The secretive Freemasons were prepared to pay €100,000 for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, according to a close associate of the man accused of conspiring to kill her.
Money was handed to a middleman by the mysterious organisation but it was never passed on to a hitman, a court heard on Tuesday.
The allegation emerged in the latest sitting of the compilation of evidence against millionaire businessman Yorgen Fenech.
Secret recordings between his business associate, Johann Cremona, and pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma, who has turned state witness in the case, were played to the court.
In these, Cremona told Theuma that a person, whose name cannot be released under court order, was tasked to organise the journalist's murder. He had been given €100,000 to pass on to hitman Vince Muscat (known as il-Koħħu) but the money was never handed over.
Cremona claimed that besides Theuma, there were two other middlemen linked to the October 2017 murder and hired by former Economy Minister Chris Cardona, who denies involvement.
The state witness said that Cremona had directed him to say that he had been contracted by Cardona to carry out the murder.
"But that was not true at all!" Theuma told the court. "Johann (Cremona) mentioned Cardona several times and Yorgen did too. But I swear that I had nothing to do with Cardona," he said.
Theuma also told the court that he believed he had not been arrested along with the alleged hitmen because he had been "helped" by Cremona, Fenech and the former prime minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
He said Fenech had "turned to cocaine" after the murder.
"You don't need that," Theuma had told Fenech. "That won't bring her back."
The defence pointed out several inconsistencies in Theuma's testimony on Tuesday, including how he could not remember whether the hitman had been paid by the alleged freemasonry money.
At one point in proceedings, Magistrate Rachel Montebello warned him that he could be prosecuted for perjury if he did not tell the truth. Theuma said he was tired and pledged: "I'm not here to lie. I'm here to tell the truth. Only God knows what I was going through at the time!"
Earlier, a Europol expert testified that she had examined two phones handed to her after Fenech's arrest in November 2019.
She had been able to partially extract information but her line manager had stopped her from fully extracting the data from the phone.
3.30pm After five and a half hours, today's session has ended. Thanks for joining us. We'll have a brief summary above in a few minutes.
3.18pm The defence points out several examples of Theuma changing his version of events. Charles Mercieca says Theuma had excluded Keith Schembri a year ago. Now he seems to have changed his version.
Today, he also showed inconsistency when mentioning “many people” who leaked information. Then named three people. And he was also inconsistent over the issue of the €100K handed to Koħħu by that unnamed person.
The prosecution says people need to bear in mind that Theuma is recounting episodes played out over a two year span. The inconsistencies are over minor details, he suggests.
3.14pm The defence have an issue with the recordings. They want a new court expert to be appointed to review the voice recordings. The magistrate directs the defence to point out any parts of the script that are inaccurate.
Theuma testimony ends
3.10pm Theuma's testimony ends. It's a tired witness that rises from his chair after four hours giving evidence.
The case is deferred until May 31.
Wrap it up
3.06pm Theuma also tried to record Kenneth Camilleri to have more evidence. He offered money to sort out things. But Kenneth didn’t want money. He told Cremona that “what they did was not for money but to wrap up the matter for all, namely Theuma, Fenech and also Schembri, Melvin explains.
3pm Mario Degiorgio had also told Theuma that police had sent for his brothers for a DNA test, linked to some other case “eight years ago.” He didn't know what case.
Keith Schembri, pictured in April. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli
2.58pm Theuma says he had advised Fenech because he wanted him “to be strong.” As he saw Yorgen Fenech travelling back and forth to [rehab] programmes, he told him that it was a good thing that Keith [Schembri] had taken “matters into his hands.”
'Cocaine won't bring Daphne back'
2.55pm Arnaud now asks about another piece of the recording where Theuma told Cremona about Fenech’s state. Theuma had realized that Fenech was taking ‘coke.’
“You don’t need that. That won’t bring her (Daphne Caruana Galizia) back,” Theuma had advised Fenech.
2.51pm Theuma says that the fact he was not arrested earlier made him believe he was being helped, from Cremona, from Fenech and from Keith Schembri.
"Had there not been help, they would have swept me away long ago” Theuma says in the recording.
Never asked questions
2.45pm Arnaud presses Theuma on why he insisted on a list of places to be raided even though he was assured he would not be arrested. Why did he not clarify the matter? Theuma says he regretted not asking more questions.
