Melvin Theuma has described how he "prayed" that the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia would be "pinned" on former economy minister Chris Cardona.

The self-confessed middleman said that in the weeks leading up to his arrest on November 14, 2019, Johann Cremona had told him that former Labour deputy leader Cardona would be questioned about the murder.

"I fervently hoped that the murder would be pinned upon someone else, like Cardona," he told a court on Thursday, adding that he "prayed to God" about it.

That would have meant he would not have had to ask for a pardon to reveal what he knew about the 2017 car bomb, he explained.

In an emotional outburst, the state witness also told the court how the murder of the journalist had weighed heavily upon him.

"I used to think that my problem was money laundering," he said. "But now I realise that my true problem is her murder. Today I know what cross I carry on my shoulder."

He sad he feels "bad" when he sees "her parents on my computer, wearing their green woolen mufflers" during vigils to their daughter and anti-corruption protests.

Theuma's show of remorse came as he concluded his testimony against alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech. Cross-examination will take place at another date.

During the sitting, Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi read out WhatsApp messages between Fenech and Theuma on the days leading up to Theuma's arrest. 

Fenech wrote that he was unable to sleep with the "worry" but assured Theuma that "once this is over, we'll rest". Theuma told the court this meant that after the murder investigation, "we’d be clear."

Theuma also spoke of his anger at learning that self-confessed hitman Vince Muscat had been attempting to get a pardon. 

"How could Koħħu get the pardon? I never spoke to Koħħu, never, never! So I had a greater chance of the pardon because I had recordings that would pin the mastermind," he told the court.

The last of a series of secretly recorded conversations between Theuma and Fenech's business associate, Johann Cremona was also played out in court. 

In the conversation, which took place three - four weeks before Theuma's arrest, Cremona was able to give Theuma details of the upcoming raid and also put pressure on him to get rid of any recordings.  

"Their lives depend on you," Cremona told him.

Theuma said this was a reference to Fenech and the former prime minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

The witness told the court that Schembri, along with former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta, was feeding information to Fenech about the murder investigation.

However, he reiterated that he could not, under oath, confirm Schembri's involvement in the murder. 


LIVE BLOG


Court adjourns

2.10pm The court is adjourned until June 8 at 10am. Thank you for joining us. We'll have a brief summary of today's evidence above. 


Defence objects

2.07pm The defence objects to the fact Azzopardi was allowed to cross-examine Theuma. However, the magistrate says he was simply questioning him, not cross-examining. 


Theuma's testimony ends

2.05pm Theuma's testimony ends and he is allowed to leave. It appears that he will be cross examined on a later date. 


Information leak

2.10pm Theuma once got a message from Fenech telling him to “go to Maksar because the bomb was prepared in their garage at Zebbuġ.”

He says Fenech received the information from Silvio “the fat one” - a reference to former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta - and Keith “KK”, a reference to Keith Schembri.


Secret service

1.56pm Theuma is asked about something he said about the secret service listening in to his call.

"How did you know?", Azzopardi asks."Because Yorgen told me."


'I haven't slept for two days'

1.50pm Defence object to the WhatsApp messages being read out in court but Azzpoardi is allowed to continue.

He reads from the transcript:

Yorgen Fenech:“I’m doing all I can about the women.”  That was a reference to avoiding Theuma’s relatives being arrested.

The messages continue through the night

Fenech “I haven’t slept for two days.” and "It's the worry" 

Theuma says that Fenech was troubled about the murder. 


'We'll be clear'

1.43pm The messages continue.

In another message there’s reference to former police chief Lawrence Cutajar, nicknamed “ta' Ħal Luqa l-kbir” - the big one from Luqa.

Theuma messaged him to tell Schembri to talk to him so that “the women” (his relatives) are spared.

Fenech replied: "Take heart. Once this is over, we’ll rest.”

Theuma explained this meant that once the murder investigation was over, "we’d be clear."

Another message from Fenech: “I’ll always be behind you”  and “If only this had happened in 15 days time, so the paper would have been ready.” That was a reference to the paper regarding money laundering and “this”  referred to the police raid, Theuma explains.


WhatsApp messages with Fenech

1.39pm Azzopardi reads out some WhatsApp chats.

On November 12, 2019, around a week before Theuma's arrest, Fenech sent Theuma this message: "I’ll fight till,the end to get our way.”

