doesn't trust anyone'. But I refused because I was going to Gozo with my family".
Azzopardi asks Theuma whether he told police that he used to rent a flat in Mosta to the Degiorgios.
Theuma says he's "100%" sure he did.
Information about potato shed raids
11.20am Lawyer Jason Azzopardi takes over questioning.
He wants to know why Fenech had sent that message about a PL win.
Theuma says it's because Schembri leaked information to Fenech.
Azzopardi: "Did il-Fulu ever tell you about leaks concerning upcoming raids on the Marsa potato sheds?"
Theuma: "No, I gave him that information from Fenech".
11.18am Comodini Cachia asks whether Fenech knew in advance of the 2017 election date or had ever discussed why the election was happening early.
Theuma says Fenech never mentioned it and that he (Theuma) got to know of the date from the news.
Board of inquiry: "But you knew that if Labour were to win, you would be safe".
Theuma says Fenech once sent a message about a Malta Today survey, predicting an 80,000 vote win for PL.
Fenech's trips to Dubai and Azerbaijan
11.15am Fenech had been travelling frequently using a private jet, Theuma says. He knew because of the spot he'd drop him off at at the airport.
Fenech would sometimes mention Bangladesh and often went to Dubai, Azerbaijan, Rome and France.
Meeting Fenech and Cremona
11.12am Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia wants to know more about those meetings between Theuma, Fenech and Cremona. What did they discuss?
Theuma says they met twice at Fenech's farmhouse and once at Portomaso. The meetings were intended to calm him down, and that they discussed the murder, including pinning it on Cardona.
The whole truth
11.10am Theuma pitches his integrity to the inquiry.
"I'm saying exactly what I was told, and I'll stick to my version till death. If I lie, I'll not only lose my pardon, I'll ask the president to order me to be hung.
"The truth is that I never got a single cent from anyone else for the murder. It was just Yorgen Fenech who gave me money".
'Blaming' or 'exposing' Cardona?
11.08am Theuma says that people out and about would link Cardona and Schembri to the murder, and that he had linked Schembri to the murder "especially since that bail promise" (during his meeting with Kenneth Camilleri).
"But ever since I testified in the murder inquiry, I've learnt that I should only testify about what know first-hand, not what others told me," he says.
Theuma says that Fenech had once told him that prison guards had recorded the Degiorgios saying that they would pin the blame on Cardona.
"Mario Degiorgio (another Degiorgio brother) also told me once that David Gatt had threatened to kill the Degiorgios if they were to expose (jikxfu) Cardona," Theuma says.
The judges call Theuma up on his choice of words.
"Expose, or blame?" they want to know.
"Mario Degiorgio told me 'expose'," Theuma says.
Who else was mentioned?
11.03am Theuma is asked whether Konrad Mizzi or anyone else from the Panama Papers affair was ever mentioned. He says he does not think so.
"I never spoke to Cardona or anyone close to him. I only got money from Yorgen. Those €150,000," Theuma says.
The judges press him: but was anyone else ever mentioned?
"Under oath, I only received money from Yorgen Fenech to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia and we promised the hitmen that we would continue to support them. In fact, Yorgen Fenech continued to pass on money to them," Theuma says.
Inquiry: "Did you have the phone number of any other minister or politician, or Keith Schembri's?"
'Johann told me to name Chris Cardona'
11am Theuma is asked whether he ever saw (former minister) Chris Cardona at the Marsa potato sheds.
He says he did not, and adds: "Johann once told me to say that I received money from Cardona. And I went along with it, because Cardona's name was all over the news, also because of the Acapulco affairs. It suited me just fine to have another person named in the murder".
'You're the mastermind'
10.58am Theuma now recounts the time that Kenneth Camilleri had shown him three phone numbers, one of them being Theuma's old one.
Kenneth told him “You’re in trouble. You’re the mastermind of murder”, Theuma recalls.
Theuma says he denied that and told Camilleri that Fenech was the true mastermind.
'Of course Johann Cremona knew'
10.56am Theuma is now speaking about Yorgen Fenech and Johann Cremona.
"They would tell me all sorts of things," he says. "They prominsed to give me list of places to be raided for the money laundering investigation, the dates, they mentioned (superintendent) Ray Aquilina..."
The inquiry asks whether Cremona was in on it too.
"Of course he knew," Theuma replies.
"Let me say something that I’ve never let out so far. We had three meetings, once at Portomaso and twice at Zebbug," he says.
Those meetings were about the murder and Theuma says both Cremona and Fenech tried to calm him down and reassure him that he would not be arrested.
"I never spoke to anyone else except Edgar Brincat," Theuma says.
24/7 police surveillance
10.53am Fenech never tried to contact him since the arrest, Theuma says.
"I'm under police surveillance 24/7," Theuma says as he points to the officers in the room.