Arnaud reads from the recording transcript. Johann had told Theuma that “they had everything ready re money laundering.” And Theuma’s standard reply was “Exactly.”
'I hold the key'
2.42pm Arnaud moves on: "You told Johann, 'I hold the key'. What did that mean?"
Theuma says he had the recordings. He said that Cremona had assured him that Raymond Aquilina would never arrest him.
Theuma resumes evidence
2.38pm Theuma now claims that day before the recording, Cremona had told him that the unnamed person had not managed to hand over the freemasonry money to Koħħu because Koħħu had been arrested.
He blames his confusion on being tired.
Arnaud goes on: "What else do you know about this person, freemasonry, this €100,000?"
Theuma replies: "Nothing else. I know nothing. Only what Johann told me."
2.36pm The defence apologises but is warned no further interruptions will be tolerated.
Theuma is called back inside.
2.29pm A heated row breaks out between the prosecution and the defence. Inspector Arnaud points out that the defence has been persistently passing comments, tapping their papers, and sniggering throughout proceedings.
The magistrate asks the witness to go outside while the issue is ironed out.
Lawyer Charles Mercieca accuses Arnaud of being more worried about the defence than what his own witness is saying under oath, in terms of the pardon granted on his advice.
The magistrate says gestures and comments are not permissible.
2.26pm The magistrate accuses Theuma of muddling things up. Theuma says that he is tired.
"There is only one truth. And if you’re telling the truth, you don’t change your version," the magistrate warns.
2.14pm Johann had told Theuma on at least two occasions that an unnamed person had got €100K from the freemasonry to have Daphne Caruana Galiza killed. He had not passed the money on to Koħħu for the murder.
The tape is rewinded to check out whether this was a statement or a question.It’s asserted that it was a statement by Cremona and Melvin went along with him. His answer on tape implies that he knew that the €100K had not been handed over to Koħħu.
"I just went along with him. How could I do otherwise?" he says.
He says the money was not handed to Koħħu because he was arrested.
List of places
2.10pm Theuma says he was promised a list of the places to be raided and that his relatives would be spared. But nothing materialised, he says. He says he told Edwin (il-Goja), an acquaintance of the police commissioner, to ask him to spare his relatives in the raid.
This recording revolved around the issue of getting a reply from the commissioner about Theuma's relatives being spared in the raids. But, under oath, Theuma swears that he was never getting information from the commissioner.
2.06pm Arnaud returns to the allegations of freemasonry involvement. Theuma says that Cremona told him that a (banned name) person had been tasked by the freemasonry to have Daphne Caruana Galizia killed. He was acting against government and the opposition.
"Did you know this person?" Arnaud asks Theuma.
"Yes, I did. But he never said anything to me," he says.
Plot to steal Fenech's phone
2.03pm Theuma describes 'bluffing' to Cremona that the police commissioner had told him Europol was involved in the investigation.
He says Cremona also told him once that Europol wanted to steal Fenech's phone from in “some place in England.”
"What’s that?" Arnaud sounds surprised. Theuma repeats the claim.
€20,000 from Fenech
2pm Theuma now recalls a time, a Monday, when he met Yorgen Fenech at Portomaso. Fenech had handed over €20,000 and told him that the police commissioner had said that Theuma would be arrested. Theuma suggested that Fenech should speak to the commissioner but Fenech shrugged off that suggestion.
'Playing me like a football'
1.58pm Theuma blurts out: "I’m not here to lie. I’m here to tell the truth. Only God knows what I was going through at the time! They were playing around with me, like a football. I was drinking and was going through great mental turmoil," he says.
'We're more powerful than the police commissioner'
1.50pm Theuma told Cremona that police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had told him he would be arrested for economic crimes, murder, money laundering, usury and illegal betting.
"But I bluffed when saying that it was the commissioner who had told me that," Theuma now explains. He said Cremona had been changing his version about his arrest so much that Theuma decided to test him by claiming he had information from the police commissioner.
Cremona had retorted: "That's not true. We're more powerful than the commissioner."
1.45pm Theuma also says that he was promised that the date of his upcoming arrest would come from Superintendent Ray Aquilina. But Theuma says that when he was arrested, he never met Aquilina at the depot. Rather, he had told other inspectors that he did not wish to meet Aquilina because he didn’t trust him.
