Minister Michael Farrugia testified in the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry on Wednesday.
Farrugia was Home Affairs Minister between June 2017 and January 2020 and served in that role when Caruana Galizia was assassinated as well as when the alleged hitmen and murder mastermind were arrested.
He is currently Minister for Energy and Water Management.
As it happened
Live blog ends
1.40pm Thank you for having joined us today. We will have a recap of the day's inquiry session available at the top of this article shortly.
Farrugia to continue testifying behind closed doors
1.38pm Farrugia will now continue his testimony behind closed doors – members of the press have been asked to leave the courtroom.
That’s all from us for today.
The inquiry continues on Friday, when the finance ministry’s permanent secretary, Alfred Camilleri, will continue testifying. Camilleri first appeared before the inquiry last week.
Fenech's big plans for Bangladesh
1.35pm Azzopardi has one final question for Farrugia: Since he became energy minister, had he been informed that in March 2017 Yorgen Fenech was trying to replicate the Electrogas project in Bangladesh?
Farrugia says he knows nothing of that.
1.33pm Jason Azzopardi returns to Farrugia’s 2014 order to amend the PA’s high-rise policy.
He says that the Environment Act reference to a “minister” meant Leo Brincat (who was environment minister at the time) should have been the one to issue that order.
Farrugia: Legal notices were signed by the environment minster, myself and the prime minister. But I was politically responsible as parliamentary sectrary for planning. The law was subsequently changed to simplify matters.
He adds: “At no time did I discuss Mriehel with Mr Fenech, and anyone saying otherwise is lying”.
'I didn't know of phantom job'
1.30pm Farrugia is asked about Melvin Theuma and his phantom job.
Housing and construction embellishment formed part of his portfolio as minister at the time.
Farrugia confirms that Anthony Muscat chaired that department.
Muscat had emailed Theuma from his private Gmail account, inviting him for an interview, Azzopardi notes. Why had he used a private email account? Was there a public call for the job?
Farrugia distances himself from the matter.
“The request was put to JobsPlus. I was never informed that so and so would be given a job.”
[Muscat has told police that he offered Theuma a job on Keith Schembri's instructions]
Report on Italian TV
1.25pm Farrugia is quizzed about a news report on Italian TV in October 2018 in which he was quoted as saying that police were close to arresting the culprits.
That came just after Times of Malta and Reuters had revealed that 17 Black was owned by Yorgen Fenech.
Were the two related?
“No,” the minister says.
Speaking with Muscat following murder
1.23pm Jason Azzopardi asks Farrugia whether the prime minister spoke to him on the day Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed.
Farrugia says he did, after his press conference about the bombing.
“I think he knew that I was already informed”.
Big business ties
1.20pm Judge Said Pullicino wants to know about government ties to big business.
Farrugia says that politicians being in contact with entrepreneurs is not the main issue: it’s the need for individual politicians to rise above corruption.
Said Pullicino: That’s all well and good, but there’s lobbying at every level.
'I didn't know Yorgen Fenech'
1.15pm Farrugia says he did not know Yorgen Fenech before he met with him as junior minister for planning, on Fenech's request.
The land reclamation project Fenech raised during that meeting did not go further, he says.
At the time, the government had already expressed an interest in land reclamation. He says it was a contentious issue and the government was keen to test the public on it.
Other entrepreneurs were also interested in land reclamation and had approached him to discuss it, Farrugia recalls.
1.12pm Farrugia, who is now Energy Minister, is asked about the Montenegro wind farm deal.
[Times of Malta has revealed how Fenech’s company 17 Black made millions off an Enemalta deal in Montenegro]
He says he first learned about it when the story was published.
“I got to know like you, through the media. I’m willing to hand over all documents which are public or tabled in parliament, without any redactions,” he says.
Comodini Cachia reminds him that he had said that “only 5 per cent” of all the information had been brought to light.
Farrugia: I asked for a report into it. I trust that the Montenegrin police are also doing their job.
'Fake news' tweet
1.10pm Comodini Cachia refers to a tweet the minister published back in 2017 in which he dismissed “fake news from the usual bloggers”.
