The compilation of evidence against alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech resumed on Thursday.
Daphne Caruana Galizia had been killed for over six months when the self-confessed middleman in her murder, Melvin Theuma, began recording conversations he was having with the prominent businessman.
These were the highlights from Thursday's session:
- Bail request for Yorgen Fenech denied. But he will get access to secret recordings in jail;
- The recordings hear Theuma saying he believed four others were involved in the murder but in court could not explain how he had reached that conclusion. He said "maybe" other people had approached the Degiorgios to carry out the murder;
- Mario Degiorgio had told Theuma former minister Chris Cardona had ignored the Degiorgios when they sent him a message to help them with the bail issue;
- The middleman insists he never spoke to Cardona and did not know him.
- Jason Azzopardi says the 'Alex' name cited in the recording was then Keith Schembri's assistant Alex Muscat;
- Magistrate orders Keith Schembri to testify;
- The Degiorgios had sent Theuma a message saying, “ġewwa huma, u ġewwa kulħadd magħhom.” (if they're in prison, so will all others associated with them).
Schembri, Cremona and Camilleri ordered to testify
2.40pm Former chief of staff Keith Schembri, OPM official Kenneth Camilleri and Johann Cremona (involved in the gaming scene) are to be brought in to testify before the court.
That is an order for the prosecution, the court says, pointing out that these people were mentioned by Melvin Theuma in his testimony several times.
The case has been adjourned to March 27.
And after four hours and 45 minutes, today's compilation comes to a close. We'll be back with the highlights shortly.
Court turns down bail for Fenech
2.35 Magistrate returns to the court room. She says that after hearing submissions by both parties the court observed that this was the second application.
She says the accused is right in saying that bail is a right, and that preventive arrest was an exception.
The prosecution must prove that there would be dangers if bail is granted. Court has the right to impose conditions when granting bail.
The circumstances had remained unchanged since the first refusal. The fear of tampering with evidence still subsisted.
More so, from what has been testified so far, it appears that other persons were mentioned and still have to be summoned to testify. Bail at this stage could also give rise to public disorder and that argument is still applicable today, the magistrate says.
Bail is denied.
No fear of tampering
2.10pm Lawyer Marion Camilleri says the presumption of innocence is the rule and this case should not be treated in any other way.
"Fear of tampering is unfounded. He was granted police bail four times. Wasn’t there fear of tampering then?" she says.
"The AG must give us reasons, not mere suppositions," she concludes.
The magistrate retires to chambers before delivering her decree. Meanwhile, Fenech's wife approaches his lawyers.
Request for bail for Fenech
2pm Submissions are being made by the defence to get bail for Fenech.
His lawyers argue that Fenech has a clean criminal record, had been granted police bail more than once and has always abided by imposed conditions.
"The evidence so far seems to be based on Melvin Theuma's testimony. His testimony shows that he is lying," Gianluca Caruana Curran says.
The lawyer insists that there was no proof that Fenech made a bid to escape.
The Attorney General says Malta will face severe problems if Fenech is granted bail.
Caruana Curran interjects:"Our country has never faced a worse situation. The prime minister and his chief of staff had to resign over this case. And meanwhile, my client continues to suffer, kept in jail."
The comment sparks protests from Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters who are promptly hushed by the magistrate.
Fenech gets access to recordings in jail
1.50pm Caruana Curran asks for copies of the tapes so that Yorgen Fenech could listen to them "quietly" in jail. The lawyer points out that the request was in line with prison directions.
The court authorises the lawyers to pass on to Fenech DVDs bearing copy of the digital information, namely that contained in the recordings, subject to prison rules.
Fenech's statement on hold
1.45pm The magistrate now turns to the statements of the accused, which were to be exhibited today. The statements were released by Yorgen Fenech when interrogated by the police.
But Arnaud says they were requesting to file these statements in another session, to make sure certain details are not leaked to the media at this stage in view of ongoing investigations.
Lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran interjects: "What, are you waiting to arraign other individuals?"
Arnaud explains that copies of those statements had been given to the defence lawyers. But they wished to present them in court at a later stage.
Court upholds the prosecution's request but makes it clear that the statements are to be brought in as evidence at the next hearing, subject to the condition that adequate measures are taken not to prejudice the ongoing investigations.
