Yorgen Fenech is back in court on Monday morning as the compilation of evidence against him related to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continues.
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Highlights from Monday's sitting:
Here's a recap of the highlights of the sitting:
- Keith Schembri refused to give police the password to his iCloud and emails;
- Police did not seal Schembri’s OPM office after the arrest;
- Lawyer for AG says it is not Fenech but ‘others’ who were tampering with evidence;
- Fenech’s wife and children left for UK on day of arrest ‘for their safety’;
- Documents related to Wings Development, known as 17 Black found in search;
- Bail request for Fenech denied.
1.45pm Magistrate Montebello returns to the court room.
After taking note of objections by police commissioner and AG she took note of particular circumstances of this case, including possible but not solely tampering with evidence and possible civil unrest.
Police investigations are still at a premature stage and so Fenech's request for bail was being denied. Moreover, the court said there were sufficient grounds for accused to be placed under a bill of indictment.
The case will continue on January 30 at 10am.
Tampering with evidence
1.20pm Galea Farrugia says it was "others", and not Yorgen Fenech, who was attempting to tamper with the evidence.
Fenech's lawyer charges: "So whoever is trying to frame him is out there, proof is being lost, and our client is locked up."
The court has been temporarily suspended and retired to chamber to work out her bail decree. Meanwhile Fenech remains seated at the dock.
There's tense silence in the court room.
Who's responsible for the public unrest?
1.15pm Lawyer Caruana Curran puts in his arguments. He says the AG cited civil protests among the reasons not to grant bail but insists the public disorder was not sparked because of Fenech but because those who should have been arrested remain at large.
"That’s why people are out there protesting. Let's not put all the blame on Fenech."
Philip Galea Farrugia, lawyer from the AG's office rebuts and reveals Yorgen Fenech's wife and children had left for England on day of his arrest.
That’s why people are out there protesting. Let's not put all the blame on Fenech- lawyer
Fenech interrupts: “no, no, they’re back,” he says, shaking his head and his finger.
Galea Farrugia points out that Fenech's family has companies abroad.
While there was no question about the fact that Fenech acted well while under police bail, he was also waiting for the pardon at the time.
As for the reports that he tried to escape from Malta, Galea Farrugia tells the court that it was Fenech's own captain who had confirmed that he was not planning to return to Malta with him.
He says Fenech's brother Franco also left on board catamaran the same day as his arrest trying to leave on board his yacht.
Caruana Curran confirms that Fenech's wife and children had indeed left Malta after his arrest, but it was for their own personal safety and security since Fenech was going to speak out.
"But after the waters had calmed down, his wife and children returned and resumed normal life."
Lawyer requests bail
1.05pm Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri has started submissions on bail. Even though the crimes are serious, the presumption on innocence applies, even in Fenech's case, she says.
The Attorney General is objecting “because of circumstances of the case”, but what circumstances? she asks.
"So while Yorgen Fenech is inside, others are still outside. Investigations are still ongoing."
Camilleri says police officers testified under oath that Fenech had cooperated all along while under police bail, several times. Even when not arrested, he obeyed and fully abided by all instructions.
She rejects claims that her client had tried to abscond on his yacht that November morning. Would a person of such standing seek to flee with just €7,000 in his possession?
"Yorgen Fenech also has strong family ties in Malta. He’s Maltese, has family and business in Malta. Most of companies mentioned today are no longer operating," the lawyer says.
As for witnesses, the most crucial are the three hitmen who are in jail and Theuma who has already partly testified. His evidence has already been preserved and he cannot change version, even in view of the pardon granted.
12.47pm Arnaud reveals he asked Schembri for his cloud passwords but the chief of staff refused to do so, saying “there were sensitive things related to his work.”
The court expert had wanted password because he could not access full information related to Schembri.
The sitting has been suspended for a few minutes.
Doctor calls Schembri
12.40pm Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is counter-examining Arnaud.
Arnaud confirms that when Dr Vella was taken to the police depot he had a mobile phone. At the interrogation he told them he had cleared its contents because “he was afraid”.
The doctor admitted he made contact with Schembri while the police were knocking at his door.
Schembri reportedly had told doctor “to remain calm and open for the police".
The doctor said that he had called Schembri because of the two notes he had passed on to Fenech.
Officers keeping watch at the lock up couldn’t explain how the letter could have passed between the two men.
Arnaud confirms that investigations of the phone calls were still ongoing.
"We have been ongoing for three weeks, there are loose ends, we missed a lot of things,” Arnaud says. "We’re checking further."
Police not present when Schembri's office was sealed
12.22pm Caruana Curran asks Arnaud about the early stages of the investigation into Caruana Galizia's murder. He says there was Silvio Valletta, Kevin Farrugia, Michael Mallia, Kurt Zahra. Valletta left because of the constitutional case filed by the Caruana Galizia family and after three men had been charged with detonating the device.
The lawyer asks if it was normal for Arnaud taking over the case.
