Keith Schembri informed Yorgen Fenech of Koħħu's police confessions, middleman tells court

Court hears how Yorgen Fenech was getting information about police progress in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder from the prime minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri

Middleman Melvin Theuma was granted a pardon to tell all. The court is hearing recordings of conversations between Theuma and Yorgen Fenech.
Middleman Melvin Theuma was granted a pardon to tell all. The court is hearing recordings of conversations between Theuma and Yorgen Fenech.

Keith Schembri had informed Yorgen Fenech that one of the men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia was talking to the police and had requested a presidential pardon to say what he knew.

This came from recordings of conversations that were played in court today as part of the compilation of evidence against Fenech. The recordings were made by Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the assassination.

Testifying in court, Theuma said Schembri had also informed Fenech of discussions between then prime minister Joseph Muscat and then justice minister Owen Bonnici on a possible pardon for Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu.

Vince Muscat was charged along with brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio of carrying out the murder. According to court testimony, Muscat had started talking to the police in 2018 and through his lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, was asking for a presidential pardon.

Theuma recounted in court today how Fenech would tell him that Muscat was speaking to the police with details about seven murders. The information came from Keith Schembri, who appears to have been privy to the information. Theuma said that Schembri had told Fenech that the prime minister would not give a pardon unless he was 100% sure it would lead to something.

​Fenech is facing charges of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He allegedly contracted three killers and paid them €150,000 to carry out the assassination. Theuma acted as the middleman between Fenech and the three men who stand charged with planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.

Theuma was given a presidential pardon to tell all. He gave the police recordings of conversation he had with Fenech after the murder. Theuma has told the court that he started secretly recording the conversations as an insurance because he feared Fenech would try to get rid of him at a time when il-Koħħu started asking for a pardon and was speaking to the police.

The three men are brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. It was Muscat who sometime in 2018 started speaking to the police and Theuma feared he would end up being blamed for everything since the three men did not know Fenech had contracted the murder.

