Ex-police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is to be formally investigated following allegations that he tipped off the self-confessed middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder about ongoing investigations.
The dramatic revelation came at the very end of a nine-hour hearing as part of the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, accused of masterminding the journalist's killing in October 2017.
It comes just over a week after Times of Malta revealed recovered tapes in which murder middleman Melvin Theuma was heard telling a third party that then police-chief Cutajar had met with a close associate of his.
The suggestion of police collusion was then formally mentioned in court evidence during Monday's mammoth hearing.
One of Fenech's business associates, Johann Cremona said Theuma had been tipped off by Cutajar that he was being investigated over money laundering.
Cremona also claimed Cutajar told Theuma that Europol knew of his recordings in connection with the murder and that Theuma had even played recordings to Cutajar before the arrest.
Theuma was granted a pardon after his arrest in November in connection with the car bomb killing.
The court also on Monday heard testimony from Edgar Brincat, known as il-Ġojja, a friend of Cutajar and Theuma, who insisted both men did not know each other.
Highlights from Monday's case
- Court orders the acting police commissioner to investigate his predecessor;
- Il-Ġojja, a friend of Lawrence Cutajar, denies he was a police informer;
- Defence lawyer asks if Keith Schembri had offered a sum to get bail for the alleged hitmen;
- Brincat insists that Theuma did not known Cutajar personally. But earlier Cremona says Theuma told him that he was getting information from Cutajar and had even discussed some form of pardon;
- Theuma had also told Il-Ġojja that Yorgen Fenech had ordered Caruana Galizia's assassination;
- A worried Keith Schembri had called Cremona around September 2019 to ask about Yorgen Fenech because he could not get through to him.
- Cremona thought Fenech was being blackmailed and that Theuma was after the businessman's money.
Court orders police to probe Cutajar
7.05pm The court deems that it had already pointed this out to the prosecution, after the testimony of Melvin Theuma. Prosecution had replied in the affirmative.
Therefore, the court at this stage is ordering the acting commissioner to "formally" investigate Cutajar.
Investigate former police boss now
7pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi has one last important request. In light of the testimony heard on Monday, he urges the court to order formal criminal action against their former boss Lawrence Cutajar for breaching the Criminal Code and Police Act.
"I humbly ask you to consider directing the police to take criminal action against former commissioner."
The defence team wholeheartedly agree.
“We’re agreed on this too,” all three lawyers say.
Inspector Arnaud is asked whether he intends to proceed.
He says the investigation on the alleged leaks is ongoing by the economic crimes unit.
Keith Schembri, Adrian Vella to be summoned
The case has been adjourned to Monday, June 22 at 10am.
Arnaud says that he can summon Keith Schembri and Adrian Vella. He says he will discuss the matter with the AG and then inform defence lawyers about those witnesses beforehand.
Fenech asked Schembri for phantom job
6.50pm Il-Ġojja says Theuma had informed him that it was Fenech who had asked Schembri to give him a government job.
"He never said why he lost the job or why he got the job," Brincat says.
The magistrate asks the lawyer to conclude her questioning and that any further questions will be left for a later stage.
Brincat's testimony ends there.
But there's one amusing anecdote before we wrap this up. Inspector Arnaud turns to the witness and asks “is your name Edwin or Edgar?”
"Edgar", says the witness known as Il-Ġojja.
Lawyer asks about Keith Schembri's 'bail offer'
6.45pm When Il-Ġojja went to the commissioner's house, Cutajar asked him whether he was still friends with Theuma.
Lawyer Camilleri points out that at the time, there was still nothing in the media about Theuma.
Camilleri: "What if I suggest that Cutajar was helping you?"
Brincat: "That’s not true."
Camilleri: "Were you a police informer?"
Camilleri: "So you lied to the commissioner when you denied knowledge of the recordings?"
Camilleri: "How did Cutajar broach the subject of Melvin?"
Brincat: "He told me that he wanted me to help him in a serious case. When he mentioned “my friend Melvin” I immediately thought of the murder case."
Camilleri: "Did Melvin tell you that Keith Schembri had offered a sum for bail?"
Camilleri: "What did Melvin mean by “they betrayed him in the plural?"
Brincat: He believed that it was Yorgen and Keith Schembri, but he told me that Keith never spoke to him about the murder.
Camilleri: "Are you sure?"
Brincat: "Certainly, certainly."
Il-Ġojja on the spot
6.35pm Brincat recalls Theuma would speak of wanting to tell all or to get a pardon.
Yorgen Fenech is seen shaking his head, bending forward and putting his hands to his forehead as though in disbelief.
Camilleri: "Did Theuma ever tell you that he was facing money laundering investigations and the date of the raids?
Brincat: "He did say there were investigations and that Johann had told him about some dates for the raids. He said he was going to be arrested over money laundering."
Camilleri: "Did you speak to Cutajar about this?"
Brincat: "No. I only spoke to the commissioner about the traffic fine."
The magistrate does not seem convinced and asks the witness to recall the sequence of events.
Brincat appears to hesitate and says he does not recall.
Camilleri: "Did the commissioner mention which “hot case” he was referring to."
