Neville Gafà was due to testify under oath as part of a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Monday.
The former Office of the Prime Minister employee was scheduled to be one of three OPM-linked officials to testify on Monday.
But the board of inquiry put his testimony off until Wednesday and instead focused on testimony by Matthew Carbone, who serves as head of government communications, and OPM official Josef Caruana.
As it happened
End of session
5.41pm That brings Mr Caruana’s testimony to an end, and with it the day’s court session.
The public inquiry will continue on Wednesday, when Mr Gafà will testify. There will be another session on Friday, when Glenn Bedingfield will testify.
We will have a summary of the key points from today's inquiry session available online shortly.
Thank you for following this live blog.
5.35pm Mr Caruana is asked about an FIAU report he quoted from during an appearance he made on TV show Xtra, just a few days before the 2017 election.
The witness says he was a journalist at the time and that the report came from his sources.
That’s followed by a legal tussle by lawyers over a question about whether Mr Caruana and former prime minister Joseph Muscat corresponded using Dr Muscat’s private email address.
After a few minutes of discussion, the board of inquiry decides that the question is not allowed.
'Group would meet at Dar Centrali'
5.30pm Mr Caruana is asked about a particular post he published, in which he mentioned the journalists Jacob Borg, Pierre Portelli, Ivan Camilleri and Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He tells the inquiry he highlighted those journalists because they “constantly attacked”.
He homes in on one in particular.
“A group would meet at [PN headquarters] Dar Ċentrali and use Ivan Camilleri.
They would feed him twisted stories to be published on English media. The group would pass information to [former minister] Tonio Fenech,” Mr Caruana alleges.
“It was finally shut down”.
'I'm not a public official'
5.25pm The witness is shown examples of specific posts he shared on social media and asked if he felt comfortable sharing the posts or making remarks, given his position as a public official.
“I’m not a public officer, I’m a person of trust,” Mr Caruana says.
Questions about Yorgen Fenech
5.20pm Mr Caruana, like Mr Carbone earlier in the day, says he did not see Yorgen Fenech at the OPM.
“Strange how nobody knows anything,” one of the judges remarks out aloud.
The witness says his job was to prepare and coordinate replies to parliamentary questions – a job he took over from Glenn Bedingfield. [Mr Bedingfield was elected to parliament in the 2017 general election].
5.17pm Mr Caruana is asked about media reports linking Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder to fuel smugglers. The board of inquiry wants to know what he knows about that.
“It was on Malta Today,” Mr Caruana says. “Saviour Balzan has his sources, I guess. I don’t know how Balzan got his information”.
Mr Caruana confirms that he was a member of the Facebook group Laburisti Magħqudin and says he knows nothing about the Truth Project.
[The Truth Project – not to be confused with the UK project for child sex abuse survivors of the same name – was an anonymous online project aimed at discrediting revelations of the Daphne Project, which is an international media collaboration to continue Ms Caruana Galizia’s work].
Security at OPM
5.10pm Mr Caruana is now asked about security arrangements at the OPM.
He confirms what Mr Carbone said earlier: that there is security downstairs, outside, and then other security officials responsible for protecting the prime minister.
People heading to the second floor are accompanied up, “also because they’d get lost otherwise,” he says.
'You didn't apologise. The PM did'
5.07pm Mr Caruana is asked if he’s familiar with a blog titled Veru Biss. He says he is not.
He’s shown a tweet, in English, which reads “We all get what we deserve but only the successful will admit it”.
Mr Caruana says he never writes in English and did not write this tweet. “I may have written it in Maltese,” he ventures.
Judge Said Pullicino reads from an article in which Mr Caruana wrote about the “strange” fact that Ms Caruana Galizia had left her car parked outside her house.
Mr Caruana says he had apologised for that. Dr Comodini Cachia interjects.
“Not you. Prime minister Muscat had apologised,” she says.
'Always within legal limits'
5.01pm Mr Caruana acknowledges that he often wrote about Ms Caruana Galizia but says he always did so “within the legal limits”.
