Keith Schembri testimony: PM asked him to stop Fenech from fleeing, Delia asked Fenech for €50,000 to stop Casa

Keith Schembri testifies in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech • Tells court Joseph Muscat asked him to stop Fenech from fleeing • Claims PN took money from Fenech • Denies any involvement in murder

Keith Schembri leaving court after testifying in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. He is accompanied by Neville Gafa (right) Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Keith Schembri leaving court after testifying in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. He is accompanied by Neville Gafa (right) Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

Keith Schembri has denied having any role in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia when he took the witness stand this morning to testify in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech.

The former OPM chief of staff, spoke about his friendship with Fenech, saying he would go through fire for his friends. But Schembri insisted that Fenech never told him about the murder and never asked for information from him.

He was warned by the magistrate that perjury carried a prison sentence but Schembri insisted he had nothing to do with the murder and never passed on information to Fenech about the investigation.

Schembri said that on the evening before Fenech was arrested, he received a phone call from prime minister Joseph Muscat asking him to convince Fenech from fleeing Malta. The police had received information that Fenech was going to flee Malta on his boat.

Schembri told the court, Muscat called him at 9pm asking him to convince Fenech not to escape. The former chief of staff said he called Fenech and in a 24-minute conversation told him not to shine a spotlight on himself. Fenech is understood to have told Schembri that he was going on his yacht for a scheduled maintenance visit to Sicily.

Fenech was arrested on the morrow, at around 5:30am as he left the Portomaso marina on board his yacht.

Schembri glossed over his involvement with Fenech's Dubai company 17 Black, insisting his intention was to do business with Fenech after he exited politics.

Last week, media reports showed that 17 Black profited from Enemalta's purchase of a wind power project in Montenegro.

Kenneth Camilleri (left) arriving in court, accompanied by his friend, Neville Gafà (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Kenneth Camilleri (left) arriving in court, accompanied by his friend, Neville Gafà (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Delia asked Yorgen for money

The former chief of staff also claimed that Fenech had told him how Opposition leader Adrian Delia had asked him for €50,000 in exchange for obstructing David Casa's election bid last year. Schembri said that PN media chief Pierre Portelli used to go an collect €20,000 from Fenech, describing this as an extortion of sorts.

Both Delia and Portelli have denied the allegations.

On Sunday, Schembri said the time had finally come for him to speak “and tell things as they are”.

Schembri’s name has cropped up throughout court proceedings.

Murder middleman Melvin Theuma has claimed that Fenech used to get sensitive information about the Caruana Galizia investigation from the former OPM chief of staff.

Theuma has also said that Kenneth Camilleri, a former security detail to prime minister Joseph Muscat, was sent by Schembri to inform him that the three men accused with the murder will be granted bail.

Camilleri chose not to testify today, availing himself of his right not to incriminate himself.

Last December, prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud under cross examination during the compilation of evidence against Fenech, testified that Schembri was being investigated for homicide and tampering with evidence.

The court had also heard how Schembri told police that he had lost his mobile phone when they arrested him some weeks before over an alleged letter he was supposed to have sent Fenech while the latter was in police custody.

The court disallowed a question from the prosecution on this incident, insisting Schembri was a witness not an accused person.

Statement from MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan and executive editor Matthew Vella on claims in court by Keith Schembri

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan denies ever having had any prior knowledge of the police raid on the men charged with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Keith Schembri’s assertion in court that MaltaToday was aware of the raid is untrue.

Conversations were held with several individuals including Schembri after the raid took place in the course of gathering more detailed information on the investigation.

Statement by Ivan Camilleri

In a statement released on Monday afternoon, the former Times of Malta journalist denied that he ever passed on information to Yorgen Fenech in relation to his involvement in the Caruana Galizia murder. He accused Schembri of repeating claims made by his former employer.

"I never had any such information in the first place, let alone passed it on to Yorgen Fenech," Camilleri said. He is currently engaged in legal proceedings against Times of Malta over what he claims is unfair dismissal.

The Times of Malta has reacted to this claim: "Once again, Mr Camilleri continues to make a number of insinuations which are nothing more than a total figment of his imagination. Once again, he claims he was dismissed because he had passed on information to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in relation to “his involvement in the heinous assassination plot” of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. The reasons Mr Camilleri was sacked are very well known to him. Times of Malta stands by its decision to dismiss him for gross misconduct."

 