13:50 That's it for today. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
13:41 The court reserves the right to decree on a fresh bail request at the next sitting. The sitting is now adjourned to 20 February. Another sitting is scheduled for the 23 February. Kurt Sansone
13:40 Things are wrapping up. Court is formally ordering the re-transcription of the conversation recordings. Kurt Sansone
13:32 The court says it wants the transcript evidence chapter to close as soon as possible for cross-examinations to take place. Kurt Sansone
13:31 Arnaud has no more questions. Theuma's testimony is suspended and he leaves the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
13:30 Fenech is gesticulating with his lawyers. He is unhappy about something that is being said. Kurt Sansone
13:30 Theuma says that Fenech had never known about any of the recordings. Kurt Sansone
13:29 Theuma: “No, otherwise I would not have had to hide my phone.” Kurt Sansone
13:29 The inspector asks: “Did he know you were recording him?” Kurt Sansone
13:29 Inspector Keith Arnaud is now asking the witness to clarify some points in his testimony. He asks whether Theuma had recorded Yorgen more than once. “Yes, several times,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
13:28 Azzopardi has reserved his cross-examination. Kurt Sansone
13:27 Answering a question by Azzopardi, Theuma recalls that the police had found some mobiles after the arrests near the potato shed and one of them only had Chris Cardona’s number on it. “Yorgen told me that in one of the mobiles they had only found Cardona's number.” Kurt Sansone
13:27 The lawyer moves on to another question. Kurt Sansone
13:25 The court orders that the photographs be presented in the correct way. Kurt Sansone
13:24 Jason Azzopardi asks the witness if he would recognise the shaven-headed man who had given a lift to Keith Schembri. Kurt Sansone
13:24 Matthew Caruana Galizia has just come into the courtroom and hands his father a large A3 photograph of a car. Kurt Sansone
13:23 Theuma says that Yorgen Fenech told him: “Only 3,000 or 4,000 persons are supporting her, apart from that everyone is against her. She's abandoned.” Kurt Sansone
13:21 Theuma clarifies that Delia refers to the leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia and the thousands refer to the persons who come out to protest in Valletta. Kurt Sansone
13:21 The court hears another quote from the transcript, attributed to Yorgen Fenech: “Taf kemm hawn Malta warajha din – 3,000 indannati – il-bqija ħadd, lanqas Delia u l-familja. (Do you know how many people follow her – 3,000 desperate people – the rest, no one, not even Delia and his family).” Kurt Sansone
13:18 After the recording is stopped, Jason Azzopardi asks the witness to fill in the blanks. “Yorgen Fenech is telling you that Keith told him that he did nothing wrong,” Azzopardi says. “Ehe,” replies the witness. Kurt Sansone
13:17 From previous testimony this is probably a reference to the fears that Koħħu had that the Degiorgio brothers would get back at him by attacking his wife and daughter when he started to speak. Kurt Sansone
13:13 The recording is of a conversation between two men in hushed up voices. “Ħa jitfgħulu l-aċtu lil mara u t-tifla u iltaqgħu mal-avukat u qallu x’se tikxef? (They will throw acid at his wife and daughter and they met with the lawyer and told him what are you going to reveal?)” Kurt Sansone
13:06 The session resumes. Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
12:58 The court has taken a short break. Kurt Sansone
12:57 Theuma says that Yorgen knew that Koħħu was willing to speak about seven murders but not the HSBC holdup because there were bigwigs involved (kbarat). Kurt Sansone
12:56 Theuma says that Yorgen got this information from Keith Schembri when il-Koħħu started speaking to the police. Kurt Sansone
12:52 The lawyer asks: “How did Yorgen know these things?” Kurt Sansone
12:52 Theuma replies: “Tal-laħam, dak li sparawlu. (the butcher, the one who was shot)” Kurt Sansone
12:51 Azzopardi asks: “Do you know who tat-Tyson was?” Kurt Sansone
12:51 In another part of the transcript Fenech says he doesn't know who tat-Tyson is. “They asked for €10,000 and took €8,000. They gave him a discount.” Kurt Sansone
12:49 Theuma says he doesn't know who Fenech was referring to when he spoke of “tal-pirmli, tad-droga” in another part of the transcript. Kurt Sansone
12:48 “Tal-Maksar ta’ Ħaż-Żebbug,” replies Theuma. “The guy who made the bomb.” Kurt Sansone
12:48 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks: “Who is he?” Kurt Sansone
12:47 In the recording, Fenech is heard saying: “Biex jagħmlu pressure fuq dak ta’ Ħaż-Żebbuġ…” Kurt Sansone
12:46 Theuma says he doesn't know who told Yorgen Fenech that they were panicked. “Hmmm… I think, it was me… hmmm… I don't know.” Kurt Sansone
12:46 Theuma is asked about a package left in a car but says he cannot remember. “I never left packages in cars.” Kurt Sansone
12:44 Theuma protests that he cannot recall. Kurt Sansone
12:44 The magistrate intervenes and asks: “So you could remember the reference to '3' as being to the three court cases faced by Keith Schembri, but you can't remember this? Who is Joseph? What is the context?” Kurt Sansone
12:43 Azzopardi asks what was meant by another part of the transcript: “Il-bieraħ ħassejt li biex iċċaqqalqu lil Joseph…” Kurt Sansone
12:37 It was not Kenneth Camilleri, clarifies the witness. But Theuma protests that a lot of words have been skipped in the transcripts. Kurt Sansone
12:35 Theuma says that when he went to Fenech's farmhouse, Keith Schembri was driven there by a man with a shaved head who was driving a Peugeot. “This man doesn't know how to tie his own shoelaces,” Fenech had said about him, Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
12:34 Theuma says that “Joseph Muscat was ix-xiħ” and was reported saying that if he was not 100% sure the pardon would yield results, he would give nothing. Kurt Sansone
12:33 Theuma testifies that the information about the possible pardon to Vince Muscat was coming from Keith Schembri to Yorgen Fenech. Schembri was relaying information about what this “Owen” said about the pardon request. Kurt Sansone
12:32 The court hears that the ‘briefcase man’ is Theuma. Kurt Sansone