Fenech turns to cocaine
1.43pm Theuma testifies that he told Cremona that Fenech was "worse off" because he had "resorted to coke".
Arnaud questions Theuma
1.39pm Inspector Arnaud now questions Theuma on the recording that has just been played out in court. Theuma says this conversation was also recorded at Cremona's Qormi office.
Cremona had told Theuma he was the main suspect. Theuma repeats what he said previously - that a person, whose name has been banned, had paid Koħħu to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia.
'All because of Fenech'
1.37pm In the recording, Theuma says that he had listed all his possessions and gathered together all his bank statements dating back to 2004. He says he will charge all expenses to Yorgen Fenech because “this matter was all because of him.”
Loud barking drowns out the voices and they fade away, the recording coming to an end.
'Tell Fredu to kill her'
1.31pm In the recording, the two men speak about Yorgen Fenech. Theuma says that it was Fenech who first wanted the murder, persistently telling him, “go tell Fredu, go tell Fredu to kill her".
Fredu is possibly a reference to Alfred Degiorgio, one of the alleged hitmen.
1.29pm The tape is still playing but it's very difficult to understand. Theuma seems concerned about his arrest while Cremona seeks to reassure him.
Mountain v stone
1.18pm As we don't have the transcript, we can only report whatever snatches of conversation we can hear.
"You are the main suspect," Cremona says at one point.
Theuma is heard saying he has “prepared everything.” He has even got a 2004 bank statement. “He’s a mountain, I’m a small stone, ” Theuma says in the recording, possibly referring to Yorgen Fenech.
1.16pm We're back. A new recording is played out. This is another conversation between Cremona and Theuma. Let's listen in.
12.50pm Time to grab a sandwich and a coffee. We'll be back in ten minutes.
We're expecting Theuma's testimony will be wrapped up by the end of the sitting.
12.44pm Theuma makes reference to an alleged phone tap. He says that his phone was tapped when he spoke to someone saying that he would go to the police commissioner and disclose all about Fenech.
Cremona knew details of this phone tap and at one point told him that there would be "none of this trouble" if Theuma hadn't been heard offering to go to police.
'Kenneth got information from Keith'
12.35pm The magistrate presses Theuma on the identities of the 'many people'.
"Kenneth got information from Keith," Theuma adds.
The magistrate warns him to tell the whole truth and to immediately reveal any names. She says that if it is later discovered that he has withheld information, he will be prosecuted for perjury.
"If you don’t abide by the terms of your pardon, next time you’ll be sent down to the lockup for 24 hours until you refresh your memory!"she says.
It's the sternest address we've heard this magistrate give to Theuma.
12.30pm Theuma says Cremona told him that if Koħħu “committed a foul” he would bring everything down, “even the money laundering.”
Cremona said that Kenneth (then a security official in the Office of the Prime Minister) brought him information. Cremona used to tell Theuma that he "always" got information from Kenneth.
In the recording, Cremona tells Theuma that he would get to know everything immediately from "many people" and “even from Kenneth.”
"Who were the 'many people' who gave Johann information?" the magistrate asks.
"Kenneth and Ray Aquilina. If I recall others I’ll tell you," Theuma replies.
12.26pm Theuma says that Mario Degiorgio (brother of the two alleged hitmen) had told him that there was a camera just outside his flat, which recorded conversations taking place within the apartment.
Photo of 'middleman'
12.21pm Theuma is asked about the two alleged middlemen. He says Johann Cremona once showed him a photo of a man he identified as one of the two, but Theuma wasn't sure if it was one of the two.
Theuma repeats that Koħħu could not spill anything about him. “All he could say was that he had seen me talk to il-Fulu” (alleged hitman Alfred Degiorgio) but nothing else.
12.13pm Cremona told Theuma that he had got “two persons” to threaten Koħħu and his family not to confess all about Theuma, he tells the court.
"Did he ever tell you why?" the magistrate asks. "No." and he never identified their names.
He said Koħħu was also threatened to safeguard Cardona by two people who were connected to the former economy minister.
12.09pm Now Theuma says that Cremona told him a (banned name) person was tasked by the freemasonry to organize Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. This person allegedly gave some 100,000 euro to Koħħu.
