The alleged mastermind in the plot to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia has said the prime minister's chief of staff leaked him key information about the investigation.

Businessman Yorgen Fenech appeared in court this morning and shared damning testimony about Keith Schembri, who resigned from his position last week.

Mr Fenech said Mr Schembri was able to tip him off on the police probe, divuling that his phone was tapped and giving him advanced warning on police raids that were carried out two months after the murder.

After Mr Fenech was arrested last month, he alleges that the leaks continued and that Mr Schembri was able to get a message through to him, via a doctor, with a "script" on how to deal with the police. 

He also shared details about their "brotherly" relationship that dated back to youth, and how they would share their problems with each other.

The early morning court case was the main news of the day but there were also other developments.

Miriam Dalli, one of the Labour MPs expected to be in the race to succeed Joseph Muscat, revealed she will not be in the running.

As for the prime minister himself, he spoke earlier this morning and said he had "no knowledge" of Ms Caruana Galizia's murder and that his former chief of staff had never been mentioned in briefings on the case. 

This weekend he will have a break from Malta. He is off to the Vatican for a private meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday morning. A planned meeting with the Italian Prime Minister has been cancelled.

Muscat's meeting with Italian PM cancelled

5.01pm Joseph Muscat is in Italy this weekend where he will meet with the Pope Francis. But a meeting planned with the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been cancelled, we've confirmed.

And that's it from us for today. Thanks for staying with us through another day of developments in these unprecedented times for the country. 

Fearne on Dalli's decision not to contest leadership

4.36pm. Labour's Deputy Leader Chris Fearne has commented about Miriam Dalli's decision not to run in the leadership election.

In a Facebook post, he said Dr Dalli and himself would continue to work together to build on the success that had already been achieved. She had a lot to contribute to the Labour Party, now and in the future, and they could look to the future together. 

Artists do it their way

4pm Our reporter Jessica Arena has compiled a story about the way popular culture has caught up with the political crisis. From Brikkuni to Frans il-Ħamallu, artists are having their say about the incredible developments of the last few weeks. 

Call for inquiry into 'phantom jobs'

3.56pm The Malta Employers' Association is calling for an inquiry into the extent of paid phantom jobs in the public sector after the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder plot admitted in court he was given a government job, but never actually reported for work.

Times of Malta endorses Sunday's mass protest

3.17pm In three days time, there will be another mass protest in Valletta. We're encouraging our readers to attend this manifestation headed by civil society. 

The protest is organised by civil society groups Repubblika, Occupy Justice and Manuel Delia. It is also backed by human rights NGO Aditus, the left-leaning Moviment Graffitti and students union KSU, among others. 

It will take place on Sunday at 4pm.

A poster held during last Sunday's mass protest calling for Joseph Muscat to resign. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaA poster held during last Sunday's mass protest calling for Joseph Muscat to resign. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Meanwhile in Brussels

2.54pm Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has just been chosen as the joint lead of a new anti-corruption body in the European Parliament. 

A picture of Dr Metsola refusing to shake outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's hand went viral during an MEP fact-finding mission to Malta earlier this week. Here it is again.

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola refuses to shake Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's hand.Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola refuses to shake Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's hand.

Melvin Theuma questioned by police over government job

2.35pm We understand Melvin Theuma has been questioned by police over the government job he was given on the day Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced the 2017 general election.


Protest in London

2.05pm The next planned protest calling for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, is not in Valletta. In London, a demonstration is planned for Parliament Square on Saturday at 11:30am, according to organisers.

Labour hardcore is worst hit - Alfred Sant

1.35pm Former Labour Prime Minister and MEP Alfred Sant goes to the core of his political group to express his disappointment over the political situation in Malta.

He tweets: "The real Labour hardcore is hardworking, trustful, law abiding and prudent. Which is why it has been the most scarred by the upheavals of the past weeks."

Another federation piles pressure

1.30pm In a statement, the Malta Federation of Professional Associations  underlined the obligation of the authorities to uphold the rule of law, the need of justice to prevail in a timely manner, that nobody should be considered above the law and that national unity and stability should be prioritised by all stakeholders.  

The federation comprises no less than 16 organisations. 

