Yorgen Fenech had access to Melvin Theuma's draft pardon prior to arrest

Fenech claims that Keith Schembri had sent him a photo of the pardon's MOU

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech

The compilation of evidence against the man alleged to have masterminded the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, Yorgen Fenech, continued this morning.

Inspector Keith Arnaud revealed that police had been informed of 'escape preparations' by Yorgen Fenech before 19 November. 'K', taken to be Keith Schembri, is mentioned as checking if the airport is safe. 

In one of the messages sent on the eve of his arrest, Fenech tells Schembri "don't leave me alone." The Tumas magnate asked whether "they were going to come today", to which Schembri replied in the negative.

Fenech had asked Schembri about Mevlin Theuma's pardon, even requesting to see the draft terms of the pardon. Fenech himself had drawn the police's attention to a photo on the mobile phone of the pardon's MOU, claiming that Schembri had sent him this photo. 

At this stage, only Arnaud, the Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Police had access to the draft pardon. 

Arnaud confirmed that Fenech had sent a Whatsapp message to Joseph Muscat back in January 2019, saying "We need to talk". Muscat replied back in the affirmative.

The Whatsapp group had been set up two days before the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat were arraigned in court over Daphne's murder. The chats within this group, while having nothing to do with the murder, were the subject of Muscat's interrogation last August.

Testifying before the court, Matthew Caruana Galizia said that his mother had been investigating an Electrogas email leak before her murder. Yorgen Fenech had been a key person right from the beginning, often being the go-to person among Electrogas shareholders when they needed to pull political strings.

Caruana Galizia confirmed that Fenech had planed to replicate the Electrogas project in Bangladesh with a 30% interest in the project. None of the other shareholders had a stake in the project.

During the previous siting, three psychiatrists who analysed middleman Melvin Theuma presented their findings to the court. However, the findings on whether Theuma was fit to continue testifying could not be reported. 

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding over the cross-examination of Melvin Theuma, the self-confessed middleman in the murder. Theuma had received a Presidential pardon to tell all he knew about the plot to investigators.