Theuma replied: "I’m heart broken."

He explains to the courts that he was willing to face the consequences but wanted to spare his family, who were not involved.

He says his intention "from the start" was to confess. 

Fenech messaged back: “I’m tired too.”

The next day, on November 13, Fenech messeged him, warning him to "clear everything" and "not to leave anything"

Theuma explains that Fenech wanted him to clear away the recordings between them and also to remove the lotto bags.


Portomaso, level 21

1.33pm Jason Azzopardi, lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, takes over the questioning. He wants to establish a particular date.

He reads from a document on November 11. A message from Yorgen Fenech’s secretary. “There is Mr Theuma. Do I tell him to come up to (level) 21?”

Theuma says that Fenech would suggest meeting at level 3, the offices of his uncle, Ray Fenech. But Theuma always insisted on meeting at level 21 because it was quieter. 

They always spoke of the murder. 

He describes level 21: an office, a sofa, a large table. 

That was where he had gone the day after the murder and found Fenech in a meeting with Turab Musayev, Electrogas director. 


Last recording

1.31pm Arnaud tells Theuma that the recording played out was the last in his box of tapes found with him on his arrest.

"All I can say is that I recall the time line of how the events took place but I cannot recall all the details of particular events," he said. "Sometimes I recall some details but now I don’t recall all."


Schembri referenced

1.27pm He is asked about a phrase Cremona used, when he said "their life depends on you".

Theuma says this was a reference to Fenech and Schembri, he said.

Another reference Cremona made when he said 'The man is smart', also was a reference to Schembri, Theuma testfies. 

Keith Schembri, pictured in April. Photo: Matthew MirabelliKeith Schembri, pictured in April. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli


'That Times story'

1.23pm In the recordings, Theuma asks Cremona: "What if they charge both me and Yorgen with her murder?”

Arnaud asks him to explain that question. 

"It was because of that story on the Times. It was a Sunday. They mentioned a businessman and a person involved in betting."


Remorse

1.20pm Theuma returns to his earlier speech of remorse.

"Today when I’m taking medication as I should, I know that my only trouble is the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia," he says. "When I see her parents on my computer, wearing their green woollen mufflers, I feel bad."


'Keith Schembri can speak to anyone'

1.17pm Theuma says he told Fenech to speak to the commissioner but Fenech said he didn't know him. 

"I told Yorgen Fenech to get Keith Schembri to do it," he said. "Keith Schembri can speak to anyone."


Police chief 'did not receive money'

1.13pm Arnaud reads out from the transcript. Something about a judge who mentioned “loose speech”. The defence says that this part is missing in their transcript copy so the magistrate orders that that section is played again. 

Cremona asks Theuma in the recording if “he took money” - a reference to commissioner.

Cremona told him that the commissioner had received payment, but Theuma said no: “The commissioner did not receive any money.”

His last message from Cremona was that his arrest had been ordered by the commissioner. 


Murder would be pinned on Cardona

1.11pm Theuma says he wanted to get the message across to Fenech, via Cremona, that "I also had power". 

He says they would tell him that the murder would be "pinned on Cardona" or a lawyer, whose name is banned from publication by court order.


Tapped phone

1.07pm Cremona had told Theuma in the recordings that “it was a good step when you went to the commissioner", referring to former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

Arnaud asks what he meant.

Theuma says that one day, he called his daughter and told her that he was going to the commissioner to confess all, along with the recordings.

"My phone was tapped and that conversation was overheard," he said.

Melvin Theuma said that Cremona later told him that "had I not said that, they wouldn’t have got to me. There would have been none of this trouble".


'Of course I wouldn't'

1.05pm This conversation took place close to the MEP elections. Taxi driver Theuma was driving Fenech to the airport and asked about the murder: “Would you have done it had you known of the outcome?”

"Of course I wouldn’t, Mel!" Fenech replied.


David Casa election

1.01pm Theuma now turns to another episode - an attempt to unseat Nationalist Party MEP David Casa in the 2019 election.

Theuma says that the conversation with Fenech had turned to David Casa and how he had offered money to make sure he was not re-elected, because he was "getting at him".


