Melvin Theuma tells public inquiry: 'My life ended with Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder'

Middleman Melvin Theuma tells public inquiry that Yorgen Fenech once told him that he offered the PN money to prevent the re-election of David Casa as MEP

Middleman: Melvin Theuma
Middleman: Melvin Theuma

Self-confessed middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, Melvin Theuma has testified before a public inquiry into the crime.

Theuma, a taxi driver and illegal lotto operator received a presidential pardon in return for his testimony on the murder.

The board of inquiry is tasked with investigating whether the State did enough to prevent the assassination and whether it caused an immediate risk to Caruana Galizia's life.

Amongst other things, Theuma today insisted that he only had contact with Fenech with regards to payment for the murder. He said that Fenech and his business associate Johann Cremona implicated former minister Chris Cardona in the murder but the only person who ever commissioned him to organise the crime was Fenech.

Theuma said that Mario Degiorgio, a brother to the two men charged with the journalist's murder, had once told him that lawyer David Gatt, on the behest of Cardona, had warned him that his brothers would be killed if they uncovered Cardona's role in the murder.

Theuma was overcome with emotion towards the end of his testimony, sobbing that his life ended with the murder.

He also reiterated that Yorgen Fenech once told him that he had offered money to the Nationalist Party so that David Casa is not re-elected MEP. Casa had continued to flag Fenech's connection with Dubai company 17 Black and how this may have been used as a vehicle for corruption in the power station tender.

During the previous sitting on Monday acting police chief Carmelo Magri testified that nothing but Silvio Valletta's call logs were collected when the former deputy police commissioner's name cropped up during the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder compilation.

READ MOREActing police chief tells inquiry, only Silvio Valletta's call logs were collected when his name cropped up in Caruana Galizia murder case

He was also asked about police leaks and the fact that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech used to receive information about the ongoing criminal investigation from Valletta.

Magri said that no laptop or mobile phones were collected from Valletta in the course of the investigation, insisting that the former police officer had denied all allegations made by middleman Melvin Theuma.

