Caruana Galizia public inquiry: friends of the late journalist testify

Blogger and friend Petra Caruana Dingli and Glorya Beacom are expected to testify

File photo
File photo
15:36 Thank you for following this live blog. David Hudson
15:35 The next sitting is on 28 Friday at 11am. David Hudson
15:35 In the next sitting, Ray Barbara, a close aide to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, and Kenneth Camilleri, one time part of Muscat's security detail, will testify. David Hudson
15:33 This concludes today's sitting. David Hudson
15:33 Camilleri steps off the witness stand. David Hudson
15:32 The file on Pilatus Bank shows what happened, meetings, inspections, deficiencies, references to FIAU, he says. David Hudson
15:30 Jason Azzopardi asks about the dossier mentioned by the witness. David Hudson
15:28 A bank, in its earliest days, can have deficiencies, Camilleri explains. David Hudson
15:27 Audits are available to the public on the company registry website, explains the witness. David Hudson
15:27 He is asked about the alleged double accounting system at Pilatus bank. "Whoever wants to deceive will find a way to deceive and this may not necessarily be picked up by the supervisor. This becomes the responsibility of the Auditor of the bank. If shortcomings are found he, risks losing his licence to audit. I don't know if this was KPMG, " he adds. David Hudson
15:23 The witness says that supervisory visits to banks would take place regularly and last up to two weeks. David Hudson
15:21 Asked about Sai Mizzi or Brian Tonna, he says that they had not registered with him during his time. "Not even as directors," he says. There was no register of business introducers at the time. David Hudson
15:20 He confirms that Ali Sadr Hashiminejad was introduced to Malta by audit firm KPMG. David Hudson
15:20 The witness cannot recall whether the bank had told them about Azeri clients, but said that if there had been anything wrong at the time, Pilatus Bank would have not been given licence. David Hudson
15:17 In Malta there are 26 banks registered, of which only 6 offer services to the local public. The others were here to be like a pied a terre in the eurozone. David Hudson
15:15 After consulting with the Banking Act at the time, the council saw there was no reason to deprive him of the licence. But the licence is just step number one, he says. Every day a bank must be in compliance with various national and international regulations. David Hudson
15:15 Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, owner of the now defunct Pilatus, had two asset management licenses from Switzerland. Not an easy jurisdiction to get it from, Camilleri remarks. David Hudson
15:13 Up to 2002, the Central bank was in charge of licencing entities. It was only after this time that the MFSA would issue the licence. The decision for the withdrawal of the banking licence would come from Frankfurt, not Malta. David Hudson
15:12 He was involved in the licensing of Pilatus Bank, he says. "I assume that the board has a copy of the dossier on Pilatus bank.” They do not. David Hudson
15:10 Answering a question by the board he says he had finished from his role two years before the Panama Papers scandal. David Hudson
15:09 There was strict segregation between the council and the board of governors (political appointees) and no interference was ever encountered by him, Camilleri says. David Hudson
15:08 Compliance and money laundering was not his direct responsibility, he says. David Hudson
15:06 He worked at the MFSA between 1994 to 1996 and then 2002 to 2014 at which point he retired. He was initially the Chief Executive and later Director General of the financial services authority. David Hudson
15:05 Lawyer Andre Camilleri steps up to the witness stand. He is the former director-general of the Malta Financial Services Authority. David Hudson
15:04 She hadn't told her friends that she felt threatened. "She wasn't the type to sit down and gossip about it. If she felt threatened she would write about it." David Hudson
15:04 "The saddest thing is that besides her journalism there was so much more to her," Beacom muses. "She loved travelling, talking about food, music. There was her journalism, but she had a life besides that. If you needed to buy a gift, she was the perfect person to call." David Hudson
15:04 Later on, the slain journalist's friends were also being targeted, leading to Caruana Galizia avoiding their company. She had said it was not fair on them to be put in the limelight because of their friendship. David Hudson
15:00 "Things were getting... you didn't need to say anything, it was visible,” Beacom says. “Driving to work and seeing a billboard with Daphne's face on it and you think: why is she there?" David Hudson
14:59 Beacom mentions another episde: On another occasion, Daphne had told her that she had gone to a beach club and had come out of the sea to find a person photographing her on a mobile phone. David Hudson
14:59 This was an occasion where Caruana Galizia had had an altercation with then Zurrieq mayor, Ignatius Farrugia. Caruana Galizia had allegedly obtained sanctuary at the Franciscan convent from people who had been harassing her. David Hudson
14:55 Beacom claimed to have ascertained that Daphne was behind the door and she had informed the police. David Hudson
14:55 There were a couple of priests at the door. David Hudson
14:54 "Ohorguha minn hemm, ohorguha minn xagharha, dik mara hazina,” were some cries heard, Beacom says. (Get her out of there, pull her from her hair, she’s a bad woman). David Hudson
14:53 They walked back towards Mdina and found the crowd of people moved to the side and a woman standing in the middle screaming obscenities at this doorway. David Hudson
14:52 They had weaved through the crowd and realised they had lost a part of the group, including Daphne. David Hudson
14:52 “I was present on 7 march 2013 when we had gone to Mdina for lunch and had bumped into Peter Caruana Galizia and Daphne and had gone to the Rabat feast,” she says. David Hudson
14:50 Glorya Beacom will now testify. David Hudson