When it came to police, Theuma says he always spoke to inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, and not Silvio Valletta.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia notes that Valletta had already left the police by the time Theuma was arrested.
Was Joseph Muscat ever mentioned?
10.50am Theuma recalls his fear growing as he learnt that Vince Muscat was speaking to police and says he began recording after discovering that.
The judges ask Theuma whether he knows if Fenech told Schembri that he was the mastermind before or after the hitmen were arrested.
Theuma cannot remember, "but it's all recorded".
They ask whether Joseph Muscat was ever mentioned.
Theuma says he had mentioned him once to Fenech, telling him that he should go speak to the prime minister.
"But Yorgen had replied 'that would be the worse thing possible'."
As Theuma's fears grew, he began distrusting Fenech too.
"I refused to go abroad with him. I was afraid he might push me under a car to get rid of me".
'Yorgen told me Keith sent Kenneth'
10.45am Theuma is now speaking about the visit paid to him by Kenneth Camilleri and Johann Cremona, ostensibly about bail for the Degiorgio brothers.
"I was convinced Kennth was sent by Keith Schembri," he says.
"He promised bail on the 22nd and a million each".
Theuma says Fenech later confirmed that Kenneth had been sent by Keith Schembri, "and that is why I always put Keith Schembri in the same basked as Yorgen when it came to the murder".
Theuma: "Yorgen told me that Keith Schembri had gone cold when he told him about the murder"
10.39am Theuma is asked about the phantom job he was given following his Castille meeting with Schembri.
He says that to this day, he does not know what the job entailed.
"I never reported for work," he says.
Theuma recalls Fenech telling him, of the Electrogas deal: I did everything with precision for the powerstation. This (the murder) is the last thing I need, I'm feeling trapped between four walls". (Għamilt kollox ezatt tal-powerstation. Issa din jonqosni, għax qed inħosssni maqbud bejn erba ħitan)
Theuma says he panicked after reading a Times of Malta article linking the murder to a businessman and gambler, but Fenech had told him to ignore it.
10.36am Theuma says that after Caruana Galizia was murdered, Fenech had told him that he knew the message used to detonate the bomb.
Theuma relayed that information to the Degiorgios.
Fenech also told him that trouble was brewing, because he was getting information from Schembri and Valletta.
Judge Mallia notes that would mean that Valletta was leaking information even at that stage.
Theuma reiterates: "But Yorgen Fenech felt more comfortable with Keith Schembri than Silvio Valletta".
Theuma is asked if he knew of any property deals Schembri and Fenech had together. He says he does not.
10.33am Theuma recalls Fenech telling him that Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta leaked information to him.
"But he trusted Keith Schembri more than Silvio Valletta. In fact Yorgen once told me that he would not tell Valletta the whole truth unless stricly necessary".
Theuma says he did not know whether Valletta knew of the murder.
Fenech's betting and dislike of David Casa
10.31am Theuma tells the inquiry he became an obsessive news reader "since October 2017" [when Caruana Galizia was murdered].
"Before that, I never reader Daphne's blog".
He says he did not know whether she was writing about Yorgen Fenech's uncle, and he never asked Fenech about it either.
He recalls Fenech mentions [MEP] David Casa and saying the MEP was hounding him over [secret Dubai company] 17 Black.
"He once told me that he had offered the PN money to ensure Casa was not reelected," Theuma says.
Theuma says it was clear there was "something bad" with 17 Black, but that he never asked Fenech about it despite it being on the news.
The two men did not really discuss politics, Theuma says.
"We mainly spoke about betting".
Fenech had placed a €150,000 bet on the general election result and won another €150,000 from that bet, Theuma says.
10.26am Theuma is asked about [former deputy commissioner] Silvio Valletta. He recalls seeing Valletta at Fenech's Zebbug home once and recognising him "from the news".
Fenech later told him that Valletta had described Theuma as a "familiar face", which Theuma says troubled him.
He is asked whether he had any cases in court. Theuma says he had two: one before judge Lofaro about money lending, and another concerning "trouble with my partner's husband".
10.23am Theuma is asked about a party held at Girgenti Palace [to celebrate Joseph Muscat's birthday].
He says that he had not driven Fenech there, as had been reported.
"But he told me that he had been to Joseph Muscat's party on our way to the airport in his Rolls Royce," Theuma says.
Theuma adds that he never drove Fenech to Labour HQ.
Castille and Keith Schembri
10.20am Theuma is asked about his visits to Castille. He says he often drove Fenech there prior to the murder, but not after that.
He says he does not know why Fenech went there.
Theuma himself went to Castille for his infamous encouter with Keith Schembri, "and another time I went to talk to Charlene Farrugia about a field wall problem".
[Farrugia was an assistant of Schembri's.]
Theuma says Schembri often called Fenech, before the murder. Theuma noticed that when he [Theuma] would be abroad with Fenech.