11:41 That's all for today. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
11:41 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi wants to make some submissions behind closed doors. Kurt Sansone
11:38 The sitting afterwards will be on Wednesday 24 June, at 9:30am, when assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla is expected to testify. Kurt Sansone
11:38 The next sitting takes place on Friday 19 June, where acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri will continue his testimony. A technical expert on hacking will also be summoned. Kurt Sansone
11:32 The parties are now discussing what witnesses to summon in the next sitting. Kurt Sansone
11:32 Theuma leaves the stand and exits the courtroom, accompanied by his bodyguards. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Judge Mallia asks him how his conscience feels. “Last Monday, I went to Mgr Deguara to confess and take Holy Communion. I cannot stay quiet. I'm still hurt to this day.” Kurt Sansone
11:30 Theuma: “Yorgen would say that all Daphne Caruana Galizia had were 4,000 people behind her, but I would be terrified every time a protest would be held.” Kurt Sansone
11:29 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia suggests that he had felt obliged to do the crime because he was the deprived kid from Marsa who was taken in by this man and given everything. “Exactly, exactly,” sobs the witness. Kurt Sansone
11:28 Theuma: "Once he told my partner that I would be ready to do anything he tells me (Dak li nqabbdu jagħmel, jagħmlu)." Kurt Sansone
11:27 “One day, I felt I lost my life,” Theuma says, choking back tears. “Daphne Caruana Galizia lost her life too,” Azzopardi interjects. “U jien daqsha,” Theuma responds. Kurt Sansone
11:26 Theuma sidesteps a suggestion by Azzopardi that he used to "adore" Fenech, or felt obliged to him. Kurt Sansone
11:25 Theuma: "Kelli nobdih (I had to obey him). There was the taxi, he'd take me abroad, I used to tell him yes in everything… only today do I know what it involves." Kurt Sansone
11:24 Jason Azzopardi confronts him with testimony before other courts. Why had he killed a woman and a mother? Kurt Sansone
11:21 Theuma says that he didn't do it because he had to go to Gozo. Kurt Sansone
11:21 Theuma recounts how on Saturday 3 June, 2017, which was election day, Yorgen Fenech had called him and asked him: “Inti titla’ toqgħodlu mal-bieb lil Keith Schembri għax dak ma jafdax lil kulħadd? (Will you go and guard Keith Schembri’s house because he does not trust everyone?)” Kurt Sansone
11:19 Azzopardi asks whether Alfred Degiorgio, known as il-Fulu, had shown him that they had information on when they would be raided in December 2017. "No, I told him. I got that information from Yorgen Fenech," Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
11:17 Theuma: "Because Keith Schembri would get him the information and he wouldn't be uncovered." Kurt Sansone
11:16 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now cross-examining the witness. He asks about the importance of a newspaper survey in October 2018, which showed Labour were 80,000 votes ahead. Kurt Sansone
11:14 Theuma says that he would take Yorgen Fenech to his private jet. “Fenech would go to Dubai, Bangladesh, Rome, France, Azerbaijan… I took him to the airport often with a certain Thuran and once I took him with the secretary.” Kurt Sansone
11:13 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, who is representing the Caruana Galizia family, asks where he heard the information on Cardona from. "From the office of Johann Cremona, in his garage," Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
11:12 Witness is saying that he heard a lot of things from people and that Cardona's involvement was one of them. Kurt Sansone
11:11 The judges point out that ‘jikxfu’ and ‘iwaħħlu fih’ have different meanings. Theuma replies: "Le, jikxfuh, qal Mario Degiorgio." Kurt Sansone
11:09 Theuma says that Mario Degiorgio, a brother to the Degiorgios accused of murdering Caruana Galizia, once told him that lawyer David Gatt had threatened to kill his brothers if they "uncover Cardona (jikxfu lil Cardona)". Kurt Sansone
11:08 Theuma: "Yorgen Fenech once told me that the prison guards had recorded the Degiorgios as saying that they were ready to blame Cardona for the murder." Kurt Sansone
11:02 The witness says that after his interrogation and the compilation of evidence he was of the belief that only Yorgen Fenech was involved in the murder. Kurt Sansone
11:00 Theuma: "What I can say, under oath and under my pardon is that Yorgen Fenech gave me €150,000 for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia." Kurt Sansone
10:59 He is asked whether he ever heard of anyone else involved in the murder, other businessmen. Kurt Sansone
10:59 Theuma: "As far as I know, under oath, only Yorgen Fenech is involved. Only he gave me money. Johann had said that Cardona paid €350,000 to the Degiorgios. But only Yorgen paid me." Kurt Sansone
10:57 Asked about former minister Chris Cardona, Theuma says he never saw him at the potato shed. He adds that Yorgen Fenech told him to say that the money was given to him by Cardona. "To calm me down they would always bring up Cardona… Jien Yorgen ta’ Tumas biss tani l-flus." Kurt Sansone
10:56 Theuma says that it was in front of Johann and Kenneth Camilleri (a former security detail with the prime minister and close friend of Keith Schembri) that he had exploded and said that the person who commissioned the murder was Yorgen Fenech. Theuma recalls that he told the pair that it was Fenech who paid him for the murder. The outburst came after Johann had claimed that Theuma’s number was found by the police in connection with the murder. Kurt Sansone
10:54 Theuma says he wanted to spill the beans so much so that Inspector Keith Arnaud had to stop him until his lawyer could be brought over. Theuma had been arrested on a money laundering investigation but when police nabbed him, he thought it was because of the murder and immediately informed them of the recordings. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Theuma is asked whether Johann Cremona, a business associate of Yorgen Fenech, knew of Fenech’s involvement in the murder. “U żgur li kien jaf Johann. Wara l-qtil tliet darbiet iltqajna biex jipprova jikkalmani.” Kurt Sansone
10:49 Theuma says that Johann Cremona and Yorgen Fenech had lied to him about raids on his property. Theuma had also been promised a written list of questions from the police, that he'd only be arrested for 48 hours and leave, that he wouldn't be arrested over the murder. Kurt Sansone
10:47 Theuma says he now lives under 24-hour police protection. Kurt Sansone
10:47 Asked whether Yorgen Fenech called Keith Schembri after his arrest, Theuma says he could not have known since he was also under arrest at the time. Kurt Sansone
10:46 Theuma says he cannot recall whether Yorgen had told Keith about his role in the murder after the arrest of the Degiorgios in December 2017 or before. "I have no idea," he says, but points out that it is on the tapes. Kurt Sansone
10:40 Theuma says that he only met Keith Schembri twice. Kurt Sansone
10:39 Theuma recalls Fenech’s words: ‘Jekk inkunu sodi jiena u inti jbusulna l-bajd. Jekk nirrokkaw ikollna problema kbira. (‘If we are strong together they can kiss our balls. If we break down we will have big problems.’). The context of this was the conversation involving the Electrogas power station. Kurt Sansone
10:36 Asked whether Yorgen had spoken to him about the Electrogas power station tender, Theuma repeats what Fenech had said: ‘I know I did everything exactly right about the power station, but I'm feeling trapped about the murder.’ Kurt Sansone
10:34 Asked about his phantom job with the government, he says he didn't even know what the role was as he never went to work. Kurt Sansone
10:33 The board asks whether Yorgen Fenech had ever helped Keith Schembri on lands, factories and other business concerns. "I don't know anything about that," Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
10:32 Theuma says that Yorgen had also told him the police knew about the message, which triggered the bomb and was also informed of the raids on the potato shed. Kurt Sansone
10:31 Theuma is asked whether Valletta had known who organised Caruana Galizia’s murder. "I don't know. What I know is that he would pass on information," Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
10:30 Theuma says that Silvio Valletta and Keith Schembri would pass on information to Yorgen Fenech. “Yorgen Fenech would trust Schembri more than Valletta.” Kurt Sansone
10:30 Theuma explains that Fenech's election lottery win was on an illegal lottery organised by Theuma himself. Kurt Sansone
10:28 On 17 Black, Theuma says that Yorgen told him Nationalist MEP David Casa had picked on him. "He told me that he had offered money to the PN not to elect David Casa [ostensibly in the European Parliament election]. But i never asked him what was wrong about 17 Black.” Kurt Sansone
10:26 Asked about Daphne Caruana Galizia's writing: “From 2017 I became fixated on the news… I never read Daphne’s blog.” Kurt Sansone
10:24 Asked whether he had any run-ins with the court, Theuma says that once he had a case before Lofaro [ostensibly Abigail Lofaro, who is now a judge and a member of the Caruana Galizia inquiry board] about money laundering. Another time he had an argument with his partner's husband. Kurt Sansone
10:22 Theuma recounts how on one occasion he had been delivering bread to Yorgen's farmhouse and had seen then deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta peeking from behind a door. He recognised Valletta from the TV. Kurt Sansone
10:20 Theuma: “One time Yorgen Fenech had asked me to take him to the airport and he told me that he had just been to a party at Girgenti with Joseph Muscat. I honestly don't know how to get to Girgenti." Kurt Sansone
10:19 He is asked whether he ever took Yorgen Fenech to Girgenti, the prime minister’s official residence. Kurt Sansone
10:18 Theuma says he never took Yorgen to Joseph Muscat's house. Kurt Sansone
