Caruana Galizia murder: Melvin Theuma says he was told Keith Schembri had a finger on the secret service

Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma testifies in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech as court hears more recordings

Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech
Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech

Melvin Theuma had the impression that Keith Schembri chose recruits for the Security Service as shed light on more recordings played in court today.

Theuma was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

Recordings from a much larger cache were played out in court with Theuma giving context and explanations to the content.

The recordings include conversations that Theuma had with Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona and Mario Degiorgio, a brother to murder suspects Alfred and George Degiorgio.

In one of the recordings Theuma is heard saying: “Secret service mhux Keith Schembri, dak tiegħu (the secret service is Keith Schembri, that belongs to him)”.

When asked by prosecuting Superintendent Keith Arnaud what he meant with those words, Theuma replied that he was told that Schembri appointed the secret service. “They're like his children,” Theuma testified.

The pardoned middleman told the court he was convinced that the Security Service was tapping his phone and the information was reaching Fenech.

He recounted an incident on which he had already testified about in another sitting, concerning a piece of meat that Fenech had bought him.

Theuma had thrown the meat away out of fear that it was poisoned and only told his partner about it. However, two days later, Fenech showed him that he knew about the incident. “I don’t think my partner told him,” Theuma testified.

He reiterated that Cremona had told him that police will arrest him over the illegal lotto business he ran but he would be cleared and his file closed.

Theuma was also promised that a police officer, Raymond Aquilina, would be the one to arrest him and interrogate him. “With Raymond, you have nothing to worry,” Cremona was heard saying in the recording.

However, the plan failed to materialise and Aquilina was not involved in any action against Theuma.

At one point during his testimony the magistrate asked Theuma who was he referring to when speaking in the plural. Theuma replied: “[Yorgen] Fenech and Keith Schembri.”

Theuma told the court that Fenech had never referred to Keith Schembri but would play with words.

Fenech’s defence lawyers noted that Theuma’s testimony was inconsistent and did not tally with testimony given by other witnesses during the same proceedings.

However, the magistrate said the defence had the opportunity to raise the matter at the appropriate time. 

Fenech stands charged with masterminding the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding.

Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra are prosecuting, aided by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia.

Fenech’s defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family.

