Yorgen Fenech sent Melvin Theuma to bomb makers Maksar, court hears

Melvin Theuma testifies how Yorgen Fenech sent him to the Maksar brothers who allegedly made the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia • Theuma says it was Fenech who implicated former minister Chris Cardona in the murder

Brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio
Brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio

Yorgen Fenech and his business associate Johann Cremona would implicate Chris Cardona in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, according to middleman Melvin Theuma.

Theuma was testifying today in the compilation of evidence against three men accused with killing the journalist.

However, Theuma insisted that he never had any contact with Cardona over the murder and the only person he knew on the matter was Fenech. 

“I, madam magistrate, only know one person, Yorgen Fenech of Tumas [Group]. He asked me to murder her,” Theuma testified in court.

He said it was Fenech and Cremona who would say that Cardona was involved.

George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat stand charged with murdering Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017. The three placed a bomb inside her car and detonated it.

Theuma had contracted the Degiorgio brothers to carry out the murder at the behest of Fenech. In court, Theuma has repeatedly said that the three killers only knew him because he never mentioned Fenech to them.

In today’s sitting, Theuma reiterated that he started getting very worried when information reached Fenech that one of the accused was willing to talk.

Theuma testified that Fenech used to get his information about the murder case from Keith Schembri and former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta.

Schembri allegedly got involved in the matter because of his close friendship with Fenech.

"I cannot deny my recordings, there is Keith Schembri who helped Yorgen Fenech. When Yorgen Fenech told Keith Schembri about the murder, Keith went cold… Yorgen told me that Keith sent Kenneth [Camilleri]. If Yorgen is lying, then I am lying," Theuma insisted.

The middleman also testified that Fenech had sent him a message to go and speak to ‘Maksar’ because the bomb was made there.

Maksar is the family nickname of Żebbuġ brothers Adrian and Robert Agius. Both had been arrested in December 2017 as part of the raid in which the three accused were arrested. However, the Agius’s were never charged.

At one point during the recordings heard this morning, Fenech was heard speaking about a jury that would not happen: “Ġennata. Mhux ħa jsir; ma jista’ jsir qatt. (This is madness. It will not happen; it can never happen).”

The context of this statement is unclear but Fenech had been constantly trying to reassure Theuma that the killers would continue being helped.

Theuma told the court he became fearful after a promise that the three men would get bail was not kept. He had been informed of the bail arrangement by Kenneth Camilleri, a former security officer with the prime minister and close friend of Schembri.

What's the case?

George Degiorgio 55, from St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, also St Paul's Bay, known as il-Fulu and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as il-Kohhu are charged with murder and a number of charges relating to explosives.

The men had placed a bomb inside Daphne Caruana Galizia's car and detonated it shortly after she left her house.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding.

Lawyer Marc Sant is appearing for Vince Muscat. Lawyer William Cuschieri is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers.

Philip Galea Farrugia from the Attorney General's Office and Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are appearing for the prosecution.