12:28 Azzopardi asks about ‘Owen’, ‘the man with the briefcase’, and ‘ix-xiħ’. Kurt Sansone
12:26 The court hears the relevant part of the recording again. Kurt Sansone
12:26 Theuma replies: “It was about the Koħħu thing. We wanted Keith Schembri to help us. To help me because of Vince Muscat speaking out.” Kurt Sansone
12:25 “We are talking about the PM's right hand man [Keith Schembri], he's a busy man,” says Azzopardi. “What was so important that he was calling every day?” Kurt Sansone
12:24 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi continues to read from the transcripts, quoting a part where Yorgen Fenech spoke: “This guy kept on calling me, because he was worried.” Kurt Sansone
12:23 “We are not here for you to say I don't know whenever it suits you,” the magistrate rebukes the witness. Kurt Sansone
12:23 “I don't know,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
12:23 The magistrate asks: “Why did Keith Schembri tell him to check in the hospital?” Kurt Sansone
12:22 “Someone checked into the hospital,” Fenech is heard saying. Kurt Sansone
12:21 In the recording, Fenech says he was getting constant phone calls from as early as 3am. Theuma tells the court that Fenech used to tell him this was Keith Schembri. Kurt Sansone
12:20 The court has had enough of Theuma's weak memory and it warns the witness that he is here to say the whole truth. It advises him to take some time to refresh his memory. Kurt Sansone
12:20 Silvio Valletta was the deputy police commissioner at the time and involved in the murder investigation. It later transpired that Valletta was Fenech’s friend and had gone abroad with him to watch a football match. Valletta is married to former Gozo minister Justyne Caruana, who resigned her Cabinet post when Valletta’s relationship to Fenech emerged earlier this year. Kurt Sansone
12:19 At one point in the recording, Yorgen Fenech is heard saying: “Let me call [Silvio] Valletta and see what is happening in the case. Even I am afraid; they got rid of the woman and they will get rid of me.” Kurt Sansone
12:17 Theuma is being evasive when asked who is being referred to in another recording segment. “I suppose it is Keith Schembri,” he eventually says. Kurt Sansone
12:16 Yorgen Fenech is upset about something and gesticulating to his lawyer. Kurt Sansone
12:15 However, Theuma says that when this recording took place, Fenech did not know he was being recorded. “I wouldn't have put the phone in my sock,” Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
12:15 Theuma says he admitted to Fenech that he had recorded him, “because the betrayal had taken place.” Kurt Sansone
12:14 Theuma says that Fenech found out that he was being recorded because Johann Cremona had told him. “I am friends of both of you, but Melvin recorded you,” Theuma tells the court of what Cremona had said. Kurt Sansone
12:12 The situation in court is complex to understand because Azzopardi is reading out a sentence from a sporadic choice of pages, asks about the context and who Theuma is referring to. The witness replies and the iteration continues. This is making it difficult for journalists to follow since they do not have access to the transcripts that can give some context to the exchanges. Kurt Sansone
12:01 The court says the witness' credibility could be attacked at the cross-examination stage, not now. Kurt Sansone
12:00 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri objects to the fact that this conversation is being sliced up and inspected piecemeal. “Is the witness remembering? He said he doesn't remember when they happened. Is the witness remembering or taking it from the gist of what is being said? Kurt Sansone
11:59 Theuma says he did not reply. Kurt Sansone
11:58 Azzopardi asks what Fenech meant in the recording when he is heard saying: “Il-gvern se jippannikja?” Kurt Sansone
11:58 Azzopardi reads out from the transcript: “Yes, I told you these want €30,000.” He asks Theuma what was he referring to. Theuma replies that it was the initial deposit. Kurt Sansone
11:57 Fenech had called Theuma to come to his farmhouse in Żebbuġ to tell him that Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu, was speaking up about the case to the police. Kurt Sansone
11:56 Theuma says that in the recording Fenech was asking about Daphne Caruana Galizia. “Kenneth and Johann had come to me. Kenneth had shown me three numbers, and said I was the mastermind,” Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
11:55 It emerges that Johann Cremona, a business partner of Fenech, was also aware of the murder plot after it happened. Kurt Sansone
11:53 Theuma says that Yorgen was speaking to someone else on the phone. Kurt Sansone
11:53 “Why did Yorgen tell you that he was going to Las Vegas?” Kurt Sansone
11:52 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi will question the witness now. Azzopardi is appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family. Kurt Sansone
11:51 The reference to ‘Owen’ comes from the transcript read out by Arnaud in which “Owen” and “Cardona” were mentioned in a long conversation with Fenech. The conversation related to a Cabinet meeting on a request for pardon made by il-Koħħu. Kurt Sansone
11:51 “This is about the pardon for Koħħu. He said I am the man with the suitcase. I don't want to put the blame on Owen or anyone else. In fact, there isn't Owen Bonnici [mentioned], there's just Owen,” Theuma said. Kurt Sansone
11:40 The court points out that he had heard the recording already. Kurt Sansone
11:40 Theuma is staring blankly at the transcript. “I can't say because... if I can hear the recording I'd be able to say.” Kurt Sansone
11:39 Arnaud reads from the transcript: “Dan ħa jgħidlu le Cardona.” He asks Theuma who was he referring to. Kurt Sansone
11:36 Fenech sniggers as he hears this. Kurt Sansone
11:35 Theuma says that Yorgen would always say that Keith could not fix the issue. Kurt Sansone
11:35 “I was referring to when Keith sent Kenneth about the bail issue, when I said, no, I want you to fix that thing of Keith… Yorgen Fenech admitted that Keith [Schembri] sent Kenneth [Camilleri] because Keith would run into the fire for him,” Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
11:34 Melvin Theuma is asked about other parts of the recording. Kurt Sansone