19:36 Update on the Ivan Camilleri statement: a reply from Times of Malta

Reference is made to former journalist Ivan Camilleri’s statement after he was mentioned in legal proceedings in court on Monday. Once again, Mr Camilleri continues to make a number of insinuations which are nothing more than a total figment of his imagination. Once again, he claims he was dismissed because he had passed on information to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in relation to “his involvement in the heinous assassination plot” of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. The reasons Mr Camilleri was sacked are very well known to him. Times of Malta stands by its decision to dismiss him for gross misconduct.
Matthew Vella
17:52 That's all for today. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
17:52 The case has been put off till 30 July at 10am for Dr Adrian Vella to testify. Kurt Sansone
17:49 We're back in the courtroom after a short refreshment break, where lawyer Charles Mercieca is dictating a note to the court about the fact that Fenech is still in custody in prison despite being presumed innocent. Mercieca is also complaining that lawyer-client privilege is breached by the fact that phone calls to prison are all recorded. Kurt Sansone
17:10 The court rules that the testimony about the reference to corruption is to happen behind closed doors as it could damage the investigation. Kurt Sansone
17:09 The court suspends Zahra’s testimony. Kurt Sansone
17:09 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri asks the court to order the press out of the courtroom to explain the reason for the defence's resistance. Kurt Sansone
17:06 The court says that these allegations must be dealt with in the correct forum and certainly after the inspector finishes testifying. Kurt Sansone
17:06 Arnaud clarifies that the lawyers had been advised to speak to Ian Abdilla, who heads the economic crimes unit. The police had wanted Fenech to give his version on video but he had refused too. Kurt Sansone
17:04 The magistrate asks the defence lawyers whether they take responsibility for these statements. “Yes,” they reply. Kurt Sansone
17:03 Inspector Arnaud says he is ready to swear too that he had done the same and told the lawyers to speak to ECU. But Caruana Curran accuses the inspector of lying again. Kurt Sansone
17:02 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran accuses the inspector of lying under oath and a shouting match ensues. The court says this is not the way to allege perjury. Kurt Sansone
17:01 Zahra: “We had told Fenech’s lawyers to speak to the ECU… all they had to do was cross the corridor.” Kurt Sansone
16:59 Ostensibly, Fenech wanted to speak about alleged cases of corruption. Zahra testifies that Fenech was told that he should speak about those cases with the Economic Crimes Unit. But after he was charged with the murder, Fenech declined to talk to the police on those cases. Kurt Sansone
16:55 Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud says that Fenech had told police he could give information on another issue. The lawyers are bickering over whether this information could be revealed. Kurt Sansone
16:51 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran had passed on the letter to the police together with a second letter. Kurt Sansone
16:51 Zahra says that after his second request for pardon was made, the police were informed that Yorgen Fenech and his team, whilst at his residence on police bail, had received a letter from Keith Schembri that was passed on by Adrian Vella, a medical doctor. Kurt Sansone
16:49 On 25 November 2019 Fenech’s lawyers had asked for disclosure of information. They asked to hear the recordings. Zahra explains that the law states that after being arrested for 48 hours, a person has to either be charged or released. Fenech had been given police bail multiple times after his request for a pardon was refused, Zahra says. Kurt Sansone
16:46 Zahra: “After hearing the first versions of Yorgen Fenech, we had investigated... on 24 November, he was questioned and asked whether he had anything to add for the purposes of his pardon. Fenech had a lot of contact with his lawyers. He was eventually arraigned 11 days after his arrest. The lawyers were allowed free access to the depot.” Kurt Sansone
16:44 Zahra is now talking about the questioning of Fenech after the arrest. He explains that as part of the disclosure procedure, he was allowed to hear three recordings “to get the gist” of what was being said against him. Kurt Sansone
16:35 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca interrupts: “He was going abroad. He was not escaping.” Kurt Sansone
16:34 Zahra: “Our plan was never to have Yorgen Fenech arrested on 20 November. The investigation was tackling the issue of the middleman at the time but the circumstances developed in such a way as to make this necessary.” Kurt Sansone
16:33 The court overrules the objection, saying that the witness can testify as to what he was told by lead inspector Keith Arnaud. Kurt Sansone
16:33 The defence and Fenech pipe up: “Le, le, le, ma jistax.” Kurt Sansone
16:32 Inspector Zahra: “Meanwhile, on 20 November 2019 the police received information that Yorgen Fenech was planning to escape from the country.” Kurt Sansone
16:31 Zahra says something about police having Signal chats mentioning ‘dak ta’ Ħal Luqa’, asking that his wife and children aren't involved in the police investigation. The reference is probably to former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, who lives in Luqa and the case is probably linked to the money laundering investigation, which Theuma feared would involve his partner and her daughter. Kurt Sansone
16:26 Zahra tells the court about Melvin Theuma’s reference to Kenneth Camilleri. Camilleri was at one point part of Joseph Muscat’s security detail. Today, Camilleri availed himself of his right not to testify so as not to incriminate himself. Kurt Sansone