'Plant it on Cardona'
12.04pm Theuma is asked about the recording. "Yorgen told me that Degiorgios were going back to Corradino after court and were recorded saying that they would plant it on Cardona," he says. But Theuma knows no more.
Theuma now says that he was told his name was mentioned to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family, to Europol and that even the Times of Malta was to publish his name as the mastermind
"But that wasn’t what Times said that day. They said that the mastermind was a businessman," Theuma says.
Here's the story Theuma is referring to.
12pm There was mention of Cardona in the recording between Theuma and Cremona. Theuma says that Cremona had directed him to say that the Degiorgios had told Theuma to say that he had been contracted by Cardona.
"But that was not true at all!" Theuma said. "Johann mentioned Cardona several times and Yorgen did too. But I swear that I had nothing to do with Cardona or any of his family. Johann constantly insisted that Cardona was involved".
“They” told me there was some recording, Theuma says.
Contempt of court
11.57am For the second time, defence lawyer Charles Mercieca interjects. He's already had a warning about this and the magistrate finds him in contempt of court. He has to pay a €150 fine.
The next step will be to send him out of court and proceedings will continue without him, the magistrate warns.
Mercieca insists but the magistrate warns him to stop.
11.53am Now Melvin Theuma says that Johann Cremona had told him that the other two middlemen “were Cardona’s”. But at the time of the recording, I didn’t know that, Theuma says.
11.45am Arnaud and the magistrate seem perplexed because throughout the recording, whenever Johann Cremona tells Theuma something, Theuma replies, "mela".
It seems that he went along with Cremona or knew what he was talking about.
"It's just that I have a habit of saying that word," Theuma explains.
Threat to Koħħu's family
11.41am Theuma says that Cremona also suggested a way for him to avoid arrest. But he would also change his version - sometimes saying Theuma would be arrested over money laundering, then illegal betting.
Cremona also claimed he had got people to threaten Koħħu's family, Theuma says.
'Two more middlemen'
11.37am Arnaud asks Theuma why he went along with Cremona's theory about Koħħu if the witness didn't believe he was a problem.
"Because he always brought up something new," Theuma replies.
And Johann had also told Teuma “there are two others like you [middlemen] and you know them both.” And Johann had also said that one of those two was linked to former Economy Minister Chris Cardona, Theuma says.
Arnaud asks: "Did you ask Johann what he meant?" Theuma replies, "No".
Koħħu's plea bargain
11.32am Theuma claims that Cremona had showed him a typed A4 paper with a "gap" in the text but he says he couldn’t make out what it meant.
"I believe it came from a lawyer’s office," he says. Apparently it was about Koħħu’s plea bargaining. Koħħu had not accepted a 12-year sentence to tell all about Melvin Theuma.
The paper allegedly came from the Attorney General’s office. Cremona showed Theuma the paper.
“Censu is the problem" Cremona said. “Exactly!” Theuma replied. However Theuma says he always believed Koħħu could not disclose anything about Theuma because they had never had any relevant discussions.
11.26am The recording stops and Arnaud asks him for some context. The conversation took place in 2019 at Cremona's Qormi office before Theuma's arrest in November, he says.
"I had gone abroad at the time and hence can place the conversation in context regarding the date."
'Everything would tumble down'
11.23am The recording plays on. Cremona is heard saying: “Should he commit a foul, everything would tumble down." And later: "The less said the better".
There are a lot of swear words peppering the recorded conversation between Theuma and Cremona.
11.10am In the recording we can hear Cremona say: "When Times called Keith, he told them..."
The parties have transcripts while the press don't, making it difficult to follow but Theuma will be questioned about this recording afterwards.
We hear rustling that drowns out the voices and then "Koħħu" - a reference to self-confessed hitman Vince Muscat.
Next, some raised voices. "They're crazy, (imgienen)", Cremona repeats twice.
11.09am The defence points out that they can't hear the recording "at all".
'Made a mistake'
11.08am Cremona is heard mentioning “spettur (inspector)” and “the person had made a mistake.”
11.02am A recording is played to the court. It's a conversation between Melvin Theuma and Johann Cremona, who was a business associate of Yorgen Fenech.
10.59am The magistrate reminds the media of a list of eight banned names. Their names are banned to safeguard their privacy as they are not directly linked to the case.