He’s reminded that he had written, in July 2017, that she and others were “pseudo journalists who should disappear from sight”.
“I was still editor at the time,” he says. “There was a lot of uproar about it. But I regularly wrote about Pierre Portelli, Jacob Borg and others. [Mr Portelli is a former journalist and PN official. Mr Borg is a Times of Malta journalist.]
Josef Caruana testifies
4.57pm With Mr Gafa’s testimony put off to Wednesday, Josef Caruana will be the last witness of the day.
He tells the inquiry he has worked at the OPM since July 2017. Prior to that, he was an editor of L-Orizzont and deputy editor of it-Torca.
Neville Gafà to testify... or not
4.51pm Mr Gafà has been waiting outside for three hours. He's finally due to testify... but the board of inquiry says it's too late in the day. They still have to hear Josef Caruana's testimony.
"Can you make it on Wednesday?" they ask Mr Gafà.
He says he can, and with that he heads back out.
Archived copies of Bedingfield's posts
4.48pm Mr Caruana Galizia presents optical discs (CDs or DVDs) which include archived copies of blog posts uploaded by Mr Bedingfield as well as episodes of Tagħna t-tnejn.
Some posts were not archived, he says. “Perhaps Glenn Bedingfield deleted them”.
Another disc includes a range of social media posts targeting his mother, including photos of her entering her car or sitting at a coffee shop.
Some posts, published around the time Chris Cardona had filed libel suits, were presented to the OSCE, he says.
[Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona had sued Ms Caruana Galizia and had her bank accounts blocked after she alleged that he had visited a brothel in Germany while on official government business].
Mr Caruana Galizia recalls another blog which attacked his mother, named Taste Your Own Medicine. That blog had gone quiet after Mr Bedingfield started his own blog.
Answering a question by Madam Justice Lofaro, Mr Caruana Galizia says he has no idea who was behind that blog.
Bedingfield 'painted my mother as a witch'
4.39pm Matthew Caruana Galizia takes the witness stand. Matthew is one of Ms Caruana Galizia’s sons, and a journalist in his own right.
He tells the inquiry how he compiled all the archived posts he could source from Mr Bedingfield’s blog [the blog has since been taken offline] and how Mr Bedingfield, who is now a Labour MP, had a TV show with Luke Dalli called Tagħna t-tnejn.
“He painted my mother as a demented witch,” Mr Caruana Galizia says. “With a hooked nose, candles and a bottle of Jack Daniels, taking a drink.”
“It’s extremely disturbing,” he says.
Ms Caruana Galizia was depicted as a witch in Tagħna t-tnejn. Video of the incident begins at the 19.16 mark.
4.23pm Ms Vella tells the inquiry that Mr Gafà used to stalk her sister and post the photos to social media.
There were photos of her walking in Valletta with her niece, others of her walking her dog and photos of her at the airport. He had also published photos of her at a garden festival in Floriana, one day before her murder.
He had also published a photo of the Caruana Galizia family at San Anton school, where pupils were planting a tree in memory of Daphne, Ms Vella says.
The judges call a five-minute break.
50 pages of screenshots
4.19pm Ms Vella has compiled around 50 pages’ worth of screenshots of social media posts by Mr Vella.
She also notes similar content in blogs by [now MP] Glenn Bedingfield and another called Veru Biss.
Ms Vella says Mr Gafa’ used social media in a similar fashion and says he often used the hashtag #GaliziaBarra [Galizia Out].
[A search on Twitter reveals three such tweets by Mr Gafa’ and five Facebook posts, all dated September 2017. One is reproduced below].
A dossier of public statements
4.10pm One of Ms Caruana Galizia’s sisters, Corinne Vella, presents a dossier to the board of inquiry.
It contains statements made publicly about Daphne Caruana Galizia by Neville Gafa’ and Josef Caruana, who are both due to testify today.
“There is a wider context and I’d be glad to take questions at a later stage,” Ms Vella says.
Interviews with strings attached?