1.35pm We are three and a half hours into today's case and we've just started hearing the second recording between Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech.
Again, there's a mention of "Cardona". But the parties point out that this recording is not too clear without a transcript, which apparently has not been done yet.
Magistrate says the hearing of the recording will resume another time once the transcript is ready. Theuma leaves the court room.
A leak from Castille?
1.20pm Azzopardi turns his focus on the presidential pardon. Theuma had obtained the pardon last November in return for revealing all about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Azzopardi asks about the reference to “Alex” in the recording and asks Theuma whether he was aware that Keith Schembri's assistant was called Alex (Muscat).
"No, I don't," Theuma replies.
The two had talked about the fact that Caruana Galizia's car was parked outside on the night before the murder.
Azzopardi: "Did Yorgen Fenech ever tell you that that piece of info had been leaked from Castille that same week?"
Theuma: "No he didn’t."
1.15pm Theuma says Chris Cardona was not linked to these “other four” but said he had mentioned him in relation to the Degiorgios' request for help from the then minister to get bail.
The lawyer interjects: "How can you explain how persons in jail put a message across to Cardona to help them with bail?"
Theuma replies: "It's what Mario (Degiorgio) told me."
The middleman insists he never spoke to Cardona and did not know him.
'I was alone in it'
1.10pm The magistrate asks Theuma why he mentioned there were "four others" involved in Caruana Galizia's murder.
"It’s probably because of what I heard in the news and in the shops. People were talking and saying others were involved in the crime. But on oath, I was alone in it, I swear," Theuma says.
"Perhaps the Degiorgios had roped in another four with them," he says. "I had no idea how the Degiorgios were going to go about the murder."
Azzopardi presses further: "I believe you when you say the matter was you and Yorgen Fenech and you and the Degiorgios. But what about the reference to 'another four?'".
Theuma says "maybe" other people had approached the Degiorgios to carry out the murder.
News reports had mentioned Chris Cardona and people related to fuel smuggling and so on, he says.
1pm Azzopardi challenges Theuma to clarify Mario Degiorgio's threat that "they will all" end up in prison.
Azzopardi: "Who was 'everybody'"?
Theuma: "Me and Yorgen".
Fenech is seen shaking his head and making eye contact with his lawyer.
The issue goes back to an earlier recording which mentioned "Keith".
"No, no, no, there's a mistake," Theuma says. "There's a doubt if it was 'Keith' or 'kif'.
The magistrate interjects: "There should be no doubt in your head."
'Never' approached judge
12.55pm The lawyer asks about the "change" in magistrate, which was mentioned in the recording.
Why would the suspects be "better" if there was a change in magistrate, Azzopardi asks.
Theuma tells the court that he does not know what Fenech was referring to.
Theuma says he expected Fenech to stop being calm and do more to help get bail for the Degiorgios, even urging him to speak to the prime minister.
Azzopardi zeroes in on a snippet in the recording where Fenech told Theuma that the Degiorgios would “surely win the jury.” Why was he so convinced?
"I don't know," Theuma replies.
He says the reference to former judge Antonio Mizzi came after a message he received from the Degiorgio brothers in jail.
Azzopardi: "Did you ever do such a thing?"
Wine, women... and training
12.40pm Summing up the two alleged hitmen, he says Alfred Degiorgio loved training, while his brother George Degiorgio loved drinking and women.
Arnaud's cross examination ends.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile for the family, starts his cross examination.
Theuma in tears
12.35pm Theuma is now asked about a reference to “Alex” in the recording. He says that he knew no Alex linked to the case and it might have been a casual reference to something else.
In the recording, the middleman said he was unable to sleep after Caruana Galizia's assassination.
"I was constantly living in fear. I had had enough," he said, pointing out that he repeatedly considered speaking to the police.
“Speaking to you, sir” he tells Arnaud, his voice wavering.
He had almost decided to go to Mario Degiorgio and "put an end to it. If George (Degiorgio) had wanted to spill the beans on me, then so be it, I had told myself."
Fenech had told him that the trial by jury would never happen. He told him it could not start before the men were given bail.
Degiorgios 'not familiar' with Fenech
12.30pm Mario Degiorgio had passed on the message that if his brothers “were brought down, they would take down everyone else with them.”