Farrugia says Daphne Caruana Galizia would often write untrue about him.
“I couldn’t go out to eat because photos would end up on her blog. My security was also at risk,” he says.
He says the tweet reflected his initial reaction to the Panama revelations.
“Later I realised that the story was based on some substantial details”.
Farrugia's defence of Johann Buttigieg
1.07pm Farrugia tells the inquiry that Johann Buttigieg [who was CEO of the Planning Authority and now leads the Malta Tourism Authority] was selected for that role following a call for applications.
Buttigieg was “practical and gave sound advice,” Farrugia says.
Comodini Cachia asks about the committee evaluating the PA’s high-rise policy.
Farrugia says he does not know who its members were.
Farrugia's meeting with Muscat
1.02pm Earlier, Farrugia said that Joseph Muscat had met with his ministers one-by-one to hear their views on the Panama Papers affair.
Comodini Cachia wants to know what happened during Farrugia’s meeting with Muscat.
He says that he told him that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri should “shoulder political responsibility.”
Farrugia then defends the course of action.
Mizzi was stripped of his ministerial portfolio for his “naïve” decision, he says.
“That was right”. [Despite being stripped of his title, Mizzi has retained responsibility for energy projects].
Farrugia adds that Mizzi was removed as Labour deputy leader, but the inquiry notes that was an internal party demotion.
And what responsibility did Keith Schembri bear, the inquiry is curious to know.
“He left his business interests to serve”.
Judge Lofaro: “So he bore no responsibility”.
2017 election date
12.57pm Farrugia says he got to know of the 2017 general election date on the day Muscat announced it, May 1.
He tells the inquiry he did not request the Home Affairs portfolio. “That’s the prime minister’s prerogative,” he says.
Farrugia says he knows [Schembri confidante and former OPM official] Neville Gafa’ “from my district”.
Melvin Theuma's phantom job
12.54pm Farrugia is asked about his relationship with Schembri during his time as a junior minister at OPM.
“There were just casual encounters in the corridors. I spoke to him to facilitate certain projects or push them through”.
He is asked about murder middleman Melvin Theuma’s phantom job at Jobs Plus.
“I don’t know Melvin Theuma and never received a recommendation to employ him.”
Farrugia confirms that he had made enquiries about Theuma’s job.
“I confirmed that he had been employed by Jobs Plus. I tried to keep my distance as much as possible.”
Cafe Premier scandal
12.50pm Farrugia tells the inquiry he was not involved in the Cafe Premier and Gaffarena cases.
But he immediately defends the Cafe Premier decision, saying it was dangerous to have a kitchen with gas cylinders under the National Library.
“It was a matter of national importance,” he says.
Comodini Cachia: “So you knew and approved”.
Farrugia: “It made sense and we had a duty to remove the kitchen. A request was made and a decision was taken by someone else”.
When did he get to know of it?
“At the end. But I agreed with it”.
discussed Mrieħel decision within OPM
12.47pm Farrugia is asked about his time as junior minister responsible for planning.
He was under the prime minister’s wing in that role, with an office “right under the prime minister’s,” he says.
He says the prime minister’s signature was needed for issues related to the Lands Department. Other structures were involved in the planning side.
Farrugia says he had discussed the Mrieħel high-rise issue with “various strata” at the Office of the Prime Minister.
No details on Vitals deal
12.41pm Comodini Cachia asks about the Vitals hospitals deal.
Farrugia says he was not involved and refers the inquiry to an NAO report into it.
He says he cannot recall if cabinet discussed the deal before it went public.
Judge Said Pullicino: “Cabinet not vetting transparency and accountability is yeast for corruption”.
Farrugia: “Nobody should expect cabinet to vet a lengthy contract and all its details. That’s for the relative minister, the permanent secretary and all related structures to do”.
No concession details at cabinet level
12.35pm Comodini Cachia asks if Farrugia was given any details about particular government concessions, such as the hospitals privatisation deal.
Farrugia: “No. Cabinet approved ideas in concept and principle, but contracts and details were never put to it. Each project falls under the responsibility of a particular minister.”