16:40 The sitting is over. Thank you for following. A summary of proceedings will follow shortly. Kurt Sansone
16:40 The court fixes the next sitting on 25 March, 5 April and 8 April at 10am. Kurt Sansone
16:39 Theuma's testimony is suspended for today. There are six recordings left. Kurt Sansone
16:39 Theuma: “I didn't do it with the intention of hiding this recording. It was on the chip that I gave the magistrate. I mentioned to you, even at the depot, that I would meet Mario.” Kurt Sansone
16:38 Arnaud asks what the reason for recording this conversation with Mario Degiorgio was. Kurt Sansone
16:37 Theuma says he is tired. Arnaud says we are nearly finished. Kurt Sansone
16:37 Theuma that Arthur Azzopardi would file a lawsuit and summon the prime minister, the police commissioner, former minister Chris Cardona and others against the Degiorgios. Kurt Sansone
16:35 Theuma says that Mario Degiorgio told him that Arthur Azzopardi wanted €40,000 to work against his brother. Kurt Sansone
16:34 He is asked why he had stopped recording Mario. “I don't know,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
16:33 He is asked how many times he had recorded him. “I don't know… Johann had asked me to record Mario so that Yorgen Fenech would know where the money was going.” Kurt Sansone
16:33 He is asked how many times had he met Mario Degiorgio over the two years. “Three times a week for sure,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
16:31 Theuma says he forgot but had mentioned it to the police in his statement. Kurt Sansone
16:30 He is asked why he hadn't told the police that he had recorded Mario Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
16:30 The recording finishes. Theuma says the child in the recording is his son. Kurt Sansone
16:30 Children are heard in the background as Mario Degiorgio is speaking to Theuma. Kurt Sansone
16:29 The recording continues: “...dan il-liba ħaqq għal madonni Arthur... qed joqgħod ixewxu (that Arthur is instigating him).” Kurt Sansone
16:27 Mario Degiorgio is heard saying: “When are we going to get paid? When are we going to get paid? When are we going to get paid?” Kurt Sansone
16:26 In the recording, Mario Degiorgio is heard saying: “Arthur is going to produce the prime minister, the commissioner and Keith Schembri to testify against them… Arthur wants something from the prime minister. He wants to get an appointment or something so that he can cover up for them and pin everything on my brothers…” Kurt Sansone
16:10 It features Mario Degiorgio and Theuma. Kurt Sansone
16:08 The court is thrashing out which names cannot be published in the next, final, recording it will be hearing today. The recording is played. Kurt Sansone
16:05 Theuma is called back into the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
16:03 The court replies that any inconsistencies are not meant to be dealt with at this stage. The defence can do this at the appropriate stage. Kurt Sansone
16:01 Arnaud replies that when the defence raises inconsistencies in Theuma's testimony with reference to Cremona, they should point out the part of the testimony where the inconsistencies lie. He insists that the witness is still testifying and hasn't finished yet. “We must keep in mind that this part of the testimony of Melvin Theuma is part of a series of conversations over a span of two years or more. It wouldn't be just to pluck today's testimony out of the air and say there are inconsistencies,” Arnaud says. Kurt Sansone
15:59 The defence is simply observing, says Mercieca, and is not asking for action at this stage. He points out that Theuma had said that he was paying for a Nissan Leaf car in instalments but then said he had more than €15,000 at home and had remarked to Arnaud that the police knew how much money he had at home. Kurt Sansone
15:56 "Theuma is walking a tightrope," Mercieca says, referring to the witness's pardon. "He must say all that he knows," the lawyer insists. Kurt Sansone
15:55 Mercieca: “When you hear what Theuma said in his recording, his previous testimony and what Johann Cremona testified, the defence insists that Theuma's testimony is replete with inconsistencies and contradictions. We reserve the right to invoke the dispositions of the Criminal Code at the appropriate time.” Kurt Sansone
15:52 Before the next recording is played, lawyer Charles Mercieca makes an observation. Theuma is asked to leave the courtroom for this. Kurt Sansone
15:51 Arnaud asks what the police commissioner was supposed to do in exchange for the money. “To fix things in relation to my arrest,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
15:50 Theuma insists that he had invented the €15,000 figure for no particular reason. The magistrate presses the witness, saying he is not being convincing. “It is the duty of the court to remind you that you are under oath,” she says. Kurt Sansone
15:47 Mercieca objects to the man's answer again. “What right do you have to say he is not being consistent when the court is talking Kurt Sansone
15:47 Theuma: “But because I knew it wasn't true.” Kurt Sansone
15:47 Magistrate: “But that’s what you did, you recorded yourself.” Kurt Sansone
15:47 Theuma says that he later had to tell Johann Cremona that he didn't pay the €15,000 as he would be caught out in a lie. “Had I paid the commissioner would I record myself?” Kurt Sansone
15:46 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca and Superintendent Keith Arnaud squabble, with the lawyer arguing that the witness is not being consistent. Kurt Sansone
15:45 The conversation is about the police commissioner. Theuma says that he said Edwin Brincat gave €15,000 to the police commissioner but it wasn't true. “I made it all up to show that I had the power. The power to find out the truth. They gave so much money to different people…” Kurt Sansone