16:23 QUICK RECAP: The court is currently hearing the testimony of police Inspector Kurt Zahra, who is going through the investigative process that led to the arrest of the three hitmen and mastermind in the Caruana Galizia murder. Prior to Zahra, the court heard the testimony of Keith Schembri, former chief of staff to Joseph Muscat. Kurt Sansone
16:12 Theuma had told police that he became obsessed by the fear that Fenech would murder him or have him thrown in jail. Kurt Sansone
16:12 Inspector Zahra says Theuma had been on the brink of suicide but realised that if he did kill himself he would only be fulfilling Yorgen Fenech's wishes as he was the only link between the murder and Fenech. Kurt Sansone
16:10 Yorgen Fenech gave Theuma €150,000 in an envelope as he left to airport. “This was the price for the murder,” Zahra says. Kurt Sansone
16:10 Zahra recounts how Melvin Theuma told investigators that the day after the murder he had gone to Portomaso to speak to Yorgen Fenech. Theuma had said there were a lot of people around a table, including a certain Thuran. The middleman went there show Yorgen he was scared. Kurt Sansone
16:08 Zahra now speaks of the part where Yorgen Fenech had told Melvin Theuma to “get on with it (mexxi)”, in relation to the murder. Theuma had held back since he thought Fenech was drunk. Fenech had said “ara ma jiġrix bħalma ġara lil Romeo Bone”. Bone was also a victim of a car bomb but he was maimed and not killed. Kurt Sansone
16:06 Zahra is now telling the story of OPM official Sandro Craus and Melvin Theuma's phantom job. This is being investigated by the police, he says. Kurt Sansone
15:46 Zahra: “It was a long process. Everything Theuma said had to be investigated and confirmed.” Kurt Sansone
15:45 This box was opened in the presence of the inquiring magistrate, the commissioner of police and his lawyers. Zahra says the opening of the box was filmed at the depot. Theuma had expressed the wish to talk about Daphne Caruana Galizia murder in return for a presidential pardon. Kurt Sansone
15:44 Zahra says Melvin Theuma was arrested in a raid over money laundering. “As soon as the police went up to him he had a plastic box and said he would only open it in front of the commissioner of police or Keith Arnaud.” Kurt Sansone
15:43 Inspector Zahra says that Mario Degiorgio, a brother to the Degiorgios, would go to Melvin Theuma for money for bail. Amongst the amounts were €100 per week to the three assassins for their needs. Kurt Sansone
15:42 The court says that the witness can skip the updates he was given by Arnaud, as Arnaud had testified about them already. Kurt Sansone
15:42 He adds that police weren't sure of the existence of the recordings, or what they contained so they held back from arresting Theuma. He says that one of the poeple Melvin Theuma spoke to was Edwin Brincat, an auto dealer nicknamed il-Ġojja. Kurt Sansone
15:41 Zahra says that Melvin Theuma had argued with someone and had recorded him. “’Dak tat-torri’ he would refer to him. Now we know it is Yorgen Fenech.” Kurt Sansone
15:37 Theuma had, through third parties, paid Anka Adelina Pop's bail on money laundering charges. Pop is the partner of George Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
15:36 Zahra spent two years doing other work, before being asked back onto the investigation after the arrest of Melvin Theuma. Theuma was identified by the police after surveillance picked him up as sending messages to the Degiorgios, asking if they were OK and whether they needed anything. Kurt Sansone
15:36 Zahra moves on to the second phase of the investigation. This phase sought out other people beyond the immediate culprits. Europol continued to assist the police at this stage. “Everything that we saw was seen by Europol,” Zahra says. Kurt Sansone
15:35 Zahra says that Rudy Vella and Armando Chircop were also arrested. They owned garages near the potato shed. None of the men arrested offered any resistance. He says it was suspicious that one of the men had written a phone number on his hand, right before the raid. “It was as if they knew we were coming.” Kurt Sansone
15:18 Zahra testifies that then deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta had been overseeing the operation from the ops room. Kurt Sansone
15:17 He had dealt with the maritime aspect. Kurt Sansone
15:17 Zahra is telling the court about the operation to arrest the three suspects. Kurt Sansone
15:16 A turning point in the investigation was the arrest of the Degiorgios and Muscat, Zahra explains. “We had arrested nine people in all. People who gave us SIM cards and so on.” Kurt Sansone
15:15 The inspector says that prime minister Joseph Muscat had announced a reward of a million euros to anyone who had information that could lead investigators to solve the crime. This led to another task force to be set up to deal with the tips. Kurt Sansone
15:14 At the time of detonation, George Degiogio's mobile received top up which was used on one of the burner phones, Zahra explains. Kurt Sansone
15:14 The court also notes that this evidence already forms part of another set of proceedings. Kurt Sansone
15:13 The police had traced the burner phones as moving with the suspect's personal mobile phones. Police intelligence told the investigators that the suspects used a boat. Kurt Sansone
15:13 Zahra explains that the bomb had two switches. One to arm the device and another to set it off. Kurt Sansone
15:12 The investigations had identified a SIM900 device as having been used to detonate the bomb. A trigger message, ‘REL1=ON’, had also been traced. The investigation into the SIM cards later led back to the Marsa potato shed where the suspects had been arrested. Kurt Sansone
15:11 Zahra says the task force set up at the time, included the police, the security services, the FBI, the NFI and Europol. “We were only looking at the murder itself at that stage,” he says. Kurt Sansone
14:55 All of this has already been said in the compilation of evidence against the Degiorgio Brothers and Vince Muscat. Zahra is retracing the steps taken by the police after Caruana Galizia was murdered. Kurt Sansone
14:54 Duty Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera was asked to recuse herself by the family and Magistrate Anthony Vella took over the inquiry, Inspector Zahra tells the court. Kurt Sansone
14:52 The police had traced a small white rental car with number plate ending in QZ which had been in the area several times in the weeks before the murder. They later found the hide where the spotter was lying, overlooking the Caruana Galizia family homes in Bidnija. Police also found several cigarette butts. Kurt Sansone
14:50 The Caruana Galizia family look on stoically as the now familiar narrative is repeated in court. Kurt Sansone
14:42 He had noticed the car's smoking hulk in the valley, with debris and human remains strewn across the road. Kurt Sansone
14:39 He is giving an account of how he had been informed of the car bombing, and had gone to the crime scene on 16 October 2017. Kurt Sansone
14:39 Zahra explains that the investigation was divided in three phases. “The first phase was from the day of the murder to when the executors were arrested, the second phase involved the arrest of Melvin Theuma and the arraignment of Yorgen Fenech, and the third phase started after that,” he says. Kurt Sansone
14:37 Inspector Kurt Zahra takes the witness stand. He is testifying about the investigation. Kurt Sansone
14:36 “In that case, I choose not to testify,” Camilleri says. Kurt Sansone
14:36 The court says that his testimony may be used against him. Kurt Sansone
14:35 Like Schembri before him, Camilleri is given the caution before testifying. Criminal proceedings may be instituted against him, warns the court. Kurt Sansone
14:35 Kenneth Camilleri takes the witness stand. Kurt Sansone
14:34 The sitting resumes. Charles Mercieca says the defence objects to the fact that it had been deprived of the opportunity to make a cross-examination on the primary deposition at this stage. Kurt Sansone
14:13 This blog will resume after the break. Kurt Sansone
13:44 The cross-examination is being reserved. The sitting is suspended. Kurt Sansone
13:43 The prosecution retorts that it depends on the investigations. Kurt Sansone
13:43 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri says the prosecution doesn't know what they are doing. Kurt Sansone
13:42 The witness has finished testifying. There is an issue as to whether to suspend his testimony or whether to reproduce him as a witness again. “He will be reproduced at a later stage,” says assistant attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia. Kurt Sansone
13:40 Arnaud asks what he thinks was Fenech's reason for doing this to him but this is overruled as well. Kurt Sansone
13:39 Arnaud asks about Schembri's lost mobile phone but the court disallows the question since he is a witness not a person accused. “If the person is accused you act differently,” observes the magistrate. Kurt Sansone
13:38 Arnaud asks Schembri whether he has anything else to add. Kurt Sansone
13:38 Arnaud asks where Fenech was the week before his arrest. Schembri says he was in Gozo on his doctor's orders. Kurt Sansone
13:37 Schembri denies this. Yorgen Fenech laughs and gesticulates as he speaks with his lawyer, Charles Mercieca. Annoyed, the magistrate comments that everyone “already knows everything in here apparently”. Kurt Sansone
13:36 Arnaud: “Fenech had alleged that after the Degiorgios were arrested he had met Schembri, who then called Kenneth to kill Melvin Theuma.” Kurt Sansone
13:35 Schembri: “Mhu veru xejn. Żgur li mhux veru. (This is untrue. For sure, it’s not true.)” Kurt Sansone
13:34 Arnaud: “Yorgen Fenech is alleging that you are the brains behind the murder operation and had given him money to pay the Degiorgios with - €75,000 to €80,000.” Kurt Sansone
13:33 Schembri: “The prime minister had told me to contact Yorgen Fenech and tell him not to leave the country. The PM knew of this information, probably, from the Security Services but I never asked him directly.” Kurt Sansone
13:32 He is asked how Fenech had in his possession three memorandums of understanding about the presidential pardon. Schembri says he had nothing to do with the document. “They were in the possession of the Attorney General, the police commissioner, and Inspector Arnaud as well. The leaks were incredible. I think the media knew about the MOUs before me,” Schembri says. Kurt Sansone
13:25 Schembri: “Up until Melvin's arrest there was always doubt about Yorgen Fenech's involvement. I was a party to the information during briefings by the police.” Kurt Sansone
13:24 Schembri had advised Fenech not to put the spotlight on himself. “I then went to bed and found six missed calls the next morning from Arnaud… I had told Fenech not to leave the country as it wasn't a good time. He had asked me whether the presidential pardon had been given. But everything I was telling him was open source.” Kurt Sansone
13:23 Schembri: “In the phone call I was asked to ‘try and convince him not to escape’. So, I called him and spent 24 minutes on the phone with Yorgen. He said he needed to take his boat to Italy for a booked service.” Kurt Sansone
13:21 Schembri says he received a phone call at around 9pm with information that Yorgen Fenech was going to leave the country. The court asks who called him and he says he would clarify at a later stage. Kurt Sansone
13:20 Schembri: “Fenech sent me a message saying that the Times were on him. Today I know it’s because of Ivan Camilleri's messages. He started asking me a lot of questions.” Kurt Sansone
13:19 Arnaud says Fenech had asked Schembri for help. Kurt Sansone
13:18 Schembri: “I don't remember that message. That week was like a year for me. Some parts of my memory are missing but if Arnaud is saying it exists then it does. I don't exclude it.” Kurt Sansone
13:18 Signal chats between him and Yorgen Fenech are discussed. One chat is the night before Fenech's arrest. Fenech had sent a MaltaToday link about the proklama. Kurt Sansone
13:17 Schembri scans the courtroom. He has remained remarkably calm and composed for the three hours he's been grilled so far. Responding in a measured tone, he also denies passing on a letter to Yorgen Fenech before his arrest. “Żgur, żgur li le,” he responds. Kurt Sansone
