As police closed in on Yorgen Fenech in November 2019, his uncle Ray urged him to “go while you're still in time" while the murder suspect worried that he would “end up at Europol” if he was caught in the EU, a court heard on Wednesday.
Prosecutors in the case against Fenech, who stands accused of complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, rubbished defence claims that the mogul-turned-murder-suspect had no intention of fleeing the country when he was caught aboard his yacht at dawn.
“Let’s not try to mislead the court by saying that there is no fear of escape,” deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia said as he argued against granting Fenech bail.
Galea Farrugia read out a flurry of text messages that Fenech exchanged with his uncle and brother in the hours before his arrest.
The alleged plan
The messages sketched out what appeared to be Fenech’s escape plan: Fenech would sail out on his yacht with his captain, Logan Wood. His brother would take the ferry to Sicily with a man named ‘Simon’.
From there, they would make their way to Nice, France, where a horse trader named Souloy would provide them with a small truck, sparing them having to hire a vehicle.
The brothers would then drive the truck up through France.
"There may be developments, go while you're still in time," Fenech’s uncle texted him, hours before the dawn arrest. The message included a link to a media report about a statement then-prime minister Joseph Muscat had made about the murder.
Fenech's brother Franco advised him similarly, texting Yorgen: "Tell your friend 'it's probably better if I do as you suggested and leave for good'."
Planes and money transfers
In another exchange between Fenech and his uncle, one asked the other whether he had “spoken with K”.
“Yes,” read the reply. “He told me to keep calm. Nothing will happen today.”
Another exchange suggested Fenech was also trying to arrange a private flight to Nice.
“No publicity please, we’re going to take cash,” a text message to a private pilot, sent hours before the arrest, read.
Apart from the text messages, Galea Farrugia told the court that investigators had traced “vast amounts of money” being moved from accounts in Dubai and France in the period before Fenech’s arrest.
'No one is convinced all involved have been arraigned'
Galea Farrugia revealed the text messages, which he said were “just a few” of those sent, and insisted that investigations into the accused were still ongoing.
The deputy attorney general went on to make a bold statement, reiterating it after being prompted to by the defence.
“No one in the country is convinced that all involved have been arraigned in this case,” Galea Farrugia told the court.
Defence says case is being politicised
Defence lawyers, on the other hand, pointed out that Fenech has now spent 17 months in preventative custody.
“Five hundred days after his arrest, three years after the murder, why is he still denied bail? This is a criminal case. God forbid if we turn this into a political case!,” Fenech’s lawyer Charles Mercieca argued.
Citing EU case law, Mercieca argued that his client’s long period in custody ran against European norms and told the court that the defence would be seeking a constitutional reference if objections to bail were upheld.
He and fellow lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran noted that suspects in "other cases" that were also complex had been granted bail, in an allusion to Keith Schembri, the former OPM chief of staff facing corruption charges.
Mercieca said it was clear investigations into Fenech were concluded. The police commissioner himself had said that everyone involved in the murder was under arrest, he said.
That prompted superintendent and prosecutor Keith Arnaud to interject. Arnaud said commissioner Angelo Gafá’s statement was being misinterpreted. The
commissioner, he said, had stated that everyone believed to be involved on the basis of evidence that the police currently had, had been arraigned.
Following deliberation, magistrate Rachel Montebello denied Fenech bail, highlighting concerns about him escaping and tampering with evidence.
Others named in the case were also still under investigation, she noted, citing Keith Schembri, Kenneth Camilleri and Johann Cremona as cases in point.
Melvin Theuma's testimony
The animated to-and-fro over bail came at the tail end of a four-hour court session in which self-confessed murder middleman Melvin Theuma answered questions about recordings he surreptitiously made concerning the murder.
Answering questions by superintendent and prosecutor Keith Arnaud, Theuma said that:
• Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona told him that police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had provided details of the places that police would be raiding. Cutajar allegedly gave the details to former OPM security member Kenneth Camilleri.
• He openly told Cremona and Fenech that he would expose everything to the police if he went down, and had come close to doing so even before he was arrested
• Cremona suggested to Theuma having Edwin Brincat il-Gojja text the police commissioner, to find out at what stage investigations into him had reached.