Asked to explain, Theuma says that at the time, he took that message to be a “polite” message to him since no one knew about Fenech's involvement. They only knew about me, Theuma explains.
"Until the Monday before my arrest, Yorgen had handed over some €20,000 for this purpose," Theuma says.
Fenech funded legal fees
12.20pm The Degiorgios lawyer, William Cuschieri, had asked for €75,000 to assist with the case and Fenech issued more than one payment.
The receipts are currently deposited in court, before Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, Theuma says.
Four others 'involved'
12.20pm Case finally resumes, and the delay seems to revolve over one single word. Lawyer who did the transcripts confirms that the word in her transcript was correct. We're still not sure if the word was “kif" or “Keith”.
Arnaud resumes his questioning, pointing to a segment where Fenech says: "I don't think il-Koħħu knows about the others".
There are others involved, Fenech had said.
Theuma says he believed four others were involved in the murder, besides the men who had been arrested.
Magistrate asks: "four who?"
Theuma: "I had said that four others were involved with the Degiorgios in placing the bomb. That’s how I felt. We were just talking at the time."
Arnaud asks: "But were those four involved in the bomb with the Degiorgios or separately?”
Theuma: "No, with the Degiorgios."
But the magistrate is not satisfied with that reply pointing out that in the recording, Theuma had mentioned, “(Chris) Cardona.” Why did he mention him?
Theuma: "Mario Degiorgio had told me that Cardona had ignored the Degiorgios when they sent him a message to help them with the bail issue."
“Cardona could help them like nobody else. He's into court issues, he knows all the judges."
'Keith' or 'Kif'?
11.45am Theuma's testimony is momentarily suspended as the lawyer responsible for the transcripts makes an appearance to clarify the point that had arisen earlier on whether it was "Keith" or "kif" mentioned in the recordings.
“It’s about a single word,” defence lawyer Marion Camilleri points out.
But the magistrate says that the court deems it to be pertinent.
The lawyer is given a pair of headphones to make sure she hears the word well.
The sitting is suspended until they find the point in the recording.
We are almost two hours into the compilation of evidence, again dominated by the secret recordings made by the self-confessed middleman in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
The Degiorgios helped 'everyone'
11.40am Theuma says he feared the Degiorgio brothers would start telling all about the murder. The assassination had made headlines across the world, he says.
The middleman says he had been helping the Degiorgio brothers, giving them money, which they appreciated.
Mario Degiorgio had told Theuma that his brothers helped everyone but they found no help in return.
Magistrate intervenes: "Who was everyone?"
Theuma replies: "I don't know", insisting he never asked.
The text from the Degiorgios
11.30am Arnaud asks about the reference to "Keith (Schembri) and Kenneth (Camilleri, OPM official)". Theuma replies that this was in reference to the bail request for the Degiorgio brothers.
He says that Mario Degiorgio had told him that a bail application was to be filed by his brothers. Theuma insists he only spoke to the Degiorgios over the phone.
Mario Degiorgio had also told Theuma the compilation of evidence against the three men was drawing to a close.
He is asked to explain the sentence in the recording where he says "biċċa waħda ma l-ieħor” (closely associated), with reference to former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Theuma explains he had told Fenech to speak to Muscat about the bail isuse but Fenech had replied "no way. That would be the worst thing".
Ġewwa huma, u ġewwa kulħadd magħhom
Theuma now says that the Degiorgios had even sent him a message saying, “ġewwa huma, u ġewwa kulħadd magħhom.” (they're in prison, and so will all others associated with them)
He says this will be heard in a future recording.
Caruana Galizia's laptops
11.20am Theuma takes to the witness stand. He says the secret recordings were taken in 2018 and 2019.
He reiterates that he started recording the conversations when Vince Muscat had started speaking to investigators about the crime.
Arnaud asks him about the laptops.
Theuma says it was in reference to the laptops of Caruana Galizia.
Yorgen told me it would be better if the laptops were brought to Malta
"I was afraid that if they were brought to Malta, research would show up Yorgen's name and mine too. But Yorgen told me it would be better if the laptops were brought to Malta."
