‘I can’t confirm Keith Schembri’s involvement in the murder on oath,’ Melvin Theuma tells court

In a tense court hearing, murder middleman Melvin Theuma told the court that Yorgen Fenech was receiving information on the murder from Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, continued Thursday morning with a tense and emotion testimony from Melvin Theuma.

Recordings were played of conversations between Theuma and Johann Cremona, the latter being a close aide and providing support to Theuma throughout the murder and until his arrest.

In the recordings, Cremona was pressuring Theuma to get rid of all the recordings and files he had in relation to the murder. Ultimately, Theuma kept these recordings as proof in the event that he is arrested on suspicion of facilitating the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“Words mean nothing. Only I have proof,” Theuma was heard saying in one of the recordings.

He added that he wanted Yorgen Fenech and Kenneth Camilleri, a former security guard at Castille, to know that he had these recordings on him in order to gain leverage over them.

“What would be more believable?” Theuma questioned, “Going to the police and saying that Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind as if it were simple? Or showing them the recordings?”

Theuma reiterated how he knew that his initial arrest would centre around his gambling operations, but that the raid would eventually lead to an investigation into his involvement in the murder.

“If Keith Schembri knew this, why did he never tell me to stop with the illegal betting?” Theuma said bitterly.

Theuma further added how he had expected that former minister Chris Cardona would be framed for the murder, with police pinning it on him.

The self-confessed middleman in the murder appeared highly agitated throughout the court hearing. Halfway through the sitting, Theuma launched an emotional speech addressing the guilt he feels having been involved in the murder.

“Jason Azzopardi and three judges, one of them being Abigail Lofaro, had told me… ‘she was a mother’. That cross, and those words, will never get out of my head,” he told the court.

Theuma also mentioned how his family ended up being involved, with his son and his daughter’s son having been taken to Aġenzija Appoġġ.

“Now that I’m taking my pills in the way that I’m supposed to be taking them, and now that I am back to my senses, I can see that my worries stem directly from Daphne. I tell myself, look what I’ve done, look what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Referring to a Saturday evening in 2019, the same weekend that the MEP elections took place, Theuma said that he asked Fenech whether he would have done all this again had he known it would garner such international attention.

“Of course not,” Fenech told him.

During his examination of the witness, Jason Azzopardi referenced several mobile chat logs between Theuma and Yorgen Fenech. In one message, Fenech told Theuma to remain calm and go to Maksar - one of the brothers who had supplied the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He was told to remain calm because Vince Muscat, who pleaded guilty to the murder earlier this year, had already started spilling the beans on the murder back in 2019.

Theuma explained that Fenech knew a lot of information on the case, and that Fenech was getting his information from Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta.

Back when he was Chief of Staff within the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri had access to confidential information through the Malta Secret Service. On the other hand, Silvio Valletta is a former Deputy Police Commissioner, allowing him insight into the investigations.

The evidence against Fenech primarily rests on the testimony of Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the murder. Theuma, who had secretly recorded various conversations between himself, Fenech and others, was given a presidential pardon to tell all in 2019.

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

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is hearing the compilation of evidence against Fenech.

The prosecution is being led by inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, assisted by the Attorney General. The defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca.