15:42 Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran says the witness is being inconsistent. Kurt Sansone
15:42 Theuma says he had bluffed about police contacts in high places because they weren't telling him the truth and he would find out anyway. Kurt Sansone
15:41 It appears that Melvin Theuma had been promised that he would get off scot free but he was arrested, his belongings seized and his kids taken away from him for two days. Kurt Sansone
15:41 Arnaud says that Melvin Theuma was agreeing with Johann Cremona in the recording. Kurt Sansone
15:27 Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
15:21 Theuma: “They were working so that I don't get arrested and were doing this behind Yorgen's back.” Kurt Sansone
15:20 Arnaud reads from the transcript: ‘Johann said Keith and Kenneth were working behind the scenes.’ “From behind who?” Arnaud asks. Kurt Sansone
15:17 Theuma reiterates that he did not know the police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and was only bluffing when he tried to use his name. “I invented that I went to the commissioner and Johann told me that not even Yorgen knew about this and if he found out there would be damage (tkissir). Meaning, he was afraid that I would reveal things.” Kurt Sansone
15:12 “No,” replies the witness. Kurt Sansone
15:11 Arnaud asks: “When you were arrested and investigated… did Raymond [Aquilina] feature anywhere?” Kurt Sansone
15:08 Theuma adds that Cremona may have also been referring to [PN MEP David] Casa and [MEP Ana] Gomez. Kurt Sansone
15:07 At the time, Vince Muscat il-Koħħu was getting jittery and started speaking the police in the hope of obtaining a presidential pardon. This was the point when Theuma also started to worry that he would be blamed for everything because the Degiorgios and Muscat only knew him and not Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
15:05 Theuma says he isn't sure what Cremona was talking about. “It could be that Koħħu was talking,” he adds. Kurt Sansone
15:04 Arnaud points out that Johann Cremona is mentioning something that happened seven months before the recording took place and which terrified Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
15:03 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca shakes his head in apparent disbelief before consulting with his client and the rest of the legal team. Kurt Sansone
15:02 Theuma: “Arthur Azzopardi. Johann told me that he was causing me harm… One time he told me that Arthur was involved in the murder. That he collected the money.” Kurt Sansone
15:00 Arnaud points out that Yorgen Fenech refers to a certain ‘Turu’. Kurt Sansone
15:00 Theuma is currently helping the court identify who is speaking at what time. It is a laborious process. He asks to sit down and a chair is provided. A plainclothes guard who forms part of Theuma’s security detail stands up and takes a position behind the witness, who is now seated. Kurt Sansone
14:50 Arnaud notes a mistake in the transcript and points it out to the court. Kurt Sansone
14:50 It is hard for journalists to make out what is being said correctly without the transcripts in hand. The voices are low and there is a lot of noise in the background. Arnaud is reading out selected parts and asking the witness to comment and explain. Kurt Sansone
14:45 Another recording is being played. Kurt Sansone
14:45 Melvin Theuma clarifies that he had been referring to the magistrate but not the presiding magistrate Rachel Montebello. Theuma says that he surmised at the time that everyone, including Superintendent Keith Arnaud was being paid off. Arnaud says he'll get to that bit at a later stage. Kurt Sansone
14:43 Arnaud reads from the transcript: “Who know what they offered her?” Kurt Sansone
14:43 Theuma adds that Johann Cremona told him that Vince Muscat il-Koħħu was not believed by the court. Kurt Sansone
14:38 Theuma: “I'm referring to Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri.” Kurt Sansone
14:38 Arnaud reads from the transcript: ‘If they don't betray me, I'll get away with it.’ He asks to whom was he referring to. Kurt Sansone
14:37 Arnaud asks if Edwin Brincat had known that he was talking to Johann Cremona. “He didn't,” Theuma replies. Kurt Sansone
14:37 Theuma says the reference is about George and Alfred Degiorgio. “They are always trying to find a mistake in court and get off the hook,” he says. Kurt Sansone
14:36 Arnaud points to page 4 of the transcript and notes that Theuma is talking about a plan ‘they’ had. Arnaud reads it out: “Their plan is to find a mistake.” Kurt Sansone
14:35 Theuma claims that he was inventing everything. “I was always bringing up Keith Schembri and reminding them that Keith Schembri ‘went cold’ [when he heard of the murder].” Kurt Sansone
14:29 The clip ends. Arnaud begins his questioning. Kurt Sansone
14:25 ‘They aren't going to talk until the jury begins,’ Theuma is heard saying in the recording. Kurt Sansone
14:19 Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma is led to the stand again. Another recording is played. Kurt Sansone
14:18 The magistrate enters the courtroom. We're back in session. Kurt Sansone
14:15 We're back in the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
13:37 We will be back shortly. Kurt Sansone
13:37 The court says another recording will be heard after a 30-minute break. Kurt Sansone
13:34 The prosecution has finished its questioning on this recording. Arnaud asks whether the parte civile or defence will be questioning the witness. Kurt Sansone
13:33 A reference to ‘Uncle Ray’ was referring to Ray Fenech of the Tumas Group (Yorgen’s uncle), Theuma explains. Kurt Sansone