Judge Said Pullicino: "Wouldn't cabinet check details of a project?"
Farrugia: "No. There are other structures to deal with that."
Farrugia replaced by Muscat or Cardona when indisposed
12.32pm Comodini Cachia: Were there times when the prime minister’s authorisation substituted the minister’s?
Farrugia: Whenever I was abroad, or indisposed, the prime minister or his deputy took over.
The minister tells the inquiry that the deputy in these cases was (former Labour deputy leader) Chris Cardona.
12.29pm Farrugia says that (former deputy commissioner) Silvio Valletta was not present during his briefings with the police commissioner, and that he got to know homicide inspector Kurt Zahra following a murder in Ħal Far.
The board of inquiry asks Farrugia about briefings which Keith Schembri attended.
Farrugia says he did not ask about them. “That was part of the prime minister’s remit. I bore my own responsibility”.
Farrugia is asked if he knew of the impending arrests of the murder suspects, but his lawyer objects to that question. The minister will answer it behind closed doors.
12.22pm Farrugia says he was briefed by the Malta Security Services from “right after the assassination up to my last day as [Home Affairs] minister”.
Was anyone else present for the briefings?
“No one. And I insisted on that, not just for this murder but for all meetings with the MSS”.
Farrugia says that while he did not know that the MSS was also briefing the prime minister, he had assumed that was the case.
"I was never present though," he says. "I hardly discussed the case with the prime minister but I assumed he was being briefed."
Were the [PM] briefings sporadic?
"You'd have to ask him about that. When he was present, I was not. He was keen to see the case solved".
'Schembri always gave sound advice'
12.17pm Farrugia on Yorgen Fenech: “I assume he was like all big businessmen and would have friendships with many people. Other politicians too. I did not know of his friendship with Keith Schembri.”
Farrugia says Schembri “never said much in cabinet, but when asked he always gave sound advice.”
Judge Said Pullicino: “Someone betrayed cabinet. We’ve heard the phrase ‘he betrayed you’ [ittradiekhom]."
Farrugia: Anything not done in the government interest is wrong and unacceptable and steps should be taken. It could be my closest friend. May action be taken. I’m here to testify the truth.
12.14pm Fenech elaborates on the Mriehel decision.
He says that a high-rise policy preceded his time and that Mriehel had been designated an ‘employment village’ in 2012.
He reads from a letter and says that the towers being built in the area ended up losing 7857 square metres of floor space as a result of the revised policy he pushed through.
“If Yorgen Fenech had spoken to me he would have told me not to introduce that policy,” he says.
Farrugia and Yorgen Fenech
12.11pm Farrugia is asked if he knew Yorgen Fenech.
“No. I met him once as I met NGOs regarding planning. He came to speak to me about a land reclamation project by Tumas Group outside Portomaso. They had plans to build a six-star hotel.
“He came to speak to me with the MEPA CEO and some other officials from my office present”.
Farrugia is asked if Fenech spoke to him about the Mrieħel high-rise policy.
“No,” the minister says adamantly.
[As junior minister for planning, Farrugia met with Fenech on the same day that he ordered that Mriehel be included in a planning policy for high-rise buildings. Fenech’s family business is building a tower in the area].
Did Brian Tonna have an OPM desk?
12.05pm Judge Mallia: Why didn’t the police act on the Panama Papers allegations immediately? We find that quite strange.
Farrugia: Tax authorities acted.
The minister is asked if Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna had an office or desk at Castille.
“I was never invited and do not know of any such desk,” he replies.
Muscat will be summoned to testify
12.04pm Said Pullicino presses on for more answers from Farrugia.
Farrugia: The prime minister acted according to the information available at the time and he eventually shouldered responsibility.
“He will come here to explain in due time,” the board says.
Muscat discussed controversy with ministers individually
12.00pm He says that the matter was not discussed at cabinet level but that Joseph Muscat had called in his ministers one by one to hear their views on the matter.
17 Black and politically naivete
11.58am What about 17 Black revelations?
Farrugia said he was sceptical at first, and then grew to think that “the persons involved” were “politically naive”.
Judge Lofaro: “Are you referring to Konrad Mizzi?”