Theuma will continue testifying at a later sitting.
The case resumes on May 25.
Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri appeared for Fenech.
Superintendent Keith Arnaud led the prosecution, together with deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia and lawyer Anthony Vella.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi appeared on behalf of the victim's family.
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Live blog ends
4.19pm Following a mammoth six-hour session, the day's court hearing is over.
This live blog will end here. Thank you for having joined us.
Case adjourned to May 25
4.14pm Defence lawyers are also saying that, given the court’s decision regarding their constitutional reference request, they do not want Melvin Theuma to be the witness summoned during the next court session.
Deputy AG Galea Farrugia points out that it was the defence themselves who wanted Theuma to testify.
The magistrate takes note of all that and says the case is adjourned to May 25.
Defence lawyer Caruana Curran: "We cannot make it that day. So if you want go ahead without us."
“You’re being unjust,” the magistrate tells the defence team.
The May 25 date stands.
'Make a formal request'
4.07pm As defence lawyers argue their point with the court, the magistrate cuts to the chase.
If the lawyers want a constitutional reference, she says, they should make a formal and reasoned request to that effect, to be assessed in an appropriate manner.
A livid defence
4pm Meanwhile, defence lawyer Charles Mercieca appears to be incensed by the decision to refuse bail. He’s railing against prosecutors and insisting on a constitutional reference concerning that decision.
"The defence expected a decision on this constitutional reference before the bail decree," he tells the court. "We don't know what's being investigated."
Case adjourned to May 25
3.55pm Records of the case will now be sent back to the attorney general.
The magistrate sets a May 25 date for the next hearing, when Melvin Theuma will continue testifying. But defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran asks for another date, as he won't be available that day.
Yorgen Fenech denied bail
3.53pm The magistrate concludes her decree: Yorgen Fenech is denied bail once again.
Others under investigation
3.50pm The magistrate continues: other people of interest in the case are still being investigated, she says, citing Keith Schembri, Kenneth Camilleri and Johann Cremona as cases in point.
The risk of tampering with evidence is significant, she notes, and there also appears to have been an attempt at tampering even before the accused was arraigned.
Police arrested the accused on the basis of intelligence that he was planning to escape, she notes, and contrary to what his lawyers said, he has many contacts and assets abroad and poses an escape risk.
Magistrate reads out bail decree
3.46pm Magistrate Montebello reads out her decree.
Fenech was arrested on reasonable suspicion, and although that suspicion still exists, that is not enough to keep him in custody, she says.
It is true that the suspect has been kept in prolonged custody, she continues, citing ECHR case law. The case is being handled efficiently, hearings regular but voluminous evidence.
The magistrate continues: the court fears that the accused might attempt to tamper with evidence and approach witnesses. Various developments are under way and other people have been arraigned. The in genere inquiry is ongoing and more testimonies have yet to be gathered.
If Fenech were to be released now, he might interfere with the course of justice, the magistrate says.
Parties return to the courtroom
3.38pm Defence lawyers, prosecutors and parte civile lawyers are returning to the courtroom. It appears the court will soon deliver its decision on Fenech's bail request.
Courtroom practically empty
3.28pm Hall 22 is practically empty now, save for journalists in the gallery, Yorgen Fenech's relatives and lawyers.
We're still waiting for the magistrate to return with a decision on bail.
Magistrate deliberates on bail
2.51pm The magistrate exits the courtroom. She will return with a decree on Fenech’s bail request.
'No one is convinced all have been arraigned'
2.45pm Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca highlights something mentioned by Galea Farrugia: that nobody in the country is convinced that everyone involved has been arraigned.
Galea Farrugia reiterates that: “Yes, I confirm. No one is convinced that everyone has been arraigned in this case.”
Mercieca argues that the prosecution has not shown any link to ongoing investigations when citing from these text messages, and argues that the messages "show individuals speaking to Fenech".
The magistrate tells the defence that the court's decision will not be based solely on the chats.
Mercieca: 500 days after his arrest, three years after the murder, why is he still denied bail? This is a criminal case. God forbid if we turn this into a political case!
