[EXPLAINER] The collusion between the Labour administration and the police in the Caruana Galizia assassination

In November 2019 Melvin Theuma knew he would be arrested: the information came from top police brass passed on to confidants, Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech

The ongoing compilation of evidence against the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, continues with the prospective testimony of Johann Cremona – a business partner of Fenech – and in the week to come, Keith Schembri, chief of staff to former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

A lot is riding on the evidence being given by Fenech’s one-time gopher and confidant Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver arrested on a money laundering charge in November 2019 that led him to spill the beans on the assassination: he was the middleman who contracted the Degiorgio brothers to execute Caruana Galizia.

Theuma recorded countless conversations he had with Fenech and many others implicated in the assassination, now in the hands of the law courts and the police, and the picture emerging from the courts and exclusive press reports is indicative of collusion at the very highest levels of the Labour administration as well as the police.

But press reports of the last week have now painted a clear picture of what happened in the weeks preceding his arrest.

1. Malta’s former Commissioner of Police could have leaked information on Theuma’s arrest

Lawrence Cutajar was appointed by the Labour administration upon the resignation in 2016 of Michael Cassar.

Former Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar
Former Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar

According to sources who have heard the Theuma tapes, Cutajar is alleged to have tipped off Theuma, through a mutual friend, of his impending arrest. Theuma can be heard saying in an audio recording that Cutajar met his good friend Edwin Brincat ‘il-Ġojja’, and that two dates are mentioned: the 16th and 26th, ostensibly November.

Theuma is heard telling a third party how he had just received word that Cutajar had met with a close associate of his. Brincat is believed to have first convinced the murder middleman to begin recording his conversations with Fenech and other associates linked to the murder.

Cutajar said he had given his version of events over the meetings with Brincat and denied any wrongdoing. Cutajar said he had no knowledge of the recordings, and that he had not been approached about the matter by any of the authorities.

Cutajar had held two secret meetings with Il-Ġojja during the course of the murder investigation, apparently without the knowledge of the investigative team. Sources said that when the meeting was first uncovered, Cutajar had been approached by investigative partners and told not to do so again.

In other tapes, Theuma urges Yorgen Fenech to speak to the “top guy from Luqa”, who Theuma confirmed in court was a reference to former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

2. Theuma was told Keith Schembri was protecting him on the money laundering charge

Theuma can be heard speaking to an associate of Yorgen Fenech, who reassures him Theuma of Keith Schembri’s protection from the police investigation.

Keith Schembri in a meeting at Castille during a visit by PANA committee MEPs
Keith Schembri in a meeting at Castille during a visit by PANA committee MEPs

Theuma was under pressure from an FIAU investigation that had prodded a police investigation into money laundering. In fact it was this pending arrest in November 2019 that led him to admit his role in the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Fearing arrest, Theuma reached out to Fenech’s associate, anxious about the investigation. “Do you know what I’m really worried about… it’s not Daphne, but the money laundering,” Theuma can be heard saying, as reported by MaltaToday’s source.

“You have to accept reality… your problem is going to be a police raid,” the associate replies.

Theuma however appears to be agitated and angered at Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri throughout the course of the conversation. “He should have told me about this!” Theuma complains, ostensibly referring to Schembri.

The Fenech associate however claims to Theuma that he was being protected. “He can’t let you go under… Yorgen is telling you lies… Keith is protecting you without telling anyone else about it. Because it benefits him…. But he really is protecting you.”

3. Kenneth Camilleri, a Malta Security Services officer at the OPM, did Schembri’s bidding

Also mentioned in the same conversation is ‘Kenneth’ – ostensibly Kenneth Camilleri, the Malta Security Service detail assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister; and ‘Raymond’ – ostensibly the economic crimes squad inspector Raymond Aquilina, whom Theuma was expecting to arrest him.

Kenneth Camilleri (circled) formed part of Joseph Muscat's security detail.
Kenneth Camilleri (circled) formed part of Joseph Muscat's security detail.

