Caruana Galizia murder: Magistrate rules that Vince Muscat must testify against the Degiorgio brothers in the next sitting

The prosecution in the compilation of evidence against George and Alfred Degiorgio have notified the court that they will produce convicted murderer Vince Muscat as a witness

Updated at 1:20pm with magistrate's ruling on Muscat testimony

Vincent Muscat, il-Kohhu, must testify in the next sitting of the compilation of evidence against the Degiorgio brothers, who are accused of detonating the bomb which killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, a court has ruled.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit gave her ruling from chambers this afternoon, a few hours after hearing arguments from both prosecution and defence on whether or not this was permissible in view of the fact that her court, as the compiling court, had already sent the acts of the case back to the Criminal Court.

Stafrace Zammit noted that the court had been faced with a decree of the Criminal Court ordering the registrar to send the case back to her to hear Vincent Muscat testify.

“For this reason, in view of this fact, this court has little power to decide on objections arising from the decree other than to carry it out in its entirety,” she said.

The same could not be said of the Criminal Court when the Bill of Indictment is transmitted to it, she said. It was clear that although the Criminal Court has to pass the acts of the compilation of evidence to the presiding magistrate, it doesn’t send the acts of the Bill of Indictment, aside from the application in which the request is made.

“This shows that the Criminal Court continues to have jurisdiction to hear and decide requests made by the parties independently of whether the acts of the compilation of evidence are in its possession or in that of the compiling court.”

The court of Magistrates therefore refused the defence’s request and ordered that in the next sitting, Vincent Muscat is to testify.

George Degiorgio 55, from St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, are charged with murder and a number of charges relating to explosives.

Today's sitting was mostly procedural with a court-appointed expert saying that voice recording files that could not be accessed by the defence were re-formatted to be accessible. The court appointed a transcriber to hear the recordings and once these are done, the defence will cross-examine pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma.

The prosecution informed the court that it will produce convicted murderer Vince Muscat as a witness in the case. Muscat pleaded guilty to the charges last week and was handed down a 15-year jail term. He also gave up his right to appeal the sentence.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding.

10:21 That’s it for today. Thank you for following. A summary of proceedings will appear shortly. Kurt Sansone
10:20 The magistrate leaves the room and the accused are led out of the back. Kurt Sansone
10:20 If the court decides that Muscat will not testify in that sitting, only the expert Keith Cutajar will testify. The sitting is over. Kurt Sansone
10:20 The next sitting is to be held on 11 March at 10:30am. Kurt Sansone
10:19 The court nominates a transcriber for the voice recording and next time a USB containing the converted audio files will be exhibited. The court says it will deliver a decree from chambers on Vince Muscat's summons. Once the transcriptions of the recordings are ready, the defence will summon Melvin Theuma for cross-examination. Kurt Sansone
10:18 Galea Farrugia: “There's no such thing. There's only an order by the Criminal Court.” Kurt Sansone
10:18 Cuschieri: “If the AG wants to summon a witness, he does so during the time assigned to them.” Kurt Sansone
10:17 Galea Farrugia says the only difference is whether Muscat is heard this month or the next. Cuschieri adds that there is “material and obvious prejudice”. The defence lawyer points out that Vince Muscat is a witness being summoned by the prosecution. Kurt Sansone
10:08 “This is procedural,” adds the court. Kurt Sansone
10:07 Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia argues that this is not the right forum for this argument, as it is not the court authorising Muscat's testimony. Kurt Sansone
10:07 Cuschieri: “Therefore in the name of my clients I reserve the rights to make preliminary pleas at the appropriate stage.” Kurt Sansone
10:06 Cuschieri objects to the production of Vincent Muscat as a witness in the manner and procedure as adopted, first of all because the Degiorgios had been given no opportunity to reply to the application and secondly, in view of the fact that because the acts were already sent back to this court, the Criminal Court could not give that order. Kurt Sansone
10:06 Cuschieri dictates a note to the court. He says that yesterday he received an email from the registrar of the criminal court attaching an application by the Attorney General, requesting that in view of the admission of guilt by Vincent Muscat, and the sentence handed to him and the renunciation to the term of appeal, he be produced as a witness before this court. There is also a decree where the criminal court upholds the request. Kurt Sansone
10:03 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri stands up to object. “Two weights, two measures,” he says. Kurt Sansone
10:02 In the next sitting the court will hear a witness it says. Kurt Sansone
10:02 Meanwhile, the expert informs the court that he will finish changing the file format in 30 minutes. He advises the court that it can appoint a transcriber. Kurt Sansone
09:56 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi comments that there are some people in the courtroom – a reference to Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Charles Merceica - who accused the prosecution of hiding these files. Mercieca stands up to try and explain his argument but is ordered to be quiet by the court as he has no locus standi in these proceedings. Kurt Sansone
09:55 The expert opens the computer files in court in Windows Media Player. Kurt Sansone
09:55 Arnaud makes his own verifications and identifies the files which the defence is requesting transcription of. The expert confirms. A transcription will be made. Kurt Sansone
09:52 The files in question are in a separate folder, the path of which had not been specified by the defence. The court says it has to be certain that the files in question were the ones requested. Kurt Sansone
09:51 The parties are discussing the practicalities of how this difficulty will be overcome. Defence lawyer William Cuschieri insists that the recordings have to be accessible. Kurt Sansone
09:50 QUICK REMINDER: An accomplice of the Degiorgio brothers, Vince Muscat known as il-Koħħu, last week admitted his role in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. Muscat was handed down a 15-year prison term after a plea bargain in exchange for information he gave police on other crimes. George Degiorgio and Alfred Degiorgio stand accused of procuring, planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia in October 2017. Kurt Sansone
09:45 Arnaud says that he can indicate the folder on his laptop. The defence is unable to play eight of the recordings, explains Arnaud. Kurt Sansone
09:44 Court expert Keith Cutajar testifies. In June 2020, he had presented a number of drives, with clips. There are more than nine, he explains. Kurt Sansone
09:43 The magistrate emerges from chambers. Kurt Sansone
09:43 Lawyer William Cuschieri walks in and heads to his clients, to discuss something. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi darts in and out of the courtroom. Assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia, Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra arrive. Kurt Sansone
09:42 The Degiorgio brothers, George and Alfred, have been led into the courtroom, accompanied by security guards. Kurt Sansone
09:41 We are in court waiting for the compilation of evidence against George and Alfred Degiorgio to start. Kurt Sansone
09:41 Good morning. Kurt Sansone

Lawyer William Cuschieri is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers.