The alleged middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder was only granted immunity after the police corroborated the evidence in the form of audio recordings which the suspect had in his possession, outgoing Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in Parliament on Monday evening.
Addressing the House for the final time as Prime Minister in view of his decision to resign in mid-January, Dr Muscat spoke at length on this investigation during a debate which he had pledged to hold once there would be a “breakthrough” in the case.
However, the sitting was adjourned at the end of his hour-long speech after Opposition MPs had walked out earlier, saying they would only return when Dr Muscat resigns.
Last Saturday, businessman Yorgen Fenech was charged with commissioning Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder, who was killed by a car bomb in October 2017. Mr Fenech pleaded not guilty and was remanded in custody.
In his address, Dr Muscat confirmed that throughout the 25-month long investigation he was being kept abreast with all developments by the authorities.
The Prime Minister credited the FBI for having solved this case, saying that were it not for them, the Maltese authorities would have never had certain resources at their disposal.
While describing his decision to seek the FBI’s assistance as “crucial”, he noted that the fact that no other car bomb attacked had been solved was testament to the major challenge which this investigation posed.
“Despite having gone much further than in other cases like those of Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana, which were never solved, investigations continued to establish who had commissioned the murder,” he pointed out
Dr Muscat refuted claims he was interfering in investigations.
“For months I was being criticized for not divulging details, only for the same people to accused me of interfering when I started communicating certain developments,” he said.
“I could not make any comments or react to criticism that no progress was being registered. These were the stones in my shoes which I had kept for the last two years,” he added.
Though he said that investigators took their time and, on occasions, risks too, the arrest of the middleman as part of an anti-money-laundering raid was a major step.
Dr Muscat said that this suspect, Melvin Theuma - who Dr Muscat never mentioned by name - offered to give evidence in the form of audio recordings on condition he would be granted a presidential pardon.
While insisting that he was not involved in such negotiations, saying these were left in the hands of the Attorney General and the police commissioner, Dr Muscat said that the immunity was only given after the suspect’s evidence had been corroborated.
“Under this pardon, the suspect has to testify in connection with three other 'prominent' cases,” the Prime Minister said, divulging only that these were not related to the murder.
The Prime Minister also referred to another request for a presidential pardon, that by Yorgen Fenech, whom he also did not mention by name.
Dr Muscat insisted the decision to refuse this request was not his, but a unanimous one by Cabinet on the advice of the AG and the Police Commissioner.
The Prime Minister refuted Mr Fenech’s claims that he had contacted him over the phone in recent months, saying there were ways and means to verify his denial. Moreover, he said that even the Caruana Galizia family was against this pardon.
“I have kept my word not to leave a stone unturned to solve the case” he said.
“We showed that the country’s institutions are working and that everyone is treated the equally by before the law. “The final truth and the crucial point is that somebody has been charged with commissioning the murder. It is not up to us to decide if this person is guilty or not,” he remarked.
“I have pledged that I wanted to close this case under my watch as I did not want to be like my predecessors who closed none of the cases which happened under their watch”.
However, he said that if investigators felt they should make more arrests they were free to do so.
“I am convinced I still enjoy the trust of the majority of the people and I still enjoy the unconditional support of all Labour MPs” he said.