'Vast amounts of money' transferred from Dubai
2.41pm Galea Farrugia says it’s not just the texts: “vast amounts of money” were being transferred from Dubai and other places, he says. “I’m not going to mention 17 Black or Wings Development. But it’s all in the acts.”
[17 Black was a secret company owned by Fenech. Its name was later changed to Wings Development].
Galea Farrugia says investigations are indeed ongoing and the magisterial inquiry into the murder has not yet been concluded. He cites a previous decree, and says that two other people have been arraigned since then.
“It doesn’t mean that others will be arraigned tonight or tomorrow but yes, investigations still ongoing,” he says.
2.35pm More texts:
“Tell Logan to prepare everything,” Yorgen Fenech texted his brother.
“Get a car at Ragusa”.
“No, don’t trust anyone. We’ll get one once we’re there.”
“Don’t forget, Log is on standby.”
“Yes, we set sail. You drive me to Nice.”
Galea Farrugia says these were all just hours before Fenech was arrested.
Another text to a plane pilot revealed attempts to find a flight to Nice.
“No publicity please, we’re going to take cash,” he reads.
Galea Farrugia: These are just a few, your honour. Please let’s no longer try to mislead the court saying that there was no fear of escape.
Fenech's text messages prior to his arrest
2.28pm Galea Farrugia goes on. In another text, Yorgen Fenech told his uncle “If I’m caught in the EU, I’ll end up at Europol.”
The two discussed how Melvin Theuma had a “pardon in sight” and discussed payment methods. “If we run out of cash, switch to cards,” one text read.
One asked the other: “Did you speak to K?”
“Yes,” read the reply. “He told me to keep calm. Nothing will happen today.”
Other texts: “The Times are at Portomaso.”
“Be careful, trust nobody.”
“Someone must have told them.”
“I told nobody. My brother has a loose tongue.”
“Perhaps Logan did. See if he spoke to anyone.”
Another text: “I made arrangements to collect a small truck in Nice and get away on that. So that I won’t even hire a car.”
Galea Farrugia reads out another conversation, this time between Yorgen Fenech and his brother.
"Uncle Ray insists that we gain time. We can sort out a way that you can be somewhere safe."
Another text: "Tell your friend 'it's probably better if I do as you suggested and leave for good'."
"Boss, we don't have all the time to take it easy."
"Boss, let's leave now. Listen to me."
"We have one last option. Take it or you will regret it forever".
"Tell Logan no crew".
Prosection's objections to bail
2.22pm Superintendent Keith Arnaud has something to say. He says police commissioner Angelo Gafá’s statement [that all suspects in the Caruana Galizia case are now under arrest] is being misinterpreted.
“The commissioner said that people have been arraigned on the basis of evidence that the police have in hand today. Let’s not mislead,” he says.
Arnaud adds that the defence’s claim that prosecutors have wrapped up investigations is also incorrect.
“I don’t recall saying that investigations vis-a-vis Yorgen Fenech were concluded,” he says. “We had volumes of evidence from Fenech’s data to check."
Deputy attorney general Galea Farrugia has objections of his own, from concerns that Fenech will tamper with evidence to a fear that he will try to abscond.
Galea Farrugia reminds the court of text messages Fenech exchanged with his uncle, Ray Fenech, the day before his arrest.
"There may be developments, go while you're still in time," read one. The message included a link to a media report about a statement then-prime minister Joseph Muscat had made about the murder.
'It's been 17 months'
2.12pm Fenech’s lawyers continue their arguments in favour of bail, saying Fenech has spent 17 months under preventative arrest and that multiple people in other cases have been granted bail. They rattle off some examples, from former soldiers accused of murdering Lassana Cisse to accused in “money laundering cases” [an allusion to Keith Schembri].
Lawyer Charles Mercieca says that if prosecutors' objections are upheld, the defence will be seeking a constitutional reference.
Fenech's arguments for bail
2.01pm Fenech’s lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran argues that it is “not normal” for a person to be denied bail this long after his arrest.
“We all know what happened in other cases,” he says. “No need to name names.”