4.06pm Mr Carbone is asked whether it is true that the OPM told foreign journalists they could only interview the prime minister if they did not ask questions about the Caruana Galizia assassination.
“I know nothing of this,” he says. “We gave many interviews to the foreign press”.
That is the last question for Mr Carbone, who steps off the witness stand and leaves the room.
What happens to notes of overseas trips?
4.03pm Mr Carbone is asked what happens to notes he and his team take when the prime minister is overseas on official business.
He tells the inquiry that the notes are turned into press releases but not kept.
“Were there notes of the meeting in Baku when Kurt Farrugia accompanied the prime minister without any other press people?” asks lawyer Jason Azzopardi.
[The trip in question dates back to 2014, when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Kurt Farrugia had met with the president of Azerbaijan Ilhan Alijev in Baku. The press was not informed of the trip. Mr Carbone was not part of the delegation].
“We only keep records of official press releases, not of notes,” Mr Carbone tells the inquiry.
Taking photos with journalists
3.58pm Dr Comodini Cachia asks Mr Carbone what he was doing at a vigil to Ms Caruana Galizia organised at Castille.
[The vigil in question dates back to October 2017, a few days after Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder. Blogger Manuel Delia had published a photo of Mr Carbone, saying the OPM official was taking photos of protesters].
Mr Carbone says that he had stopped as he exited Castille to take a photo “with some journalist friends”. He tells the inquiry that he previously worked for Labour media house One.
On Keith Schembri
3.50pm Mr Carbone is done identifying people in the photos, and the board of inquiry now moves on to his relationship with former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Mr Carbone says they last spoke towards the end of October.
"I only spoke to him about work," he says.
Mr Schembri had a personal assistant - Kenneth Azzopardi - and a Charlene Bianco who also helped with his work, Mr Carbone testifies.
3.44pm The witness looks at photos of the incident and begins to name those he identifies.
There’s his colleague Nigel Vella, Joseph Scerri “who works at customer care” and Reuben Sciberras “who works at a ministry”.
Mr Carbone tells the inquiry there are also people who were accompanying ministers that day. That prompts Madam Justice Lofaro to reassure him.
“Just tell us their names. If they were doing anything wrong, the police will handle that”.
Mr Carbone names a few other people – customer care official Nikhail Spiteri, a messenger named Jason Bonnici and another named "Anthony", as well as a couple of other people he knows by sight but whose names he does not know.
He says he thinks he spots another, different Nigel Vella, involved in setting up lighting for events, PBS journalist Brian Hansford and a "Lionel" who he thinks might be one of the OPM's suppliers.
As Mr Carbone goes over the photos, his lawyer Dr Gouder stares at him.
Wondering what this is all about?
3.38pm Here's a video of that November incident at Castille, when journalists were temporarily prevented from leaving a room following a press conference.
3.37pm More back-and-forth concerning the identity of those security heavies.
Dr Comodini Cachia suggests that Mr Carbone might wish to speak behind closed doors. Her fellow lawyer Jason Azzopardi angrily suggests the witness “thinks we are fools”.
Mr Carbone’s lawyer Dr Gouder insists the matter does not fall within his client’s remit.
“All we are asking is whether he knows them,” the judges say.
Mr Carbone replies: “There were 100 people in that room”.
The session is descending into a slanging match between lawyers.
3.32pm The inquiry continues to press Mr Carbone to name the mystery security officials who manned the OPM doors while journalists demanded to be allowed out.
Mr Carbone reveals the identity of one of the men – Ronnie Vella.
“He was authorised to be there, he was employed by our office,” he says.
Judge Mallia bubbles with irritation.
“The witness has been employed at Castille for years, but he says that he doesn’t know who they were,” he says. “You don’t even want to look at those photos!”
Both Mr Carbone and his lawyer Dr Gouder again say that there is an ongoing police investigation.
The judge cuts that reply short.
“Just answer. You cannot refuse. If you don’t want to, just say so and we will draw our own conclusions”.
