Theuma recalls Silvio Valletta at Yorgen Fenech’s Żebbuġ ranch after Daphne murder

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech continues this morning, after being postponed due to COVID-19

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech

Melvin Theuma has said that he had on one occasion seen former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta at Yorgen Fenech's Żebbuġ ranch, after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia had been carried out.

Theuma, who was giving testimony in court after the compilation of evidence against Fenech resumed on Monday, said he had noticed Valletta at the ranch when he had visited to deliver bread.

Earlier this year, it had been revealed that Valletta had in September 2018 travelled abroad with Fenech to watch a football match. 

Theuma today told the court that, a few days after he had noticed Valletta at the ranch, Fenech had remarked that Valletta had told him that he too had seen Theuma, and that his (Theuma's) face was familiar to him because he was known to the police. 

The former taxi driver said in court that he had in fact never seen Valletta before, except on TV, and that he had interpreted Valletta's comments that his face was not knew to him as a sign that there could have been a plan underway to betray Theuma and make him take the blame for the murder.

Theuma also claimed that former economy minister Chris Cardona had passed on money - through an intermediary whose name began with a "B" - to Alfred Degiorgio, "il-Fulu", in connection with carrying out Caruana Galizia's assassination.

He went on to say that Mario Degiorgio - brother to Alfred and George Degiorgio - had told him (Theuma) that lawyer and former policeman David Gatt had delivered on a message to the Degiorgio brothers that it they ever revealed Cardona's role in the murder, he was ready to have them killed.

He also said that the Degiorgio brothers had been paid "350" - which he later clarified meant €350,000 - to murder Caruana Galizia.

13:14 Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
13:14 Today's sitting is now over. The next sitting is on Monday 8 June. Kurt Sansone
13:08 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran laments that the court has already been hearing Theuma's testimony for seven months. He says he wishes that the other witnesses start being heard soon. Kurt Sansone
13:07 The court is telling the prosecution that it wishes that Melvin Theuma's testimony about the transcripts is concluded by the next sitting. Kurt Sansone
13:05 Melvin Theuma's testimony concludes for today. He steps down from the witness stand and leaves the court room. Kurt Sansone
13:05 Arnaud is asking about the statements made by the Degiorgio brothers that they were trying to pin the murder on Cardona. Theuma tells the court that Yorgen Fenech said the conversation had been recorded by prison officials. It is unclear where or how they recorded it. Kurt Sansone
13:04 Azzopardi concludes his questioning for today. Kurt Sansone
13:03 Azzopardi now asks Theuma whether a photo had been taken of Cardona with il-Fulu. Theuma says yes. Theuma is unable to say whether the photo had been taken before or after the murder, he had been told by Yorgen Fenech about the photo after the assassination. Kurt Sansone
13:02 Theuma tells the court of how paranoid he had become, checking the news every morning. Kurt Sansone
13:02 Regarding the "350", Theuma clarifies this was €350,000. Kurt Sansone
13:02 Azzopardi continues questioning Theuma. He asks whether Fenech had ever told him he wanted to buy The Independent [newspaper]. Theuma says he had not mentioned it. Kurt Sansone
12:56 The jury in question is the jury of the Degiorgio brothers.