13:15 Schembri: “Then I stand by what I said.” Kurt Sansone
13:15 He is told by the court that he cannot ask questions. Kurt Sansone
13:14 Schembri: “Has the doctor testified here yet?” Kurt Sansone
13:14 The court warns him that the consequence of perjury was prison. Kurt Sansone
13:12 Magistrate: “So the doctor isn't telling the truth?” Kurt Sansone
13:12 Schembri: “As I already testified: definitely not. He took no document from me.” Kurt Sansone
13:11 Arnaud says that Vella told the police that he had gathered a document from Schembri and was asked to pass it on to Fenech. Kurt Sansone
13:11 At the Girgenti party there were about 400 and 500 persons. It was hosted by the prime minister, Schembri adds. Kurt Sansone
13:10 He tells the court that during the week of the arrests, he had attended a party at Girgenti. Before he went there, he had been given some prescriptions for his wife and had a whisky with Vella. Kurt Sansone
13:09 Schembri insist he had nothing to do with them. Kurt Sansone
13:08 Schembri had been arrested and interrogated at the depot over these letters. He tells the court that he had been shown three letters by the police. Kurt Sansone
13:08 He is referring to a letter that Dr Vella passed on to Fenech, while the latter was in police custody. The letter, purportedly written by Schembri, instructed Fenech what to tell the police and to pin the blame on Chris Cardona. Kurt Sansone
13:05 Schembri: “He's my doctor. I've known him for seven or eight years. He had also accompanied me on medical trips abroad. Yorgen Fenech's family had recommended him to me… I didn’t write that letter. It did not originate from me. I didn't give it to Dr Vella.” Kurt Sansone
13:04 Arnaud resumes questioning. “Dr Adrian Vella, do you know him?” Kurt Sansone
13:03 Things have gone quiet in the courtroom as the prosecution discuss something. Kurt Sansone
13:02 Schembri is referring to a statement by Mizzi on the matter when his name first cropped up during the compilation of evidence earlier this year. Mizzi had denied ever being approached on the matter. Kurt Sansone
13:01 Schembri: “I never spoke to him. I think he had also denied this.” Kurt Sansone
13:01 Arnaud reads a part of the transcript, asking whether Schembri had spoken to now retired judge Antonio Mizzi. Kurt Sansone
13:00 It has to be noted that in previous testimony, Theuma had apologised for mentioning judge Mizzi’s name and had done so because he was desperate at the time. Kurt Sansone
12:57 The court asks that in future the references to the transcripts be prepared beforehand. Kurt Sansone
12:56 The court is trying to find a particular passage of the transcript, where judge Mizzi is mentioned. Kurt Sansone
12:56 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca excuses himself and leaves the courtroom. Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi does the same a few moments later. Kurt Sansone
12:55 He is asked about a mention in the same recording, of judge Antonio Mizzi, as the person who would be approached to grant the Degiorgios bail. Kurt Sansone
12:54 Schembri: “Yorgen never asked me about bail or about the case. But no person can help to get bail, this is obvious.” Kurt Sansone
12:53 Schembri reiterates that he will “truly go through fire” for his friends. “Fenech never asked for information about the case,” he insists. Kurt Sansone
12:53 Schembri: “They knew that if there was going to be a raid of this importance I would know but MaltaToday didn't publish the story.” Kurt Sansone
12:52 Schembri: “Because I was chief of staff to the prime minister.” Kurt Sansone
12:51 Why did Saviour Balzan call you? Kurt Sansone
12:51 Schembri: “I deny ever having this involvement as described by the people in this case. There was a media house which knew that there was a raid planned – MaltaToday. They were advised. Saviour Balzan had told me that you could have told me about the raid. He expected that I gave him this information.” Kurt Sansone
12:49 Magistrate: “So all these people are lying?” Kurt Sansone
12:49 Schembri: “I think my position made me the perfect target... as the government we would discuss it a lot, but I wouldn't discuss it with my wife. What I can say is that I would really go through fire for Yorgen Fenech but I never spoke to him about this case. Not even when I was getting close to him, I had to keep a straight face and pretend not to know.” Kurt Sansone
12:47 Magistrate: “So everyone who mentioned you... what do you say to this?” Kurt Sansone
12:46 Theuma wrote that he had passed on some recordings to Yorgen Fenech and had testified about it. But the witness insists that he had never discussed this case with Fenech. Kurt Sansone
12:46 Schembri: “I categorically deny it.” Kurt Sansone
12:45 Arnaud asks about Theuma’s claim that Schembri and Fenech had engaged him to murder Caruana Galizia. “What do you say to this?” Kurt Sansone
12:44 Schembri returns to the alleged promise of bail made to the Degiorgios. “Żgur li le, ma kellimtx lil Kenneth fuq bail. He never mentioned Melvin THeuma to me.” Kurt Sansone
12:43 Schembri continues to testify about the meeting when it was decided that the Degiorgios would be raided. “In that meeting there was Arnaud, the police commissioner, the army brigadier, two people from the secret service, the prime minister, and the head of communications. No records were ever kept of these meetings. Mark Mallia, the deputy army chief, was also present.” Kurt Sansone
12:41 Meanwhile, Yorgen Fenech and his lawyers huddle over a large file. Kurt Sansone
12:40 Schembri: “During that meeting it was decided to raid on Monday.” Kurt Sansone
12:40 Schembri says he knew about the date of the raid on the Degiorgios. He says that he was in the room with Arnaud for a meeting, the Saturday before the raid. Kurt Sansone
12:39 Schembri: “On the tapes I heard a discussion between Melvin and Yorgen about what Koħħu was saying. I never knew these details. On the date of the raid on Melvin Theuma, I was not privy to this information. I was not told about it.” Kurt Sansone