Farrugia: “He said it was for family planning purposes. But no, he shouldn’t have done it. No.”
He is asked about the connections linking 17 Black to Mizzi and Schembri.
"If allegations are true, then steps must be taken against these people".
Shouldn't they have resigned back then?
Farrugia says there were "divergent opinions".
Farrugia not invited to Girgenti party
11.56am Farrugia is asked about Keith Schembri. He says the chief of staff attended cabinet meetings but hardly involved himself, except for when he was asked to.
Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were “friends, as far as friendship goes,” he says.
Farrugia is asked whether he was invited to Joseph Muscat’s birthday party at Girgenti Palace.
“No,” he replies.
11.53am What about the ‘kitchen cabinet?’ (mentioned by his colleague Edward Scicluna).
“I don’t know about it and surely wasn’t part of it,” Farrugia says.
Said Pullicino: “But you do know that certain decisions were taken elsewhere! The finance minister said so”.
Farrugia: “I’m no spokesman for the finance minister or anyone else. How can I speak of something I don’t know about?”
The reply frustrates judge Said Pullicino, who notes that every witness seems intent on passing the buck.
11.51am Farrugia is asked if he knew that Electrogas had defaulted on its guarantee.
“I knew that the bridge loan was important for the project to go ahead. If the project failed, Malta would suffer,” he replies.
How did it default when it had a €600 million (guarantee)?
“We were assured that the EU would give the project the green light and the bridge loan would be lifted”.
About the Electrogas deal
11.45am Farrugia is asked about the power station deal.
He takes the inquiry back to 2013, when Enemalta was in dire financial straits, the country had old power stations running on heavy fuel oil and there were concerns about security of energy supply.
“The [Electrogas] power station was needed, but if there was any corruption in the deal, that’s wrong and action should be taken,” Farrugia says.
“I would be the first to help to make sure action is taken”.
He says that cabinet was briefed about the deal but was not shown any contract. Documents were subsequently made public, he says.
“Like in the Vitals deal?” Said Pullicino asks, adding “it’s always the same story.”
'I can't say I wasn't friends with Keith Schembri'
11.38am Farrugia tells the inquiry that he would check to ensure people were doing their job and pushed for investigations of "certain suspicious cases".
In the 17 Black case, he tells the inquiry nothing happened in cabinet given they were "pure allegations".
Judge Said Pullicino: "As a politician, what did you do?"
Farrugia: "Cabinet is not the place for investigations".
Judge Lofaro: "What about the Panama Papers?"
Farrugia: "There were discussions on a one-on-one basis".
That answer prompts some murmuring.
Was Keith Schembri present?
"Not when I spoke to the prime minister".
Was Farrugia a friend of Schembri's?
"I cannot say we weren't friends," he says. "He also helped me when a housing project needed a loan from the EIB [European Investment Bank]. We had held many meetings on that issue to set up the structures needed for that loan".
In defence of the police
11.32am Farrugia is asked whether he’s pleased overall with work done under his watch.
He replies by saying that the two car bomb cases which happened during his tenure were the only two solved.
“Others remain unsolved,” he says, acknowledging when pressed that “obviously everything can be done better”.
What about allegations of collusion?
“Even if that were so, the results were achieved nonetheless,” he says.
Farrugia says he was always alone in sensitive meetings and would ask his chief of staff to leave the office during such moments.
“If there were leaks, the police should investigate,” he says.
Farrugia is asked what he makes of Lawrence Cutajar’s term as police commissioner and begins to wax lyrical about their time in charge.
He lists a number of “records” the two achieved and then says he had to balance a “modern-thinking CEO” of the police force [now the police commissioner, Angelo Gafa’] with an “old school commissioner” [Lawrence Cutajar.
There were some tensions, he says, acknowledging that the police “needed to update.
11.26am Judge Mallia asks Farrugia about an interview in which he mentioned “members of the police force who did not enjoy my trust”.
The minister says he’d rather discuss that behind closed doors.
FBI, Europol and €1m reward
11.24am What about the FBI and Europol’s involvement, judge Mallia asks.