Melvin Theuma takes the stand
10.55am Melvin Theuma, the pardoned murder middleman, takes his place at a chair beside the witness stand. He has a small bottle of water in hand. An officer stands close by.
10.52am As she leaves the hall, Melvin Theuma waits to enter. Meanwhile the lawyers consult with the magistrate on a particular recording to be played out in court.
Arnaud informs the magistrate about the line up of future witness in the ocming sittings: Vince Muscat and Johann Cremona.
Scroll down for a glossary of the people involved in this case.
10.47am The witness confirms the name of her line manager who asked her to start and stop working on the phone exhibits. He was Donatas Mazenga, she says.
That's all from this witness today.
10.43am Inspector Arnaud strikes back. He confirms that he informed the defence on Monday but said the expert’s name was divulged “months ago” and in fact, the lawyers themselves had asked for her to testify. They knew her name and her role, he says.
The magistrate upholds the defence's request to reserve cross examination to a later date.
No time to prepare
10.41am The defence raises an issue: Fenech's lawyers were told "less than 24 hours ago" that the Europol expert would testify.
Thus it was impossible to prepare for the cross examination of the witness, lawyer Charles Mercieca says.
The magistrate takes his point on board and says the witness will have to return, detailing a list of sittings scheduled for June.
Stopped from working
10.39am She says she was asked to stop between October and November 2020, but does not recall the exact date.
10.37am The witness says the same issue applied to both devices. She started with partial extraction but was not able proceed to full extraction on the second phone. So she left it in the Faraday room in hope of getting a new version of forensic tools. But at a certain point she was told to stop, even on the second phone.
10.32am She explains how the phone was examined in the Faraday room, where there is no radio or mobile signals and was placed on charge. The card was outside the phone but also in the room.
She found the password on 9 January 2020 and was trying to make the full extraction when she was told to stop and hand over to another colleague, Giuseppe Totaro.
10.26am One of the phones was an iPhone XS with a SIM card. The witness explains how she went about trying to make full extractions. Then at one point was told to stop by her line manager.
She explains how partial extraction means information which is extracted before the device is unlocked. Then once they get the password, they proceed to attempt to extract more.
10.23am She tells the court she was instructed to start forensic work on the exhibits on November 22, 2019. She was at The Hague, and was handed the exhibits by a colleague. They were two phones with two SIM cards.
A brief CV
10.22am The witness gives a brief CV: she has been a forensic expert at the law enforcement sector for 15 years and now works in a digital forensic lab.
Europol headquarters in The Hague. Photo: Shutterstock
Europol witness takes stand
10.19am Arnaud presents a note sent by Europol to the court about the witness. It appears that Europol are relaying to the court what the witness may or may not testify about. The witness, Yulia Toma, takes the stand.
Who is giving evidence today?
10.15am Inspector Keith Arnaud says there will be a Europol witness today and then Melvin Theuma, the state witness who was granted a pardon for his role in the murder.
10.14am Magistrate Rachel Montebello takes her place. The court is in session.
10.12am Yorgen Fenech has just taken his place in the dock. His lawyers have a private word with him.
10.00am Welcome to our live blog. While we're waiting for today's hearing to start, familiarise yourself with the cast of characters in this case.
Yorgen Fenech: a business tycoon and heir to a family fortune, and the man in the dock. Fenech is accused of complicity in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder;
Melvin Theuma: a taxi driver who worked for Fenech and who has testified that he served as a middleman between Fenech and the alleged hitmen;
Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio: the alleged hitmen;
Vince Muscat: a self-confessed hitman who says he worked with the Degiorgios to kill Caruana Galizia. Muscat is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.
Jamie Vella and Robert Agius: the alleged bomb suppliers;
Keith Arnaud, Kurt Zahra: the lead police investigators and prosecutors;
Keith Schembri: a friend of Fenech's and the chief of staff to Joseph Muscat when he was prime minister;
Kenneth Camilleri: a staff member in the office of the prime minister;
Johann Cremona: One of Fenech's business associates;
Rachel Montebello: the presiding magistrate;
Gianluca Caruana Curran, Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca: Yorgen Fenech's legal team;
Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia: lawyers appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.
Philip Galea Farrugia, Anthony Vella: representing the attorney general's office.
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