Caruana Galizia public inquiry: Insufficient evidence of corruption due to uncooperative Dubai authorities

Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry hears how Dubai was completely uncooperative when asked for information by Maltese police about 17 Black and alleged money laundering

The public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder is continuing in court today
The public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder is continuing in court today
16:46 Today's sitting concludes here. The next sitting will be held on 12 February. Journalists Caroline Muscat and Monique Agius are expected to testify Massimo Costa
16:46 The Caruana Galizia family lawyers are arguing that the inclusion of State Advocate Victoria Buttigieg - who sent a letter to the public inquiry this afternoon asking to represent the state in the proceedings - would have a “chilling effect” on witnesses Massimo Costa
16:45 Asked if he had ever spoken to Keith Schembri or Yorgen Fenech, Muscat say he never had Massimo Costa
16:44 Azzopardi asks superintendent Muscat if the complete refusal of Dubai to supply information is due to the “best evidence” rule. Muscat replies in the affirmative. (The best evidence rule is a legal principle which regard an original copy of a document as the best evidence) Massimo Costa
16:34 Muscat is asked what could have been done better, in his opinion, in so far as the police investigations are concerned. He replies that the police had absolutely no resources. “I’m ashamed to say that I have to check the documentation I receive manually because we don't have the software to do so” Massimo Costa
16:33 Muscat is now asked about MacBridge, a second Dubai company, the owner of which is yet unknown. Muscat says he never came across any information on MacBridge from any jurisdiction in the world. “Zero,” Muscat says Massimo Costa
16:32 Muscat replies that there is hope, since Dubai may change its stance Massimo Costa
16:32 Azzopardi points out that in other countries, the Panama Papers had led to arraignments. He asked whether, short of Dubai cooperating, there was no hope of charges being filed against Mizzi and Schembri Massimo Costa
16:31 Azzopardi is annoyed at Muscat’s reply. “So what!” he shouts, “You know that in these crimes the attempt is the same as the consumated crime.” Muscat, however, reiterates that foreign jurisdictions offered no information Massimo Costa
16:29 Muscat responds that the biggest different between the fast food robbery and the cases of Mizzi and Schembri was that in the case of the latter, there were no actual money transfers Massimo Costa
16:29 Azzopardi compares the lack of action regarding Mizzi and Schembri to a case when the ECU had charged people who had robbed fast food outlet of €40,000, with these having been subsequently jailed by a court Massimo Costa
16:27 Azzopardi continues questioning Muscat - he asks whether, considering that a minister (Konrad Mizzi) had attempted to open bank accounts and was refused by eight banks in five different countries, the excuses which Mizzi gave for the origin of funds could be considered unbelievable. Were there not enough facts to send for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and ask for an explanation, at least, Azzopardi asks Muscat Massimo Costa
16:19 Muscat says the police had planned a visit to Dubai to discuss the matter, but Dubai had cancelled the visit at the last minuted. He says that in the case of a jurisdiction which is not an EU member, has its own laws and is not answerable to anybody, this meant the police were “at their mercy.” Massimo Costa
16:18 Muscat now tells the inquiry board that Dubai had been completely uncooperative when it came to the Maltese police requests for information. Even the rogatory letters had been sent back, still sealed Massimo Costa
16:16 Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks Muscat whether the decision to prosecute is taken when the police are convinced that there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Muscat replies that he personally would act in that manner, unlike other inspections, who would prosecute before being sure of a conviction and “end up wasting everybody’s time” Massimo Costa
16:14 Muscat replied that even the mere fact that he was not given an entire file but only an analysis report was abnormal. Asked who was supposed to hand him a full file, Muscat says assistant commissioner Ian Abdilla would have normally done so Massimo Costa
16:13 Azzopardi asks Muscat whether he felt that a loan was an easy excuse for a criminal to make to cover up the reality of the money transfers. The inquiry board judges rephrase the question: Did the fact that they (Tonna and Schembri) were PEPs affect the investigation? Was their case dealt with the same way as other cases? Massimo Costa
16:12 Caruana Galizia defence lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona says that the €100,000 payment appeared to be a payment for a previous loan. He asks Muscat whether this issue wasn’t investigated. Muscat replies that at the time he held the rank of inspector and was not given instructions to investigate Massimo Costa
16:10 Azzopardi asks Muscat whether the fact that an OPM Chief of Staff received a six figure sum would raise red flags. Muscat says it would, but it appeared that the money was sent as part of a loan. Azzopardi presses Muscat, asking that, considering that an auditor (Tonna) was not supposed to loan money to a client (Schembri), would this not also raise a red flag? Muscat says it did, but there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing, and this was ascertained by both himself and Abdilla Massimo Costa
16:08 Muscat says that, in the case of Operation Green and Brian Tonna’s BVI company Willerby Inc, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. He tells the board the investigations showed that Tonna had passed on €100,000 in two payments of €50,000 to Keith Schembri. But there was insufficient evidence that there was a kickback to Schembri to provide Russian nationals with a passport, Muscat says Massimo Costa
16:05 Caruana Galizia family lawyer beings his cross-examination of superintendent Antonovich Muscat, starting by asking about the difference between Operation Green and Operation Greenpower. Muscat explains that Operation Green was based on an FIAU report by Manfred Galdes on the investigation into Brian Tonna and Keith Schembri, while Greenpower was the last FIAU report regarding Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and 17 Black Massimo Costa