12:37 For these high-level meetings, the prime minister would tell Schembri to get these three people but would ask him not to attend. Kurt Sansone
12:37 Schembri says he wasn't present for every meeting. He didn't have clearance, he says. Schembri adds that some meetings were with Arnaud, the police commissioner, the head of the secret service. Kurt Sansone
12:35 Magistrate Montebello asks whether he was present for the meetings, to which Schembri replies in the affirmative, however, clarifies that he would not know the exact details about the investigation. Kurt Sansone
12:35 Schembri explains that then deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta used to go through him for meetings with the prime minister, which he then used to set up. He says that both Valletta and Arnaud used to do this. However, the details of what was being said were never made available to him. Schembri says he was not privy to such details of the investigation. Kurt Sansone
12:34 Arnaud asks about how Fenech was able to give details of the investigation to Theuma about Vince Muscat. Kurt Sansone
12:34 Schembri: “To arrive at the person of the middleman. Owen Bonnici would be present at these meetings. He was justice minister at the time. He was there because he was very close to the Attorney General at that point in time and the prime minister held his thinking in high regard. I was not present when Vince Muscat's request [for a pardon] was discussed but I was present for the meeting where I heard that Muscat had started to talk.” Kurt Sansone
12:32 Arnaud asks: “After the arrests, what were the meetings for?” Kurt Sansone
12:32 Schembri is now talking about police briefings at the OPM. “The prime minister would say ‘I want to solve this case and will leave no stone unturned’. There would be many briefings.” Kurt Sansone
12:30 On his Facebook, Pierre Portelli denies the claims made by Schembri. He publishes an affidavit taken last week during which he denied ever being approached or offered any money to work against any of the PN's candidates. Kurt Sansone
12:22 The defence comment angrily that Fenech is still presumed innocent. Kurt Sansone
12:22 Schembri: “He never told me that he had committed this homicide.” Kurt Sansone
12:21 Schembri: “Yorgen never told me about a crime. I found out about it when I was with Arnaud and other investigators.” Kurt Sansone
12:20 Schembri explains that he had been given CDs of his audio-visual statement to the police and heard the recordings over and over again. Kurt Sansone
12:20 Schembri: “I deny it. Bail was never mentioned.” Kurt Sansone
12:19 Inspector Arnaud: “In one of the tapes, Yorgen tells Theuma that you had confirmed bail.” Kurt Sansone
12:18 Schembri: “I have no connection with things like that. I heard the recordings... at the police lockup when I was given disclosure. When you pressed Melvin Theuma as to why he mentioned Keith Schembri, he said that he wanted to needle Fenech. I never spoke to anyone about bail for anyone.” Kurt Sansone
12:17 Schembri is asked about his mentions in the Theuma tapes, in connection with the bail for the Degiorgios. Kurt Sansone
12:17 According to previous court testimony, Mario Degiorgio had been chasing Theuma for bail for his brothers. Kurt Sansone
12:16 He insists that he never spoke to, or knew George Degiorgio and the other men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia. Schembri says he doesn't know Mario Degiorgio (a brother of George and Alfred), and never had contact with him. Kurt Sansone
12:15 Schembri: “Yorgen Fenech would mention as having been taken here and there by Melvin.” Kurt Sansone
12:13 Schembri says Melvin Theuma was never discussed with Kenneth Camilleri or Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
12:12 Schembri: “Kenneth Camilleri was one of my staff. I was chief of staff but I didn't have a detail from the secret service with me. He started working in 2013 and finished around 2018/19 with the service pension. He was on ‘hello and bye terms’ only with me.” Kurt Sansone
12:11 Schembri is asked about Kenneth Camilleri. Kurt Sansone
12:10 Schembri says he knows that they [PN officials] would spend hours waiting at Portomaso reception to collect money. This was before the MEPs’ election in 2019. Kurt Sansone
12:10 Schembri says it was Pierre Portelli, the former PN head of media, who went to collect the money. Schembri erroneously refers to Portelli as secretary general. Kurt Sansone
12:07 Schembri: “One time, the leader of the Opposition went to him asking for 50k to stop David Casa. He would also send the secretary general of the party to collect 20k every week. This would happen regularly. It is extortion of money.” Kurt Sansone
12:06 Schembri says he never saw any politicians there. “But there would be meals where politicians would go and ask him for money.” Kurt Sansone
12:05 Schembri says that Fenech told him that “ħaddieħor fil-politika li jridha tad-dritt kien imur għandu jiekol u jixrob u jitlob il-flus”. Kurt Sansone
12:05 Schembri: “Before all this, Yorgen Fenech was a very highly regarded person in society. After what happened, everyone who met with him was demonised. We'd go there to eat and drink.” Kurt Sansone
12:04 Schembri is reluctant to explain. The court says he must not say things because he read them in the media. Kurt Sansone
12:03 Schembri: “Business people, the best in the country etc… On one occasion, Silvio Valletta was there.” Kurt Sansone
12:02 Schembri asks if this is relevant and the court orders that he reply. Kurt Sansone
12:02 Inspector Arnaud asks him if he remembers any particular politicians or persons at the ranch. Kurt Sansone
12:01 Schembri says he is not sure that he met Theuma at Yorgen Fenech's ranch but I cannot exclude it. “I can’t dispute this because I’m not sure.” Kurt Sansone
12:00 Schembri says he was wearing glasses for about two or three months. Kurt Sansone