Hot under the collar
3.26pm Mr Carbone plays down the incident with the press. He tells the inquiry that the Prime Minister had wanted to go ahead with the press conference against his advice.
“When it was over, we followed a very common media procedure: the prime minister exited from the back, and journalists were asked to wait. This happens even when I sometimes accompany the prime minister abroad,” he says.
“As soon as I made sure that the prime minister was safe back in his office, I went back inside and told journalists they could leave. That took slightly longer than few seconds because whole cabinet was accompanying him. We were insulted, we were called ‘animals’ and other words I cannot repeat here,” Mr Carbone continues.
The OPM official goes on:
"We spent weeks - months - not able to enter our workplace in peace. Minister [Owen] Bonnici was blocked in his car, with people banging on it. Wasn’t that harassment?!"
'They assaulted us'
3.22pm Things are heating up.
“Who were those people inside Castille?” the board of inquiry asks. “We all saw them. All Malta did. Were they police? Tell us,” they demand.
Mr Carbone recalls the tension of that night. “They charged us [daħlu għalina],” he says.
“Protestors jumped over the barricades. When I went downstairs to let in the press, they assaulted us”.
Journalists locked in Castille
3.15pm Last week, two journalists testified about being locked inside a room at the OPM following a 3am emergency press conference.
But Mr Carbone says that “at no time” were the journalists locked inside.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia interjects to say she has photos of the incident. Mr Carbone was among the eyewitnesses.
Mr Carbone’s lawyer Dr Gouder argues that anything his client says might prejudice an ongoing inquiry [it is not clear what inquiry he is referring to].
“What does this have to do with Daphne Caruana Galizia?” Mr Carbone asks.
“It reflects the state of impunity which we are saying led to her assassination,” Dr Comodini Cachia replies.
On Egrant, Panama Papers and OPM security
3.11pm Judge Mallia reads from the Egrant report. In it, Mr Carbone testified that he had told Keith Schembri that the allegations were dragging government down.
“Did you ever discuss Panama papers?” he is asked.
“When public statements were published,” he says.
“Didn’t you accompany Kurt Farrugia to the prime minister’s office?”
“There were no discussions on Panama papers per se. I was involved in discussions about issuing denials,” he says.
Mr Carbone is asked about security arrangements at the OPM. He begins to describe them, but his lawyer Charlon Gouder interjects to argue that his client is there to testify about government communications, not security.
The inquiry board wave that objection away, and Mr Carbone says that once inside the OPM, he does not come across security officials.
Was Yorgen Fenech ever at OPM?
3.04pm Mr Carbone is asked whether Yorgen Fenech was ever at Castille.
He skirts the question – “I work on the third floor, the chief of staff’s office is on the second” – but after being reminded that he is under oath, tells the inquiry that he never saw Mr Fenech at the OPM.
Judge Said Pullicino interjects. "Don't tell me there's a fourth floor at Castille too".
Mr Carbone goes on.
“You need to have a special card to access the second floor [of the OPM]. I never saw Yorgen Fenech, not even in the lift. I never even knew him until I saw his picture on the media”.
His predecessor Kurt Farrugia’s office, he says, was also on the third floor.
3pm Mr Carbone is pressed about claims that media outlet The Shift has been frozen out of government events.
He insists that the Department of Information “does not issue press cards” but rather “access cards” and tells the inquiry “I don’t know of us having ever stopped a journalist [from attending]”.
“The DOI has a mailing list with all those who have an access card. As far as I know there were no instances where The Shift were not allowed in. I looked into the issue after last week’s testimony”.
The Shift co-founder Caroline Muscat testified before the inquiry last week.
2.56pm Mr Carbone is asked about Freedom of Information requests.
He says that while he offered his views on such requests, decisions were taken by the FOI unit. At times, they sought legal advice.
Answering questions about press invites to events, Mr Carbone insists the OPM issued invitations to all media, with one exception.
“There was one incident late last year when the Prime Minister gave comments to the press outside Castille. He was accused of saying too much!” he says.