16:02 Muscat says the police could have chosen to investigate the Panama Papers revelations on their own steam (without a joint investigation with the FIAU), but they had chosen not to. At the time, Muscat tells the inquiry, he was a police inspector and as such lacked the rank to initiate investigations himself Massimo Costa
16:00 Muscat says that, after the 2016 Panama Papers, the FIAU had issued a report based on what had emerged in the Papers, and had in May that year the police and FIAU had taken a joint decision to run three separate investigations Massimo Costa
15:59 Inquiry board member Joseph Said Pullicino asks Muscat whether this had to do with attempted money laundering. Muscat replies that there was a lack of information that there was attempted money laundering Massimo Costa
15:57 Muscat is asked again about 17 Black. He says that this had to do with local persons who had structures and bank accounts in foreign jurisdictions. The main players here were Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, he says Massimo Costa
15:55 Muscat is now asked about the report on 17 Black. He says he had met with Ian Abdilla and Ray Aquilina to discuss it, and requests for information were then sent through Europol and Interpol to various jurisdictions. Since the information requested was private and related to banking, the few replies received had requested for rogatory letters to supply the said information Massimo Costa
15:54 Muscat is now asked about Operation Green. He says he had only recently heard about it and had initially confused it with another investigation, Operation Greenpower, which he later learnt was unconnected Massimo Costa
15:53 Muscat tells the board that he had not received the report on Tonna and Schembri in a police file. It was only in the form of an analytical report, which was not normal practice, Muscat says Massimo Costa
15:51 The way forward, Muscat says, included the issuing of letters to Pilatus Bank and ID Malta, amongst others. There was also a meeting with the FIAU, for which deputy FIAU director Alfred Zammit, former FIAU director Manfred Galdes, assistant commissioner Ian Abdilla and himself were present. The meeting discussed the Panama Papers, Muscat explains Massimo Costa
15:49 Superintendent Muscat tells the inquiry board that the report on Briant Tonna’s BVI company Willberby Inc and on Keith Schembri was received by him in July 2016. He was tasked to read the report by Assisstant Commissioner Ian Abdilla. The report was subsequently discussed between himself, Abdilla and superintendent Ray Aquilina in a review, and a way forward was decided Massimo Costa
15:47 The public inquiry has resumed and superintendent Antonovich Muscat has taken the witness stand Massimo Costa
15:31 Aquilina’s testimony has concluded. The board is taking a short break Massimo Costa
15:31 Azzopardi is now asking Aquilina whether he had spoken to Keith Schembri or Yorgen Fenech in the past years. Aquilina replies that he did not, apart from doing so to give out summons notifications to Fenech Massimo Costa
15:29 Aquilina continues telling the inquiry about resources at the ECU, saying these were scarce and that he had a huge backlog. He speaks about a particular month during which the anti-money laundering squad was composed of six officials. He tells the board that the squad which he heads is composed of four police inspectors and two financial analysts, since 2018. "We were anticipating the MONEYVAL results," Aquilina says about the increase in staffing Massimo Costa
15:25 Aquilina is now asked about the staffing levels at the police Economic Crimes Unit. He explains that he had been sent to assist the sole officer there, at the time superintendent Antonovich Muscat. The resources are very limited and rarely ever exceeded two officers at the squad, he explains. The volume of work was overwhelming. Since 2018, the unit has had four inspectors, but there was still a lack of personnel to support them. The ECU currently also has two financial analysts who joined recently, he says Massimo Costa
15:23 Regarding this particular police investigation into allegations concerning Adrian Delia, Aquilina says that he had excluded former minister Chris Cardona from the investigation. Asked why this was, Aquilina says Cardona was not involved in the case Massimo Costa
15:16 Aquilina goes on to tell the inquiry that the FIAU had drawn up an analytical report in March 2018 which was based on a story written by Caruana Galizia alleging Opposition leader Adrian Delia made money from a prostitution racket in the UK and using a British bank. This had led to a police investigation, which is still ongoing Massimo Costa
15:11 Aquilina replies that some police investigations were based substantially on Caruana Galizia’s work Massimo Costa
15:11 Azzopardi goes on to ask Aquilina about his opinion on the factual basis and relevance of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work on money laundering and bribery. “Did you ignore her? Did you pay attention to her?” Azzopardi asks Massimo Costa
15:05 Azzopardi goes on to ask Aquilina what the FIAU’s protocol was when the Unit had reasonable suspicion of money laundering. Aquilina explains that the FIAU report would be received by a police liason officer - in this case Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla - who would then open a file and index said report. The next step from there would be for the police to assign an inspector to look into it Massimo Costa
15:03 Lawyer Azzopardi now asks Aquilina whether rogatory letters were issued in January or February last year. Aquilina replies that one letter was sent to Latvia and one to Dubai during that period last year. Dubai had not been forthcoming with a reply, Aquilina tells the board Massimo Costa
15:01 Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Aquilina about November 2018, and whether the file on 17 Black was sent to Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla. Aquilina says that in 2018 he had passed on the file to his superiors because he was going on a long period of leave. Before going on leave, he had updated the 17 Black file with information on the investigation. Aquilina reads out the conclusions of this update, where he mentioned that the police were awaiting replies from letters rogatory and where he noted that we was going on long leave Massimo Costa
14:57 Inquiry board member jJudge Abigail Lofaro asks Aquilina whether the police had sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone. "To date I don't have anything in hand with evidence to confront someone and say that you did such and such a crime,” Aquilina replies Massimo Costa