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

12:23 That's it for today. Thank you for following our live blog. We will be giving a run-down of today's key moments momentarily. Nicole Meilak
12:18 The hearing is over. The next sitting in the compilation of evidence will be held on 2 February between 10am and 2pm. Nicole Meilak
12:14 Matthew Caruana Galizia steps off the podium – he has finished testifying for today. Nicole Meilak
12:12 Azzopardi asks a question, but Mercieca interjects, arguing that the Arnaud should be doing the questioning given that he is the prosecution. The court dismisses the objection. The question was about the amount of the bridge loan – Caruana Galizia will present documentation to this effect in the next sitting. Nicole Meilak
12:10 He had been working on investigations into shell companies and structures since 2014. His mother had extensive journalistic experience on financing. “That is why she was writing the reports and not me,” he says. Nicole Meilak
12:09 His mother knew about 17 Black and Macbridge in 2016, before the Panama Papers came out. She had asked Matthew Caruana Galizia whether he had any information on those companies, but he had nothing at that point in time. “We made a decision that we were going to focus on Electrogas. We were receiving hundreds of tips and leads every month.” Nicole Meilak
12:07 Caruana Galizia says he remained in contact with the whistleblower even after the murder. “One email from the day of the murder read ‘Kindly slow down from Portomaso phone calls as Yorgen is sick’,” he reveals. Nicole Meilak
12:02 An email from SOCAR’s Turab Musayeb directed to Yorgen Fenech and Tumas, Electrogas and SOCAR executives reveals that he spoke to Konrad Mizzi and David Galea, emphasising that the September deadline for financial close was not attainable. “The entire country’s power supply was in jeopardy due to lack of financing,” Caruana Galizia said. “This reinforced our view that Yorgen Fenech was the key contact with the Government of Malta.” Nicole Meilak
11:58 Caruana Galizia is reading out emails. The state of affairs was of concern to Enemalta, which refused to isolate itself from the interconnector. They said that the Electrogas powerstation was not reliable. Nicole Meilak
11:52 The defence objects, arguing that the witness is not qualified to interpret a company's financial statements. Fenech moves next to his lawyers to speak with them. Nicole Meilak
11:49 Halpin confirmed the veracity of the blog post in an email. “There were people at the company, including Fenech, who had a too-close-for-comfort relationship with certain newspapers, and this affected how we conducted ourselves with even more caution,” Caruana Galizia said. Nicole Meilak
11:45 "I wasn't writing the blog posts for my mother. I was helping her with the material, but she had the most experience with judging a company’s liquidity. She had been in journalism for 30 years, and with that comes experience." Nicole Meilak
11:43 "At around mid-May in 2017 we saw an email about the bridge extension, which would have financed the project. We concluded on that basis that there were problems with paying bills at the company and with the extension of the financing." This was behind her blog post about trouble brewing at Electrogas, he said. Nicole Meilak
11:40 Mercieca says the prosecution must use concrete evidence and "not hearsay evidence or people's opinions". All the emails in question will be exhibited, adds the court. Nicole Meilak
11:39 Gianluca Caruana Curran stands up. He asks whether the emails were leaked to Matthew Caruana Galizia or Daphne Caruana Galizia. The court reminds him that the defence has a cross-examination to do this. Nicole Meilak
11:37 The court, having heard the witness’ testimony so far, said that although he wasn't an expert appointed by the court, it would permit him to testify and give his opinion about facts which he found out himself, even if this can be taken as an opinion. The court quotes the law upon which this pronouncement is based. Nicole Meilak
11:36 “At this point they started to see a lot of concern towards Electrogas,” Caruana Galizia says. “Opinjoni” (opinions) says Mercieca, objecting. Nicole Meilak
11:36 Everything had started coming together when Daphne published about 17 Black. It set the direction for the investigation they had been carrying out. Nicole Meilak
11:36 Mercieca asks that the witness' notes be presented, after being redacted to protect sources. The court accedes. Nicole Meilak
11:33 “Around the time of the leak, my mother had received information on people communicating with Keith Schembri, containing numbers and times of calls received by him. One of the numbers belonged to Yorgen Fenech.” Nicole Meilak
11:32 Caruana Galizia reads out an email showing Fenech as 30% shareholder, dated 21 March 2017. "As we were working on the leak, my mother had published some blog posts based on what had come out of this leak. This triggered concern as international media had picked up on what happened in Malta." Nicole Meilak
11:30 "Espert," says Mercieca to Caruana Curran, disparagingly. He is reprimanded by the court. Nicole Meilak
11:29 This shows that Yorgen Fenech had planned to go behind the back of his Electrogas partners to replicate the project in Bangladesh with a 30% interest in the project. None of the other Electrogas shareholders had a stake in the project. Nicole Meilak
11:28 On the link to Bangladesh, the emails from 2016 show that Fenech had directly requested that Halpin supply documents on the construction of the Electrogas powerstation to allow a copy of the power plant be sent. Nicole Meilak
11:28 Another email from SOCAR directed to Halpin asked for an explanatory note on an Malta Today story about the government's links to Azerbaijan. Nicole Meilak
11:26 Caruana Galizia reveals that Fenech had a close relationship with Kathrin Halpin, who would lean on him when they received questions from the media. Yorgen Fenech had emailed Haplin about the Times of Malta asking whether Electrogas wanted to advertise with them. He was indignant, and said they had “some courage” to do so. Nicole Meilak
11:25 "The emails cover a long period, spanning from the beginning of the project. They indicate that almost everything went through Yorgen Fenech, especially about how the company is perceived." Nicole Meilak
11:23 The defence objects, arguing that an ordinary witness cannot express an opinion in court. Nicole Meilak
11:21 "This is why we were so eager to pass on the information. It was clear from the outset that this was the motive for the murder," he says. Nicole Meilak