Editorial: Only treatment for Labour is amputation

1.13pm Have a read of our editorial while you enjoy your lunch.

We write about the tragedy of a once-invincible Labour Party being sucked into a vortex of turmoil and disrepute.

Joseph Muscat must keep his distance from the new party leadership if it is to have any chance of rehabilitating the party.

That rehabilitation can only occur if a new Labour government fulfils its promises of good governance, justice, transparency and accountability, which were made before the whole system was contaminated by greed and corruption, even a journalist’s murder.

Chamber of Advocates cancels annual party

1pm Every year all lawyers in Malta attend a big celebration on 17 December for Saint Ivo of Kermartin, the patron saint of lawyers. An email has been sent out to lawyers, explaining that it won't go ahead this year "given the current mood in the country".

We understand it's the first time ever that the event has been cancelled. 

European Commission President "weak" on Malta

12.49pm There's been some criticism of how Ursula von der Leyen has responded to the crisis in Malta, one of the 28 member states of the EU.

She has raised her "concern" about the situation and said that the European Commission is following developments closely. 

Sven Giegold, Green MEP, who was one of the delegation here on a fact-finding mission this week said her response was "far too weak". 

"The EU Commission should initiate rule of law investigations otherwise she will face a severe credibility problem. If Von der Leyen does not initiate rule of law proceedings in this situation, when will she? Preparations must now be made for Article 7 proceedings against Malta." 

For those of you not versed in the intricacies of EU procedure, Article 7 is a way for the EU to act against member states it believes are violating EU values.

If it is triggered, it can involve sanctions.

Civil service chief on Daphne murder middleman job

12.36pm Our reporter Jacob Borg has been busy this morning. His third interview of the day is with Mario Cutajar, the head of the civil service about the government job given to the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder plot. 

Mr Cutajar had said in a statement on Wednesday that he had no record of the job, only for a document to show up hours later confirming the hire.

Mario Cutajar speaks to Jacob Borg outside Auberge de Castille this morning. Video: Matthew Mirabelli


Joseph Muscat to meet Pope Francis

12.21pm The outgoing Prime Minister and the Pontiff are due to meet over the weekend. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

Miriam Dalli won't contest Labour leadership contest

12.15pm Big news in the race to succeed Joseph Muscat, who will step down as Labour leader and Prime Minster in January. 

Miriam Dalli, one of the leadership hopefuls, has announced on Facebook that she won't be in the running.

"After due consideration, I have decided not to contest for the leadership role of the Labour Party."

Sandro Craus: 'I was doing my job correctly'.

12.05pm We've got the first remarks from Sandro Craus since his name emerged in court yesterday.

The alleged middleman in Ms Caruana Galizia's murder said he was offered a government job by Mr Craus, Head of Customer Care at the Office of the Prime Minister after a meeting with Mr Schembri.

This is important because it happened shortly after Mr Theuma says he was first commissioned to arrange the journalist's murder. 

Asked about the job offer, Mr Craus told us: "I was doing my job correctly and with integrity."

Sandro Craus speaks to Jacob Borg as he enters Auberge de Castille on Thursday morning. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

How are businesses coping in Valletta?

11,44am We got a call in to the newsroom to ask us how businesses in Valletta are coping with the political upheaval, particularly the regular protests outside parliament.

So, we sent reporter Vanessa Conneely out to talk to them. She spoke to 20 shops in and around Freedom Square and all but two said they had experienced a drop in their bottom line. You can read her report here


11.41am Nationalist MEP David Casa reacts to the latest developments in the case. 

Meanwhile in Castille

11.29am Earlier this morning, our reporter Jacob Borg spoke to Joseph Muscat. The outgoing Prime Minster said he had "no knowledge" of the plot to kill Ms Caruana Galizia.

Asked about his former chief of staff's involvement, Dr Muscat said Mr Schembri was "never mentioned" in any briefings about the murder. 

Dr Muscat did not reply when asked if he is still in touch with Mr Schembri. 

You can watch the full video here.

Joseph Muscat speaking to Jacob Borg outside Castille this morning. Video: Matthew Mirabelli


Court recap

11.14am Now we can catch our breath a little after Yorgen Fenech's testimony, what did we learn?

