Yorgen Fenech compilation: Magistrate orders investigation into leaked recordings, yacht captain testifies

The compilation of evidence against businessman Yorgen Fenech continues with the magistrate ordering a police investigation into recordings that were uploaded online by an unknown individual • Recordings had been heard behind closed doors

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech
12:00 Today’s sitting has ended. That is all for today, thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
12:00 The sitting continues on Tuesday 18 at 10:00am for Vella and Cardona to be heard. Kurt Sansone
11:59 The court says it wants transcriptions to be exhibited before the recordings. Arnaud assures the court that the process is underway. Kurt Sansone
11:59 Arnaud informs the court that there are no further witnesses to be heard today. The prosecution had tried to get more witnesses but doctor Adrian Vella was unable to attend and Alvin Cardona was still working on the devices. Kurt Sansone
11:58 The cross-examination is suspended. Kurt Sansone
11:57 The lawyer suggests that Fenech had said ‘we have nothing to hide’ when he was informed of the police presence around the yacht. The witness agrees. Kurt Sansone
11:57 Fenech and the other two lawyers are in high spirits and share more jokes. Kurt Sansone
11:56 The captain gives a description of the Gio. “It is 22m long and has four guest cabins and two crew cabins. The crew cabins are aft and you need to go through two doors to access them. It isn't a particularly fast or inconspicuous boat.” Kurt Sansone
11:55 Asked about informing Valletta port control about the departure, Wood says it was not required but he would do it as a safety procedure. Kurt Sansone
11:54 Wood: “As far as I'm aware security close it. I think they saw no activity and later I saw them leave.” Kurt Sansone
11:53 Camilleri: “Isn't this supposed to be closed at this time?” Kurt Sansone
11:53 Wood: “In the centre.” Kurt Sansone
11:52 She asks him where they were in the marina? Kurt Sansone
11:52 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri cross examines Wood. Kurt Sansone
11:51 Fenech confers with his lawyers, who are seen to giggle. Kurt Sansone
11:51 Wood says his plan was to come back to Malta on the Catamaran. “I don't know what Yorgen's plans were.” Kurt Sansone
11:50 This happened at around 11pm on 19 November. Wood says that one of the cameramen at the marina knew him and told him what was going to happen. Wood says he warned Yorgen Fenech about the media and Fenech told him to inform him when they left. “When the media left, I told him ‘coast is clear’ and Fenech came over.” Kurt Sansone
11:39 Wood tells the court that he had heard rumours on social media that Yorgen Fenech was being suspected of involvement in the Caruana Galizia case. Kurt Sansone
11:38 The captain says the yacht was equipped with AIS, a tracking device which they would turn on when going abroad. “Sometimes we would turn it off, so people wouldn't know which bay we were going to swim in and so on. I thought we shouldn't turn it on, because I saw the paparazzi near the marina and the last thing I wanted was to be followed.” Kurt Sansone
11:37 Defence lawyers Mercieca and Caruana Curran laugh at a joke. Kurt Sansone
11:36 Wood says that one of the marina security men had texted him and told him that the CID were surrounding the boat. He informed Fenech, who had told him “don't worry about it, they're making a whole scene like we're going to escape”. This exchange happened at around 3am. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Asked when Fenech had come to sleep on the boat, Wood says he was asleep when the accused arrived, but it was around 1am or 1:30am. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Wood explains that the boat was searched by around six men. Fenech and the witness were handcuffed. After about 15 minutes, the captain was directed to sail back to Portomaso marina. Kurt Sansone
11:30 Wood: “There is never a precise date and would make the final arrangements over the phone. That night [19 November] Mr. Fenech and I had slept on the boat to leave at first light. After clearing with the Valletta port, we left. I suddenly saw the beacon lights and sirens and the AFM then boarded the vessel.” Kurt Sansone
11:28 Arnaud points out that the dates did not match. He had asked for first week of December but had gone in November. Kurt Sansone
11:28 QUICK REMINDER: Yorgen Fenech was arrested on 20 November 2019 as he departed from Malta on board his yacht, the Gio. The yacht had just left the Portomaso marina when it was intercepted by an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat and forced to return back to base. Fenech was taken into custody and interrogated as a person of interest in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation. The yacht’s captain, Logan Wood, is today testifying in the compilation of evidence against Fenech. Kurt Sansone
11:23 Wood exhibits an email he had sent asking the yard for availability and their reply. Kurt Sansone
11:22 He is asked who would be with him on the boat trips to Sicily. “Sometimes Yorgen Fenech, other times cousins of his. I would offer if someone wanted to come and if nobody could make it I would take a friend. It was a safety procedure so I wouldn't be alone,” the captain responds. Kurt Sansone
11:19 Wood: “Sometimes I take a friend, normally we also ask the directors if they want to come with us. Then we'd go there and catch the catamaran back to Malta. The whole operation takes about three hours.” Kurt Sansone
11:19 The witness was in contact with the shipyard. Once a year the yacht is taken into drydock for servicing, he says. This normally happens around November, December, the captain adds. Kurt Sansone
11:17 Wood: “I prepared the yacht to go to Sicily because we were going to take it for servicing. I slept on the boat. It was going to be only me and Mr Fenech. The Gio is small enough to have a one-man crew.” Kurt Sansone
11:16 Arnaud asks him about 19 November 2019. Kurt Sansone
11:16 Yacht Captain Logan Wood is now summoned to the stand. He's been employed with the Tumas Group for 11 years, he says. He is still employed with the Tumas Group and is also the captain on Yorgen Fenech's yacht. Kurt Sansone
11:15 The sitting moves on to hear more evidence, with the defence expressing its surprise that Johan Cremona is not indicated as a witness in the note of renvoi by the AG. Kurt Sansone
11:11 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca suggests that Theuma could be held at a proper location “to receive treatment” but is given short shrift by the court, which declines to decree on the specifics of where and how he would be treated. Kurt Sansone