11:58 Schembri is shown a photo. “I was wearing glasses then, so it must be the end of 2016, or the beginning of 2017,” Schembri says. He adds that he used to receive between one and five such requests for jobs per week. Kurt Sansone
11:57 The court interjects and tells Schembri to stick to the facts and not assume things. Kurt Sansone
11:56 Schembri says that Theuma had asked for any job. “But I have to say this; he came to take a photo with me, with the PM photo behind us, and a photo of Mintoff’s painting. After the police raid in which he was arrested, b’kumbinazzjoni he had the photo, the contract of his job, his recordings and his famous letter. I assume that he wanted to sting Fenech with them.” Kurt Sansone
11:55 Schembri: “I met him once that I know about, in my office. The second time was at Yorgen Fenech's ranch but I don’t think we spoke. I was thinking about this during COVID. Today, I am convinced that Melvin Theuma was not sent by anyone. He came to my office and asked for a job. I said yes, whatever, what you do is pass it on to customer care. He asked to take a photograph with me but thinking about it now, he also asked whether we could take the photo with the frame of the PM behind us to send to his mother.” Kurt Sansone
11:52 Schembri is asked whether he knows Melvin Theuma? Kurt Sansone
11:52 Schembri: “Bqajt imwaħħal fis-seat. The decision to call Schapiro was made within five minutes of finding out about the murder. Everyone was under shock.” Kurt Sansone
11:51 Before calling Schapiro did he contact anyone else? Kurt Sansone
11:51 Schapiro had told Schembri that the US had some FBI agents in Rome, who could help. Kurt Sansone
11:50 Schembri says that at that time he called Mark Schapiro, Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy, to ask him if he could help. Kurt Sansone
11:48 Schembri: “I was at the OPM with the prime minister and Kurt Farrugia, director of communications. The first call was from Ivan Falzon, CEO at Mater Dei Hospital who told us there was an explosion in Burmarrad. The prime minister had made calls to check on his father's fireworks factory in Burmarrad. A few minutes later we were told that it was Bidnija. Mario Scerri then told us that it could be Daphne Caruana Galizia.” Kurt Sansone
11:47 He is asked about Caruana Galizia’s murder. Kurt Sansone
11:46 Schembri: “There are many Maltese businessmen doing business with Yorgen Fenech. He was prestigious. I didn't have any links to other companies aside 17 Black or have other business with Yorgen Fenech.” Kurt Sansone
11:45 On 17 Black, Schembri says that the intention was to do business with Yorgen Fenech once he had finished from politics. Kurt Sansone
11:44 Schembri says that before entering politics he said that after politics, he had to do business. “I opened a trust fund with Bank of Valletta in 2013. The PN knows exactly how much money I have in the trust. BOV had admitted that there were leaks. Instead of filing a lawsuit against BOV, I told my advisers that I cannot trust Maltese banks anymore and was advised to open a trust in New Zealand or Singapore. So, I opened the trust in New Zealand. I was told for the trust to start working you need to open a company. The fastest way to do so was in Panama.” Kurt Sansone
11:41 Schembri: “My reaction [to the blogs] was there is a small bit of truth and a lot of assumption. I could have filed a libel suit but I know how things go here; you spend four years coming back and forth. Having 17 Black as a target client means it either do business or not do business.” Kurt Sansone
11:39 The court brings the parties to order, warning that she could fine them for disrespecting the court. Kurt Sansone
11:39 “If the questions about 17 Black bother them, then there has to be something,” Azzopardi says. Kurt Sansone
11:38 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca objects saying that the blogs should be exhibited. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi roars his objection to the lawyer interrupting the witness, saying that the questions were approaching 17 Black. Kurt Sansone
11:37 Schembri: “I explained my position on the blog, I answered journalists’ questions and explained to my colleagues what was in the blog. I tried to make sense between reality and fiction.” Kurt Sansone
11:37 “What discussions?” asks the court. Kurt Sansone
11:36 The reference here is to a series of blogs that started in late 2016 when Caruana Galizia claimed that Schembri had a rare form of disease, was seeking treatment abroad and would die in a couple of months’ time. Kurt Sansone
11:35 Schembri: “I can't understand why ask about this post and not worse ones. My 13-year-old daughter told me that her friends at school said I was going to die. I never spoke to anyone about the blog but people started to talk to me about it. There was national outcry. People would send messages of support. I discussed the blog with people at OPM and journalists when asked about it.” Kurt Sansone
11:33 Arnaud starts to ask a question mentioning Caruana Galizia's post in February 2017 about 17 Black but the lawyers object because it is a "leading question". The court orders the question to continue. Kurt Sansone
11:32 Schembri: “In 2011, coming from a business life, I used to take them badly. Over time I grew a thick political skin. What worried more was the impact on my family.” Kurt Sansone
11:31 Schembri is questioned about Daphne Caruana Galizia. He is asked how her writing would affect him. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Schembri says he had asked about Yorgen and was told by Cremona that he had not talked to him for long. Kurt Sansone
11:30 Did they speak about anything else? “No, never (Le qatt).” Kurt Sansone
11:29 Questioning turns to Johann Cremona. Schembri says that he met him once in Castille. “We spent 10 minutes talking about gaming, betting companies and that was it.” Kurt Sansone
11:28 Schembri says that many would ask about Yorgen. “He distanced himself from us (the klikka). He might have had some health problems. Nobody had told me what these problems could be.” Kurt Sansone
11:27 Schembri says that in 2019, Fenech spent nine months abroad. He wouldn't tell Schembri why he was abroad. Kurt Sansone