In the tapes, Fenech’s associate reassures Theuma that he would not face any problems on the money laundering investigation. “Don’t forget that these guys are with you, the police and the prime minister, they’re all with you. If you get Raymond, then I don’t know who else you need.”

The conversation confirms information that Theuma had already been tipped off of his impending arrest by the police, in what was to be the prelude to an admission of his role in the murder. But when he was arrested, it turned out that a different police inspector had been assigned to the case. Realising he would not be getting released from the money laundering charges, Theuma spilled the beans on the Caruana Galizia assassination.

In other tapes, it is Yorgen Fenech who also appears to try calm Theuma by assuring him that “Ray” was going to carry out the arrest.

4. Yorgen Fenech urged Theuma to be “100% clean” prior to his arrest

Fenech is believed to have told middleman Melvin Theuma to make ssure “100% sure everywhere is clean” prior to his arrest. Messages exchanged between Fenech and Theuma in the days and hours before the self-confessed middleman’s arrest on November 14 show both were aware the police were soon going to carry out a raid.

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech

At one point during the exchanges between Fenech and Theuma on November 12 and 13, the middleman even appeared to be trying to negotiate the terms of his arrest with Fenech. Theuma demanded that “the women”, a reference to his partner and her daughter, not be dragged into the money-laundering case.

“Listen to me, fight this, if need be, there should be a bit more time so it doesn’t take place this Saturday [November 16],” Theuma said, adding “so everyone can keep going on with their lives”.

With the arrest originally planned for November 16, the police were forced to swoop earlier without their Europol partners after it became evident that Theuma had been tipped off.

5. Former CID head Silvio Valletta faces accusations of leaking information

Former head of the criminal investigations department Silvio Valletta has also faced accusations of leaking information about the investigation to Fenech.

Former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta
Former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta

In court, lead investigator Keith Arnaud asked Theuma where Yorgen Fenech had got the information about the upcoming raid. "It was [former OPM chief of staff] Keith Schembri and [former deputy police commissioner] Silvio Valletta.”

Theuma told Fenech to speak to the “man from Luqa” when he learned of the arrest. That man is former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

6. Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona is also mentioned

Former economy minister and Chris Cardona’s name cropped up during the compilation of evidence against aFenech, when Melvin Theuma claimed that Cardona had passed on money through Anthony Chetcuti, to Alfred Degiorgio ‘il-Fulu’ for the assassination. Cardona, who is still Labour deputy leader for party affairs after resigning from MP earlier this year, said the allegations were “hearsay” and that the allegation had to be backed up by hard evidence.

Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona says he will not resign
Labour deputy leader Chris Cardona says he will not resign

“Theuma has to be careful… he is a State witness. If he does not say the truth, he could lose his presidential pardon. Theuma is recalling what other people told him. As a fact, what Theuma evidenced in court was not what he saw, but what other people told him. In that case this is not circumstantial evidence, but hearsay,” Cardona said.

Anthony Chetcuti, known as Tony Biglee, with his close friend Chris Cardona
Anthony Chetcuti, known as Tony Biglee, with his close friend Chris Cardona

Cardona denies having facilitated a payment to the killers through one of his canvassers, Anthony Chetcuti – known as Tony ‘Biglee’. Cardona says il-Biglee, a former Special Assignment Group officer who became his canvasser, as a close friend and fellow Liverpool supporter.

Theuma’s recordings also mention Cardona: “Cardona is more familiar [with the courts] than ix-Xih (former prime minister Joseph Muscat). The other one wasn’t in court,” Theuma said in court, replying to chief investigator Keith Arnaud’s questions about why Cardona might have been the Degiorgios’ preferred contact in their first attempt to obtain bail from arrest.

The middleman has made reference to “four others” that might have been involved in the murder besides himself and Fenech. When asked about who these four might be, Theuma said he couldn’t reply and that it was an arbitrary number that he had come up with.

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