Caruana Curran argues that his client is still presumed innocent and has family and business in Malta. He insists Fenech was not planning on escaping on the day of his arrest [Fenech was stopped as he headed out to sea aboard his yacht at dawn].
“He had switched on his boat’s tracking device and informed port control. Would he have done that if he wanted to flee?” the lawyer asks.
His colleague Charles Mercieca continues. He argues that the case is being politicised and that investigations concerning their client have been wrapped up.
Magistrate Montebello: Was there some public statement about that?
Mercieca: It was informally mentioned in another hearing. Besides, the police commissioner has publicly declared that investigations are concluded and that people to be arrested have been arrested.
Fenech requests bail again
1.56pm Yorgen Fenech has filed another request for bail. His lawyers will be making brief submissions about this.
[Fenech has made countless bail requests over the past year-and-a-half, but all have been unsuccessful. He's also taken a case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But that court also found no breach of his rights]
Theuma's testimony suspended
1.54pm Theuma is done testifying for the day – his testimony is suspended for the day and he’s allowed to leave the courtroom.
Fenech returns to his seat in the dock.
Knowing Fenech's itinerary
1.51pm Arnaud: In the recording, you told Johann that you had no contact with Yorgen, and asked Johann to contact him instead. But in the same recording, you said that Yorgen was going abroad on Friday. So how did you know?
Theuma: Because Yorgen would not always take my calls. When he did, he would tell me “I’m going away” on this day or that.
Magistrate Montebello: What happened after this conversation?
Theuma: Nothing! They would speak about the raids and so on in the morning, but then in the evening they would say ‘no, not yet’.
Police commissioner and Keith Schembri
1.45pm The prosecution goes through the recording transcript, bit by bit.
Arnaud: What did you mean by ‘this time I’ll expose them for sure’? Why were you telling Johann this?
Theuma: I was opening up to him.
Arnaud quotes from the transcript. “Either the commissioner does not give a damn about Keith, or else..” [Issa jew il kummissarju ala biebu minn Keith jew].
Theuma says that was a reference to the police raids. He adds that Cremona told him that the commissioner couldn’t stand Yorgen Fenech. But Yorgen told him that he didn’t even know the commissioner.
1.40pm In the tape, we can hear Cremona ask ‘how come he didn’t summon Edwin?’ [Kif ma bagħatx għal Edwin?]
It appears that in the transcript, this phrase is not written down as a question.
Arnaud notes that in the tape, Theuma says “mela” [sure] right after Cremona tells him that the raid details were provided by the police commissioner. Why?
Theuma: I have a habit of saying ‘mela’.
Magistrate Montebello: It’s as though you knew that the commissioner had pointed out the place names.
Theuma: But I didn’t.
Johann, Kenneth and Keith
1.30pm Arnaud notes that in the tape, Cremona told Theuma that the commissioner wanted information about him.
He says Johann Cremona asked Theuma: 'Why doesn’t Edwin [Brincat, known as il-Gojja] send the commissioner a message, to check what point the matter about you has reached?'
Arnaud goes on, reading from a transcript of the recorded conversation: Johann Cremona had asked Kenneth [Camilleri] if he was sent there by Keith [Schembri]. And Kenneth replied ‘Johann, don’t ask me’.
Arnaud asks Theuma to clarify.
But the defence says the transcript is not quite right. They understood this section of the conversation differently.
The magistrate orders it to be played out again.
Cremona and the commissioner
1.20pm Theuma confirms that according to Cremona, it was the police commissioner who had pointed out where would be raided.
Arnaud: Why did you want to know where would be raided?
Theuma: So that I could clear everything out. Because of the lotto. [Theuma ran an illegal lotto].
Arnaud: Then what?
Theuma: I'd spill the beans! [Mhux nikxef!]
Arnaud: But if the police raids found nothing, why would you need to reveal?
Theuma: I was going through such a bad time, I didn't know what to do.
The magistrate presses this point and asks Theuma: "If you planned on revealing everything anyway, why did you want to know the places to be raided?"
Theuma addresses the magistrate directly: I would have rather not been arrested. I would have rather revealed all before being arrested. You are right, your honour.