11:26 In the last year, before the arrest, Fenech would go abroad a lot and contact became less frequent. “Sometimes, I'd call him and he wouldn't answer.” Kurt Sansone
11:25 Schembri describes his relationship with Yorgen Fenech as “a very good friendship”. “I would sometimes visit the [Żebbuġ] ranch, other times go on his boat. Yorgen was a loved person, I would always see different people with him, from every social strata, business, politicians, police. Kurt Sansone
11:23 Schembri: “One time Yorgen Fenech came to my place on Boxing Day and we had cooked. This was around 2015 or 2016.” Kurt Sansone
11:21 Schembri says that the Tumas Group, the family company which Fenech partly owned, would buy things from his businesses, “but nothing big”. Kurt Sansone
11:20 “Knowing him since childhood, there was chemistry. He was easy to go along with, easy to talk to,” Schembri adds. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Asked how close they were, Schembri replies: “I felt comfortable having him at home.” Kurt Sansone
11:19 Schembri says he knew Yorgen Fenech since they were children. They drifted apart and became very close around 2010. Kurt Sansone
11:18 He is asked about his position. He was chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister since 2013. Kurt Sansone
11:17 Schembri is administered the oath. He kisses the cross. Kurt Sansone
11:16 Schembri is warned by the court that he has a right to remain silent and that his testimony could be used against him. Kurt Sansone
11:15 Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri is summoned into the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
11:14 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran, appearing for Yorgen Fenech, points out that witnesses shouldn't even have a lawyer with them. Kurt Sansone
11:12 Arnaud says that he never had the intention of bringing the witness up to testify at this stage. “But because of the allegations..." says Arnaud. Kurt Sansone
11:09 Inspector Arnaud: “The investigation is ongoing and the analysis is continuing.” Kurt Sansone
11:08 Magistrate: “At this stage, is he being suspected? At this time.” Kurt Sansone
11:07 Gatt tells the court that from that time he has been chasing the police for this information, but there couldn't be complete disclosure as the police were still investigating some information. “This puts the witness in an anomalous position,” Gatt says, asking what is the Attorney General’s position on the matter today. Kurt Sansone
11:05 Lawyer Edward Gatt for Camilleri: “Last December, Camilleri was arrested, interrogated and investigated.” Kurt Sansone
11:05 Magistrate Rachel Montebello asks whether the witness is going to be an accused at some point in the future. Kurt Sansone
11:04 Inspector Keith Arnaud tells the court that the investigation is still ongoing. At a point in time the prosecution wants the man to suspend his testimony to avoid prejudice to the investigations. Kurt Sansone
11:03 Kenneth Camilleri is due to testify next. Camilleri had formed part of Joseph Muscat’s security detail at one point. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Inspector Kurt Zahra takes the stand, exhibiting a copy of the audio-visual recording of Yorgen Fenech’s interrogation since the previous one had a technical problem. Kurt Sansone
11:01 On the recording clean-up, the court says it appointed a different person to the one originally tasked with optimising them. Kurt Sansone
11:01 The magistrate says that the court could not interfere with decisions by the director general as to which courtrooms are used. Kurt Sansone
10:59 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is acting parte civile lawyer for the Caruana Galizia family, asks the court that the optimised recordings used in another sitting be exhibited in this case. The court says the sitting should start first and then tackle the issue. Kurt Sansone
10:58 The magistrate enters the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
10:50 Sorting out how people will fit in a small courtroom is holding up proceedings. Kurt Sansone
10:49 Our court reporter has entered the courtroom. But security is still trying to fit people inside. A pallet with chairs has just arrived. Kurt Sansone
10:27 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi says that Frank Mercieca, the court director general, is insisting that this courtroom is used. The parties and the magistrate disagree. They jointly ask for a bigger courtroom but to no avail. Kurt Sansone
10:22 Kenneth Camilleri is also in court. Camilleri had formed part of prime minister Joseph Muscat's security detail. He is also a close friend of Schembri. According to middleman Melvin Theuma, Camilleri had visited him with a message from Schembri promising that the three men accused of the murder will be granted bail. Kurt Sansone
10:13 About 40 people are in the corridor waiting to enter the courtroom, which has a limited capacity. Our court reporter tells us this is one of the smallest courtrooms. It's going to be a crowded sitting, it seems. Kurt Sansone
09:55 Neville Gafà, a former official in the OPM, who acted as a broker of sorts with the Libyan coastguard under Muscat’s administration, is also inside the court. Gafà, who lives in Mellieħa, is also a close friend of Schembri. Kurt Sansone
09:50 Keith Schembri has just arrived in court. He does not comment to the media when asked whether he was involved in Caruana Galizia's murder, whether he was a silent partner with Yorgen Fenech in 17 Black and whether he ever received any money from Fenech on major projects. Kurt Sansone
09:38 Court proceedings should start at 10am. Kurt Sansone
09:38 Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri is expected to testify. Kurt Sansone
09:38 We are in court today for the continuation of the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, who stands accused of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
09:36 Good morning. Kurt Sansone

 

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