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

14:35 That's it for today. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
14:32 The next sitting has been slated for Friday, 19 June at 11am for the court expert to present a document. Kurt Sansone
14:31 The recordings are finished. Assistant AG Philip Galea Farrugia tells the court that there are others but these would be heard during the jury. Kurt Sansone
14:30 QUICK NOTE: The court is listening to recordings of conversations between Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech. These secret recordings were made by Theuma when he started getting worried that one of the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia would spill the beans. Theuma has repeatedly told the court that the killers only knew about him because he never told them about Yorgen Fenech. The conversations are played in court and lawyers get to follow them through transcripts. Journalists have no access to the transcripts, making it difficult to sometimes understand the context. Kurt Sansone
14:26 At one point during the recording, Yorgen Fenech is heard speaking about a jury: “Ġennata. Mhux ħa jsir; ma jista’ jsir qatt. (This is madness. It will not happen; it can never happen).” Kurt Sansone
14:20 The court is listening to more recordings. Kurt Sansone
14:15 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri excuses himself from the sitting. 15 minutes of the recording remain. This translates into 10 pages of transcript. Kurt Sansone
14:15 In the recording, Theuma and Fenech are discussing bail for the three men who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Melvin: “U għennihom diġà Yurg, għennihom.” Yorgen: “U wegħdnihom li nibqgħu.” Kurt Sansone
14:01 Theuma says that Yorgen and Johann Cremona would say that Cardona was involved in the murder. But Theuma adds that he never had contact with Chris Cardona and over the murder the only person he knew was Yorgen. “Jien, sinjura maġistrat, persuna waħda naf, Yorgen Fenech ta’ Tumas. Hu qabbadni noqtolha.” Kurt Sansone
13:40 Another segment is played. "I imagined that the case was very big and that if they were given bail they would try to escape," Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
13:39 In a recording being played now, Melvin Theuma is asking Yorgen Fenech to speak to then judge Antonio Mizzi. Fenech responds, saying he doesn't know him. The context is a promise of bail for the Degiorgio brothers, which Theuma claimed in previous testimony was made by Kenneth Camilleri on behest of Keith Schembri. Earlier on the witness stand, Theuma apologised for mentioning Mizzi, saying he was desperate at the time because he feared the accused would pin the murder on him. Kurt Sansone
13:33 Theuma is explaining every sentence in the recordings. He is being asked what is happening and then supplementary questions follow. It is an exhaustive and exhausting process. Kurt Sansone
13:30 Theuma testifies about another recording in which he had told Yorgen Fenech that he (Theuma) would go to speak the prime minister if he was a close friend of his (biċċa waħda miegħu) like Yorgen. Yorgen had replied that it would be the “biggest mistake I could make”. Kurt Sansone
13:27 In a previous recording Yorgen Fenech is heard saying: “X’nagħmel? Immur għand l-Imħallef u ngħidlu, ħaqq għall-Madonna għamiltha jien din?” Kurt Sansone
13:21 Theuma says Fenech had told him Schembri would have set Caruana Galizia on fire if he could, after she uploaded a blog post saying he had a terminal illness. Fenech seems to have replied: "I would throw her from a high place." Kurt Sansone
13:17 Theuma says that Keith Schembri told Yorgen Fenech that "you couldn't have told me a worse thing". Again, the context is unclear. Kurt Sansone
13:14 Asked about a part of the recording that he had previously said he had no idea what was being spoken about, Theuma says that he had since remembered that Vince Muscat was talking to someone in prison and that person went to the police. Kurt Sansone
13:13 Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was trying to get Vince Muscat to reveal the plot, explains the Theuma as the recording plays on. He says Muscat was fearful of retribution and that acid would get thrown at his wife and daughter. Kurt Sansone
13:11 Theuma says Yorgen informed him that Keith Schembri had gone ‘jitkixxef’ with Judge Mizzi because of ‘ix-Xiħ’. Theuma explains that ix-Xiħ is a reference to then prime minister Joseph Muscat. He insists that all of this was told to him by Yorgen. Kurt Sansone
13:09 A recording is being played. Theuma tells the court that they would file a bail request in front of then judge Antonio Mizzi. He tries to excuse himself with Mizzi: "I was so depressed that I would mention everything I was told." Kurt Sansone
13:03 Theuma, who has been seated since the break, stands up. Kurt Sansone
13:02 Recordings are being played in court and Theuma is asked to give context to them. It is difficult for journalists, who do not have the transcripts of the recordings, to make a narrative from the recordings being played, 5 to 10 seconds at a time, interspersed with Theuma's staccato explanations. Kurt Sansone
13:00 He continues testifying that Yorgen Fenech had sent him a message to go speak to Maksar because the bomb was made there. Maksar is the family nickname of Żebbuġ brothers Adrian and Robert Agius. Both had been arrested in December 2017 but never charged. Kurt Sansone