Brincat: "Yes. He told me that Melvin was involved in Daphne’s case. The commissioner didn’t tell me that Melvin was going to be arrested but he wanted me to help trace the recordings."
Camilleri: "Can you recall when this meeting took place?"
Brincat: "It was months into 2019, when the traffic case was due to be heard."
Camilleri: "Did he speak in his role as commissioner?"
Brincat: "No. He told me to pick his brains (on the recordings)".
6.25pm Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri is asking questions.
Il-Ġojja says that Theuma never told him that he had recordings of Johann Cremona too.
"I didn't even know he was talking to Cremona. I got to know from the paper. But he didn't tell me what they discussed in detail...
"I never tried to fish for details. Melvin had a habit of turning up, sometimes after two or seven or 10 days. But he was more troubled than before. He said he never suggested to Theuma to use recordings for blackmail. But I told Melvin to record more conversations so that he would have more to show."
Camilleri asks if Theuma ever told him that he already had an inkling about the pardon? Did someone speak to him about it?
"No. But he was always anxious that someone else might get the pardon before him."
Eight hours... and counting
6.15pm We're eight hours in... and the case is still going on. The defence is consulting before cross-examining the witness. Brincat takes a seat and is told not to speak to anyone.
Il-Ġojja testified after Johann Cremona was grilled for hours earlier.
6pm Brincat is asked about Theuma's infamous job with the government.
"Melvin had been happy about it, telling me that he had landed a job. Afterwards he was angry when the job was withdrawn," he says.
Brincat rejects claims that Cutajar had mentioned Europol.
"I mentioned Europol. Officials from Europol had also been sent to my house," he says.
The magistrate warns witness that he must say the truth, warning him about the consequences of not doing so.
Azzopardi has no further questions but defence lawyer Marion Camilleri says, “I know it’s late but could you spare us a few minutes to consult our client?”
5.45pm Azzopardi asks if Theuma told him that one of Degiorgio brothers also had a recording implicating someone else in the murder.
Il-Ġojja gets into a verbal spat with the lawyer and says that Theuma never told him about Chris Cardona.
He also says that Cutajar never told him about the date of the raid to arrest Theuma.
Brincat said Theuma had told him that a "Johann" informed him he was to be arrested over money laundering.
Azzopardi: "Did Melvin ever mention the word 'betrayal' to you?
Brincat: "He mentioned it when he first spoke to me about the whole affair. He told me that Keith Schembri had got him a job."
'I was never Cutajar's informer'
5.40pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking questions.
Brincat had asked Theuma why he bothered getting into such a mess. He felt he sort of owed it to the businessman who had also allocated a taxi stand for him outside Portomaso.
Il-Ġojja says that he knew Cutajar at Birżebbuġa. He later met him at Marsa as a bookmaker.
"But I never went to dine or drink with him. I was never his informer," il-Ġojja replies flatly.
But Azzopardi asks why he felt the need to go to the then commissioner's home to fix a fine.
"I only went because I was afraid they would withdraw my driving licence. I wanted to register a complaint and so I went to his home."
Theuma didn't know Cutajar 'personally'
5.30pm Brincat says he had not told Theuma that the commissioner was chasing after the tapes, calling him more than once.
"Cutajar probably thought that I was hiding the tapes. Otherwise why did police search my place all night long?"
Brincat is asked what kind of help and information Theuma was getting from "higher up".
He replies: "About dates of raids, places to be raided and so on."
But Brincat insists that Theuma did not known Cutajar personally.
Theuma feared Fenech would murder him
5.20pm Il-Ġojja recounts how Theuma had once told refused to go abroad with Yorgen Fenech after the murder, fearing he would murder him, pushed under a car.
At one point, Theuma took a copy of the recordings on USB to Brincat to convince him that the recordings of his conversations did really exist.
Unrelated to the murder, Brincat recalls the time a labourer had landed a traffic fine. He went to then police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar's home at Luqa to try to fix the fine. He says he has known Cutajar for 30 years.
"The fine was issued in my name although I had not been driving the car."
Cutajar told il-Ġojja to get a lawyer for the fine, which he did and eventually he was cleared in court, Brincat says.
While at Cutajar’s home, the commissioner told Brincat that Theuma was involved in a "hot case".
The police commissioner wanted il-Ġojja to find out where the secret recordings were being kept. Brincat says he denied knowing of recordings but promised to do whatever he could.
Il-Ġojja says he did his best to avoid meeting the Cutajar. But then he was arrested too.
Considered PN MP lawyers to defend him
5.05pm Theuma was in a state of despair, even threatening to take his own life if the alleged hitmen managed to get a pardon.
"If he spoke out he would land behind bars."
He once told il-Ġojja that Fenech had suggested engaging Edward Gatt as a lawyer, but Theuma turned down the offer.
At one point, Theuma had mentioned Simon Busuttil, Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina to help him with legal assistance.
Theuma told him that Fenech had contacts in government, that Keith Schembri was his friend and that he was helping him on this case.
Theuma told Brincat that he had never spoken to Schembri about this case.
"The more he told me that Keith Schembri knew Yorgen Fenech, the more I advised him against going for the pardon."
Schembri was 'helping' Fenech
4.55pm Theuma once told Brincat that Keith Schembri knew about it all and was helping Fenech.
