The prime minister's personal assistant and a member of the Office of the Prime Minister's security detail testified on Friday as part of a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Ray Barbara served as the PA to Joseph Muscat and continues in that role under Dr Muscat's successor, Robert Abela.
Kenneth Camilleri was a member of Dr Muscat's security detail who was cited in the Caruana Galizia murder case by self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma. Mr Camilleri also travelled to Libya alongside Neville Gafà, the inquiry heard last week.
Ray Barbara testified that:
- Joseph Muscat was “angry” about Panama Papers revelations, “very upset” about allegations linking his wife to mystery company Egrant and “very shocked” to learn about Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder.
- He never saw Yorgen Fenech at Castille, but fixed a couple of meetings for "is-sur Gasan".
Kenneth Camilleri testified that:
- He never told Mr Schembri that he had met with Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma and had not not spoken to Keith Schembri since the latter quit his OPM job last year.
- He accompanied Neville Gafà to Libya around four times but had no idea what his meetings were about, as the meetings were in Arabic and the two never discussed them.
- He shared posts about Pilatus Bank, Maria Efimova or the Panama Papers because he was a partisan Labour supporter, not because he had any intimate knowledge of the matters.
As it happened
Court session over
12.55pm That’s all for today. Thank you for joining us for this live blog. We’ll have a summary of the key events from today’s session available shortly, with a full report of the two witnesses’ testimony to follow.
Kurt Farrugia's testimony postponed
12.53pm Mr Camilleri is done testifying and steps off the witness stand.
The inquiry was due to hear from Kurt Farrugia on Monday, but that testimony will have to be postponed to a later date, as Mr Farrugia will be abroad that day. He'll be in Ghana, apparently.
The inquiry will therefore reconvene on Wednesday, March 4 at 2pm. We still don’t know who will be testifying, though.
'I didn't tell Keith about meeting Melvin'
12.50pm Mr Camilleri is asked by Dr Azzopardi about his contact with Neville Gafà and Keith Schembri.
He says that he last spoke to Mr Gafà last week, after the latter had testified before the inquiry.
“We’re friends, we turn to each other. I don’t know who he reported to when we returned from Libya.”
But he insists he has not spoken to Mr Schembri “at all” ever since the former OPM chief of staff resigned.
Mr Camilleri also returns to his meeting with Melvin Theuma, claiming “I had not told Keith Schembri that Melvin Theuma met me”.
The board doesn't want any further questioning about that matter, given that Mr Camilleri will be testifying about it next month.
On his Transport Malta job
12.47pm Dr Azzopardi is probing the witness about his job with Transport Malta.
Mr Camilleri says he was employed as a senior enforcement officer and that the job was not advertised.
“When my 25 years of service [in the police force] came up, Ronnie Pellegrini had asked me to go there and lend a hand,” he says.
[Mr Pellegrini was a Labour stalwart who served as a part-time adviser to Transport Malta’s chairman. He died in March 2019].
12.44pm Mr Camilleri says he only went abroad with the prime minister once.
“Normally John Portelli would accompany him abroad as security,” he says.
On Melvin Theuma meeting
12.40pm Judge Michael Mallia asks the witness whether he’s being investigated for his alleged meetings with murder middleman Melvin Theuma.
“I was summoned by [lead inspector Keith] Arnaud,” he says.
Mr Camilleri tells the board he is due to testify on March 27, and the board says it will ask no further questions about the incident.
12.38pm Mr Camilleri says he does not know if they had ever been assigned to accompany Joseph Muscat to meet “businessmen like Gasan” but says he never saw Yorgen Fenech at Castille.
'I shared posts as a Labourite'
12.36pm Mr Camilleri is pressed further.
“What was the attitude at Castille? To shut up the journalist?”
“Not really. In the corridors of Castille that was not the case”.
He’s asked about posts he shared backing Keith Schembri, Pilatus Bank or Maria Efimova.
Mr Camilleri pleads ignorance – “I don’t understand that stuff” – and insists he shared the post as a partisan Labour follower.
'We spoke about football'
12.31pm The board of inquiry presses Mr Camilleri, but the witness insists the two only made small talk.
“Didn’t Gafà ever tell you about how he saved Malta from migrants?”
“No. We spoke of football and general affairs, but not about that,” he says.
“Did you speak about the Panama Papers?”
“Did you speak about Daphne Caruana Galizia?”
“Was it positive?”
“She once wrote an article about us as the prime minister’s security detail,” Mr Camilleri ventures.
12.27pm The inquiry has previously heard that Mr Camilleri accompanied Neville Gafà to Libya.
Testifying, Mr Camilleri says that the two went to Libya four times. The last time, they were instructed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry to accompany ambassador Charles Saliba.
Mr Gafà had also asked him to join him for an “unofficial visit”, the witness says.
“He asked if I wished to go and I always said yes”.
Mr Camilleri says he did not attend meetings with Mr Gafà and did not know what his business was in the country.
“We didn’t speak about that,” the witness says. The board of inquiry finds that hard to believe.
Mr Camilleri recalls how Mr Gafà had been approached by a man in a public square. He thinks the man’s name was “Tajuri”.
“Gafà spoke Arabic, but I didn’t. I sometimes went with him to meetings but focused on what was happening outside, not at the table. I didn’t understand what was being said,” he says.
Outside the PM's office
12.22pm Mr Camilleri says that the security team was assigned their work by Ray Barbara.
The team worked alternate days, in two teams of three, he says.
“We were posted at Castille. Anyone going to the prime minister’s office had to go past our post,” he says.
Kenneth Camilleri testifies
12.19pm Kenneth Camilleri takes the witness stand.
He says that the worked at Transport Malta but was suspended. He previously worked as a police officer, serving 25 years in the force. Then in 2013 he was assigned duties as part of the PM’s security detail, seconded from the Malta Security Service.
Mr Camilleri says he does not know why he was suspended from Transport Malta, apart from being told that “I was being suspended because my name was mentioned in the news, linked to Melvin Theuma”.
Read more about that link.
TVM's Facebook comments
12.17pm Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona tells the inquiry that state broadcaster TVM’s Facebook page features “vicious” comments attacking Ms Caruana Galizia and her family.
“This is not a private newspaper. It’s a state-funded newsroom,” he says, arguing that allowing the comments “sends out a message of impunity”.
He wants the inquiry to summon TVM’s head of news, Reno Bugeja, to explain. The inquiry says it will consider the request.
[It’s worth noting that Facebook does not allow publishers or page owners to moderate or search for comments].
Ray Barbara ends his testimony
12.14pm When did Mr Barbara get to know about arrests of suspects in the Caruana Galizia murder?
“I learn about them [the arrests] from the news,” he says.
Mr Barbara, answering a question by Dr Azzopardi, says ‘Musayef’ did not feature in the PM’s diary.
That’s the end of Mr Barbara’s testimony.
Journalists locked inside
12.10pm Dr Azzopardi wants to know about the incident in late November when journalists were temporarily prevented from exiting a room at the OPM.
Mr Barbara says he was inside his office at the time and did not witness that incident.
12.08pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Mr Barbara if he was present at Castille meetings with [power station shareholders] Socar and Electrogas.
Earlier on, Mr Barbara said that he saw “Is-sur Gasan” [Mr Gasan] at Castille and had fixed “one or two appointments” for Mr Gasan with the PM, “but not more.”
[Businessman Joe Gasan later contacted Times of Malta to say that he had never met with prime minister Joseph Muscat in connection with Electrogas Ltd.]
The witness reiterates that he never saw Yorgen Fenech [another Electrogas shareholder] or anyone from the Tumas Group at Castille.
Dr Azzopardi asks about yet another Electrogas shareholder – Paul Apap Bologna.
The witness says that the name did not feature in the prime minister’s diary.
On Keith Schembri
12.05pm Mr Barbara is asked about Keith Schembri’s control of the OPM.
“He was the chief of staff, after all!” Mr Barbara replies.
Answering questions, the witness says he believes Mr Schembri had a male assistant.
The board mentions a “Farrugia Bianco”.
“Ah yes, Charlene,” he says. “She had an office next to Keith Schembri. But she’s no longer there, I’m sure”.
How did Muscat react?
12.03pm Judge Said Pullicino asks about Joseph Muscat’s reaction to Panama Papers revelations.
“I think he was somewhat taken aback and angry,” Mr Barbara says.
The witness recalls that Muscat was “very upset” about Egrant allegations which linked the secret company to his wife, Michelle.
As for the Caruana Galizia murder: Muscat was “very shocked”, Mr Barbara says.
Quiet on social media
12.01pm Mr Barbara is probed about his social media activity. He says he’s not too active on social media and denies any knowledge of spin linking the Caruana Galizia murder to fuel smuggling.
An OPM employee
11.59am The board shows the witness a photo of a man - Ronnie Vella.
“Yes I know him, because I worked with him. He was at the communications office. But he wasn’t under Keith Schembri.”
Mr Barbara says Mr Vella is no longer at the OPM.