"Yorgen would tell me that they were friends. Once Keith Schembri was cooking rabbit and sent a photo of the dish to Yorgen, who showed it to me," he says.
Murder back on
10.16am A few days later, Theuma says he took around betting wins to Fenech, who made no mention of the murder.
"Then soon after, he called me to give him a lift to the airport. He pulled out a large envelope from the boot containing [unintelligible] cash," Theuma says.
From that point on, Fenech would "bombard" him with calls urging him to get the Degiorgios onto it.
He'd tell him "get it done, get it done", Theuma says [eħles, eħles].
Calling off the hit
10.13am Theuma says he reported back to Fenech, who OK'd the arrangement. But then when the [2017 general] election was announced, Theuma says Fenech called off the hit.
Fenech called him again on election night as the Labour Party was celebrating victory, Theuma says.
"He told me to go ahead with the murder. But he sounded tipsy and I did nothing," he says.
Meeting Alfred Degiorgio
10.09am Theuma returns to his original train of thought: he called Alfred Degiorgio and arranged to meet him at a potato shed in Marsa which they operated from.
When they met, Theuma says he told Degiorgio that somebody wanted Daphne Caruana Galizia killed, but that "I never revealed Yorgen Fenech's name" .
The two men met two days later at Busy Bee [cafe in Msida]. There, they discussed payment terms: €150,000, with €30,000 paid upfront as a deposit that would be forfeited if the murder was called off.
Why would he kill her?
10.05am The judges appear to be somewhat perplexed by Theuma's rationalisation. Wasn't he shocked when Fenech asked him to kill someone?
"A normal man in the street would be shocked at that sort of request," they tell him.
Lofaro asks: "Did you know Daphne? She was a mother. And just like that, we'll kill her?"
Theuma reiterates: "I obeyed him. I didn't realise what a mess this would get me in".
The board presses him for more information - didn't Theuma want to know why Fenech wanted her killed? Had Fenech mentioned her to him before?
Theuma says he had not.
"Perhaps he knew I was a friend with the Degiorgios. I felt that was why he asked me".
A meeting outside the Blue Elephant
10am Theuma recalls how Fenech had called him and asked to meet by the Blue Elephant restaurant. There, he told him that he wanted Caruana Galizia killed because she was going to publish something about his [Fenech's] uncle.
Theuma confirms that he knows George Degiorgio, known as ic-Ciniz.
He also tells the inquiry he knew George's brother, Alfred, "because I once rented a flat to them in Mosta".
Theuma says he made contact with Alfred.
'He's the worst man in the world'
9.57am The judge asks Theuma whether he considers Fenech to be a friend.
"Yes, before. Not now. He's the worst man in Malta - in the whole world - because he got me into this mess".
Mallia points out that Theuma landed himself in trouble.
"He got me to do it and I obeyed him," Theuma replies [Hu qabbadni u jien obdejtu].
Mallia asks whether Fenech threatened him. The witness says he wasn't.
Judge Abigail Lofaro interjects: "Well then, you did it because you wanted to. You could have said no".
Theuma acknowledges that, but says he was under pressure. "We were so close".
Melvin and Yorgen
9.54am Judge Mallia begins the questioning. He wants to know about Theuma's relationship with Yorgen Fenech [Fenech is a business tycoon who Theuma says paid for Caruana Galizia to be killed].
Theuma explains that he ran a taxi from Fenech's Portomaso development, but that the two also knew each other from betting circles.
"I even drove him after his father's funeral," he says.
Theuma takes the oath
9.50am Melvin Theuma steps up to the witness stand and takes the oath. He's wearing a grey striped suit and a white shirt.
His lawyer, Kathleen Grima, notes that other courts have ordered a ban on the names and locations of Theuma's relatives, to protect him and them.
The judges remind Theuma that he will lose his presidential pardon if he doesn't tell the whole truth.
Theuma nods, and says he understands.
Court doors open
9.35am The doors to hall 20 in the Valletta law courts have been opened. The start of the session inches closer.
Meanwhile, several other protagonists have made an appearance: from lawyers at the attorney general's office to Therese Comodini Cachia, who is also representing the Caruana Galizia family.
The inquiry's terms of reference
9.25am As we wait for the hearing to begin, refresh your memory and learn just what the board of inquiry has been asked to investigate.
9.20am Theuma is outside the courtroom, accompanied by two armed guards. One of the three judges who make up the three-person inquiry, Michael Mallia, has also arrived.
We've also spotted lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family.
Meanwhile, court officials are patrolling the law court corridors, making sure everyone is wearing a mask - and doing so correctly.
What happened last time?
9.17am The inquiry last convened on Monday, when acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri testified.
Magri told the inquiry that he did not know whether investigators had seized Silvio Valletta’s mobile phone following claims that the former deputy commissioner had leaked details about the murder.
Due to its timing, Magri’s testimony flew somewhat under the radar, because a marathon session in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech was happening at the same time.
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