At one point, Brincat says he had to dissuade Theuma from going to Castille to find Schembri.
Theuma told Brincat that he had passed on recordings to Fenech at his office at Portomaso.
From then on, Theuma would go to il-Ġojja every so often, saying “did you see that in the newspaper?” and ask him to translate because he didn’t understand English.
"He used to cry and I sometimes cried with him too."
Advised Theuma not to seek a pardon
4.45pm Brincat warned him that Fenech might have been tricking him. The police could get to Degiorgios but what proof was there to go beyond Theuma, he had told the self-confessed middleman.
"Yorgen Fenech is powerful. So I advised him not to seek a pardon, because if he did he would land behind bars," Il-Ġojja says.
But every time Theuma heard a news report about the case he would rush to Brincat to tell him he's going to apply for a presidential pardon.
He used to say that the Degiorgios were constantly pressing him for money but he swore that he never took any money himself. One day he told him that murder suspect Vince Muscat's pardon request had reached cabinet stage.
'Yorgen ordered it'
4.35pm Arnaud confirms that Brincat is not under suspicion. Yet, the court informs him that he has a right not to answer self-incriminating questions.
Il-Ġojja says he's a bookmaker and has known Melvin Theuma for around 30 years.
He said he once received a call from Theuma after Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, saying he had made a number of recordings.
An anxious, excited and desperate Theuma told him: "Don't be angry with what I'm going to tell you. I'm involved in the case."
I immediately told Melvin that if he were to speak, he would land behind bars and never get out again
He then told him that Yorgen Fenech had ordered the assassination and had sent him to one of Degiorgio brothers to carry it out.
"I immediately told Melvin that if he were to speak, he would land behind bars and never get out again," Edwin Brincat tells the court.
It was a misunderstanding
4.30pm After a long wait, there's some joy as Il-Ġojja returns to court.
Arnaud explains to the magistrate the reason for Brincat's absence: it was down to a misunderstanding. He didn't realise Cremona's case would take so long. It's been six and a a half hours since the case started.
We're still waiting
4pm Forty five minutes after the magistrate orders Brincat, il-Ġojja, back to court to testify after she issued an arrest warrant. Everyone is still waiting.
Brincat is known to be close to both Melvin Theuma and former police boss Lawrence Cutajar.
His testimony is expected after a marathon grilling session of Johann Cremona, a business associate of Yorgen Fenech's.
What we've heard so far
3.28pm As we wait for Edwin Brincat to be hauled into court, here's a brief summary of what the previous witness, Johann Cremona, said in his final 90 minutes of testimony.
For a summary of his morning testimony, check out the summary posted at 11.59am.
Cremona said that:
- Keith Schembri had called him up around September 2019 to ask about Yorgen Fenech. Schembri said he couldn't get through to him and was worried. Cremona said he had never spoken to Schembri before that.
- Theuma said that Yorgen Fenech told him he got information about the case from Keith Schembri.
- Theuma told him that he was getting information from [former police chief] Lawrence Cutajar.
- He believes Theuma and Cutajar were discussing some form of pardon.
- Theuma visited him every day between June 18 and October 19.
- He thought Fenech was being blackmailed and that Theuma was after the businessman's money.
- He believes Fenech and Kenneth Camilleri did not know each other.
- Police spoke to him three times in November 2019. Lawrence Cutajar was present for the third interrogation.
Brincat 'il-Ġojja' to testify - but where is he?
3.12pm Cremona is done testifying and the court summons another witness. It’s Edwin Brincat, known as il-Ġojja.
But there’s a problem – nobody seems to know where he is.
Inspector Arnaud tells the court that Brincat was outside previously, pacing the hall.
He then says that lawyer Matthew Brincat has informed him that Edwin Brincat could not stay on after 2.30pm. Something had cropped up.
Magistrate Montebello is not pleased.
Even though Brincat had not received a formal written summons, he should have stayed on to testify, she says.
The magistrate orders Brincat to be brought to court immediately under arrest.
End of testimony
3.08pm Mercieca asks whether Theuma ever mentioned anything about gifts.
“No, never,” he says, reiterating that Theuma had told him that Yorgen Fenech had told him to slam the brakes on murder plans.
“Did Melvin Theuma ever tell you that he barged ahead, that he started it all to get a hold of Yorgen?" Mercieca asks.
The magistrate asks: “Didn’t you ever ask Melvin Theuma why he went ahead? Or why Yorgen Fenech asked him to stop?”
“No,” Cremona replies.
That’s the last question for the witness, who steps off the stand.
'I think they were discussing a pardon'
3.04pm Cremona is asked whether Theuma ever told him that he had discussed a pardon with the commissioner.
“He never told me about that, but today that’s what I think.”
The magistrate turns to Arnaud.
“Inspector, do you know about these things?”
“Yes, we knew about it before today’s testimony,” Arnaud replies.
Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca wants to know if the pardon is being examined.
Arnaud is non-committal in his reply.
Theuma's Lawrence Cutajar connection
3.02pm Theuma would show up at his office “angry and flustered and swearing,” Cremona says, and repeatedly ask him to call Fenech because he wanted money.
“But I never told Yorgen Fenech about money,” Cremona says.