“He left after change of PM. I don’t know if he resigned or was removed,” he says.
Who protects the PM?
11.57am Mr Barbara is asked to name the members of the PM’s security detail, and obliges.
The court has banned publication of their names, so we’ll leave that at that.
He's also asked about the PM's drivers, and says that there are two officers assigned that job and that they work alternate shifts, day-in, day-out.
11.54am The inquiry wants to know about security arrangements at the OPM.
Mr Barbara notes that there is a soldier stationed outside and that people have to be given a card at reception.
Is there a visitor’s book?
“I go through the main door with the prime minister. I don’t know what happens around the corner, at [the] St Paul’s street [entrance],” he says.
Judge Said Pullicino asks who the PM’s security officials are answerable to.
Mr Barbara’s lawyer interjects – his client has nothing to do with human resources, he says.
The witness tells the inquiry that he tells the security officers where to go, based on the prime minister’s diary.
Accompanying the PM
11.48am Mr Barbara says he occasionally accompanied the prime minister to local events, but not to overseas ones.
“Others from Kurt Farrugia’s office did,” he explains. Mr Farrugia was the government’s head of communications until last year, when he was made the CEO of Malta Enterprise.
Mr Barbara acknowledges that he knew all about the prime minister’s movements “as long as they were not private [events]”.
On Yorgen Fenech
11.45pm “The prime minister never met Yorgen Fenech while I was there,” Mr Barbara says.
He was answering a question by judge Joseph Said Pullicino.
The witness says he never saw Mr Fenech at Castille, either.
“Honesty, I got to know him through the media,” he says.
[Mr Fenech has been charged with complicity in the murder of Ms Caruana Galizia. He claims that Keith Schembri, the OPM’s former chief of staff, was the murder mastermind].
Ray Barbara testifies
11.38pm Mr Barbara is being assisted by lawyer Jonathan Attard.
Mr Barbara says he is employed as a person of trust and previously worked as a technician with telecoms firm Go. After that, he was employed by the Labour Party.
He helped out in the 2013 campaign and then was employed as a person of trust.
He's asked whether he was involved in large-scale projects.
"No, my duty is to handle the prime minister's diary," he says. "I didn't attend meetings".
11.33pm There's also another dossier, related to Kenneth Camilleri. She says that he had shared an article published by Italian news outlet Il Messaggero on October 17, 2017 - one day after Ms Caruana Galizia was murdered.
[That article said that Ms Caruana Galizia was investigating PN leader Adrian Delia when she was killed].
Ms Vella continues: Mr Camilleri also posted a range of pro-PL propaganda to his Facebook page, including posts attacking the Caruana Galizia family or accusing Ms Caruana Galizia of being a PN stooge.
11.27pm Ms Caruana Galizia's sister Corinne Vella is presenting the court with a dossier of information about today's witnesses. She says that Mr Barbara appears to be very loyal and well trusted.
He's in a position to know where the prime minister went, who he met and what meetings were held at the Office of the Prime Minister, she says.
Mr Barbara also had an @josephmuscat.com email address, she notes. Those emails, which are hosted on private servers, are not part of the public record.
Ms Vella has prepared quite a few dossiers for the three-person public inquiry, including one highlighting social media attacks on her sister and others with what she described as dehumanising imagery and language.
Who are the witnesses?
11.14am Mr Barbara is a familiar face for anyone who attends Labour Party events – he’s been a fixture there for several years and can generally be spotted hovering over the PM's shoulder.
Mr Barbara served as Joseph Muscat's personal assistant throughout his tenure and was kept in that role by Robert Abela, who took over as prime minister last month.
Mr Camilleri made headlines late last year when he was mentioned by murder middleman Melvin Theuma. According to Mr Theuma, Mr Camilleri showed up at his house one day to discuss bail for the three men accused of murdering Ms Caruana Galizia.
In a previous sitting, the inquiry has also heard how Mr Camilleri accompanied Neville Gafà to Libya.
Stage is set
11.05am Both witnesses are in the courtroom, with their lawyers in tow.
Ms Caruana Galizia’s parents and sisters are here too, as are state advocate lawyers Maurizio Cordina and Chris Falzon Scerri.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Andrew Borg Cardona are appearing on the Caruana Galizia family’s behalf.
10.57am The inquiry held its most recent session on Wednesday, when it heard from the MFSA's former director general and two of Ms Caruana Galizia's friends. Read what was said during that hearing.
10.52am Good morning, and welcome to this live blog. We'll be bringing you minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom, where the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry is continuing.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us