13:32 The disjointed references made to parts of the recording make it incredibly hard for journalists, who are following proceedings without the transcripts, to make sense of what is being said. Kurt Sansone
13:31 Theuma is talking about a payoff involving a person who we cannot name. The person is not well known. He featured in a picture with George and Mario Degiorgio and other people linked to them. Theuma was not in it and it was used to reassure him that he was not being investigated. Kurt Sansone
13:30 He is asked about the Koħħu-ventilator comment. “Mario had told me that… Vince Muscat can get away with the case,” Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
13:29 Theuma: “I was told that Keith Schembri appoints them (secret service). They're like his children.” Kurt Sansone
13:28 Theuma is asked about his secret service comment in which he said it belonged to Keith Schembri. Kurt Sansone
13:28 Theuma explains that Aquilina was reliable when it came to assistance. Kurt Sansone
13:27 Reference is made to a part of the recording where Johann Cremona says: “Ma’ Raymond [Aquilina] m'għandekx inkwiet (With Raymond [Aquilina] you have nothing to worry).” Aquilina was a police officer, who was supposed to have arrested Theuma and questioned him. Kurt Sansone
13:22 The recording is a long one. After it ends, Fenech asks to be excused to go to the bathroom. Arnaud continues with his questioning of the witness. Kurt Sansone
13:20 There appears to be a technical problem with the recording. This is overcome and the recording continues being played. Kurt Sansone
13:09 The recording continues with Theuma heard saying: “Now I have information that the only person who can pass through the ventilator is Koħħu.” Kurt Sansone
13:06 At a point Theuma is heard saying in the recording: “Secret service mhux Keith Schembri, dak tiegħu (the secret service is Keith Schembri, that belongs to him)”. Kurt Sansone
13:05 Another recording is played out. After the recording, lawyer Charles Mercieca comments that “here he is saying the truth”. The court fines him €50. The recording continues to play. Kurt Sansone
13:04 The court dictates a note stating that any such comments and other attempts to confuse the witness will lead to the person or lawyer being ejected from the hall together with further sanctions. Kurt Sansone
13:03 This is picked up by the prosecution who object to the continuous commentary by the defence. Kurt Sansone
13:03 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca quietly comments to fellow lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran: “You crucified yourself.” Kurt Sansone
13:03 Theuma describes being continuously misled by Johann. “He crucified me,” he says. Kurt Sansone
13:00 Shouting hoarsely, Theuma says: “I am 43 years old. I never spoke to the police commissioner. If you find that I have, send me to the gallows.” Kurt Sansone
13:00 Theuma: “My last message before my arrest was from Johann Cremona on Signal. It said that this was coming from the commissioner (of police).” Kurt Sansone
12:58 Fenech's lawyers are reprimanded again for laughing amongst themselves.
 Kurt Sansone
12:58 The police commissioner being referenced here is Lawrence Cutajar, who resigned in January last year following a change in prime minister. Kurt Sansone
12:57 Theuma: “I bluffed a lot... I would pretend I had power like Johann and Yorgen. As I wanted information on the commissioner, I bluffed in this way… I had said that I had given the commissioner money... in fact I asked Yorgen to speak to the commissioner as I was told that my arrest was coming from him. I didn't want to be arrested. Yorgen said he didn't know the commissioner and I told him to ask Keith [Schembri].” Kurt Sansone
12:55 The former police commissioner had wanted information from Edwin Brincat about Theuma. Brincat had sent for him and told him that the commissioner knew he had the recordings and that this was an indication that the foreigners knew of them too. Kurt Sansone
12:54 Another recording is played. Theuma is heard saying that Interpol is asking for someone to be arrested (him). Kurt Sansone
12:53 Theuma says that Johann Cremona promised that he would be with him during his interrogation and that it would be on a Sunday. “Johann had said that the police would arrest him over the illegal lotto business and then he would be cleared and his file would be closed - including the Daphne murder. We'd tell the FBI that there was nothing. I knew I was tapped by the Malta Security Service. Yorgen had given me a piece of meat and I had thrown it away [out of fear it was poisoned]. Two days later, Yorgen knew about it. I don't think my partner told him,” Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
12:51 Theuma has frequent coughing fits and talks in a hoarse voice. Kurt Sansone
12:51 Theuma says these were all empty promises since when he was arrested, Yorgen Fenech was escaping on his boat. Kurt Sansone
12:39 Theuma: “Johann promised a paper with a place where the police raid linked to [money laundering] was going to take place. Another paper was with questions, which I will be asked for my input. If I don't like the questions I will not be asked them.” Kurt Sansone
12:35 Theuma continues: “In the morning Johann tells me I will be picked up by the police and in the afternoon, I’m told I won’t… God forbid I recorded everything as we'd die before the jury even starts.” Kurt Sansone
12:34 “This was in 2019,” Theuma explains. Kurt Sansone
12:33 Theuma: “I had bought a flat in San Gwann and BOV issued a sanction letter then they said wait a bit and then the guy I was talking to was on leave and I went to check on the sanction letter. It was ready but it was later withdrawn.” Kurt Sansone
12:33 Arnaud asks him about the recording. There was mention of dividends, but this has nothing to do with the murder case, he confirms. Kurt Sansone
