Police surveillance and intercepted phone calls back up suspicions that a former police superintendent leaked sensitive details of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.
Sources said Ray Aquilina had been spotted walking into the Qormi office of Johann Cremona a number of times during police surveillance operations in the summer of 2019.
Cremona is a business associate of Yorgen Fench and is believed to have acted as an interlocutor between the alleged murder conspirator, self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma, and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
An ongoing investigation into suspected leaks is also understood to have secured damning phone intercepts that back up investigators’ theory that Aquilina was supplying parties to the murder with insider information.
Aquilina, who used to head the police’s anti-money laundering unit, is believed to have leaked details of a money laundering investigation into Theuma prior to his arrest.
The former officer, who has since resigned from the corps, is separately the subject of an ongoing money laundering and graft investigation himself, sources said.
In 2019, police were planning to reel in Theuma on suspected financial crimes in a bid to get their hands on evidence he was known to have on the murder plot. Police were hoping to secure secretly-taped conversations between Theuma and Fenech, the man he alleges masterminded the 2017 car bombing of the journalist.
Theuma, who was given a pardon to turn state witness, has since testified in court that he was expecting to receive a comprehensive list detailing which of his properties would be raided by the police in November 2019. That list was allegedly to be supplied by Aquilina, at the time a superintendent at the police’s Economic Crimes Unit.
Separately the subject of an ongoing money laundering and graft investigation himself
Theuma had not only allegedly been tipped off of his impending arrest by Aquilina, but he even knew the identity of the police officer who would interrogate him on a money laundering case and haggled over which properties would be searched.
Messages exchanged between Fenech and Theuma in the days and hours leading up to the middleman’s arrest show the pair knew the planned money-laundering raids were just a guise for the police to obtain the recordings.
Aquilina was arrested and taken in for questioning on Thursday and again on Friday over the alleged leaks. He is currently on police bail and sources say he will likely face criminal charges.
Police sources said the arrest of Aquilina came on the back of a magisterial inquiry into alleged leaks that had called for police action.
Investigators said they were surprised to see Aquilina walk into Cremona’s office when police were conducting surveillance operations in August and September 2019.
This was flagged as irregular by investigators especially as Aquilina had not discussed the meetings with his colleagues in the ECU.
Attempts to contact Aquilina were unsuccessful.
Cremona has emerged as a central figure in the fall-out of the 2017 murder, having ostensibly acted as an interlocutor between Theuma and Fenech. He also seems to have received information for Kenneth Camilleri, a member of former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s personal security detail. Camilleri is an associate of then OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
Sources said that in recordings Theuma took during his meetings with Cremona, the two are heard discussing a plan to get Aquilina to drop the planned money laundering charges.
It is also clear Theuma knew of the exact date of his arrest. Times of Malta had reported how Theuma been arrested two days earlier than the set date because officers tailing him had noticed he had started behaving frantically and feared he planned to destroy crucial evidence.
Aquilina is not the only police officer suspected of leaking insider information to parties involved in the case.
In January 2020, Times of Malta exposed how former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta had a close relationship with Fenech, even travelling abroad with him after the businessman had been identified as a person of interest in the murder investigation.
Theuma has since told a court he believes Valletta was feeding both Fenech and Schembri details of the murder investigation.
In June 2020, a magistrate formally ordered a criminal investigation into former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar. The order came hot on the heels of a Times of Malta report exposing how Cutajar had held meetings with another close associate of Theuma, Edgar Brincat, known as il-Ġojja.
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