"So how come you inspector took over contact with Castille when the Assistant Commissioner was involved? Was it because you were on close terms with Keith Schembri?"
Arnaud replies that was the first time he had met the then chief of staff of the Office of the Prime Minister and always referred to him as "Mr Schembri".
As for the searches at Castille, Arnaud says Schembri's office had been sealed by his successor and not by the police.
Arnaud says: "I got to know that after Cabinet meeting on November 28. I was present. I was told that Schembri's office was sealed and the key held by new chief of staff. As soon as news of Schembri's arrest was released, a decision was taken by Castile to seal the office. I don’t know who physically sealed the place but the keys were kept by new chief of staff”.
That same day of arrest of Schembri, it was his successor himself who sealed the place.
Asked if Europol had been present at a search on December 5, Arnaud replies: "No."
Where is Keith's phone?
12.15pm Caruana Curran brings up the issue of bail. He wants to ask Arnaud some questions. He asks if Keith Schembri's phone had been found.
The former chief of staff said he had lost his phone when he was arrested by the police. You might want to read the background from the last sitting here.
The investigation on Schembri is still ongoing, Arnaud replies.
The magistrate asks if Schembri was asked to go to the police station to take his phone.
Arnaud: "No. We are following up the case, we cannot reveal further details."
Caruana Curran: "Was a report filed about the phone loss?"
Arnaud: "Not as far as I know."
Caruana Curran: "Didn’t you make necessary checks, you as lead investigator?"
Arnaud: "It depends whether the phone was still on or not, circumstances may vary."
Caruana Curran: "Did he tell you when he lost the phone, or where?"
Arnaud: "I don't recall."
Magistrate: "Did you investigate to see whether it’s truly lost?"
Arnaud: "We’re still investigating. We even spoke to the doctor who said that on the same night of arrest, he had made contact with Keith Schembri. That was hours before Schembri's arrest."
Caruana Curran: "Did you search information from the service providers?"
Arnaud: "There is call data dating to that night, but I cannot reveal further details."
12.10pm Lawyer Caruana Curran asks if Theuma had mentioned anyone else had been involved in the crime. Did he mention Keith Schembri?
A photo in the box contained a picture of Schembri with Theuma at Castille.
Later in presence of magistrate, Theuma just confirmed it was Schembri in the photo.
Caruana Curran asks Inspector Vella: "But he had told you outright upon arrest that he had evidence he wanted to open before police commissioner and lawyer.
Vella replies: "He didn’t say what there was inside the box. And I did not ask him what was inside? I just sealed the box immediately."
What was in the box?
12.05pm Inspector arrived at the place, spotted Theuma's car and stopped him. He told him he was being investigated on suspicion of money laundering and tax evasion.
Theuma immediately told them he had a sealed box containing “vital evidence”.
"He didn’t want to let go of the box. But then he agreed to leave the box in inspector’s hands and he would keep an eye on it all the while," Vella testifies.
Theuma immediately told police he wanted the box opened before the police commissioner, magistrate and lawyers.
After that, Vella conducted other search and took Theuma to the depot. Magistrate Gabriella Vella was also summoned. Police and experts also called in.
The box held three mobile phones, a voice recorder, USB, and photos. All were sealed and electronic equivalent was handed to Europol. The investigations are still ongoing, Vella says.
Theuma's possible money laundering activities
11.55am A number of police officers are being summoned as witnesses to inform the court about the items elevated from Fenech's boats and properties.
Inspector Nicholas Vella from economic crimes unit says he had received a confidential report about Melvin Theuma which kicked off investigations in his regard.
"He was possibly involved in Caruana Galizia case, but that latter information was somewhat limited," he says.
Inspector was investigating Theuma's possible money laundering. He communicated with Inspector Arnaud and kept Europol in the loop.
The termination date of investigation was targeted for November 12.
Theuma ran an illegal gambling activity with Wednesdays and Saturdays being the days when he generated most activity.
On November 14 he had got a call to say there was an "unusual modus operandi" from Theuma.
The day before, Theuma had not operated from his usual premises and had made arrangement to transfer certain items.
11.35am Yorgen Fenech is seated in the courtroom between three heavily armed guards. Expressionless, his hands are clasped together in his lap, looking down most of the time. He is being charged with the murder of the 53-year-old journalist in one of the tensest cases of Malta's criminal history.
Meanwhile, Christmas carols can be heard playing outside in Republic Street. It's quite surreal.
Despite the widespread power cut, there are thousands of shoppers in Valletta.
11.20am Lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran asks Pulis whether VHF was switched on when the police searched the yacht.
He asked Pulis whether the company Wings Investments Ltd was no longer operative?
"It wasn’t my duty to check," Inspector Pulis replies.
The inspector says that Fenech's attitude with investigators throughout was fine and he cooperated all along.
Christopher Saliba from the drug squad takes the witness stand. He recalls Fenech's arrest of November 20. He says he was informed Fenech was a suspect in Caruana Galizia's murder and that Pulis arrived with a magisterial warrant for his search and arrest.