Background: Investigators from the German federal police (BKA) had gained access to two laptops and three hard drives used by the assassinated journalist. The laptops have been at the centre of a legal wrangle after one of the murder suspects, Alfred Degiorgio, filed a constitutional application over the family's refusal to grant local investigators access to the equipment.
Foul language galore
11.10am The recording continues.
"Isn't that issue with the lawyer a big deal?", Theuma is heard telling Fenech.
Fenech replies: "It's shameful. They become millionaires in a day." We don't know the identity of the lawyer.
Fenech proceeds to say that the trial cannot start or else the magistrate "will be thrown in jail".
The "Keith" reference has still not been clarified. We might get an explanation once Theuma is asked to explain later.
The chat moves on to laptops. Theuma is heard saying: "So does he agree we should bring the laptops?"
"Obviously," Fenech replies.
Theuma says that Peter Caruana Galizia was "dropping" the libel cases connected with his slain wife. We'll hopefully know the context of this shortly.
The conversation between the two is littered with foul language.
Play it again
10.55am Theuma is heard saying he feared that Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu) will name him in connection with the murder. Muscat is currently incarcerated together with the Degiorgio brothers.
Arnaud asks for the tape to be replayed in a particular section where "Keith" is mentioned. He says it's important.
Jason Azzopardi says that that reply makes a “tremendous difference for all.” He suggests that the transcriber should first hear that part of the recording to verify before any questions are put to Theuma.
Those audio recordings
10.50am Bear with us as we try to explain what's being said in the recordings. Sometimes it's difficult to tell which person said what.
Let's remember, Theuma says he hid his mobile phone in his sock as he recorded his meetings with Fenech.
The bail request
10.40am Melvin Theuma takes the witness stand. The first of Theuma's secret recording starts. Fenech moves to a seat next to his lawyers to be able to follow the transcript.
There are a lot of thumping noises heard in the recording.
Theuma: "There's a bail request in front of (judge) Mizzi. I told them I couldn't say 'yes' or 'no'.
Fenech: "I don't know him."
The bail request in question was for brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, who stand accused of triggering off the device which killed Caruana Galizia. Pressure was being mounted by another brother of the Degiorgios.
All three accused men were arrested in December 2017 and remain in police custody, having been denied bail several times, including by judge Mizzi.
Both the former judge and his wife denied the claims they had been approached in connection with the bail issue.
'Don't break the law'
10.30am The magistrate insists that if the transcribed recordings made available to lawyers and police are being handed to third parties, it will constitute breaking the law. The same applies to recordings.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi denies giving a comment to the media about the matter. The lawyers of all parties say they have no reservations about the appointment of the persons and transcribers.
"Reporting such documentation constitutes a contempt of court," she firmly states.
10.20am A lawyer tasked with assisting in the transcripts of the recordings, amending the previous ones as necessary, presents her work to the court. The previous versions had contained some errors.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello takes her seat and we're off.
10.05am Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech has entered the court room. An extra bench has been fitted behind the dock and it is occupied by two officers while another two flank the renowned businessman. The fifth one stands by the door.
Fenech was arrested last November as he was about to leave Malta on board his luxury yacht. You might want to read the story behind that dramatic arrest here.
Caruana Galizia's parents and sisters are also present.
This hall is smaller than the one originally used. Hopefully, the acoustics will be better! Last week, reporters had a nightmare trying to understand what was being said in the recordings.
The last session
10am During the last session, the court heard that Fenech told Theuma a mobile phone retrieved from the seabed after the Marsa arrests contained just one phone number: Chris Cardona's. The former minister said he had not been questioned by the police.
The session also heard that Fenech said Keith Schembri was persistently calling him, worried about the case.
For reference, inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting. Lawyers Matthew Brincat and Kathleen Calleja Grima are assisting Theuma. Fenech's lawyers are Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is assisting the victim's family.
Assistant/deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia will be assisting the prosecution.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding.
The cases in the Caruana Galizia murder probe
While we wait, here's a recap of the ongoing court cases regarding the murder of the journalist in October 2017.
- The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech;
- The compilation of evidence against murder accused Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat;
- A case Yorgen Fenech is making in an attempt to remove inspector Keith Arnaud from the investigation;
- An ongoing inquiry into the circumstances around Ms Caruana Galizia's murder and whether the State could have prevented it.
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