Yorgen Fenech told investigators in November that Joseph Muscat had asked him if his chief of staff Keith Schembri had featured in recordings secretly taken by Daphne Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma.
The murder suspect claims he assured the then prime minister that he was doing his best to protect Schembri when asked about Theuma’s recordings.
Contacted by Times of Malta, Muscat vehemently denied the claims made by the man who stands accused of ordering the journalist’s assassination.
Fenech claims that Muscat discussed Theuma with him twice in early 2019, once at the former prime minister’s birthday bash at Girgenti and on another occasion when he was summoned to a meeting with Muscat and Schembri at Auberge de Castille.
Theuma was granted immunity from prosecution by Muscat in exchange for testimony that has implicated Fenech as the person who ordered and financed the October 2017 car bombing.
Fenech says Muscat also warned him that the police would be forced to carry out a raid on Theuma at some point, particularly due to mounting pressure from abroad. Details about Fenech’s testimony are expected to emerge during the compilation of evidence against him.
Claims made after second pardon was rejected
Sources said Fenech told investigators the prime minister instructed him to speak to Theuma to ensure no recordings would be found when the police made their move.
Muscat also asked him if he trusted Theuma, Fenech told police during an interrogation on November 29 and the following day.
Fenech’s claims were made after his second request for a pardon was rejected by Cabinet. During that discussion, Muscat had absented himself because of claims the businessman made that his chief of staff was the mastermind behind the murder.
Muscat announced he would be resigning as prime minister come January soon after Schembri was interrogated in connection with the murder.
Fenech said he had previously refrained from telling investigators about these meetings with Muscat because mentioning the prime minister would not have helped his bid for a pardon from the same prime minister.
The murder suspect had in the early days of his arrest implicated former minister Chris Cardona in the murder, using a “script” allegedly passed on to him by Schembri via their mutual doctor Adrian Vella.
Times of Malta is informed investigators took his statements with caution given how his version of events changed throughout his arrest.
In e-mailed comments to Times of Malta, Muscat said although he was unaware what was said in any statements to the police, or how many versions were given, the claims were unfounded and part of a reputation-tarnishing campaign.
Muscat said he was threatened with this campaign because of the investigations and the fact that Fenech’s pardon was turned down.
“I had issued a public statement on the said threats, which at the time included a claim on alleged telephone calls that it was confirmed did not take place. Now it seems that the calls claim transformed itself in a claim on meetings.”
Although Muscat denies the Castille meeting, it is an established fact that Fenech turned up for the prime minister’s Girgenti birthday party, even presenting him with three bottles of expensive Pétrus wine.
Muscat says he invited Fenech to his birthday party following consultations with the security services, who were tapping both Fenech’s and Theuma’s phones.
In one of the secret recordings taken by the middleman, Theuma discussed a visit he received from “Kenneth from Castille” and Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona.
The “Kenneth from Castille” has been identified as Kenneth Camilleri, an official who used to be on Muscat’s security detail.
Cremona confirmed in court earlier this month that the meeting between himself, Camilleri and Theuma took place.
According to the recordings, Camilleri discussed the prospect of suspected triggermen Alfred and George Degiorgio being granted bail in the murder case.
Fenech said in the recorded conversation that it was Schembri who sent Camilleri to meet the middleman, after “panicking” because a third suspect, Vince Muscat, was beginning to speak to police about the murder plot and Theuma’s role in it.
Muscat told Times of Malta that while he had generally refrained from commenting about the case and witness, particularly given his role in granting Theuma’s pardon, he was unaware of any such meeting taking place.
“But for the sake of clarity, I was never aware, let alone gave instructions, for any such meetings, if they have indeed taken place, and do not know whether they took place at a time when the said person was still part of my detail,” Muscat said.
Muscat’s statement in full
“While I am unaware of what was said in any statements to the police, or how many versions were given, the said claims are unfounded and are clearly part of a reputation-tarnishing campaign I was threatened with, and which was duly reported to authorities, in the wake of investigations and a request for pardon which was turned down.
“I had issued a public statement on the said threats, which at the time included a claim on alleged telephone calls that it was confirmed did not take place. Now it seems that the calls claim transformed itself in a claim on meetings.
“As a matter of fact, no such meeting took place at Castille. This is corroborated by OPM records which have been made public [OPM visitor records show the last time Fenech signed in for a meeting at Castille was in 2017] and also by a testimony given in court where specific questions were asked on any such meeting, and which clearly confirms that it never took place.
“I have already replied to questions on the Girgenti event, where the invite was issued following consultations with the MSS. I also note that questions were again asked in court on the event and which further confirm what I have said.
“Furthermore, part of the evidence presented in court on Friday quotes the accused saying that he would never speak to me about the case.
This is not the first time I have been slandered with false accusations, and even ‘evidence’ which at the end it transpired to be fabricated.”
Replying to follow-up questions by Times of Malta about whether the murder was discussed at Girgenti and whether he has attempted to communicate with Fenech in prison, Muscat said:
“I am denying all these unfounded allegations, including this latest figment of someone’s very vivid imagination.
“Can I add that in your previous questions you state that the statement, which I am not privy to, claims that in the purported meeting I gave information on ‘raids’.
“While noting that at every stage I was only interested in seeing this case solved and justice served, I was not informed about details of police operations.” [Muscat used to receive briefings about the investigation from the police and security services. Acting Police Commissioner Carmelo Magri told the public inquiry into the murder that he has put a halt to these OPM briefings]
“However, I must point out glaring inconsistencies in your questions: It is clear from information in the public domain that any raids were decided upon at a much later stage than early 2019, when supposedly I was discussing these specific operations. Once again, this is an invention which seems to be retribution rather than a quest for truth.”
Muscat also issued a Facebook post to deny the claims made against him.