14:56 Asked what his conclusion about the reports was, Aquilina says that the report dealt with timeframes, contracts, travelling, credit cards and transfers. “When one puts person A and person B's location at the same time…” Aquilina says, with specifying what he means Massimo Costa
14:55 Aquilina now speaks about who is mentioned in the reports. Adrian Hillman, Aquilina says, is only mentioned in the report which deals with him specifically. Keith Schembri, however is also mentioned in a report about 17 Black. Konrad Mizzi is also mentioned in the reports Massimo Costa
14:51 Caruana Galizia family lawyer Theresa Comodini Cachia asks Aquilina whether the global report had contained information about 17 Black. Aquilina clarifies: he says the first report sent to the police by the FIAU had been received by police commissioner Michael Cassar. In a subsequent meeting with former FIAU head Manfred Galdes, it had been decided to split the investigation into three - one on Keith Schembri, Brian Tonna and Willerby, the other on Schembri and Hillman and another global report. “I call it global because it gathers all timeframes into one,” Aquilina says Massimo Costa
14:48 Aquilina says that the first FIAU investigation, which had to do with Maltese banks, had led to two inquiries after former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had presented a large amount of documentation in court before then magistrate Aaron Bugeja. The two inquiries are being led by magistrates Natasha Galea Sciberras and Josette Demicoli respectively Massimo Costa
14:46 Asked if there was sufficient evidence for the police to send for the persons of interest concerned, Aquilina says he hadn’t discussed the issue with his superiors before passing on the report to them Massimo Costa
14:46 Regarding the report on Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman, Aquilina says this was passed on to his superiors and he was unaware if it had been actioned upon or not Massimo Costa
14:45 Aquilina explains the limitations of reports compiled by the FIAU. He says that FIAU analytical reports are merely intelligence gatherings. They cannot be used in court as evidence, so Aquilina says it was his job to gather that evidence, and this was done through the letter rogatory Massimo Costa
14:44 Aquilina says that the advice of the Attorney General had been sought on the matter. Regarding the letters rogatory, Aquilina points out that lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo had drafted the letters and had tabled them in the inquiry, so that if it emerged that a crime had been committed, evidence would be preserved Massimo Costa
14:42 During the meet where they discussed the 17 Black report, it was decided to use police channels to obtain information from other jurisdictions. In this respect, it was decides to use letters rogatory to communicate with such foreign jurisdictions Massimo Costa
14:41 Aquilina says that the last report from the FIAU received in 2018 had to do with 17 Black. This report was around 170 pages long. Aquilina says he read it over the span of a few days and passed it on to superintendent Antonovic Muscat. Aquilina and Muscat had then met with Assistant Commissioner Abdilla to discuss the way forward Massimo Costa
14:39 The final FIAU report on the matter was completed in March 2018, Aquilina says. Much of the four volumes of information consisted in local bank statement, he says Massimo Costa
14:38 During the meeting, it emerged that the FIAU was still analysing the report which had been sent to them, however the Unit had indicated to the police that they would be splitting the single report into three - one on Keith Schembri, Brian Tonna and Willerby Inc; the other on Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman; and another global report Massimo Costa
14:36 Aquilina is making reference to an “Operation Green”, the name of the inquiry in question, which he says he had never heard until recently. He goes on to recount that, on 3 May 2017 he had been asked to attend a meeting at the FIAU with Abdilla and superintendent Antonovic Muscat, which had been called by the police for them to get an update on what the FIAU had been working on Massimo Costa
14:34 Aquilina says that, after handing the compiled information to Abdilla he had “expected that he [Abdilla] would send me the file back with instructions.” However, subsequently, an inquiry on the matter had been appointed and he was charged with assisting the inquiring magistrate" Massimo Costa
14:32 "From that day I never saw the file again,” Aquilina tells the board. His reiterates that his instructions were to gather information and pass it on to Abdilla. The letters he had sent to financial institutions requested information on persons of interest. he says. The replies sent back contained information of interest to the police. In total, four volumes of information were compiled Massimo Costa
14:31 Aquilina elaborates that he had read the report in question and made a copy of the letters he sent to the financial institutions. Once he received replies from said institutions, he gathered all of these in a file and passed them on to Abdilla for further direction Massimo Costa
14:29 In 2016 the FIAU received the report on former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman, former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, and others, Aquilina says. He says he was instructed by Abdilla to read the report and issue letters to financial institutions Massimo Costa
14:27 Aquilina says that his instructions had been to read the report on Willerby Inc - the British Virgin Islands company owned by Nexia BT director Brian Tonna - and then pass it on to his colleague Antonovic Muscat. The Police Commissioner at the time was Michael Cassar, who was replaced by Lawrence Cutajar Massimo Costa
14:24 Aquilina tells the inquiry that he has been a police officer since 2009. From 2016, Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla was his superior officer Massimo Costa
14:24 Superintendent Ray Aquilina from the police’s Anti-Money Laundering squad is the first to take the witness stand Massimo Costa
14:23 Good afternoon. We are in court for the continuation of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. The panel have informed those present that the State Advocate has sent a letter this afternoon requesting to represent the state in the proceedings Massimo Costa