“I know another thing about David Gatt. Mario had told me that David Gatt sent a message with someone that if the Degiorgios rat out Cardona, he is ready to have them killed..” Theuma says Yorgen Fenech told him that they were trying to pin the murder on Cardona.
Matthew Vella
12:55 Theuma tells the court that a photo was shown to him by either Yorgen Fenech or Johann Cremona. He doesn’t remember who of the two. It was a photo of a person who had passed money from Cardona to il-Fulu. The name of the man in the photo starts with “B”, but Theuma doesn’t know the whole name. Azzopardi asks whether the man in the photo was “Il-Billy”. The discussion between Theuma and either Fenech or Cremona, when they showed him the photo, was that the man in photo passed money on from Cardona to il-Fulu. The court asks why Fenech or Cremona had shown this photo to Theuma. “I don't know... maybe to calm me down,” Theuma says, “I’m going to be honest. I did wish that someone else would get it [for the murder].” He says the photo could have been shown to him to indicate that there was another person involved in the crime.
Azzopardi goes on with his questioning. He asks whether Theuma knew Mario Degiorgio. Theuma says he did. Azzopardi asks Theuma whether Mario Degiorgio “had ever mentioned the name of a person in relation to a jury and a sum of money?” Theuma says: “Once Mario Degiorgio mentioned a certain David Gatt - whom I had never met or spoken to - and said that this Gatt had to make available 400 by the time of the jury.”
Matthew Vella
12:52 Azzopardi asks: “Did you knot find it strange that a mobile was found in the sea which was only used to communicate with a minister?”. Theuma says: “Yorgen told me that a phone was found on which the only numbers found were Cardona’s and il-Fulu’s.”
Azzopardi continues his questioning: "Did you ever ask Fenech why there was this communication between a criminal and a minister." "I didn't ask him," Theuma replies.
Azzopardi now asks whether Cardona was mentioned by Fenech in the contest of the assassination. “Cardona was mentioned a 100 times,” Theuma says. “Fenech told me that Chris Cardona was admitted to hospital... because of how worried he was after the murder of Daphne,” Theuma says. “Fenech told me Cardona had taken some pills. That’s why he was admitted to hospital." Theuma also makes mention of an “overdose”.
Matthew Vella
12:45 Azzopardi asks whether Theuma knows what kind of mobile was found in the sea, and whether it was the same type of mobile as the one he used to communicated with il-Fulu. Theuma says he doesn't know. Matthew Vella
12:45 Azzopardi asks what Theuma meant when he said the mobile he had was used only for him and il-Fulu. Theuma clarifies it meant he had a mobile which was used only to communicate with il-Fulu. Matthew Vella
12:41 He is inferring Fenech might have been boasting untruthfully about Delia’s visit at the ranch. Matthew Vella
12:40 “But if Fenech was lying, just to show me how many people he knew…” Theuma remarks. Matthew Vella
12:40 Azzopardi asks Theuma whether Fenech ever mentioned which people had been visiting his ranch. “Once he told me Adrian Delia went to his ranch to eat,” Theuma tells the court. Matthew Vella
12:39 Theuma continues telling the court: “I didn’t ask him [why Valletta had said my face wasn’t new to him].” He clarifies that he only saw Silvio Valletta once at the ranch. Matthew Vella
12:39 “Some days later, I was taking Fenech to the airport. Fenech told me that Valletta had recognised me, and that my face wasn’t new to the police. I asked Fenech what he meant by this - I didn’t know Valletta from Adam - I only knew him from the TV. So, being told this, how can I not have gotten obsessed that some betrayal was about to take place.” Matthew Vella
12:37 Azzopardi asks whether Theuma used to go to Fenech's Zebbug ranch regularly. "I used to go regularly," Theuma says, "If I could, I would sleep there…”
Azzopardi asks Theuma whether he ever saw “a particular person - someone known” at the Zebbug ranch. Theuma says they would be alone when he went there to discuss things. Azzopardi asks: “But do you remember seeing someone popping in?.” Theuma says: “Yes.”