'Call me, it's urgent'
1.17pm The text message that Theuma mistakenly sent to Cremona, rather than Fenech, was: “Call me when you can, it’s urgent. I need to speak to you.”
More technical hitches
1.12pm There’s a slight issue with the tape: the technician is trying to find the exact part of the recording related to Arnaud’s next question, and is having trouble doing so. [Again, something that could be easily rectified with the proper use of technology.]
'Johann told me Kenneth got details from the commissioner'
1.04pm “I’m such a sincere friend,” Cremona can be heard saying on the tape.
Speaking in court, Theuma says that Cremona had told him that Kenneth Camilleri had obtained the names of the places to be targeted in police raids from the police commissioner [Lawrence Cutajar].
A second listen
12.59pm Arnaud asks something about a particular part of the recorded conversation.
Theuma asks whether he can re-listen to that part of the tape. The court obliges.
Speaking to Kenneth Camilleri
12.54pm Arnaud: Did Cremona give you feedback from Kenneth Camilleri?
[Camilleri worked at the Office of the Prime Minister. He was referred to as [person 3] in previous posts, which will now be updated].
Theuma: No he didn’t. I don’t know. He would speak about other things.
Arnaud presses on this point. But Theuma insists that he got no reply from Cremona.
Theuma: Johann [Cremona] never called Kenneth in my presence, except for one time. We were in Johann’s car and he called Kenneth and I spoke to him on Johann’s phone. That was before this recording.
Theuma explains that while he was speaking to Johann Cremona, he had texted Yorgen. But he got confused and sent the message to Cremona himself, instead.
12.42pmArnaud resumes questioning. He refers to a page in the transcript of the conversation.
[Prosecutors and defence lawyers have transcripts of the recorded conversations, which they can use to follow what is being said. The media – and by extension the public – do not].
It appears Theuma and his interlocutor in the recorded conversation were discussing Theuma’s money laundering files, saying that they have not yet been handed to the police.
They mention one particular officer, whose name was banned from being published in a previous sitting. We will refer to him as [person 4].
Arnaud notes that in the tape, they heard Cremona tell Theuma: “If you pop by [person 4]’s, you’ll end up a mess”.
Theuma: First they told me that [person 4] was ok, that all would be well. But then they told me that if things ended up with [person 4] it would be a mess, because he would go to the commissioner or magistrate.
12.39pm The conversation continues. A child’s voice can be heard chiming in from time to time, as well as the hum of machinery and some rustling.
“Goal!” the child can be heard exclaiming.
Theuma is heard saying “I’m off”, signalling the end of the conversation.
Back to the tapes
12.31pm Proceedings resume. The magistrate tells Theuma to let the court know if he cannot make out what is being said on the tape.
There's a lot of background noise on the tape, and it's hard to understand what is being said.
Theuma is heard saying "these guys must be going mad."
We cannot understand anything else being said.
Johann Cremona can be named
12.25pm The magistrate repeats the list of names that are banned from being published.
There’s quite a list, but the person we referred to as [person 1] throughout Theuma’s testimony today is not among them – that person is Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona.
We have now updated previous posts where he was mentioned, to include his name.
Minuting the matter
12.22pm Arnaud has a suggestion: the defence can take note of the parts in the tapes which they believe are not accurately reproduced in the transcripts, and ask Theuma about them during its cross-examination.
The magistrate says that’s fine, provided that the witness can make out what’s being said in the recording.
She minutes the matter, noting that the speaker on the defence's side is not working and that defence lawyers believe transcripts and the recording do not match in some parts.
Court session resumes
12.15pm After a 25-minute pause, the court session resumes. It’s not clear whether the audio problems have been resolved.
Deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia says he sees no problem with proceeding anyway. He says the parties all have transcripts.
Mercieca says that some exchanges not featuring in the transcripts could be heard when listening to the tapes using headphones.
A classical interlude
12pm The court technician returns to the courtroom, carrying a small speaker to use instead of the wall-mounted one.
A piece of classical music plays out in the courtroom, presumably as an audio test. Quite the interlude.