11:10 The court says it has to be seen as to how Theuma would continue to testify. His Cross-examination had been completed on the evidence at hand at the time, it notes. It reserves judgment on the matter and will decree after the sitting. Kurt Sansone
11:09 Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia says the prosecution wants to let some time pass to allow Theuma to heal physically before subjecting him to psychiatric evaluation. “I cannot oppose a priori, but I don't think it is the opportune moment.” Kurt Sansone
11:06 The defence requests the appointment of an expert to assess the mental health of Melvin Theuma, in view of the incident of the 21 July 2020. Theuma sustained serious knife wounds in what police said were self-inflicted. Kurt Sansone
11:05 Arnaud says the defence had also itself experienced the technical problems with playing the recordings in previous sittings. Kurt Sansone
10:58 On his own mentions in the recordings, Arnaud said the superior court had pronounced itself on them and had not expressed concern. The recordings were played behind closed doors to protect third parties, he adds. “I can declare that I have no problem with it being played in public but the person who said the words on tape should be reproduced to testify about what they said.” Kurt Sansone
10:54 Inspector Keith Arnaud stands up. He says that the repeated allegation that the prosecution is hiding recordings, is premature because experts will be examining them. Kurt Sansone
10:53 Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia says that all investigations which are allegedly not happening are in fact underway. “I am astonished, at how Charles Mercieca is acting a lawyer to the 'poor messenger' instead of for Yorgen Fenech now.” Kurt Sansone
10:52 The court invites the prosecution to make its arguments. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Magistrate: “The court notes the defence's observation as to how it is perplexed about the AG's urgency in the investigation of the contempt of court, when it was conscious of evidence of far more serious criminal offences yet hadn't ordered any investigation and no investigation appears to be happening.” Kurt Sansone
10:46 Fenech’s defence lawyer continues. “I ask the prosecution, how much had the police commissioner been paid? How many times had Keith Arnaud been mentioned in these tapes? None of these things had been investigated by the AG with the urgency of the contempt of court allegation. They should be ashamed.” Kurt Sansone
10:44 Mercieca: “This shows corruption by the prosecution. But he crucified the messenger. We have been making requests on Keith Schembri's mobile, money allegedly exchanged for the pardon... what does the prosecutor have to hide? They should be ashamed of themselves. The tapes - what is being hidden? Why are we attacking this poor messenger?” Kurt Sansone
10:39 Lawyer Charles Mercieca says he is perplexed at how the AG, for the first time since he was a practising lawyer, is requesting an investigation into an alleged contempt of court when there is clear evidence on far more serious and pressing cases. “I don't even want to quote him. So odious is the language.” Kurt Sansone
10:39 The court stops the sitting after a camera shutter sound is heard. Apparently, it’s a screenshot being taken on one of the public's laptops. Kurt Sansone
10:38 The court notes that from the testimony of court expert Alvin Cardona, it emerged that a digital file in one of the hard drives, containing several voice recordings, could not be accessed and analysed because it needed particular software to be opened. This problem had subsequently been overcome by the same expert. Kurt Sansone
10:37 All this is in response to a court application filed by the Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi in which he asks the court to investigate Dr Simon Mercieca, a lecturer at University, after he republished the audio clips on his Facebook page despite the court order. Kurt Sansone
10:29 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca tells the court that the defence has been asking for an investigation into leaks from the very beginning. Kurt Sansone
10:29 The court unequivocally repeats its gagging orders on any voice recordings and transcripts. Kurt Sansone
10:28 The magistrate orders the registrar to identify who is responsible for the leaks and report back to the court so that it can proceed against the person who leaked them. A certain Simon Mercieca yesterday published a selection of voice recordings under the ban and the court also ordered criminal proceedings against him. Kurt Sansone
10:26 She orders the police commissioner to investigate the matter and press charges if evidence is found. Kurt Sansone
10:25 The magistrate says the recordings had been heard behind closed doors, she says, which also put whoever leaked it in contempt. The breach is a criminal offence punishable by Article 257 of the Criminal Code. The magistrate deplores the publication of the recording and says that this is contempt of court. Kurt Sansone
10:22 The court makes reference to the recent anonymous publication on Reddit of a voice recording, purportedly done by Melvin Theuma. It observes that the copy of the hard drive was given to court expert Alvin Cardona and Melvin Theuma. It had specifically ordered that the recordings not be published. This could be damaging to the interests of justice. The magistrate reiterates the ban on publication and says that the publication was contempt of court. Kurt Sansone
10:15 Magistrate Rachel Montebello enters the courtroom and the sitting begins. Kurt Sansone
10:14 Yorgen Fenech sits, flanked by two guards, at the centre of the large courtroom. Kurt Sansone
10:09 The other defence lawyer Charles Mercieca has just arrived. Kurt Sansone
10:08 Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia are here for the Caruana Galizia family. Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are here for Yorgen Fenech. Police Inspector Keith Arnaud has just walked in, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia. Kurt Sansone
10:05 Magistrate Rachel Montebello, who was just hearing a couple of cases, has briefly retired to chambers while the courtroom players trickle in. Kurt Sansone
10:05 We're live from Hall 22, normally reserved for juries but pressed into service today to allow a measure of social distancing from the large contingent of press, public and family members of the parties. Kurt Sansone
09:44 Proceedings are expected to start at 10am. Kurt Sansone
09:43 We are in court to follow the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, accused of masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
09:43 Good morning. Kurt Sansone