12:58 "Yorgen told me that Keith sent Kenneth. If Yorgen is lying, then I am lying," Theuma insists. Kurt Sansone
12:57 Theuma tells the court that Yorgen Fenech told him Keith Schembri got involved because of his friendship with him [Fenech]. Schembri would provide information. "I cannot deny my recordings, there is Keith Schembri who helped Yorgen Fenech. When Yorgen Fenech told Keith Schembri about the murder, Keith went cold,” Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
12:47 Yorgen Fenech would get information on Vince's request for pardon from Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta, Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
12:45 We’re back. Theuma continues with his testimony. Kurt Sansone
11:50 QUICK REMINDER: We are following the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. The men are accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia by placing a bomb inside her car and detonating it shortly after she left her house in Bidnija on 16 October 2017. The compilation of evidence was reopened after middleman Melvin Theuma was granted a presidential pardon to tell all. Theuma is testifying. He is giving context to recordings of conversations he had with the alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech. Theuma had been the link person, who approached the Degiorgios to commit the crime. Kurt Sansone
11:46 The court calls for a short recess. Kurt Sansone
11:46 "I never spoke to Vince Muscat about the murder," Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
11:36 Inspector Kurt Zahra takes over the questioning as Arnaud leaves the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
11:33 Theuma expands on why he felt betrayed. “They sent me to do something and then said they couldn’t help me. Dak mhux tradiment kbir Kurt Sansone
11:31 Theuma says that he could not dump the Degiorgios. "X’jiġifieri narmihom ’l hemm. Jiena bqajt sa l-aħħar. Jafu lili (How could I dump them. I was there till the end. They know me)," he explains to Inspector Arnaud. Kurt Sansone
11:28 Theuma testifies: "I was angry. Yorgen told me to 'throw them away' - armihom ’l hemm [the Degiorgios]. I told him now you want to throw them away, after they did the job for you?" Kurt Sansone
11:26 Theuma explains he was terrified in the days after the murder as Europol and the FBI were involved in the investigation. Kurt Sansone
11:24 The angry voice is Theuma's. A cascade of blasphemy. "We got it ready (made the bomb) and now that's it." Kurt Sansone
11:21 Angry voices dominate the next recording. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Theuma speaks about Johann Cremona. He describes him as a friend who visited regularly at his garage. He was there one day when Kenneth Camilleri came along and showed him three mobile numbers. One was an old one of Theuma's. Theuma says that Cremona told him: ‘You’re in trouble, you are the mastermind of the Caruana Galizia murder.’ Theuma retorted: ‘I’m not. Yorgen Fenech is.’ Kurt Sansone
11:19 "I paid Degiorgio after the murder. Not immediately... I paid him €5,000 out of my own pocket as he had expenses for binoculars and other things," he continues. Kurt Sansone
11:16 Theuma says that Alfred Degiorgio wanted €150,000 - €30,000 in advance and €120,000 upon completion of the murder. "Yorgen Fenech gave me €150,000 at one go. Cash. It was a Sunday and I had gone to pick Yorgen up at the airport. He opened his suitcase and pulled out an envelope. I told him I haven't spoken to Alfred," Theuma testifies. Kurt Sansone
11:09 Theuma says he was worried because Vince Muscat would have revealed his name to the police, not Yorgen's. Kurt Sansone
11:06 Another recording made at Level 21 Portomaso is heard. "Johann knows the story," Theuma is heard saying. Kurt Sansone
10:53 The defence protest that they cannot understand the recording. The court agrees that it is not clear. A new transcript will be made. Kurt Sansone
10:50 Theuma tells the court that Yorgen could have helped with the bail by passing on a message to Keith Schembri. "Mhux Keith bagħtu lil Kenneth Camilleri?" Kurt Sansone
10:45 Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
10:45 "But then there is honour (irġulija)," Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
10:45 The magistrate points out that the case would have still proceeded, irrespective of bail. Kurt Sansone
10:44 Theuma is asked why getting bail for the Degiorgio brothers was so important to him. He answers that bail would have “kept them quiet”. Kurt Sansone
10:44 In the recording, Theuma is heard saying: "Għidlu li ntellagħhulu l-Mellieħa." This, Theuma explains, was a reference to Keith Schembri. Theuma was threatening Yorgen that he would take Mario Degiorgio to meet Schembri so he could explain to him why his brothers had not been given bail. Kurt Sansone
10:42 The recording is about the men's bail, which had not been granted. Theuma says he was frightened of the men's family now that he had been made to pass on a message, which was false. Kurt Sansone
10:36 Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
10:35 Theuma insists he was obsessed with the three men being given bail, after it is pointed out that the criminal proceedings against them would have continued anyway. Kurt Sansone
10:34 The recording mentions Mellieħa, where Keith Schembri lives. "I always associated Keith Schembri with Yorgen Fenech," explains the witness. Kurt Sansone