“Once I went there in the morning. And Fenech was cooking cannelloni. It was a small portion, so I knew there wouldn't be many people. We spoke about the Daphne case.” He later left, but was called back by Fenech to bring him some Maltese loaves. “I would always call Fenech before entering the home, so that Fenech could come out to speak to me if there were people with him at home. But on that occasion he told me to come in. As I was walking in, I saw through a narrow opening in the door that there was Silvio Valletta.”
Matthew Vella
12:33 Theuma however insists he isn’t sure which year the conversation took place. Matthew Vella
12:33 Jason Azzopardi is now questioning Theuma. He says he wants to try to pin down the date when the conversation took place. He asks Theuma whether the conversation happened before or after the assassination. Theuma responds that it was after the murder. Matthew Vella
12:32 Keith Arnaud continues asking Theuma about the recording: “You told Yorgen Fenech: ‘You could get out of this’”. Theuma tells the court what this meant: “Yorgen Fenech was never mentioned to the Degiorgios. It is I who was involved with them,” inferring that Fenech had a chance of escaping being caught for his involvement. Matthew Vella
12:30 Theuma continues: “Yorgen Fenech used to keep pestering me (to get details on the progress of the case)... So I called Alfred Degiorgio in front of him (Fenech) to ask on the progress of the investigation”. Matthew Vella
12:29 In the recording Theuma says: “Xieraq tieghi” in reference to the mobile which was found. Theuma clarifies to the court: “Ghax kellna mobile bejni u Alfred Degiorgio” (because Alfred and I shared a mobile phone). Theuma then tells the court: “I asked Yorgen Fenech is he was sure the mobile which was found was Cardona’s. I asked him this to check whether the mobile which was found was mine. It’s whether it was mine which I cared about.” Matthew Vella
12:28 “You asked Fenech what he did about Cardona,” Arnaud asks, “What did you mean?”
“I asked him what he did about Cardona’s mobile,” Theuma says.
“Yorgen Fenech told me that Cardona’s mobile was found,” Theuma says, “And then I asked - ‘and what did they do with [the mobile]? Did they throw it away?’ Yorgen Fenech told me: ‘the government would fall [jaqa’ l-gvern]. These are serious things,’” Theuma continues telling the court.
Inspector Keith Arnaud tells Theuma: “You asked [Fenech] where they found the mobile. And the reply was ‘Le, li kien jitkellem hafna mieghu’.” Theuma clarifies who “li [Cardona] kien jitkellem hafna mieghu” was: “Il-Fulu”.
Matthew Vella
12:27 Inspector Keith Arnaud now continues questioning Theuma. Matthew Vella
12:27 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri interjects. She reiterates that Theuma should first be asked questions by the prosecution, and then given the chance to listen the recordings. The court takes note of the objection. Matthew Vella
12:17 The court however says it cannot understand the defence’s objection on this matter, and that it will continue listening to recordings according to the normal procedure. The witness will now first listen to the recording, after which he will be questioned according to the transcripts of the recording. This is being done because the recordings are not always clear. Therefore questions posed by the prosecution to Theuma will not be based solely on the audio of the recordings but also on the transcripts. Matthew Vella
12:14 Court takes note of the fact that the defence raised a point regarding the fact that, although the particular recording had already been played during a previous sitting in February, Theuma made no reference to “350” but only referred to the “350” today because he could see the new transcript of the recording. Matthew Vella
12:12 This particular recording which was heard in court today was already heard in a previous sitting and Theuma had in fact already given testimony on it. Kurt Sansone
12:12 Magistrate Rachel Montebello remarks: "So this means it's better that he has the transcript now." Kurt Sansone
12:11 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran says that in a previous sitting the "350" was never brought up when the same recording was played. It was brought up now because Theuma could now read the transcript. Kurt Sansone
12:10 In the recording, Theuma asks Yorgen Fenech whether it was Keith Schembri who told him Cardona's mobile phone had been found under the water. Kurt Sansone
12:10 Theuma clarifies the "350" payment was for committing the Caruana Galizia murder. Kurt Sansone
12:09 Theuma says Yorgen Fenech had told him Chris Cardona's mobile had been found in the sea. Kurt Sansone
12:09 Theuma tells the court: "Johann Cremona told me the Degiorgio brothers got 350." He didn't tell him who paid the money. Kurt Sansone
12:08 Arnaud now asks about a section of the recording in which Theuma tells Fenech: "If they were going to ask for the mobile, they'd have found it." Theuma says this is about a mobile shared with Alfred Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
12:07 The court asks Theuma if Fenech had answered the question on whether he could fix things. Theuma says Fenech didn't give an answer. Kurt Sansone
12:06 Theuma tells the court that he was asking Fenech whether, if they get caught, Fenech could somehow fix the situation. Kurt Sansone
12:06 Theuma says about the recording: "I asked Fenech, aren't you scared we'll end up in shit? Fenech responded - what can you do." Kurt Sansone
12:06 Inspector Keith Arnaud is cross-examining Melvin Theuma. Kurt Sansone
12:05 Theuma says it was recorded in 2018 or 2019, but he cannot say for certain which year. Kurt Sansone
12:05 He tells the court what was being discussed: "[Fenech] was saying I was making too big a deal out of it (unclear as to what)... at the time nothing was being heard [about the murder]... things had calmed down." Kurt Sansone
12:04 The recording finishes. Theuma says it was recorded in Fenech's Żebbuġ ranch. He doesn't know the date it was recorded. Kurt Sansone
11:57 It is hard to make out the words being said in the muffled recording. Kurt Sansone
11:56 One of the persons speaking, Theuma tells the court, was Yorgen Fenech’s wife. He asks to hear that segment of the recording again. Kurt Sansone
11:55 The court starts hearing the recording. Theuma is heard speaking to a man. It is unclear what they are saying due to the volume of the recording. A young child's voice is heard at one point in the recording, as is a dog barking. Kurt Sansone
11:55 Melvin Theuma has now entered the court room. He takes the witness stand. He will be giving testimony about a particular recording. The court has ordered that Theuma be given a transcript of the recording. Kurt Sansone