Farrugia: The police contacted the FBI without my assistance. As for Europol, I met with its director in Malta and thanked them for their help. I told them I was available for any further assistance.
Farrugia says the €1 million reward on offer came from the office of the Prime Minister, but that he thinks it has not been paid out. The arrests happened thanks to work by the police with foreign assistance, he says.
December 2017 press conference
11.21am Judge Mallia asks the minister about a press conference held with the prime minister at the time [Joseph Muscat] concerning arrests of suspects.
Farrugia says he doesn’t recall who was present for that but notes that he did not give a statement that day. All the information was given by the prime minister.
'Not my job to investigate'
11.17am Judge Said Pullicino says a home affairs minister would be well acquainted with such a serious case.
“My role is not to investigate,” Farrugia rebuts. “Especially after the prime minister had already made a public statement offering a reward for information leading to solving the case”.
Said Pullicino: “Didn’t you raise issues with colleagues when subsequent stories emerged, such as 17 Black?”
Farrugia reiterates: “My role is to give police all the necessary tools, not to interfere or investigate. I never told police to investigate anyone or tried to stop investigations, as happened pre 2013.”
No specific cabinet meetings
11.14am Farrugia says cabinet never met specifically to discuss the Caruana Galizia case, save for when the matter of a pardon came up later.
Dutch forensic involvement
11.12am Farrugia is asked about Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, specifically.
He says within minutes, he was told that a bomb had gone off and that Daphne was probably the target.
“I immediately offered the commissioner all the help needed to get help from abroad if necessary. Later that day I was told of request by the NFI [Netherlands Forensic Institute] for clearance from their minister”.
Farrugia then reads out from a letter he sent his Dutch counterpart, requesting clearance as soon as possible.
The NFI received that clearance over the phone and its experts were in Malta that same day to assess the crime scene, he says. Other experts joined them the following day.
No changes in commissioner
11.08am Farrugia is asked about police commissioner appointments.
He says these were made by the prime minister and that there were no changes under his watch – Lawrence Cutajar served in that role throughout.
Was he informed of serious crimes?
He says he was told of serious cases and that his job was to offer all the material help and tools police needed for their investigations.
Farrugia runs through his CV
11.04am The minister tells the inquiry how he served as parliamentary secretary for planning until 2014 and then as Family Minister until 2017.
From then he worked as Home Affairs Minister until 2020 and is now Energy Minister.
Michael Farrugia testifies
11.02am Minister Michael Farrugia takes the stand. The minister is being assisted by lawyer Vince Micallef.
10.55am As we wait for the inquiry to resume, it is worth noting that in April 2019 a Times of Malta request to reveal the names of the people responsible for selecting the Vitals hospitals bid was rejected by an appeals tribunal.
The data commissioner's office had upheld Projects Malta's argument that the names of adjudicators was "personal data" and that revealing them could prejudice any future calls.
Today we have just heard testimony from the chairman of that committee, who also named three other members.
Camenzuli's testimony ends
10.53am Camenzuli says that he always communicated with the permanent secretary responsible as well as with finance ministry.
And that’s all from this witness, who is allowed to step off the stand. Lawyer Pawlu Lia exits together with him.
Minister Michael Farrugia will be next to testify, but the inquiry is taking a five-minute break before that. The minister was asked to appear at 11am and is running slightly early.
Who decided on the ITS deal?
10.51am Questions turn to Camenzuli’s involvement in the ITS/db Group project.
He says he was chosen as a replacement chairman for the project in November 2015 after his predecessor resigned.
The board was tasked with evaluating the land that would form part of the deal.
Valuations went to Projects Malta, with Deloitte assisting as experts.
“It was not like the hospitals project,” he explains. “There was no government investment in the project”.
Camenzuli is asked how valuation was done.
He says the first bid was to select the bid. The valuation came after that, and he was on the negotiating committee.
Following questioning, Camenzuli says he was also part of the evaluation committee that handled the bidding process – though as a member, not its chairman.
The negotiating committee (which looked at valuations) was made up of himself, Alex Sciberras and Peter Zammit.
The evaluation committee (which looked at bids) was made up of George Gregory, Mario Galea, Martin Gaerty and himself.