“Theuma would mention Keith Schembri, telling me to ask Kenneth Camilleri to ask Keith Schembri ‘if there were any problems’.”
As for Lawrence Cutajar: “Theuma would sometimes says ‘I spoke to him’ or say he did so through a third party.” That was around July 2019," Cremona says.
Cremona is asked whether Theuma ever told him that he was asking the police commissioner for favours.
“Isn’t that what it amounts to?” [Mhux hekk tiġi?] Cremona replies.
Theuma's money laundering troubles
2.55pm Cremona is asked about Theuma’s money laundering issues.
He says Theuma had been warned about the matter by the former police commissioner (Lawrence Cutajar) and had also had a sanction letter (for a loan) withdrawn by a bank.
Replying to a question by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca, Cremona says that Theuma was involved in illegal betting and the taxi business.
Theuma also had property, he says.
“When I heard that some €2 million worth of property had been seized, it all made sense”.
“Theuma would tell me that he would never go to jail for money laundering. He’d say ‘if they catch me I’ll reveal everything’.”
'I think Melvin was using Yorgen for money'
2.51pm Cremona says he believes Yorgen Fenech was being blackmailed and says he was afraid.
“He (Theuma) was a big burden but I couldn’t get rid of him. He came to me every day between June 18 to October 19.”
Cremona recalls telling inspector Arnaud, during his first statement, that it “definitely wasn’t Yorgen Fenech” (behind the murder)
“Melvin told me that Yorgen had told him to ‘stop everything’ but that he (Melvin) didn’t want to go back on his word with the Degiorgios. He was afraid of losing money and also afraid they would rat him out.
“I think that Melvin was using Yorgen for money”.
'Kenneth and Yorgen didn't know each other'
2.45pm Cremona grows more insistent: Camilleri and Fenech definitely didn’t know each other, he says.
He’s asked how he can be so sure, and says it’s because “one never told me about the other”.
Cremona returns to his sense of being trapped by Theuma’s repeated visits and calls.
“It was as though I was caught in a net,” he says.
2.42pm Cremona says Camilleri showed up at his office, unexpectedly, the following day.
That wasn’t normal, he says in reply to a question from defence lawyer Marion Camilleri.
An hour later, Theuma showed up and said he wanted to speak to Camilleri. The two men went to an outer part of the office and seemed to quarrel over something – “I don’t know what,” Cremona adds.
Theuma called him the next day, saying he wanted to meet Camilleri. That was in Valletta.
After that third meeting, Camilleri made no further appearance, Cremona says.
“To my knowledge, Yorgen Fenech and Kenneth Camilleri never met. It was Melvin Theuma who later told me that Kenneth Camilleri had promised bail (for the Degiorgio brothers).”
Setting up a meeting between Theuma and Camilleri
2.38pm Marion Camilleri, who represents Yorgen Fenech, stands up to ask questions of the witness.
She takes Cremona back to that initial meeting outside Melvin Theuma’s home involving the two men and Kenneth Camilleri.
Cremona says Camilleri was a neighbour and friend of his father’s.
“That’s how he had my number,” he says. “He called me saying he wanted to speak to Melvin Theuma”.
The magistrate asks how Camilleri knew that he knew Theuma. Cremona says that’s a question Camilleri must answer.
Cremona says he set up the meeting for the very same day. He had met Camilleri somewhere in Fgura and the two had gone to Theuma’s in his (Cremona’s) car.
Cremona says he had told Theuma “there’s somebody who wants to speak to you”.
About that call from Schembri
2.34pm Azzopardi asks about Cremona’s contact with Schembri.
Schembri had invited Cremona to Castille and told him that he was concerned about Yorgen Fenech because he was going through some tough times.
After that Schembri had called Cremona on other occasions to tell him he could get in touch with Fenech.
Cremona casts a glance towards the front bench, where Yorgen Fenech is seated in between armed guards.
Cremona told Fenech he was being recorded
2.30pm Azzopardi asks when Cremona told Fenech that he was being recorded.
“Melvin Theuma had told me to tell Yorgen Fenech that he was being recorded,” he replies. “It’s not as though I spilt the beans on Melvin Theuma. Yorgen never replied to that message. We spoke later on, but about work”.
Cremona is asked about Theuma being tipped off about an impending police raid.
“When he got the call about that Saturday raid, he began to swear and stormed out of my office,” Cremona says. “He used to pressure me to get a list of places to be raided and dates from Kenneth (Camilleri). He’d tell me “call him, call him”.
“Sometimes I ask myself, looking back, why didn’t he try and get that information himself? He had the necessary contacts. Did he do it to get me involved in all this?”
Theuma's sense of betrayal
2.27pm Azzopardi wants to know what Melvin Theuma meant when he said “they betrayed me”.
“He was referring to Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri and blaming them both for the murder,” Cremona says.
The witness says Theuma wanted him to speak to Kenneth Camilleri to relay a message to Keith Schembri – that he wanted €50,000.
“I pretended I had spoken to Kenneth Camilleri, who said he would not hand over the money. Theuma said he would go and wait outside Castille”.
Cremona says he does not know how Theuma found out that Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu, was cooperating with the police.