11:33 Mario Degiorgio is the brother of Alfred and George Degiorgio. Mario was acting as intermediary between his arrested brothers and Theuma. Kurt Sansone
11:32 Theuma continues: “After the first €30,000, the second time they asked me for €30,000, Mario [Degiorgio] told me George needed another €30,000 and offered me a Rolex with diamonds and gold bracelets. I had gone to Yorgen and he had given me the money without taking the gold.” Kurt Sansone
11:30 Theuma tells the court: “We were talking about the Degiorgios’ bail and there was Koħħu revealing things. I said it’s not true. I never believed that Koħħu would rat me out as I never spoke to him.” Kurt Sansone
11:27 Inspector Keith Arnaud asks Theuma when the recording took place. “I have no idea. From after Koħħu started talking to the police.” Kurt Sansone
11:24 The recording comes to an end. Kurt Sansone
11:24 At a point, Theuma raises his voice in the recording. “Tell me what I can tell them,” he is heard shouting. It appears to be a reference to the Degiorgio brothers, who were expecting to be granted bail. Kurt Sansone
11:23 Yorgen Fenech occasionally smiles as he sits with his chin resting on his hand in the dock. Kurt Sansone
11:22 The lawyers are following the recordings on the transcripts, taking notes and discussing. Without transcripts, it is practically impossible for journalists to follow what is being said. Both sets of lawyers are discussing the transcripts animatedly, scribbling notes in the margins and showing them to each other. Kurt Sansone
11:11 Reporters are having difficulty following the recordings. Kurt Sansone
11:05 Lawyer William Cuschieri, who represents brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio in separate proceedings, is present in the courtroom, sitting at the back and following proceedings with interest. The Degiorgios stand charged, along with Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, of planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
11:02 “Kelma, kelma u wassaltilu lil Keith?” Theuma is heard saying in the recording. Kurt Sansone
10:59 Theuma tells the court that he is not hearing the recordings clearly. Neither are the press. Kurt Sansone
10:58 From the recording: Melvin Theuma (MT): “Kienet kollha maħduma... tal-Koħħu mhux qiegħed hawn.” Yorgen Fenech (YF): “How do they know who is collecting the money, ħaqalla...” MT: “Jiġi Keith jibgħat lil Kenneth...” Kurt Sansone
10:54 The court says the witness knows what is being said by whom, so for today the recordings will be heard without the transcripts. Kurt Sansone
10:54 At the suggestion of lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who represents the Caruana Galizia family, a second person will be appointed to double check the transcriber's work. “This must be done again,” remarks the magistrate. Kurt Sansone
10:53 The words Koħħu, Keith and Kenneth feature in the recording. It appears that there is a problem with the transcript again. The words are being attributed to the wrong person. “What is being said about Koħħu is not true,” Theuma is heard saying. “If Keith sends Kenneth again, I will tell you what to do.” Kurt Sansone
10:49 The voices are of Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech, we are told. The acoustics in the courtroom are poor and, compounded with the speakers talking over each other make it near impossible to make out what is being said. Lawyers have transcripts of the conversations, which reporters have no access to. Kurt Sansone
10:44 The recording is played. Shuffling footsteps, beeping and other noises can be heard. The court asks that the recording is fast forwarded to where voices are heard. Kurt Sansone
10:43 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri raises a concern. She says the witness is giving his interpretation of the recordings. His previous testimony conflicted with what was recorded, she notes. The court says this is how it is going to continue to work. Kurt Sansone
10:39 Melvin Theuma takes the witness stand. A recording will be played in court and then the witness will be questioned about it. Kurt Sansone
10:38 QUICK REMINDER: We are here for the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech who stands accused of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. In previous sittings, the court heard evidence by pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma. The court has also been hearing recordings of conversation between Theuma and Fenech, which the former had done secretly as a form of insurance. Kurt Sansone
10:36 The court is currently assigning numbers to the various transcripts. Fenech is chatting with his lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran while the court sorts out this administrative issue. Kurt Sansone
10:32 Magistrate returns as the deputy registrar exhibits the transcripts. Kurt Sansone
10:31 The magistrate leaves the courtroom until the registrar who had made the transcriptions of the recordings arrives. Kurt Sansone
10:28 She also orders that the accused's statements to the police be produced in the next sitting by the prosecution. Kurt Sansone
10:27 Magistrate Rachel Montebello orders that the new transcripts of the recorded conversations be exhibited. Kurt Sansone
10:26 The sitting gets underway. Kurt Sansone
10:24 Yorgen Fenech is assisted by lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri. The prosecution is being led by Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, assisted by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia. Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding. Kurt Sansone
10:21 We are waiting for the sitting to begin. Kurt Sansone
10:13 Only yesterday, we learnt that the French prosecutor will carry out a preliminary investigation to determine whether assets that Fenech owns in France were used to finance corruption in Malta and the Caruana Galizia murder. Kurt Sansone
10:12 Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was assassinated on 16 October 2017 in a car bomb, just after leaving her house in Bidnija. Kurt Sansone
10:09 Yorgen Fenech is in the courtroom. As he enters, one of the people in the public gallery stands up and shakes his hand. Kurt Sansone
10:08 Good morning. We are back in court to follow the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone

 

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