11:21 Yorgen Fenech had been the key person right from the beginning. “Other shareholders feared him and didn't want to anger him, or depended on him to pull political strings. Every time the company needed a favour from Konrad Mizzi or the PM they went to Fenech, who then went to Konrad Mizzi or the PM.” Nicole Meilak
11:19 “We were planning to do a big splash at the end of the year and had been lining up the threads of the investigation towards the end of the year but she was murdered before that could happen,” he reveals. Nicole Meilak
11:18 Caruana Galizia is asked whether he knows what his mother had been investigating prior to her murder. “We had started investigating an Electrogas leak in 2017,” he tells the court. “Because of the sheer volume of the leak I was helping my mother almost every hour out of my working hours." Nicole Meilak
11:15 Arnaud’s deposition is suspended. Matthew Caruana Galizia steps up to the podium to begin his testimony. Nicole Meilak
11:14 It is Azzopardi’s turn to ask more questions to the witness. He asks whether there had been any messages or indications aimed at “gaining time”, but the defence protests this, saying that the question had already been asked. Nicole Meilak
11:13 Mercieca asks his last question on Fenech's mobile, "as we never found Schembri's phone". He asks whether it had emerged that Fenech had any contact with these individuals in the photo mentioned earlier. Arnaud replies in the negative. Nicole Meilak
11:08 Mercieca is asking Arnaud whether he had spoken to the investigators about the leak of the MOU. Arnaud says he had but this is a separate investigation in and of itself. He had asked Schembri about it, but Schembri denied leaking the information. Nicole Meilak
11:06 Arnaud said that Fenech had insisted that he didn't want to escape, but that the content of the phone suggested otherwise. Mercieca suggests that he wanted to travel, not abscond. Nicole Meilak
11:05 The information in the phone showed no plan to return, Arnaud said. Fenech appears agitated and tells his lawyers "there was!" The lawyer asks the question again, suggesting that Fenech wanted to return and fight his case. Nicole Meilak
11:04 Arnaud says it wasn't fear, a term used by the lawyer, but rather the information received by the task force that prompted authorities to take action as a precaution. Afterwards evidence showed it was clear that the accused planned to escape. Nicole Meilak
11:01 Gianluca Caruana Curran refers to the "leee" SMS. Arnaud clarifies that the ‘le’ (no) was about whether they were coming for him that day. Fenech would go abroad regularly and would always return, says the lawyer. Arnaud says that the fear of Fenech escaping came after seeing chat messages about not using bank cards, and a link to the news story was sent. Nicole Meilak
10:56 Mercieca points out that Fenech was never prevented from leaving the island at the time of the arrest. The inspector confirms this. The lawyer suggests that Keith Schembri had told him that he could leave, but the witness says he doesn’t believe that it went like that. “To the contrary, Fenech wanted to leave discreetly.” Nicole Meilak
10:54 Arnaud’s cross-examination is suspended. Mercieca asks to re-examine the witness, and the court grants him permission to do so. Nicole Meilak
10:53 Azzopardi asks about the letter Fenech had allegedly received from Schembri. “In this letter, reference is made to the fact that Fenech had suffered damages in the issue of the Dragonara casino. Are you in a position to confirm finding messages in Fenech's mobile about this subject, describing it as a ‘hniżrija’?" (greedy mess) "I believe so, but I don't remember with whom. I will need to check," Arnaud responds. Nicole Meilak
10:46 Azzopardi asks about any contacts with Bangladesh. Arnaud confirms that there were chats about projects which were due to take place in Bangladesh, but the relevance is brought into doubt by the defence, who argues that the accused is a businessman with dealings across the globe. Matthew Caruana Galizia speaks to Azzopardi, who then remarks that this was one of the projects Daphne had been investigating before her death. Nicole Meilak
10:44 Azzopardi asks about Melvin Theuma's credibility. A question had been made to Theuma about a field in Safi. Had a message between Fenech and Theuma been found speaking about this issue, sent to Keith Schembri? The inspector will have to confirm with the evidence and revert. Nicole Meilak
10:40 The inspector is listing a timeline of phone calls and meetings made by Yorgen Fenech and his lawyer before his presidential pardon was requested. Police had allowed Fenech to hear one of the voice recordings before he requested the pardon. Nicole Meilak
10:37 Azzopardi asks the witness about Melvin Theuma’s assertation that he had spoken to the accused the day after the murder. “Had he been located using his mobile near Portomaso?” Arnaud doesn’t recall. Nicole Meilak
10:34 Azzopardi asks about the night before Keith Schembri’s arrest, and whether he was in the Burmarrad area. Arnaud confirms this, saying that a call had been taken from his phone from a cell tower in Burmarrad. The next connection recorded outside Burmarrad took place at 10pm, long after the first. Nicole Meilak
10:31 Police had asked Muscat about these Whatsapp chats during an interrogation last August. The chats themselves had nothing to do with the murder. In a separate chat, Fenech had excused himself to Muscat, apologising for not speaking to him as he was surrounded by people and felt embarrassed. Nicole Meilak
10:28 Arnaud confirms that the Whatsapp group was set up two days after the three accused - George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat - were arraigned in court. “If I’m not mistaken it was Dr Joseph Muscat who set up the group,” Arnaud confirms. Nicole Meilak
10:26 Azzopardi asks Arnaud whether, in the messages between the accused and Joseph Muscat, anything had been found saying that he needed to speak to Muscat. Mercieca objects, but Arnaud confirms this. Fenech sent “We need to talk, me you and K” to Muscat back in January 2019. The reply to the message was in the affirmative, Arnaud says. Nicole Meilak
10:19 Azzopardi asks if the investigators had found information, pictures, and screenshots of a number of people who are known to the police. “Yes... one of the things brought to our attention on his phone was a picture of 10-12 people, including the people accused of the murder of DCG. It contains details of their criminal history. I had never come across this picture before.” The group itself are associates of the accused men.