'Schembri called me because he couldn't reach Fenech'
2.22pm Cremona says he received a phone call from Keith Schembri in around September 2019. It was the first time the two men had spoken, Cremona says.
After some chit chat about gaming, Schembri asked about Yorgen Fenech.
“Keith Schembri was clearly worried about Yorgen Fenech. He couldn’t get through to him and asked me to pass on a message. ‘Tell him that I want to talk to him,’ Cremona recalls Schembri telling him.
“I replied ‘I can’t get in touch with him either’”.
About Tony il-Biglee photo
2.19pm Cremona is asked about the photo of Tony il-Biglee which Yorgen Fenech had sent him.
Fenech had sent him the photo using [encrypted messaging app] Signal, he says.
“It was a small photo of a bald man. I had never heard of that man before and had no idea who he was,” Cremona says.
Fenech had texted him “this is the middleman between Cardona and Alfred Degiorgio” [Dan hu li kien bejn Cardona u Alfred Degiorgio]
Cremona is asked if he asked Fenech any questions about it.
“No I didn’t,” he says.
Cremona says he showed Melvin Theuma the photo, and Theuma seemed pleased.
“Illalu, veru?” he had asked.
Recordings of Cremona
2.14pm Azzopardi asks Cremona whether Theuma told him where he had met Cutajar.
“No,” the witness says. “He would say that he contacted Cutajar directly or else via il-Ġojja, Edwin Brincat”.
[Read our exclusive story about Cutajar's links to il-Ġojja]
“Were there any other recordings he told you about?”
“I was always told there were no recordings with me. Then in January I was informed by police that there were also recordings involving me too.”
Meeting Lawrence Cutajar
2.12pm Cremona: Theuma also told me that he was getting help from Lawrence Cutajar. That was around 2019.
Azzopardi asks what sort of help.
Cremona says Cutajar had warned Theuma that he was being investigated for money-laundering.
“Did Melvin Theuma tell you that he was actually negotiating his terms of raid and arrest?” Azzopardi asks.
“Exactly,” Cremona replies.
Cremona says Theuma got information that he was being investigated for money laundering from Cutajar, who also gave him details about Europol being onto him. Theuma played recordings to the former police chief, he adds.
Magistrate Montebello asks which recordings. The witness says they were recordings Melvin had made of himself speaking to Fenech.
'He told me Yorgen got information from Keith'
2.07pm Azzopardi asks Cremona to explain whether Theuma had told him that Yorgen Fenech had been leaked information about the murder investigation.
“Yes,” Cremona replies. “He told me that Yorgen Fenech told him he got the information from Keith Schembri”.
Theuma, the Degiorgios and Cardona
2.03pm Answering a question by Azzopardi, Cremona says Theuma told him that Chris Cardona and David Gatt were to prepare €400,000 until the Degiorgios’ trial by jury.
Theuma told him several times that the Degiorgios had sought bail and that he was ready to take Mario Degiorgio to Keith Schembri’s Mellieħa home.
“Melvin often went to Mario’s home. One day David Gatt allegedly told Mario that he would kill them (the Degiorgios) if they didn’t leave Cardona alone”.
Cremona was questioned three times by police
2pm Cremona says he was spoken to by police three times, in November 2019.
Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Keith Zahra were there the first time.
Inspector Arnaud and inspector Taliana were there the second time.
The third interrogation featured inspectors Arnaud and Zahra and former police chief Lawrence Cutajar.
A legal tussle
1.51pm Yorgen Fenech's defence team is arguing that Jason Azzopardi (who is appearing on Caruana Galizia family's behalf) cannot cross-examine the witness and must only ask direct questions of him.
It's the latest addition to the Fenech legal team, Charles Mercieca, who leads this line of argument.
Parte civile lawyers, Mercieca says, are there to assist the prosecution. They cannot ask leading questions.
Another of Fenech's lawyers, Marion Camilleri, echoes that line of argument.
Azzopardi replies by saying this issue has never been raised before and notes that he was allowed to ask all sorts of questions, "even direct ones", when speaking to witnesses in the case concerning the alleged hitmen.
Magistrate Montebello listens to both sides and decides that Azzopardi can ask direct questions under cross-examination.
Public inquiry due to resume at 2pm
1.38pm Last week, Melvin Theuma spent almost 20 hours testifying in court. We're almost four hours into today's session - and it's not the only event linked to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Monday's court calendar.
A public inquiry into the murder and the circumstances leading to it is due to resume at 2pm, with acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri expected to testify.
Open court resumes
1.34pm After almost two hours, the doors to courtroom no 9 reopen. Journalists are being allowed back in for the session to continue in open court.
Journalists still outside
12.32pm It's been almost one hour since the magistrate asked journalists and other attendees to vacate the courtroom, to allow the witness to be questioned about a particular recording in private. We're still waiting to be allowed back in.
Meanwhile, read our summary of what Melvin Theuma said under oath during roughly 20 hours of testimony last week, watch our interview with the murder-linked Chris Cardona or listen to our #TimesTalk podcast about Cardona's alleged involvement.
What we've heard today
11.59am Just catching up with the morning court session?