Financial experts on committee
10.45am Judge Michael Mallia tells the witness that a quick search of Oxley Group suggests they had no expertise in the sector.
Camenzuli clarifies that the company is an investor company.
He is asked if committee member Manuel Castagna was working at Nexia BT.
“I don’t know”.
[Last February Times of Malta had revealed that Castagna, a Nexia BT partner, was part of the committee.]
Was the other financial analyst, Robert Borg, the General Workers’ Union accountant?
“I don’t know”.
Lawyer objects to line of questioning
10.42am Lawyer Pawlu Lia stands up. He is angry by the line of questioning, which he says is not related to the inquiry’s remit.
“These [questions] are intended for other purposes and other aims, he says,
gesturing towards Comodini Cachia [who is also an Opposition MP].
The board asks him to calm himself as Comodini Cachia says questions revolve around issues in the public domain.
No questions asked
10.39am Answering a question, Camenzuli says Aron Mifsud Bonnici was Projects Malta’s secretary.
Mifsud Bonnici was minister Konrad Mizzi’s personal lawyer and also a director at Projects Malta, Comodini Cachia notes.
Camenzuli says he didn’t ask about that.
“Did you know of any meetings at Castille with the prime minister about Vitals?”
Camenzuli says he did not.
Camenzuli has no documents
10.37am Camenzuli says he did not keep a copy of the evaluation report.
He says he handed over all documents when he left Projects Malta. Nor does he have emails from his time there.
Comodini Cachia: “Was the financial report handwritten?”
“I don’t have any copies”.
Judge Said Pullicino finds the replies perplexing.
“Any serious person would have such documents,” he says.
Camenzuli insists he handed them to Projects Malta.
Oxley Group owned Vitals
10.34am Camenzuli is asked whether the committee ran due diligence on the people behind the Vitals bid.
“They were backed by well-known companies like PwC,” he says. “There was the Bank of India”.
Said Pullicino presses on. Camenzuli admits the committee did not dig.
The Ultimate Beneficial Owner of Vitals was the Oxley Group, he says.
“Did you verify who was behind Oxley?”
Camenzuli’s memory fails him again.
“I don’t recall,” he says.
He repeats that answer when Comodini Cachia presses that point.
10.30am The board asks Camenzuli about the hospitals deal RfP.
He says it was given to him by Projects Malta and was a public document. The three bids that were submitted were opened at Projects Malta’s offices.
Apart from Vitals [which at the time was named Vitalis], the two other
companies bidding were Image Hospitals, and BSP Investments Ltd. [The bids were opened in May 2015].
Camenzuli is asked whether he had checked if he had verified that the other two bidders were legit. Were they fake fronts?
“Fake fronts!?” he replies, seemingly confused.
Camenzuli says two members of the committee – Robert Borg and Manuel Castagna – were responsible for focusing on financial analysis.
“They analysed, in detail, the financial declarations and checked how much the government was currently paying. The government would be getting a better deal at a lower price,” he says.
10.24am Camenzuli was also involved in another controversial project - he was selected as chairman of the St George's Bay ITS land project deal.
Vitals bid was deemed 'feasible'
10.23am Camenzuli confirms that the committee declared Vitals Global Healthcare as the preferred bidder.
Were there any resignations from Projects Malta? “No”.
Was there any report to the minister? “No”
Did you involve the Finance Ministry in any way? “No”.
Did any of the other bidders file complaints or appeals? “No”.
Camenzuli says Oxley Group was guaranteeing €9 million in equity in the company.
“It was judged as feasible”.
A failing memory
10.18am Camenzuli is asked about the Oxley Group.
They invested in hospitals and real estate, he says. But he cannot recall where it is registered or who its shareholders are. Nor can he recall who Vitals’ shareholders are, apart from Ram Tumuluri.
“Time has passed, I can’t remember,” he says.
Camenzuli defends Vitals choice
10.12am Camenzuli says the Vitals offer was backed with "solid and concrete" documentation, including comfort letters about its financial health and operations.
The company had engaged auditing firm PwC, he says, and the company was backed by the Oxley Group, which had several overseas investments.