12:30 The court hears another recording: “In the file there is NOTHING... [indistinct]. The FIAU want to know what you are doing... not even a police file on Melvin Theuma is ready. The police commissioner will give instructions... I told him myself...” Kurt Sansone
12:29 The witness complains that Fenech and his lawyers are talking “behind his back”. The court tells him that it will deal with such issues itself. Kurt Sansone
12:29 Theuma says that when Kenneth Camilleri came with the bail money he suspected it was Keith Schembri. “Then it was confirmed to me by Yorgen Fenech,” he says. Kurt Sansone
12:27 Theuma says that Johann would speak to Kenneth Camilleri, Kenneth would speak to Keith Schembri and he [Theuma] would ask Johann who he was speaking to. “I asked him to pass on some money but I did this to trap Kenneth Camilleri,” he adds. Kurt Sansone
12:25 In another part of the recording Theuma asks Johann Cremona if he has contact with Yorgen Fenech. Theuma says that he was embarrassed to ask him for money. ‘Our strength is our money,’ he used to tell him. “I told Johann to bother Yorgen Fenech himself… I cannot remember if Johann gave me feedback on the issue,” he says. Kurt Sansone
12:18 Arnaud asks him about the €6,500 that Theuma claimed to have forked out of his pocket. He replies that he had bought a dog for Mario Degiorgio, a brother to George and Alfred, so as not to bother Yorgen Fenech for €4,000. “I bought it so they wouldn't reveal me. I ended up like a flag waving in the middle. I didn't want to bother Yorgen for money.” Kurt Sansone
12:16 Theuma stops testifying and steps off the stand briefly to take some medication. He returns to the stand. Kurt Sansone
12:15 Theuma is heard asking Johann Cremona to contact Fenech as Fenech was avoiding him and changing the subject when the two were speaking. The two voices argue. Theuma says he was also worried that Fenech might be speaking to Keith Schembri. Kurt Sansone
12:08 QUICK REMINDER: Melvin Theuma had secretly recorded conversations he had with Yorgen Fenech and others after Caruana Galizia was murdered. Theuma says he did this as an insurance policy because he feared for his life. Theuma acted as middleman between Fenech and the three men who killed the journalist. Kurt Sansone
12:07 More recordings are played. In one of the recordings Theuma refers to a Palazzo Fenech had bought in Mdina. Kurt Sansone
12:06 Theuma explains that Fenech had never referred to Keith Schembri but would play with words. He explains that he was so scared of being murdered that he had made a will two days after the arrest of the three killers. Kurt Sansone
12:04 The magistrate asks who he is referring to in the plural. Theuma says “Fenech and Keith Schembri”. Kurt Sansone
12:04 Theuma replies that he cannot trust “them” and it was “their” fault. Kurt Sansone
11:56 He says that "they needed to start trusting” him. Kurt Sansone
11:55 Theuma: “€20,000 for the Degiorgios.” Kurt Sansone
11:55 Arnaud asks him about it. “He gave me 20,000; what are 20,000 and why?” Kurt Sansone
11:54 The recording contains a lot of swearing and horrendous blasphemy. The recording stops. Kurt Sansone
11:53 The recording plays and Theuma is heard referring to someone as “buffu kollu”. “Intom taqlalhom il-flus ħaq għad-Duluri fadal 8 xhur? Ngħidu aħna ttihom €8,000 fix-xahar dak taf kemm huma, aqbad calculator...” Kurt Sansone
11:48 The court orders that the names of third parties who are not involved in the murder case are not published. Kurt Sansone
11:46 Arnaud asks that a name which is mentioned twice in the recording is banned from publication. Failing that, the sitting can be held behind closed doors, he suggests. Kurt Sansone
11:46 The parties are following on transcripts, something that none of the journalists have the luxury of doing. Reports from inside the courtroom are provided to us by MaltaToday’s senior court reporter, Matthew Agius. Kurt Sansone
11:43 Theuma is heard talking to Johann Cremona. Arnaud asks that names previously unreported are not published in the press. The court says it will give direction as necessary after every recording. Kurt Sansone
11:39 The recording plays. Lots of noise can be heard: cars, music, rustling, footsteps. Kurt Sansone
11:37 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks that Fenech sits near his lawyers while the recordings are being played. A chair is provided. Kurt Sansone
11:35 The court is currently dealing with some procedural issues relating to expert reports. Inspector Kurt Zahra calls in today's witness, Melvin Theuma. Arnaud says that recordings mentioned in July are to be played. Kurt Sansone
11:34 A court appointed transcriber takes the stand first, returning two USB sticks given to her and another transcriber. They contain voice recordings made by Melvin Theuma. The transcripts have already been exhibited, she says. Another court expert takes the stand, exhibiting translations she made of testimony given by foreign experts. Another translation is ordered, this time of the testimony of Matthew Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
11:27 A knock on the door and the magistrate emerges from chambers. The sitting begins. Kurt Sansone
11:27 Yorgen Fenech arrives in the small courtroom, which is packed with journalists, lawyers and family members. The preceding sitting is over and Magistrate Rachel Montebello retires to chambers while things settle down in the courtroom in anticipation of the Fenech sitting. Kurt Sansone
11:26 Security in the courtroom is tight. Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra are here, as is Assistant AG Philip Galea Farrugia. Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are here for Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
11:24 Good morning. Kurt Sansone