Here's an abridged version of what Johann Cremona has said so far:
- Kenneth Camilleri (who worked at Castille as part of the prime minister's security detail) asked him to contact Melvin Theuma.
- The three met at Theuma's house, then again the following day at Cremona's office and a third time in Valletta the subsequent day.
- Theuma told him that Camilleri promised to sort out bail for the Degiorgio brothers. Camilleri said the opposite: that Theuma had asked him to sort out bail.
- Theuma was convinced that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech had "betrayed him"
- Theuma told him that Mario Degiorgio (a brother of two of the alleged hitmen) had claimed that Chris Cardona and David Gatt were involved in the murder.
- Theuma said that former police chief Lawrence Cutajar would provide him with information about a money-laundering
investigation and told him that Europol knew of recordings. Theuma said he had even played recordings to Cutajar before the arrest.
- Yorgen Fenech had sent Cremona a photo of Chris Cardona canvasser Tony il-Biglee together with the note 'this is the middleman between Cardona and il-Fulu'.
Session to continue in private
11.42am Journalists and other attendees are asked to leave the courtroom, as there is a sensitive recording which is to be heard behind closed doors.
The session will resume in open court for Cremona’s cross-examination.
'I made things up to get some peace'
11.37am Inspector Arnaud asks about Keith Schembri’s relationship with Yorgen Fenech.
Cremona: “According to Melvin, Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech were friends, Keith leaked information to Yorgen and the two had betrayed him. That was his story every day, day in, day out.”
The court asks whether Cremona questioned him about this.
The witness says he did not.
“I would make up stories to calm him down. I’d sometimes spend hours talking to him in the sun. He would even call me when I was out with my family.
“When Melvin pressured me to talk to Kenneth Camilleri because of the impending raids, I didn’t (speak to Kenneth). Instead I made up a story that police were going to raid his Marsa garage [remissa]. I made that up so that he would leave me in peace”.
Melvin's threat to go to 'uncle Ray'
11.33am Theuma was desperate and wanted to contact “everyone”, Cremona says.
He once threatened to go speak to "uncle Ray" (Yorgen’s uncle, Ray Fenech).
Cremona says he told him “are you mad?”
“Melvin would tell me that he wanted to take Mario Degiorgio to Keith Schembri’s home.
I don’t know what he did. I don’t know what the reason was behind all this”.
'Yorgen sent me a photo of il-Biglee'
11.27am Answering a question, Cremona says he once showed Theuma a photo of il-Biglee (a canvassar of Chris Cardona’s who Theuma alleged had served as a middleman between the politician and Degiorgio brothers).
“When Theuma told me about Cardona and Gatt, Yorgen Fenech had sent me a photo of that man, saying ‘this is the middleman between Cardona and...”
The magistrate calls the witness up on this. “Didn’t you say you never contacted Yorgen Fenech about this case?”
Cremona says that there were articles in the press about Cardona at the time.
“Yorgen sent me that photo saying that “this is the middleman between Chris Cardona and il-Fulu (Alfred Degiorgio)”.
"You wouldn't blame Yorgen for doing that if he had told Melvin to stop (with the murder plot)," he adds.
Theuma waiting outside Castille
11.22am Theuma was fixated with getting information from Keith Schembri, Cremona says.
“He even went to Castille twice, to wait outside. He had asked for Kenneth Camilleri’s number but I never gave it to him,” Cremona says.
Cremona wants to clarify another point.
“Kenneth Camilleri, Melvin Theuma and myself only met three times. Camilleri said he met four (times) but I don’t know about the fourth time”.
Yorgen Fenech moves to speak to his lawyers.
Cremona again returns to Theuma’s obsessive behaviour.
“He wouldn’t leave me in peace. He even came to find me near hospital. I would have to put up with him for two hours every day at the office.”
Theuma warned about police raid
11.18am Cremona says his last conversation with Theuma was on November 11 (2019).
“I didn’t give him the 16th as a date, as Theuma said under oath,” he says.
Cremona says he risked losing his licence – “my only source of income”- over this.
Cremona thinks back to November 11.
“Theuma came to my shop, saying he had received an early morning call warning him about the upcoming raid. The call probably wasn’t from Yorgen because he was not the type to call so early”.
Theuma received another call while he was with Cremona, all flustered.
The call was to tell him that the raid was happening on Saturday. Theuma began to swear angrily, Cremona says.
'Melvin only spoke to me and il-Ġojja'
11.14am Cremona says Fenech was hard to reach over the phone and that Theuma would take out his frustration on him (Cremona).
“I never called Yorgen Fenech or did so when Melvin was present”, he said.
The magistrate wants to know whether Theuma explained what he meant when he asked for Yorgen to be told that he was “recording him”.
Cremona says he did not.
Theuma semeed to seek him for solace, Cremona says.
“He would say that he only spoke to me and il-Ġojja (Edwin Brincat)”.
'Tell him that Melvin has recorded him'
11.11am Cremona: Melvin once told me to relay a message to Yorgen Fenech. “Tell him that Melvin has recorded him”.
The magistrate wants to know whether he spoke to Fenech about this.
“No I didn’t,” Cremona replies. “I knew Yorgen for years and couldn’t believe it”.
Fenech would talk to him about business and tell him that they were doing well. Fenech was abroad most of the time, even in 2019.