He is narrating the details of the searches carried on Fenech and the items elevated.
11.10am The searches at Level 21 at Portomaso yielded six documents addressed to Melvin Theuma about horse betting. Theuma is the middleman involved in Caruana Galizia's murder who was granted a presidential pardon to tell all.
Police also found a lease agreement with Fenech listed as the original tenant. His name was crossed out and replaced with names of two foreigners.
Pulis is telling the court about the documents found at Fenech's office.
Documents found an envelope addressed to Fenech, in the name of Wings Development Ltd, bearing memo and articles for an offshore company. There were various documents linked to Wings Investment Ltd and various business cards.
Context: Remember in March 2017, secret company 17 Black changed its name to Wings Development, according to the person familiar with 17 Black’s arrangements in UAE.
Another document was by accountants Nexia BT dated 2015. It was a 22-page report.
Background about the doctor
Dr Vella was arrested in November on suspicion that he was passing Fenech messages from the prime minister's former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Fenech is understood to have told police that the doctor was covertly passing him messages urging him to keep quiet.
Vella is known to be close to Keith Schembri and was the personal doctor of Fenech's grandfather, Tumas Fenech.
Doctor not on call
10.45am On November 26 around 11.30pm Arnaud said police had to escort Dr Adrian Vella for questioning. Around 12.30am, they went to Vella’s home at St Paul's Bay.
They spent some half an hour trying to get through. The doctor's car was parked outside but the knocking at the door and attempts to call his mobile phone were in vain, Pulis tells court.
After they contacted his daughter, the doctor eventually opened the door and he was taken to the police depot around 1am where he was told he was being kept under arrest.
Around 10am Pulis went to Mellieħa to escort Keith Schembri from Santa Maria Gardens to the depot for investigations.
10.35am Around 4pm on the day of the search, Fenech was not feeling well. His doctor Adrian Vella was called, who administered some medication and stayed for two hours. Fenech's wife was present too.
After the searches, Pulis directed his men to Fenech's office at Portomaso tower. YF had since then resigned from the company. All items taken were photographed and handed over to experts.
On November 20, around 10.30pm, police escorted Fenech to the lock-up at Floriana and released on police bail.
On November 22, a Europol expert asked for the yacht to be scanned inside and out, for possible explosives. The result was negative. A number of outdated SIM cards were found too.
Captain was returning alone
10.30am The yacht captain, who was employed by Tumas Group to take care of sea vessels, gave a six-page statement. It was customary to take the yacht to Sicily for repair and maintenance to be ready for summer. The captain had been talking to Fenech who expressed his wish to go with him to Pozzallo in Sicily for a couple of days.
The captain had planned to return to Malta alone, Pulis says.
A dawn raid
10.20am Inspector Kevin Pulis from the drug squad is taking the oath. On November 19, he had been called for assistance by Arnaud who instructed him to carry out surveillance at the port and strategic points. There were no movements that day.
But the next morning around 6am he was informed that Fenech was on board the yacht Gio. He had been stopped by the Armed Forces of Malta as he was leaving Malta.
Drug officers went on the yacht around 6.30am at Portomaso marina. The captain was there too. Fenech was told he was under arrest on suspicion of his involvement in Caruana Galizia's murder. The scene of crime officers were called on site together with two Europol officers.
Preliminary search retrieved electronic equipment with some €7,000 in cash. The search then proceeded to Fenech's home at Portomaso. His wife was there too.
Court in session
10.12am Yorgen Fenech has just been escorted inside under the usual tight security. He’s taken his seat at the dock, a guard on either side. Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are prosecuting. Philip Galea Farrugia from the Attorney General's office is assisting the prosecution.
Rachel Montebello is presiding over the compilation.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile.
A major case and a power cut
10.10am As most of you know by now. There's a major power cut across Malta and Gozo. Our court reporter Edwina says wi-fi inside the court room is erratic. So our reporting might not be as immediate as the norm. But we will try our best.
Meanwhile, witnesses and the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia gather inside the court room.
The business tycoon and heir to a family fortune stands charged with complicity in the journalist’s October 2017 murder.
In previous sittings, a court has heard from murder middleman Melvin Theuma and lead inspector Keith Arnaud.
Mr Theuma told a court that he believed Mr Fenech was the only mastermind behind the murder, despite him having written a handwritten letter in which he also named Keith Schembri as a co-conspirator.
Inspector Arnaud told a court that Mr Fenech was plotting an escape from Malta and that police had been unable to examine Mr Schembri’s phone because he claimed to have “lost it”.
Monday's sitting is expected to begin at around 10am.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is today expected to decide upon a request for bail, filed by Mr Fenech’s legal team.
Monday's sitting will likely not hear further testimony for Mr Theuma after the court decided to hold off until audio recordings he provided as evidence are handed to Mr Fenech's legal team.
The case will, however, likely hear from Inspector Arnaud, with lawyers representing the Caruana Galizia saying they had prepared his cross examination over the weekend.
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