Panama Papers

1.57pm Theuma says that Cremona once showed him that his betting company had ended up on Panama papers


'He ordered me to kill Daphne'

12.53pm Theuma says he told Cremona that if he were to land a tax penalty, Fenech was to pay. 

"It's all his fault because he ordered me to kill Daphne,"Theuma says.

He also wanted to make sure that his female relatives would not be involved in the raids. But they were targeted too, he says. "They took my son and daughter away to Appoġġ," referring to Aġenzija Appoġġ.

Fenech used to tell him that "if we stick together then they can kiss our...", Theuma testifies. 

"But he went away and left me alone!"


Recordings

12.48pm Theuma is explaining that Cremona wanted him to take care of the recordings. They were important for the police. 

Theuma stresses that he used to tell them that if police were to knock at his door, "I would tell them to take me to the depot to tell all". 


Sitting resumes

12.46pm We're back and Arnaud resumes his questioning. 


Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in a car bomb outside her home in October 2017. Photo: Pippa Zammit CutajarJournalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in a car bomb outside her home in October 2017. Photo: Pippa Zammit Cutajar


Sitting suspended

12.31pm A meek Theuma asks for a break. Magistrate Montebello allows him to go outside for a few minutes, briefly suspending the sitting. 

Everyone files out of the hall, except one of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters. 


'I know what weight I carry'

12.27pm Both the magistrate and Arnaud urge Theuma to calm down as he makes a passionate speech. 

He first speaks angrily about being told Koħħu was to get a pardon.

"How could Koħħu get the pardon? I never spoke to Koħħu, never, never! So I had a greater chance of the pardon because I had recordings that would pin the mastermind," he says. 

Then he turns to the murder. 

"I used to think that my problem was money laundering. But now I realize that my true problem is her murder. Today I know what cross I carry on my shoulder," he says, tapping his left shoulder.

"I remember what Jason Azzopardi and the three (inquiry_ judges, especially one of them, Lofaro, once told me. They asked, ‘didn’t you know that she was a mother?’ And those words stuck with me. Today when I consult doctors I know what weight I carry.”


'Prayed murder would be pinned on Cardona'

12.23pm Theuma says that he "fervently hoped that the murder would be pinned upon someone else, like Cardona," so that he would not need to go for a pardon. 

He tells the court he "prayed to God" about this. 

Labour's former deputy leader Chris Cardona has denied any part in the murder. He spoke to Times of Malta about this in an interview last year. 


'What a mess'

12.19pm Theuma said he told the court that if he were arrested he would speak to former PN leader Simon Busuttil and the attorney general "about everything".

He says that through Cremona he got to know that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri was talking to security detail Kenneth Camilleri. “I made an effort to meet Kenneth but he avoided me.”

There’s mention of ex-economy minister Chris Cardona next. “What a mess!” Theuma said when Cremona told him that Cardona was to be interrogated over the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.


Arrest details

12.14pm Theuma says Cremona had told him the raid was approaching but did not give him information about any location. He says Fenech had promised to sign a paper showing the money he owed and to whom. "To have something to show when the raid actually happened. It was to be signed before a notary," he explains. "But nothing came of it."

He says he knew he was to be arrested over money laundering but that it was "related to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder".

Cremona wanted him to destroy the recordings, he tells the court.

He continues angrily": "Cremona told me that Europol would come along with their equipment to track down everything. And they did come along. As if I would ever destroy those recordings!"


300,000 euro

12.10pm Arnaud refers to a part of the conversation that deals with a payment to self-confessed hitman Vince Muscat, also known as Koħħu.

Mario Degiorgio, a brother of the alleged Degiorgio brother killers, had told Theuma that Kohhu got “300” to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia. It was 300,000 euro.

“If Mario Degiorgio was lying then I’m lying too," Theuma says, adding that Degiorgio claimed the money was never handed over because Koħħu was arrested. 


Theuma explains

12.06pm Inspector Keith Arnaud questions Theuma about the tape.

Theuma tells the court he is "99% sure" it was 3-4 weeks before his arrest in November 2019. He says Fenech was abroad at the time - the last time he was abroad before his own arrest in the same month.

Cremona told Theuma that Europol were planning to seize Fenech’s mobile phone at Gatwick Airport. 


'He'll go abroad'

12.04pm The tape ends with a comment from Cremona.