11.05am Cremona again returns to former police chief Cutajar.
He says Cutajar told Theuma about a money-laundering investigation, that Europol knew of recordings and had even listened to recordings before the arrest.
“Melvin told me that he had played recordings to Cutajar before the arrests,” Cremona says.
Theuma had also mentioned Edwin Brincat (il-Ġojja, a mutual acquaintance of his and Cutajar’s).
Confession to a priest
11.02am Magistrate Montebello wants to know if Cremona spoke to anyone else about all this.
Cremona says he confessed to a priest. He says he only spoke to Fenech about the case “when the story came out in the media”. Fenech denied any involvement, Cremona says, adding that this was before Fenech was arrested.
Theuma on Vince Muscat
11am Cremona says Theuma had also told him that Vince Muscat [the third alleged hitman] was speaking to police.
Again, the witness says that he was not the one to tell Theuma this.
Cremona would try to calm Theuma down by telling him that Muscat can’t have named him to police, as he hadn’t been arrested [kieku ġabruk].
'We will never expose you'
10.55am Cremona is asked some questions about a mobile phone found in the sea [Theuma has testified that Fenech told him numbers for Chris Cardona and one of the Degiorgio brothers were found on the phone].
Those questions are held for later, as the witness is not comfortable replying in open court.
Arnaud asks Cremona what else Theuma told him.
“He once told me that he was sent by Mario Degiorgio to talk to someone about Cardona,” Cremona says. “I advised him not to get involved in other people’s troubles.”
“Did he tell you how he felt?” Arnaud asks.
“He once told me that one of Degiorgios told him “we will never expose you” [ma nikxfuk qatt].
Gatt, Cardona and the Degiorgios
10.51am Arnaud asks the witness whether Theuma had told him why he wanted to speak to Kenneth Camilleri or Keith Schembri.
“He once told me that he wanted €50,000,” Cremona says. “He told me to tell Kenneth Camilleri. But I didn’t”.
“He believed that Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri were in it. I don’t know if Mr Fenech told him anything.”
“He also told me that David Gatt said that if after getting bail they (the Degiorgios) didn’t leave them in peace, Cardona would kill them.”
Worried about Degiorgios
10.47am Cremona recalls Theuma telling him how Fenech had first told him to proceed with the murder, but then changed his mind.
Theuma, worried about going back on his word with the Degiorgios, had forked out €30,000 himself and given it to the Degiorgios.
“One minute he’d say Yorgen gave him money, and the next he’d say he couldn’t get through to him,” he says.
Cremona makes it clear this is what he heard.
“This is not what I know first-hand. I don’t know if Yorgen Fenech handed money to him,” the witness says.
Link with Lawrence Cutajar
10.45am Cremona says he knew Theuma had contact with former police chief Lawrence Cutajar.
“He said that Cutajar would warn him in advance about his money laundering trouble,” Cremona testifies.
This went on from June 18 to October 19.
Theuma would constantly ask for favours, Cremona says. He asked him to call Kenneth Camilleri, and Cremona says he would make up a story to get out of it.
Theuma would bombard him with calls, Cremona says, “saying he was going to get drunk and commit suicide”.
When Theuma would tell him that Yorgen Fenech was not taking his calls, Cremona would tell him that Fenech was a busy man.
But Cremona never tried to contact Fenech himself, he tells the court, saying he didn’t feel he should involve himself any further in the situation.
“The guy (Theuma) wasn’t in the right frame of mind,” Cremona says. “He was depressed and always crying”.
“Why?” asks Arnaud.
“I think it’s because the Degiorgios were constantly chasing him for money,” Cremona replies.
Cremona insists he did not name Cardona or Gatt
10.39am Cremona tells the court that, contrary to what Melvin Theuma testified, he [Cremona] had never mentioned Cardona and Gatt.
It was Theuma who mentioned them to him, Cremona says.
“I didn’t even know Yorgen was involved, or Keith Schembri,” he says.
Cremona says he wasn’t happy to have Theuma constantly in his shop. “He was always sweating and upset”.
Theuma told him that Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri had ordered him to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Theuma would say that he wanted money from Fenech.
“Why Yorgen Fenech?” asks Arnaud.
“Because he said that he never spoke to Keith Schembri,” Cremona replies.
Theuma would tell Cremona that he would report the two to the police [ħa mmur nikxifhom].
'He used to say 'Keith and Yorgen betrayed me''
10.33am Theuma showed up at Cremona’s shop two days later, the witness says, and told him that he had been betrayed.
“Keith Schembri betrayed me,” Theuma told him. “Keith and Yorgen betrayed me”.
Cremona says that Theuma would come to his office every day, like clockwork, after those meetings with Camilleri.
“It was always the same story, over and over,” Cremona says.
Then one day, Theuma brought in two other people and told him that Mario Degiorgio [a brother of alleged hitmen George and Alfred Degiorgio] had claimed that Chris Cardona and David Gatt were involved in the murder.
[Cardona is a former minister and current Labour deputy leader. Gatt is a former police inspector-turned-lawyer who shared an office with Cardona].