11.50am We’re back to hearing the tape. But it’s very difficult to make out what’s being said. There are gaps in the conversation and the men’s voices sound distant.
Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca tells the court: “We cannot hear anything.”
The tape is paused and a court technician fiddles with a wall-mounted speaker.
The law courts' technological shortcomings are in full display here: it's 2021 and a major murder case is being held up by substandard audio in a courtroom.
'If they didn't arrest Konrad and Keith, why me?'
11.41am In the tape, Theuma can be heard saying “if they didn’t arrest Konrad and Keith, why me?”
Arnaud: In the tape, you first speak of places to raid then the conversation suddenly shifts to ‘I won’t be arrested.’ How come?
Theuma doesn’t have a clear answer for that.
Back in court
11.40am Theuma’s testimony resumes.
Arnaud: You said “today he’ll have to speak to me” on the tape. Why?
Theuma: I was referring to Yorgen.
Arnaud: Didn’t he always speak to you? Why did you say that?
Theuma: I don’t know.
Theuma continues testifying.. or not
11.35am Theuma is called back into court. His testimony can resume.... or maybe not.
Just as he walks back in, the prosecution says it would like to minute something about the discussion that just took place. Theuma turns around and walks back out.
Ban on publication
11.31am The magistrate says that the media cannot publish what is discussed at this point [as Theuma is outside and could hypothetically follow].
Theuma asked to step outside
11.28am The magistrate asks Theuma what Edwin Brincat was to tell the commissioner.
Theuma: That my relative had a place in Qormi.
Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks for Theuma to leave the room momentarily, as there is something they would like to point out without him present.
The magistrate asks Theuma to step outside for a minute.
Theuma: 'I bluffed about commissioner'
11.25am Arnaud notes that in the tape, Theuma can be heard saying “so the commissioner was right”.
Theuma: That was my bluff. I was referring to the police commissioner and saying that the commissioner spoke to Edwin Brincat. I used to mention the commissioner to Johann Cremona.
Arnaud: What did that mean?
Theuma: I made it up. I had my doubts. Of course I did. Johann Cremona would tell me one thing in the morning and something different in the evening.
'They told me they got information from Keith'
11.20am Arnaud asks Theuma about property he owns. Theuma had a garage in Safi and other property in Żurrieq. Theuma says he uses the Safi garage to house cars.
Arnaud returns to the tapes. “You sounded very firm and determined, saying ‘they [police] had better not show up. Why?”
Theuma: Because Johann got the info from Kenneth Camilleri, who in turn got it from Keith. At least that’s what Johann told me.”
Arnaud: Did your relatives know what was going on?
Waiting for Schembri
11.17am Theuma is speaking rather heatedly. The magistrate tells him to calm down.
Arnaud: Why did you implicate Keith Schembri?
Theuma: I tried to approach him twice. Once I waited for him at Castille. Edwin Brincat later told me ‘are you crazy!’ I also tried to meet with Kenneth Camilleri but did not manage.”
Arnaud: Why did you go to Keith Schembri?
Theuma: “I wanted to tell him about the murder and about the money. That was when Yorgen wasn’t taking my calls.”
Theuma's temptation to tell all
11.13am Theuma continues.
“I told Johann that even if he covered me with money, I would still spill the beans. And there were times when I was driving, on the way to do so. Because that life I was living wasn’t worth it.
Theuma says two people convinced him to change his mind about revealing everything. [Again, it is not clear whether the two people mentioned are among those whose names cannot be published, as the magistrate listed the names too quickly to catch them all].
Theuma: “There were times when I was heading to you [Arnaud] to tell all, because I knew that you were handling the case. Yorgen would calm me down and tell me that as long as we stuck together, we would be fine.
“Johann would tell me “if you tell-all, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. Edwin Brincat would warn me that if I revealed everything, I would ‘end up in jail forever’."
11.06am Theuma tells the court that he was receiving mixed messages.
“Yorgen would tell me I wouldn’t be arrested, then Johann would tell me otherwise. I sometimes even cancelled flight tickets when he told me that I was going to be arrested. It would be one thing in the morning, another in the afternoon.”
