The Nationalist Party used to send its head of media, Pierre Portellli, to collect €20,000 every month from Yorgen Fenech, a court was told on Monday morning.

The claim was made by Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff of prime minister Joseph Muscat.

It was promptly denied by Portelli, who produced a sworn statement made before a notary to that effect. A denial was also issued by PN leader Adrian Delia.

Schembri made the claim during the compilation of evidence against Fenech, who stands accused of complicity to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Schembri was a close friend of Fenech's.

RELATED STORIES

He said he was aware that politicians used to visit Fenech's ranch in Żebbuġ, though not in his presence, and said that Fenech was very highly regarded within society prior to the Caruana Galizia case. 

"Fenech told me that before there used to be politicians who lunched with him," Schembri testified.

"The opposition leader once went to ask for €50,000 to be used against [David] Casa’s election [to the European Parliament]. And he used to send [then PN head of media] Pierre Portelli to collect €20,000 every month. This happened on a regular basis. They sometimes waited for one hour to wait for the money."

Portelli, he said, was spotted at a Portomaso reception waiting before the 2019 MEP election.

Within minutes, Portelli had released a denial of Schembri's claim.

"I categorically deny what Keith Schembri has just said in court. Last week I made a sworn declaration to present to the police should I be asked," Portelli said.

He was referring to other testimony in court last week when the self-confessed middleman in the murder plot, Melvin Theuma also referred to money given to the PN.

Theuma claimed on Wednesday that Fenech was irked by Casa's interest in his secret offshore company 17 Black, and had offered the PN money to ensure he was not re-elected.

Delia denied Theuma's claims in a sworn declaration. On Monday he also denied Schembri's claims 'in the most absolute and categorical manner.'

Keith Schembri and people around him had been implicated in the Caruana Galizia murder and were therefore resorting to blatant lies even while giving evidence under oath, he said.

David Thake, who is now a PN MP, had made a similar claim in June 2019 and singled out Portelli as being especially close to Fenech.

Fenech had also denied the claim back then.

Last week Thake called for a police investigation and was questioned by officers on Friday. He was backed by Portelli, who said he had written to the PN calling for an independent inquiry.  

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us