Dubai was completely uncooperative when it came to requests from the Maltese police for more information on alleged corruption and 17 Black, anti-money laundering police from the Economic Crimes Unit told the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder today.

Witness superintendent Antonovich Muscat told the inquiry that Dubai had never been forthcoming with any information demanded about 17 Black - the secret company owned by Electrogas director Yorgen Fenech, the man suspected of masterminding Caruana Galizia’s murder - and that even rogatory letters sent by the police would be sent back, unopened.

Muscat said that there was also insufficient evidence of wrongdoing when it came to the transfer of €100,000 in two €50,000 payments from Willerby Inc, a British Virgin Islands company owned by Nexia BT director Brian Tonna, to former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Asked whether he had ever found any information about MacBridge, another Dubai company whose owner remains unknown, Muscat said that there was "zero" information.

Tonna had justified the money transfers, saying they were repayments for a loan from Schembri while he (Tonna) was going through a marital separation. Caruana Galizia, however, had alleged that the money was in fact a kickback to Schembri on the sale of Maltese citizenship to three Russian nationals.

Muscat, however, told the inquiry that, while the transfers raised red flags, there was insufficient evidence of a crime having been committed.

The inquiry also heard the testimony of superintendent Ray Aquilina, also from the ECU, who said that Caruana Galizia’s reporting on corruption had formed the basis of some police investigations.

Amongst these was the ongoing investigation into Opposition leader Adrian Delia, based on claims by Caruana Galizia that he had made money from a prostitution racket in the UK.

The public inquiry will continue on 12 February, with journalists Caroline Muscat and Monique Agius expected to take the witness stand.

The public inquiry will have to determine whether any wrongful action or omission by or within any State entity could have facilitated the assassination of Caruana Galizia or failed to prevent it, particularly whether the State knew or should have known of risks to the journalist’s life “at the time” of her murder.

It must also consider whether the State not only knew of, but “caused” risks to Caruana Galizia’s life.

Although its terms of reference allow for restrictions on the publication of the inquiry's report, it specifies that the board must provide the family with the opportunity to read the full report, including the redacted parts, without being granted copies of the text underlying any redactions. The family are also prohibited from divulging the redacted content.

The public inquiry's board is chaired by retired Judge Michael Mallia and also composed of former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.

The inquiry board is bound to presenting the inquiry report, once it is completed, to the Prime Minister and Attorney General, to notify the public that the inquiry has been concluded and presented to the Prime Minister, and, most notably, to publish the report within eight working days from when it is delivered to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has to table the report in Parliament within five days of receiving it.

The inquiry must be completed within nine months.