"He'll go abroad...let me talk to you straight. Their lives depend on you. Let me be honest."


Some context

11.57am This tape is one of the longest recordings we've heard so far. We've been told it is about 45 minutes long. 

The pair appear to be talking about upcoming raids and Cremona seems to be advising Theuma to get rid of all the recordings he has. Questions to Theuma will clarify things later. 

They mention "money laundering" at one stage. Cremona says: "You have one problem, just one problem. You'll get a search."

He adds: "But then you feel good when you realise they are making fools of themselves, they have nothing. They have nothing. You have the recordings.”


'Just a search'

11.52am Much of the talking is by Cremona in this recording and it seems to be about Melvin Theuma's pending arrest. 

"This story must end, man!", Cremona says. 

"Nothing! Just a search", he adds later. 


'I don't lie to you'

11.47am The conversation continues in another recording.

Cremona: "He either didn't want to proceed because he was threatened or else he didn't want to do so because of money."

Cremona again: "I don't lie to you man! You've no idea how angry I am at him. But what should I do? Do I break him further?"

The conversation is suddenly disrupted by the tone of a mobile phone. 


Tape stops

11.46am The tape stops. The defence again complains about the audio. They have a transcript but say they can't follow it properly. A court technician is summoned. 


Yorgen FenechYorgen Fenech


'He couldn't care less about me'

11.36am Melvin is heard saying he sought advice from an accountant and there's mention of a penalty and jail. 

Cremona: "I warned them, even yesterday... I indicated two properties."

Theuma: "You're a man." He adds: "He couldn't care less about me and went away."

For context, this is possibly a reference to Yorgen Fenech, but we'll find out soon when Theuma is questioned. 

There's the sound of an engine and door slamming. Cremona says: "Keep strong. Kuraġġ (courage)!"


'Take care of the recordings'

11.32am The conversation continues: "Had you searched you would have found these things." and then "Take care of the recordings... it's final, final."

He adds: "You'll land 13 years and they'll take everything away from you."


The search

11.30am We hear Cremona again: "They're coming to search... They'll tell the foreigners that they're searching for everything."


'Clear names and all'

11.26am We hear Cremona on the recording, saying: "They want the search. This is all an excuse." It's met with some swear words by Theuma. Cremona then adds: "Cancel everything. Clear names and all."


Audio problems

11.23am There's a comment from the defence bench. They are complaining about the audio. It appears the recording is faulty. 


Johann Cremona conversation

11.20am Theuma tells the court the recording is a conversation between him and Johann Cremona, a business associate of Fenech. 


Recording played

11.19am The court is played a recording. Theuma will be questioned about it when it finishes playing out. 


Melvin Theuma takes the stand

11.17am Melvin Theuma, the self-confessed go-between in the murder, sits in front of the witness stand. 


Behave yourselves

11.13am The sitting begins with a warning from the magistrate: she will not tolerate any bad behaviour from the parties' lawyers. Last week defence lawyer Charles Mercieca was warned he could be held in contempt of court for interjecting during the witness testimony. 


Yorgen Fenech arrives

11.11am Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of masterminding the murder, has just been escorted into the dock


Who's who

11am Welcome to our live blog. While we're waiting for today's hearing to start, familiarise yourself with the cast of characters in this case.

Yorgen Fenech: a business tycoon and heir to a family fortune, and the man in the dock. Fenech is accused of complicity in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder;

Melvin Theuma: a taxi driver who worked for Fenech and who has testified that he served as a middleman between Fenech and the alleged hitmen;

Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio: the alleged hitmen;

Vince Muscat: a self-confessed hitman who says he worked with the Degiorgios to kill Caruana Galizia. Muscat is now serving a 15-year prison sentence. 

Jamie Vella and Robert Agius: the alleged bomb suppliers;

Keith Arnaud, Kurt Zahra: the lead police investigators and prosecutors;

Keith Schembri: a friend of Fenech's and the chief of staff to Joseph Muscat when he was prime minister;

Kenneth Camilleri: a staff member in the office of the prime minister;

Johann Cremona: One of Fenech's business associates;

Rachel Montebello: the presiding magistrate;

Gianluca Caruana Curran, Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca: Yorgen Fenech's legal team;

Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia: lawyers appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.

Philip Galea Farrugia, Anthony Vella: representing the attorney general's office.

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