According to Mr Fenech, the alleged mastermind in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was able to give him key details about the investigation.

These included:

  • Information in advance about the raids that took place in December 2017 that saw the arrest of three men now charged with the journalist's murder
  • Details about an attempt by one of those men, Vince Muscat, to get a pardon in exchange for information on the case.
  • Information that Mr Fenech's own phone was being tapped.

He also claims that after Mr Fenech's arrest, Mr Schembri was able to pass him notes including a "script" on what to say to police.


Who was questioning Yorgen Fenech?

11.07am At this stage in the case, his own lawyer Marion Camilleri was questioning Mr Fenech before Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff.

The cross examination will be heard at a different stage in procedings.

Yorgen Fenech calm in court

11.00am Yorgen Fenech's testimony is now over and the case adjourned. He was calm in court throughout.

Afterwards he walked to one of the four or five heavily armed guards in the room and extended both arms to be handcuffed.

Keith Arnaud 'not in a position to investigate fairly'

10.56am Yorgen Fenech is arguing that Inspector Arnaud is not in a position to investigate him without interference because of his "close relationship" with Keith Schembri. 

"Justice must be done without fear or favour. No one is above the law," he said.

'When I mentioned Schembri, there was a rush to prosecute'

10.50am Yorgen Fenech claims that at first police were taking the investigation "step by step" but that once he mentioned the name Keith Schembri, "suddenly there was a great rush to prosecute me".

Mr Fenech's residence was searched, his laptop taken and also his wife and children's mobile phones, he says. 

All electronic equipment was lifted from his home and office in the presence of Europol officers.

Mr Fenech said he is not complaining about the investigations in his regard but that Mr Schembri did not get the same treatment.

"His office was untouched."

Middleman's job contract

10.46am Yorgen Fenech has given some details about Melvin Theuma's government job contract.

He says the photo published in the media last week of Mr Schembri with Mr Theuma at Castille was retrieved from Mr Fenech's office, together with the employment contract.

"That contract was granted on condition he would not be made to report for work", Mr Fenech testifies.

'Keith passed notes to me'

10.42am Yorgen Fenech claims in court that Mr Schembri passed on a paper to him: "A script on how I was to speak to police"

He said he got two notes of the kind. "One time I was on police bail, the note was passed on to me by the doctor."

Many of you following the case closely will remember that Yorgen Fenech's doctor Adrian Vella was also arrested and questioned by police. 

'Take care who to involve'

10.35am Mr Fenech has been speaking about being interviewed by Inspector Arnaud.

He told Mr Fenech that this was to be a difficult time ahead. "There is a dark tunnel ahead but in the end there will be light," Inspector Arnaud allegedly told Mr Fenech.

He told him to be responsible and to take care “who to involve”. This was allegedly said by Inspector Arnaud to Mr Fenech at the lock up.

“Do you mean Keith Schembri?” Mr Fenech had asked.

Mr Fenech said he understood that when Inspector Arnaud spoke to him at the lockup that he needed to “step back” and not mention Keith Schembri.


Job offer for Inspector Arnaud's wife

10.30am Mr Fenech tells the court that Mr Schembri had such a good relationship with Inspector Arnaud that he had sought his help for a job for his wife.

Mr Schembri told this to Mr Fenech during a casual conversation.

'Our relationship was fraternal'

10.22am Yorgen Fenech is testifying about his relationship with Keith Schembri. 

He says that Mr Schembri told him he had a very good relationship with Inspector Arnaud who would "keep him updated on the case".

"What was the relationship between you and Keith?", he is asked.

"It was almost fraternal. We knew each other since our younger days. We used to meet even twice a week, cooking at each other’s home."

He said they turned to each other for help when they had problems, including health issues. 

"Keith (Schembri) gave me information before both the arrests, even the date of arrest of the trio in December 4."

He alleges Mr Schembri gave him details about a pardon and informed him that his phone was being tapped.

All this information was given to Mr Schembri by Inspector Arnaud. He even told him about the arrest of the alleged middleman Melvin Theuma and passed on to Yorgen the wording of a pardon being negotiated for Vince Muscat.

They used the Signal app to communicate.

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