Camenzuli claims the company had a syndicate of investors willing to offer financial backing.
From a medical perspective, he says the Medical Association of North Virginia had wrapped up a deal with the company.
"We analysed all the documents, they were all serious companies," Camenzuli says.
"But what happened, happened," judge Said Pullicino says. "Didn't you check that?"
[Vitals sold its hospital concession to Steward Health Care just two years into its contract. A National Audit Office report would subsequently find indications of collusion in the selection process and said the company's bid should have been barred].
Vitals bid 'very comprehensive'
10.09am Camenzuli says the committee decided the Vitals bid was "very comprehensive."
Two committee members ran a financial analysis. Projects Malta assigned the committee a Charles Grixti as a medical expert to assess the bid's medical credentials.
Judge Said Pullicino is surprised: "The witness before you said that Projects Malta did nothing. It seems they did everything!"
Three bids for hospitals deal
10.07am The evaluation committee met around 10 times, Camenzuli says, and there were three bids.
He says two of the bids were not compliant with requirements, mainly because bid bonds were missing or copies of documents were missing.
So that left just one bid - Vitals Global Healthcare.
Camenzuli was on Vitals evaluation committee
10.05am Camenzuli is asked whether he attended cabinet meetings concerning the Vitals deal.
He says he did so but not as part of Projects Malta but rather as part of the evaluation committee – a role he was selected for by the permanent secretary of the energy ministry under Konrad Mizzi.
Camenzuli was chairman of the committee, he says.
“Our remit was to evaluate bids on the hospitals concession according to the RFP [Request for Proposals] and then declare the preferred bidder,” he says.
Bids went to Projects Malta and were opened in the presence of all committee members and a notary, Marco Burlo'. The notary would also open a sealed scoresheet and prepared a final report.
'Not involved' in Electrogas deal
10am Camenzuli is asked about his involvement in the Electrogas power station deal, and says he was not involved at all.
"I never received anything [about it] on my desk," he says. "It probably happened before my time".
How about the Vitals [hospitals privatisation] deal, he is asked.
"There was obviously work done before my time concerning the bid, start of the project, concession agreement and so on," the witness says.
But it was "already done" by the time he was at Projects Malta. "The decision was already taken," he says.
James Camenzuli testifies
9.57am Camenzuli was chairman of Projects Malta between 2017 and May 2020, and CEO of Projects Plus in 2019, where he still works today.
Before that, he served as CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services.
Camenzuli is also the chairman of the Regulator for Energy and Water Services.
He explains that Projects Plus focuses on capital projects, while Projects Malta tackles public-private partnership programmes.
9.53am Discussion still revolves around extending the inquiry's term. Judge Mallia says that the request for an extension to mid-December had been made in the understanding that the term could be renewed.
Judge Lofaro also points out that the inquiry's present term was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Lofaro is also a working judge, with her own caseload.
Comodini Cachia adds that the inquiry judges have no assistance and have a lot of documentation to go over.
The board says it will make note of all these observations and tackle them in due course. It now moves onto the day's events.
James Camenzuli from Projects Malta will take the stand, to file a copy of minutes of board meetings.
A non-renewable extension
9.47am Last week, the inquiry had filed a request to have its term extended to mid-December (it was set up last September with a nine-month term).
Judge Mallia says the prime minister has replied to that request and said he has no objection to the extension request. But it seems the extension is non-renewable.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia raises an objection - she says the inquiry needs plenty of time to organise testimonies, prepare written submissions and in the end draw up a final report. It cannot be facing time pressures or work within a time limit established by the prime minister, she says.
9.42am The three judges who form the inquiry - Michael Mallia, Joseph Said Pullicino and Abigail Lofaro - take their place, and the inquiry session begins.
Who's in court?
9.36am We're in hall 20 at the law courts today. Lawyer Pawlu Lia is here, presumably as Farrugia's legal representative. Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are also here, representing the Caruana Galizia family.
9.30am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. We'll be bringing you minute-by-minute updates from the law courts in Valletta, where minister Michael Farrugia is expected to testify as part of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry.
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