11:44 Discussions of an administrative nature regarding the transcripts and their matching files continues. Kurt Sansone
11:39 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran is objecting to the fact that the witness, Melvin Theuma, should have access to transcripts before giving testimony about the particular section of recording. But the magistrate says the court had already ordered that Theuma be given access to transcripts. Kurt Sansone
11:36 The discussion centres around whether they will play a recording which they had already played in a previous sitting but on which there are some discrepancies in the transcript. Kurt Sansone
11:35 Inspector Keith Arnaud, lawyer Jason Azzopardi and the magistrate are discussing discrepancies found in the transcripts. Azzopardi says he and Arnaud found substantial discrepancies during the five-minute break during which they continued to go through the transcripts. They are now discussing which part of the recordings they will be playing in court. Kurt Sansone
11:32 Magistrate Rachel Montebello has re-entered the court room. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination plot who was given a presidential pardon to tell all, is waiting outside the court room. Kurt Sansone
11:25 Lawyer Charles Mercieca, who controversially joined the defence team earlier this month after leaving the AG's office, is now in the court room and speaking to the other defence lawyers. Kurt Sansone
11:25 he court is now in recess for five minutes following a request by Jason Azzopardi for a short break period during which the further organisation of transcripts can continue without taking up the magistrate's time. Azzopardi and inspector Keith Arnaud are now discussing the transcripts between themselves. Kurt Sansone
11:16 As the time-consuming task continues, Fenech sits calmly, occasionally putting his head down and closing his eyes. Kurt Sansone
10:52 The magistrate is still discussing with the parties the matching of transcripts with audio file labels. The task is taking some time due to the fact that the transcripts are copious. Kurt Sansone
10:47 Just a quick reminder that we are in court for the continuation of the compilation of evidence against murder suspect Yorgen Fenech. The businessman is charged with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The court is expected to continue hearing the testimony of pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma and listen to recordings of conversations he had with Fenech. Kurt Sansone
10:36 Discussions are still ongoing between the lawyers and the court in terms of the administrative task of matching transcripts with audio file labels. Kurt Sansone
10:29 The magistrate is still discussing the transcripts with inspector Keith Arnaud. Kurt Sansone
10:26 "These are the discrepancies I have found. Obviously, I cannot exclude that there aren't others. So, we'll need to go over these," Azzopardi says. Magistrate Rachel Montebello says that it could be possible to re-listen to the segments of recordings where there are discrepancies. Kurt Sansone
10:24 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi interjects. He says he has already found a discrepancy in the transcripts he has just been given compared to what was heard in previous recordings. Azzopardi says that in a particular instance in the transcripts, a certain word which was audible in the recording is represented only by three dots (...) in the transcript. He also mentions other instances of discrepancies. Kurt Sansone
10:23 The recordings were made by Melvin Theuma, the person who served as middleman between Yorgen Fenech and the three men who carried out the bombing that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Theuma was granted a presidential pardon to tell all. The recordings are of conversations Theuma had with Fenech. Kurt Sansone
10:22 Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud is discussing with the magistrate in open court regarding which recording will be played in today. Kurt Sansone
10:21 The two women step down from the stand. Kurt Sansone
10:20 Copies of the transcripts are also given to the defence lawyers, the parte civile lawyer and the prosecuting inspectors. Kurt Sansone
10:19 Two women who were appointed by the court with doing transcripts of recordings made by pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma take the witness stand. They say that of 128 audio files, a certain portion were empty. They present copies of the transcripts to the court. Kurt Sansone
10:15 Security is tight, with police officers and CCF guards both inside and outside the court room. Kurt Sansone
10:15 Magistrate Rachel Montebello has entered the court room. Kurt Sansone
10:14 Defence lawyers Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran are in the court room. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family, is also here. Kurt Sansone
10:04 This is the first sitting since COVID-19 restrictions closed the law courts and thus postponing the continuation of the compilation of evidence. Kurt Sansone
10:04 Fenech is sitting quietly, his arms crossed and wearing a mask. Kurt Sansone
10:03 Yorgen Fenech has now entered the court room. Daphne Caruana Galizia's family members are also here. Kurt Sansone
08:55 This live-blog is expected to start at 10am Matthew Vella

Theuma also told the court that PN leader Adrian Delia had been mentioned to him by Fenech as having visited the Żebbuġ ranch. Theuma said that he wasn't sure if Delia had really visited or whether Theuma had been falsely bragging to make it seem like he knew many people.

Earlier

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech will continue this morning.

The case against the former Tumas Group director, who is charged with masterminding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, was put on hold after the law courts on 16 March closed for most cases, due to COVID-19.

Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the murder, is testifying in the compilation of evidence against Fenech after he was given a presidential pardon.

In May, another court turned down an application filed by Fenech in which he asked it to order that his compilation of evidence continue.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is hearing the compilation of evidence against Fenech.

The defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran.

The prosecution is being led by inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, assisted by the Attorney General.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family.

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