Daphne inquiry: Tax Commissioner admits familiarity in exchange with Yorgen Fenech was a mistake

Tax Commissioner Marvin Gaerty testifies in the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry

Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb just outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017
Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb just outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017

Tax Commissioner Marvin Gaerty has told a panel of three judges that he never accepted gifts or invitations to dine with Yorgen Fenech, as the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continued this morning.

He was replying to questions from lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia over the familiarity displayed in messages exchanged with Fenech in February 2019.

During this morning’s sitting, Gaerty was confronted with a text message exchange between himself and Yorgen Fenech in which the latter referred to Daphne Caruana Galizia as “the witch.” The exchange concerned tax on foreign holdings that Fenech claimed to have paid in 2016.

Gaerty told the inquiry that he “did not know” who Fenech was referring to but admitted the familiarity displayed in the exchange was a mistake on his part. He insisted though that his action were always within the parameters of the law.

He also confirmed that Fenech had offered him a job, but turned it down. He said that he receives similar offers often and that if he so wished, he could work in the private sector.

Fenech is facing charges of having masterminded the murder of Caruana Galizia in October 2017. He denies the charges.

Gaerty’s lawyers had tried to avoid him testifying, filing a request to this effect yesterday and citing legal limitations on his role as the reason. The request was given short shrift by the judges.

Gaerty was interrogated by police last December in connection with messages he exchanged with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech back in 2014. He was told he was no longer on police bail last month.

Early on in the sitting, his lawyers asked the board to continue the sitting behind closed doors. The request was rejected.

At one point, Gaerty also claimed that many entrepreneurs in Malta have secret companies and that he had witnessed this throughout his career at the Tax Department.

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the State did all it could to prevent the murder from happening.

Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb just outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017.

Two men, George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio, have been charged with carrying out the assassination, while Yorgen Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder.

The third man, Vince Muscat, has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

Melvin Theuma, who acted as a middleman between Fenech and the three killers, was granted a presidential pardon last year to tell all.

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