14:50 Caruana Dingli steps off the stand. David Hudson
14:49 Caruana Galizia was threatened at home and her dogs were poisoned and had suffered an arson attack, but she had not expressed a fear of being physically harmed to Caruana Dingli. David Hudson
14:46 "When he set up a website which he uses to harass, insult, denigrate, smear and intimidate critics of the government he serves, and other such ‘enemies of the state and the people’, you should have been left in no doubt that he did it in consultation and conspiracy with the Prime Minister himself," Caruana Galizia had written. David Hudson
14:43 Caruana Dingli is now quoting from an article Caruana Galizia had written in the Independent, in which she described Glenn Bedingfield's website as "the Prime Minister's own project." David Hudson
14:43 Answering a question from the board she says that she noticed that the atmosphere had changed and there was more pressure around 2016 when the stories became riskier and heavier; also the attacks on Caruana Galizia were more personal and it was clear where they were originating from. David Hudson
14:43 "Being something which is originating from the OPM, there is the whole machinery of government and you can no longer gauge the strength of your adversary.” David Hudson
14:42 Cross-examined by Andrew Borg Cardona, she says that what upset Caruana Galizia the most was the fact that it was in the open and was based at the OPM. The Prime Minister was implicitly endorsing it by allowing it to remain online. David Hudson
14:42 Glenn Beddingfield's blog was one aspect although the critics were not just one individual, she says. "In May 2016 we had gone to lunch in Valletta and there were two men who were clearly photographing and filming us." This ended up on the blog and was repeatedly published on the blog, she explains. David Hudson
14:41 Caruana Dingli, a columnist for the Sunday Times, says that in 2016 the attacks had changed and Caruana Galizia herself had felt that her adversary was no longer her equal, but the government. “You can no longer gauge the size and power of your adversary. It is quite intimidating. She felt the pressure,” says the witness. David Hudson
14:34 “We used to meet in public, for coffees and meals and so on without incident. In the last years before she was killed there was tension. She was recognised. We were photographed, they ended up in the media, I was drawn into that as well just by virtue of being her friend,” Caruana Dingli says. David Hudson
14:33 In the past few years before Caruana Galizia was killed, the public reaction to her work became much more tense, she says David Hudson
14:33 She was a close friend of Caruana Galizia for 25 years. David Hudson
14:31 Petra Caruana Dingli now takes the stand. David Hudson
14:31 Vella says that as time passed, the term sorceress was transformed into a witch associated with a person being old, ugly and using black magic. Vella tells the board that she had found an obituary by then PL Deputy leader Toni Abela where the term "witch" was used. David Hudson
14:27 On the 'Sahhara tal-Bidnija' title, she says that it was traced back to Lino Cassar, who used the term as a compliment - in the sense as an "enchantress", explains Vella. The source of the negative interpretation was difficult to trace, she says. David Hudson
14:27 Corinne Vella takes the stand. She presents research she had done. A doctored image from an artwork with Daphne's face was found on Neville Gafa's facebook. "I cannot find any earlier instances," she said. David Hudson
14:22 Judge Emeritus Mallia reads out a decree. The Board decrees: whilst it has no objection to the presence of the Attorney General during public testimony, it reserves the right to object when sittings are held behind closed doors. This to safeguard the integrity of the inquiry. It remains within the discretion of the board to allow the Attorney General to be present, say the judges. David Hudson
14:17 The three judges have just entered the courtroom. David Hudson
14:03 The women testifying today, Gloria Beacon and Petra Caruana Dingli, were friends of the late journalist David Hudson
13:58 Good afternoon. We are waiting for the sitting to start. David Hudson

Friends of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia recall moments in the past few years with her when they claim that she had been the target of harassment.

Petra Caruana Dingli claimed that in 2016, the pressure on her friend had mounted when she was being followed and pictures were being taken of her in public. 

"She felt that the Prime Minister implicitly endorsed this harassment because it was coming from his office," Caruana Dingli says, insisting that the pictures were used in Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield's blog. 

For this reason, she said, the late journalist had felt that her adversary was too powerful and wide to contain or control. For the first time, she had said, the adversary had become the government. 

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued this afternoon with more witnesses testifying.

In the previous sitting, Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield was grilled by the board, insisting that his blog, in which Caruana Galizia was often criticised and mocked, was an “equal and opposite” reaction to the one operated by Caruana Galizia. He had denied that on his blog he had implied that the Caruana Galizia family were involved in the murder, but said that, had he been in their shoes, he would have given all evidence he had to the police.

Former judge Michael Mallia is chairing the inquiry board, while Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro are the board’s other two members. The inquiry's terms of reference stipulate that it must be concluded within nine months.

Petra Caruana Dingli and Glorya Beacom testified in Wednesday's sitting. André Camilleri, formerly of the MFSA, also testified. 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 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.

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