[Mr Carbone is most likely referring to this occasion in late November, when Joseph Muscat said that he had offered a 'conditional pardon' to Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma. Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech had not been arrested at that stage].
'Is it like the Daphne Project?'
2.51pm Mr Carbone tells the inquiry that while he had some informal chats with foreign journalists, he was never involved in any interview or met with them.
He is asked whether he has heard of the Truth Project.
“Yes but I know nothing about it. Is it like the Daphne Project?” he asks.
Fuel smuggling rumours
2.44pm Mr Carbone tells the inquiry that he was appointed deputy head of government communications in 2013 and took over the lead role from Kurt Farrugia in 2019.
Judge Mallia asks whether he played any part in the rumour that Ms Caruana Galizia's murder was linked to fuel smuggling.
"What I know about Daphne Caruana Galizia is in the public domain," Mr Carbone replies.
"I've heard of this narrative, but I had no say in it. I saw it in the media."
Mr Carbone says he did not talk to journalists about the issue and explains that his office's job is to publish the news passed on by government.
"My superior at the time was Kurt Farrugia. We publish whenever the Prime Minister asks us to go public on some matter," he says.
Matthew Carbone testifies
2.42pm Matthew Carbone, who is the head of government communications, is the first to testify.
Lawyer Charlon Gouder is also in court on his behalf.
A dossier about Josef Caruana
2.40pm Mr Caruana, who is also scheduled to testify during today's sitting, loves making himself heard on social media.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia tells the inquiry that Ms Caruana Galizia's sister Corinne Vella will be presenting a dossier of screenshots showing articles and comments posted by the OPM official - and former L-Orizzont editor - related to Ms Caruana Galizia.
State advocates show up
2.36pm State advocate Victoria Buttigieg and Chris Falzon Scerri from attorney general's office have made an appearance, and they've presented themselves to the court as state advocates.
It's the first time they have appeared for an inquiry sitting.
What is the inquiry about?
2.34pm Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, former Judge Michael Mallia and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro form the three-person board, which has been asked to assess the circumstances leading to Ms Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
They have heard from the Caruana Galizia family, police commissioners past and present, journalists and financial regulators, among others.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Andrew Borg Cardona are assisting the Caruana Galizia family during proceedings.
Peter Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s husband and a lawyer himself, is also present during today’s sitting.
A colourful history of public service
2.20pm Mr Gafà worked as a manager with the Foundation for Medical Services, but was moved to the OPM's customer care unit following the 2017 general election. He served on the Labour Party's national executive at the time.
Those revelations led to Health Minister Chris Fearne sacking him from his FMS job in December 2018.
But that was not the end of Mr Gafà's public service. He quickly reappeared at the OPM, with sources saying he was there doing "voluntary" work. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat initially said he did not know where Mr Gafà' worked. Months later, Dr Muscat admitted in parliament that the official had been working inside his own office since January 2019.
What is Gafà's link to Caruana Galizia?
2.12pm There was certainly no love lost between the two.
Mr Gafà had followed Ms Caruana Galizia around Floriana just one day before she was murdered, posting photos of the journalist – “that woman in Bidnija”, as he described her - at a public garden to his Facebook page.
The Caruana Galizia family had filed a criminal complaint about that incident some weeks later, in which they accused Mr Gafà of stalking.
Who is Neville Gafà?
2.05pm Mr Gafà is a close confidant of former Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Keith Schembri and former OPM official.
He lost his taxpayer-funded job at the OPM last month when newly-appointed prime minister Robert Abela chose not to reappoint him. Mr Gafà also served on the Labour Party's national executive.
You'd be hard pressed to find a public official with more question marks about his work than Mr Gafà: here's a recap of how he and former PM Joseph Muscat played hide and seek with the public.
2pm Good afternoon and welcome to our live blog of today's Caruana Galizia inquiry session.
The courtroom is gradually filling up and we expect events to get under way shortly. Mr Gafà is present and waiting, having quashed rumours earlier in the day that he would not be appearing.
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