10:34 Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
10:34 Ostensibly, David Gatt is a lawyer. In different court proceedings it was claimed that Gatt, acting on the behest of former minister Chris Cardona, had approached the Degiorgios, warning them not to rat out the minister and his involvement in the murder. Cardona and Gatt have both denied the claims. Kurt Sansone
10:33 Theuma claims that Mario Degiorgio told him that ‘David Gatt, sa Ġunju irid itini €400,000’. Kurt Sansone
10:31 Theuma says that he never told Mario Degiorgio where the money that he [Theuma] was passing on to him [Mario] was coming from. Kurt Sansone
10:30 When Yorgen would see him worked up he would calm Theuma down, giving him money for holidays. Kurt Sansone
10:29 The witness says that he became paranoid. Theuma says that on one occasion, he had seen someone fiddling with his car and had informed Yorgen about it. Kurt Sansone
10:24 “On one occasion Mario Degiorgio attacked me (għamel għalija) because nothing of this happened. I told him you are right, I was lied to... I wanted the Degiorgios to be given bail," Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
10:23 “I told Mario Degiorgio that on the 22nd they would get bail and be paid a million euros each,” Theuma responds. Mario Degiorgio is a brother to George and Alfred – two of the accused. Kurt Sansone
10:22 “What message?” asks Inspector Keith Arnaud, who is leading the prosecution. Kurt Sansone
10:22 Theuma tells the court that he had asked Fenech twice and then passed on the message. Kurt Sansone
10:21 The witness is talking fast. Kurt Sansone
10:21 "I only met Keith Schembri twice and never mentioned the murder. But with the contact Yorgen had with Schembri I became convinced that he was involved. I was convinced that they wanted to get rid of me," Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
10:21 Theuma continues that Yorgen Fenech and Kenneth Camilleri told him that lawyer Arthur Azzopardi was involved in the "betrayal". At one point, Azzopardi was representing Vince Muscat during talks to try an secure a presidential pardon. Kurt Sansone
10:16 Cremona is a business associate of Fenech and Camilleri had formed part of the prime minister’s security detail and was a close associate of Keith Schembri. Kurt Sansone
10:15 "Once Fenech called me in the evening and I went to his farmhouse in Żebbuġ and he told me that Vince Muscat was revealing things... in the evening I received a phone call from Johann Cremona who told me he's coming to speak to me. There was Cremona and Kenneth Camilleri. Kenneth promised me that on the 28th of the month the Degiorgios would be given bail," Theuma testifies. Kurt Sansone
10:10 Theuma says Fenech and he were in the car with Fenech's two children. He would keep his mobile phone in his pocket as he recorded the conversations, Theuma explains. Kurt Sansone
10:09 Theuma cannot recall the period when it was recorded, or the season, but he says it was after Vincent Muscat had started revealing things. Kurt Sansone
10:08 In the recording, Yorgen Fenech is heard talking to Melvin Theuma about football. "I recorded it when I went to pick him up from the airport after he went to see a football match," Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
10:07 It is the wrong recording. Another one is being played now. Kurt Sansone
10:04 Like all of the recordings before it, there is a lot of background noise and the voices are muffled and unclear. Kurt Sansone
10:00 A recording is played. Kurt Sansone
10:00 The accused laugh in their sleeves as he struggles to locate the cross to take the oath on. Kurt Sansone
09:59 Melvin Theuma enters the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
09:59 The court expert has finished testifying. There is a pause as a court usher disinfects the podium and Perspex screens between witnesses. The COVID-19 mitigation measures are also a reality in court. Kurt Sansone
09:58 The lawyers and prosecutor bicker over whether Theuma should be allowed a copy to refresh his memory. The court extends the appointment of the expert to carry out audio optimisation of the files presented today. Kurt Sansone
09:52 Cuschieri suggests that the witness be given a transcript, but not the recording. Kurt Sansone
09:52 Lawyer Kathleen Grima, appearing for Melvin Theuma, requests a copy for her client also. Defence lawyer, William Cuschieri objects, pointing out that Theuma is just a witness "so far." Kurt Sansone
09:51 The expert says the audio is unclear but there is technology that can clean up the audio if the court orders him to do so. Kurt Sansone
09:50 These recordings were done by middleman Melvin Theuma, who was given a pardon to tell all. Kurt Sansone
09:46 The data was extracted onto external drives, which are being exhibited today. The court expert says 275 separate recordings were extracted. “A lot of them are empty files but some contain conversations,” he says. Kurt Sansone
09:44 A court expert exhibits a number of evidence bags. Two evidence bags are still in the possession of Europol for further examination, he says. Kurt Sansone
09:42 Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit enters the courtroom and the sitting begins. Kurt Sansone
09:41 The accused, George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat, have just walked into the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
09:32 Good morning. Kurt Sansone

Lawyers Kathleen Grima and Matthew Brincat are assisting Melvin Theuma.