10.29am Cremona says he asked Theuma what was going on, and that Theuma’s reply was that Camilleri “came and promised the Degiorgio brothers bail”. [ġie u wegħedhom il-bail lill-aħwa Degiorgio].
The witness says that was when he realised what this was all about.
But Camilleri gave him a different version of events, he says.
“He said that Theuma had asked him to make arrangements for bail”.
'Sort out bail for them'
10.26am Cremona says Camilleri showed up at his shop the very next day. Some minutes later, Theuma turned up and asked to speak to Camilleri.
“I moved away, and let them speak,” Cremona recalls. “At one point, I heard them both swearing, and then they both told me that they were leaving. I was in my office.”
The following day, Cremona says he got a call from Theuma while he was in Valletta.
Theuma said he was coming there and that he wanted to speak to Camilleri again.
“I was at a café opposite parliament,” Cremona says.
Cremona says he called Camilleri, who agreed to meet Theuma. The three men met close to parliament.
He says he heard Theuma tell Camilleri “sort out bail for them” [irranġalhom għall bail] but that’s all he heard.
A phone call and 10-minute chat
10.23am Cremona says he moved across the road while the other two spoke.
He says that as he was on the phone, he noticed Camilleri move away from Theuma and make a phone call.
“I don’t know whether he really made a call [or not],” Cremona says.
Theuma and Camilleri spent around 10 minutes speaking, he says. The Kenneth came over and he and Cremona left, in Cremona’s car.
“Was that normal?” Arnaud asks.
Cremona says no, and adds that it had been a long time since he and Camilleri had spoken prior to that.
'Kenneth from Castille' and a meeting at Theuma's
10.19am Cremona says he first heard of the case in June 2018, when Kenneth Camilleri (‘Kenneth from Castille’) spoke to him about it.
“I knew Kenneth from long ago, through my dad. He (Camilleri) was a traffic policeman,” he says.
Cremona says Camilleri asked him to reach out to Theuma. Inspector Arnaud asks what for.
“I don’t know. I have no idea. He has to answer for that”.
Cremona says he took Camilleri to Theuma’s home. He recalls getting a phone call from his father while they were there, and says he moved to the side to take the call while Camilleri and Theuma spoke.
Ties to Melvin Theuma
10.15am Cremona says he knows Melvin Theuma - his company leased a shop from Melvin in 2013 and he regularly called to collect rent.
Rent is paid every two months. The company also rents property from other landlords, he adds.
Partners with Fenech since 2011
10.13am Cremona takes the oath and his testimony begins.
He tells the court that he works in gaming and is based at Portomaso with an office-cum-workshop in Qormi.
He and Yorgen Fenech have been business partners since 2011. Fenech would handle the accounts side of things, while he took care of operations.
Cremona is not under investigation
10.09am Cremona walks into court. He's wearing a black mask and blue suit. His light brown hair is cut in a close shave.
Lawyer Kris Busietta is accompanying him.
Inspector Arnaud tells the court that Cremona is not under investigation. The magistrate notes that down and tells the witness that he may choose not to answer any self-incriminating question. He must, however, answer questions which may incriminate someone else, the magistrate adds.
Who are the lawyers?
10.03am Apart from Caruana Curran, Yorgen Fenech also has Marion Camilleri and Charles Mercieca on his legal team.
Mercieca has made quite a few headlines in recent weeks, because of his controversial switch from being a public prosecutor to representing Fenech. He has just formally informed the magistrate that he is, as of today, joining Fenech's defence team.
Mercieca walks past Fenech, and the two pat each other on the arm.
Inspector Keith Arnaud is prosecuting.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Peter Caruana Galizia are appearing on behalf of the Caruana Galizia family.
10am Magistrate Rachel Montebello has retired to her chambers while court officials wipe down surfaces with disinfectant. There's no more seating available - social distancing rules mean the courtroom has quickly reached capacity.
Fenech uses the moment to have quick word with one of his lawyers, Gianluca Caruana Curran.
What to expect
9.54am Cremona is expected to be summoned to the witness stand. The prosecution will ask questions first. Lawyers representing the Caruana Galizia family will also have the opportunity to question him.
Yorgen Fenech's defence lawyers will then get the opportunity to question the witness - though they may also opt to reserve questions for a later stage.
Armed guards are keeping watch and the man in the dock, Yorgen Fenech, has just entered the court room. His wife is present, as are two of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters.
Who is Johann Cremona?
9.50am Cremona is a business associate of Yorgen Fenech’s, with ties to the gaming sector.
His name appeared in the ICIJ’s Paradise Papers data leak, which linked him to three companies – Classic Gaming Company Ltd, The Betting Company Ltd and Best Play Gaming Ltd – and an address in Qormi.
Cremona’s name has repeatedly cropped up in murder middleman Melvin Theuma’s testimony. Theuma has said he would spend entire days with Cremona, as he worried about the murder investigation closing in on him.
Theuma has also testified that Cremona had paid him a visit in 2018 related to the murder. He was accompanied by a ‘Kenneth from Castille’.
Cremona was also allegedly one of two men – the other being Fenech – who promised to forewarn him about places which were to be searched by police when they raided him. Cremona allegedly told Theuma that police inspector Raymond Aquilina would be the one leading the investigation.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us