A magistrate has ordered a police investigation into the leaked recordings pertaining to Melvin Theuma that were uploaded by an unknown individual online last weekend.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello ordered the police commissioner and the court registrar to investigate the matter and determine who may have leaked the recordings, which are understood to have been played behind closed doors.

The ruling was given on Thursday as the compilation of evidence against murder suspect Yorgen Fenech continued.

Montebello warned that the uploading of the recordings was in contempt of court. She also ordered that university lecturer Simon Mercieca also be criminally investigated after he uploaded the voice recordings on his Facebook page.

The only testimony in today's sitting was that of captain Logan Wood, who was responsible for Yorgen Fenech's yacht, the Gio.

Wood revealed that on the night of 19 November he had been informed by the security at Portomaso that police officers were surrounding the yacht. He had also seen three cameramen from the media in the area.

Wood told the court that he had informed Fenech about the situation, who had told him “don't worry about it, they're making a whole scene like we're going to escape”.

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Marion Camilleri, Wood clarified that Fenech had told him ‘we have nothing to hide’ when he was informed of the police presence around the yacht.

The yacht was stopped by the Armed Forces of Malta as it departed from the Portomaso marina in the early hours of 20 November.

Wood's testimony suggests Fenech may have known about his imminent arrest.

The captain said he was taking the yacht to Sicily for a scheduled maintenance visit and it was normal for him to ask one of the Tumas directors to accompany him and if not, a friend. He refuted suggestions the yacht was going to make an escape but added that although his plans were to return to Malta with the catamaran, he did not know what Fenech intended to do.

What happened in the previous sitting?

The prosecution and defence listened to new recordings behind closed doors to identify the clips that were to be used. Magistrate Rachel Montebello eventually ruled that one of the recordings could be played but she acceded to the prosecution's request for this to be heard behind closed doors.

The content of these new recordings is unknown but Inspector Keith Arnaud told the court that “there are three persons who would be in a very bad position if their names are published in the media without even having been investigated”.

READ MORE: Yorgen Fenech defence want new recordings played in open court but prosecution objects because of pending investigations

Fenech is charged with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist, died in a car bomb explosion outside her home in Bidnija on 16 October 2017.

More in Court & Police