“What are they known to the police for?” Azzopardi asks, to which Arnaud replies “homicide and theft aggravated by violence.”
Matthew Vella
10:15 Arnaud says Fenech had asked Schembri about Melvin Theuma’s pardon, requesting draft terms of the pardon. Fenech himself had drawn the police’s attention to a mobile phone photo of the pardon’s MOU. But the origin of the photo is not clear, yet Fenech did say that it was Schembri who sent him this photo.
Azzopardi asks who had access to the draft pardon at that stage; Arnaud says it was him, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police, but not former deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta, who was not in the corps by then.
Matthew Vella
10:11 According to Arnaud, Yorgen Fenech had told the police what Keith Schembri had told him on the night before the arrest. This tallied with what was on the mobile chats. “Don’t leave me alone,” Fenech had said, asking if “they were going to come today”. Schembri replied: “Leeee”. Matthew Vella
10:08 It “doesn’t want to repeat what is already written”. Arnaud says that the information had reached the task force before the 19 November and had placed surveillance to observe Yorgen Fenech’s movements. Messages with ‘Uncle Ray’ inform him that he had spoken with the lawyer, and mentioned that he wanted to escape to Italy and then up to Soloi (France).

“Check if the airport is safe” – and the answer is that it was not.
“K” is mentioned as checking if airport is safe. “K” is taken to be Keith Schembri.
Charles Mercieca interrupts, arguing that the point of the compilation is not to regurgitate evidence. The relevance to the charges is also in doubt, he says. He seems to be implying that the questions are being made for the benefit of the media. But the court said it would permit the questions.

The messages ask Ray to take care of his children, not to use credit cards. There were ar-rangements for a car to take them overland in Italy as well. Azzopardi asks if contact with a private jet operator was made night before the arrest.
A conversation with ‘Merwan’ or ‘Mer 1’ about possibility of “a flight leaving this evening” to Nice. Yorgen Fenech frowns and shakes his head, as he speaks to his lawyers.
Matthew Vella
10:00 Azzopardi says he wants to know what emerged from those messages. “I want to know where this fear of absconding comes from.” The court asks Arnaud to indicate the messages by date and time. Matthew Vella
09:57 Caruana Galizia counsel Jason Azzopardi asks Arnaud to read out the messages that the po-lice had. The defence objects. “Can I do my job, please?” Azzopardi protests. Matthew Vella
09:55 Arnaud says the chat with Ray Fenech contained links from news websites about what the PM on the day was saying about the presidential pardon: “The conversation clearly indicated that...”
The defence object, saying it was an opinion.
Arnaud continues: “The conversation clearly indicated that... there were preparations for an escape.”
Matthew Vella
09:54 From his investigations and evidence, did he obtain further information from the accused’s communications with third parties in the hours before his arrest? Arnaud: “Ray Fenech: it was one of the first chats we had seen suggesting that Yorgen Fenech would leave Malta.” Matthew Vella
09:51 Jason Azzopardi will be cross-examining Arnaud. Azzopardi reminds the witness that they were worried Fenech would escape from Malta. Nicole Meilak
09:50 Yorgen Fenech calls Charles Mercieca over to him and whispers something to him. Nicole Meilak
09:50 Caruana Galizia and Arnaud will be testifying until 12:30. Arnaud will testify first. Nicole Meilak
09:47 Arnaud tells the court that Matthew Caruana Galizia will be testifying today, but is currently stuck in traffic. Nicole Meilak
09:47 All rise as magistrate Rachel Montebello enters the courtroom. The sitting begins. Nicole Meilak
09:45 Yorgen Fenech can be seen discussing with his lawyers, while lawyer Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family, is in deep conversation with Arnaud. Nicole Meilak
09:39 A quick refresher: Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra are leading the prosecution, aided by the office of the Attorney General. Yorgen Fenech is being represented by lawyers Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca, and Gianluca Caruana Curran. Nicole Meilak
09:35 The sitting is slated to begin at 9:30am. So far all the key players are inside the courtroom, bar the magistrate. Nicole Meilak
09:28 Good morning. We will be covering today's hearing in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech live from the courtroom. Nicole Meilak