Arnaud: But on tape you clearly sound convinced that you wouldn’t be arrested.
Theuma: Yes, because they told me I wouldn’t be arrested and I told Johann and Yorgen that if arrested, I would reveal everything.
Arnaud: It sounds like you had power here.
Theuma: I had no power at all. They told me I wouldn’t be [arrested].
'They messed up, they can fix it'
11.01am We’re back to the tape. A relative of Fenech’s, unrelated to the case, is mentioned.
Theuma’s interlocutor tells him there are “big problems”. Theuma replies: “They messed it up, they can fix it.”
In court: Theuma says that he was referring to Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech. He says that at the time he believed that the two were plotting to land him in custody. That’s why they were “tapping me” (phone intercepts), he says.
Auto-deleting messages on Signal
10.58am Back to the courtroom: Arnaud asks Theuma whether he remembers when this conversation took place.
Theuma says this was in 2019, the year of his arrest.
“We were at his office,” he says. Theuma explains that he was there to set up a mobile phone with the Signal messaging application and adjust its settings to automatically delete messages after a certain time period.
'I won't be rounded up'
10.54am “I will not be rounded up, that’s that!” [Jien ma ninġabarx, daqshekk!] Melvin can be heard saying on the tape, in what appears to be a reference to upcoming police raids.
There's mention of a "Keith" and "Konrad".
'Sunday in the morning'
10.49am The first tape is played. It’s a conversation between Theuma and a business associate of Fenech's, Johann Cremona.
A young child can be heard playing in the background, as the two men talk.
The two men chat, and the conversation is interrupted by the piercing ringtone of a phone.
Melvin Theuma takes the call and says “Sunday in the morning, Sunday in the morning!”
Ban on names
10.42am Arnaud reminds the court that the magistrate has banned publication of certain names mentioned. The magistrate confirms that the ban is still in place, and rapidly rattles off a list of names that cannot be mentioned by the media.
Melvin Theuma at the stand
10.37am Melvin Theuma takes the stand. He is handed a glass of water as he waits patiently behind the perspex shield.
Meanwhile, Fenech moves to a chair closer to his lawyers, presumably to be able to better follow the transcripts of the tapes that are to be played soon.
Il-Ġojja's phone number
10.32am Zammit's testimony is over within a couple of minutes.
The next witness is a Melita representative. She presents details concerning a particular phone number, again, requested by the police.
The woman confirms, following a question by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca, that the phone number in question is registered to Edgar Brincat, known as il-Ġojja.
Mercieca says the first request from the police related to this number is dated April 13, 2020.
“I didn’t find a request from the police prior to that date,” she replies.
That's all from this witness.
Service provider representative testifies
10.29am The day’s first witness is Charmaine Zammit, who works with one of Malta’s mobile phone service providers.
She makes reference to some phone numbers and subscriber details requested by police – but Zammit is wearing a mask and speaking in a rather low voice, making it very hard to make out what she is saying.
Yorgen Fenech in the dock
10.24am The man facing murder charges is in the dock. His lawyers are all in the courtroom. Proceedings can begin.
Theuma waits outside
10.13am We’re in hall 22, as is customary these weeks due to social distancing concerns. It’s one of the larger courtrooms, with a gallery for members of the press to sit in.
We spotted Melvin Theuma waiting outside, accompanied by plainclothes police officers.
Case has yet to begin
10.08am Lawyers involved in the case are filing into court and magistrate Rachel Montebello is at the bench, but the case has not started yet - the magistrate is handling some other cases first.
What happened last time?
9.50am The last hearing in the case dates back just one week, when Fenech’s defence lawyers told the court that they would be summoning Keith Schembri to the stand.
Fenech claims that Schembri, a former friend of his who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat between 2013 and 2019, is the true murder mastermind.
Schembri is currently facing legal trouble of his own: he faces charges of corruption, money laundering and perjury, among others.
Fenech’s lawyers also intend to summon other witnesses in the case, including Theuma – the Portomaso taxi driver-turned-murder-middleman – and Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona.
Who are the main players?
9.48am 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.
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.
9.45am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. We're at the Valletta law courts where the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech is set to continue.
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