10:17 Theuma now speaks of the relationship between Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri. “When abroad Yorgen Fenech would call Keith Schembri often and after the murder this was more frequent. One time Keith Schembri was frying a rabbit and sent Yorgen a picture of it, which he then showed to me. That's how close they were.” Kurt Sansone
10:15 Theuma is now talking about the Castille interview in which he was given a government job. He recounts how another time he had gone there to speak to someone about compliance on a wall in his field. Kurt Sansone
10:14 Theuma: “Yes. This had happened before the murder instructions.” After that he had never taken Yorgen Fenech to Castille. Kurt Sansone
10:14 The board asks him whether he had ever given Fenech a lift to Castille. Kurt Sansone
10:12 Theuma says that about two weeks later he went to pick up Fenech from the airport. Yorgen opened his briefcase and gave him an envelope with €150,000, telling him it’s for the murder. Kurt Sansone
10:10 Theuma had brought Fenech €300,000 in winnings on the election bet. Kurt Sansone
10:10 Theuma says that he thought Yorgen was drunk and ignored it. Kurt Sansone
10:09 Theuma says that the Sunday after Labour won the election, Yorgen called him and told him the hit was back on. Kurt Sansone
10:08 In the meantime, the election was announced and Yorgen had told Theuma to stop everything. Kurt Sansone
10:08 He says they later met to discuss specifics at Busy Bee coffee shop in Msida. The amount €150,000 was mentioned with €30,000 that had to be paid in advance. Kurt Sansone
10:06 Theuma says he never mentioned Yorgen Fenech to the Degiorgios. Kurt Sansone
10:06 Theuma describes the conversation: “Degiorgio asked what I wanted. I told him, ‘I have a person who wants to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia’. He asked me: ‘But does he pay?’.” Kurt Sansone
10:05 Theuma says that he had called Alfred Degiorgio and was told to meet him near the potato shed. He had been there before, for coffee, he adds. Kurt Sansone
10:02 Theuma continues that after the 2017 general election was announced, he found out that the Ray Fenech reason given to him by Yorgen was not true. Kurt Sansone
10:01 Theuma: “Once I gave her a lift as she had been at Portomaso and her tyres were slashed. She wanted to pay me and I had refused.” Kurt Sansone
10:01 Judge Mallia: “Didn't something tell you this would have great consequences? The normal reaction to this would be shock. You were asked to be involved in a homicide with tremendous consequences. Did you just say yes? Did you know Daphne Caruana Galizia?” Kurt Sansone
10:00 Theuma tells the inquiry that he had called Alfred Degiorgio, George’s brother, as he had once rented out a flat to them in Mosta. He explains that there is a pending investigation into this. Kurt Sansone
09:59 He recounts that they met near the Blue Elephant restaurant. Theuma recalls Yorgen telling him that he wanted to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia because she was going to spill information on his uncle, Ray. Yorgen had asked Theuman whether he knew who George iċ-Ċiniż was. Kurt Sansone
09:57 Theuma recounts how before the 2017 election, he had been at work at Portomaso. At around 4:30pm he had made a coffee and Yorgen called him up and asked to speak to him. Kurt Sansone
09:56 Theuma says he got involved in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder out of his own free will, but felt obliged after Fenech had allotted him a permanent taxi slot at Portomaso. “I felt he was my best friend.” Kurt Sansone
09:54 Theuma: “I used to think he was my best friend, but after he got me involved in this I consider him the worst person in Malta, in the world.” Kurt Sansone
09:54 Theuma: “I knew him before the taxi, around seven years ago because he would bet on horses with me. I knew his uncle Ray as well. I get confused with dates but I've known him for more than seven years for sure.” Kurt Sansone
09:53 Theuma is asked how long he has known Yorgen Fenech for. Kurt Sansone
09:52 Judge Mallia: We know you have a presidential pardon and are obliged to tell everything. But the board warns you that you are to follow the terms of your pardon here. Kurt Sansone
09:48 Theuma is administered the oath. Matthew Vella
09:48 Theuma is accompanied by plain-clothes security officers wherever he goes. Matthew Vella
09:47 Jason Azzopardi is ironing out a possible recording/transcribing issue with the previous testimony of Antonovich Muscat with the board. The matter has been resolved. Melvin Theuma is summoned into the courtroom. Matthew Vella
09:45 The judges have entered the courtroom. Matthew Vella
09:39 Lawyers and press slowly filling Hall 20. Peter Caruana Galizia, Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia are here. On the opposing benches is lawyer Maurizio Cordina. Matthew Vella

The inquiry is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro..

 

 

 

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