14:07 The hearing will continue on 8 June at 10am. Thank you for following. Nicole Meilak
14:04 Meanwhile, Charles Mercieca is objecting to the fact that Jason Azzopardi, as parte civile, was allowed to cross-examine the witness. However, the Magistrate maintains that Azzopardi was simply questioning the witness, and not cross-examining him. Nicole Meilak
14:02 And on that note, Jason Azzopardi finishes his examination, marking the end of Theuma's testimony for the day. It appears that Theuma will be cross-examined another time. Nicole Meilak
14:02 Theuma tells the court that Fenech was getting his information on the case from Keith Schembri and Silvio Valletta. Nicole Meilak
14:00 “I don't know them, not even when I testified in front of them,” Theuma says of the Maksar brothers. “I don’t even know their names. There’s one named Jamie because I saw in the news, but otherwise I don’t know him.” Nicole Meilak
13:58 In one message, Fenech told Theuma to remain calm and go to Maksar - one of the brothers who had supplied the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Theuma was told to remain calm because it was speculated that. Vince Muscat had begun spilling the beans on the murder. Nicole Meilak
13:54 Theuma explains that the two used Signal to communicate because Theuma knew that the Malta Secret Services were spying on their usual phone line, while Signal offers end-to-end encryption. Nicole Meilak
13:47 On one November evening, Fenech reached out to Theuma, saying that he hasn’t slept in two days. Azzopardi asks what was keeping him up, and Theuma explains that this was due to the worries they both had. Nicole Meilak
13:46 Jason Azzopardi is going through various chats between Theuma and Fenech. At one point Fenech told Theuma “this will pass and we’ll be able to rest forever”. Theuma explains how he thought they would arrest him and let him go, as if nothing ever happened. On their wives, Fenech promised Theuma that he would do everything to make sure that they’re not involved. “I only ask that you believe me,” Fenech told him. Nicole Meilak
13:41 “I was ready to have them do whatever they want to me because I deserve it,” Theuma explained to the court, “but only as long as my family isn’t arrested. And I told him that he better not touch my family”. Nicole Meilak
13:39 After the murder, Theuma had communicated with Fenech on Signal. At one point, Fenech sent him, “I will fight till the end to have our way”. He eventually told Theuma that he’s “tired”, with Theuma explaining to the court that this was due to the murder. Nicole Meilak
13:34 Theuma tells Azzopardi that he would meet with Yorgen Fenech at Level 21 of the Portomaso tower. They used to meet at Level 3, but Theuma says that there would often be Fenech's family relatives coming and going from this area, and so Theuma told him "Level 21 or nothing". Nicole Meilak
13:30 Inspector Arnaud finishes his examination of the witness. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family, will now cross-examine Theuma. Nicole Meilak
13:24 "With this person, I would speak about Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri," Theuma says. "I had told him that their lives depended on me". Nicole Meilak
13:22 He confirms that there was no intention for him to ever be charged for money laundering. Theuma was told that the investigation would remain open and eventually fizzle out. Nicole Meilak
13:21 "Now that I'm taking my pills in the way that I'm supposed to take them, now that I'm in my senses, I can see that my worries stem from Daphne. I tell myself, look what I've done, look what I've gotten myself into." Nicole Meilak
13:19 Theuma says that he received intel that the police have nothing on him regarding the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder. Police interest centred solely around the money laundering charges against him. Nicole Meilak
13:18 Theuma continued by saying that they would tell him that the murder would be “pinned on Cardona” or on another lawyer, whose name cannot be published by court order. On any involvement from Keith Schembri’s side, Theuma says that he can’t confirm on oath. Nicole Meilak
13:12 The court will be replaying a certain part of the recording to confirm what was being said. "Only I have proof," Theuma is heard saying again. "Words mean nothing". Nicole Meilak
13:08 Theuma mentions that he also told his friend that he went to the Police Commissioner with his recordings. Nicole Meilak
13:07 Theuma wanted a friend of his to pass on the message to Yorgen Fenech and the Castille security guard that Theuma had recordings. “To show that I also had power,” Theuma explains. Nicole Meilak
13:04 Theuma explains that the proof that he mentioned in the recordings were, in fact, the recordings. “What would be more believable? Going to the police and saying that Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind? Or showing them the recordings?” Nicole Meilak
13:01 Theuma says that this was when Fenech told him that he offered some money to ensure that David Casa won't be reelected in that election. Nicole Meilak
13:00 Theuma now mentions a particular Saturday evening, likely the Saturday of the MEP elections back in 2019. Theuma says that he drove Yorgen Fenech to the airport, and they spoke about the murder. Theuma asked Fenech whether he would have gone through with the murder had he known it would be such big news. Fenech told him, "of course not". Nicole Meilak
12:56 On page 14 of the transcript, the conversation centres on the raid that was expected on Theuma's properties, and how they didn't want their wives to get involved in the case. "But they got involved," Theuma says, with his leg tapping more rapidly and beating his hand on his chest. "They took my son, and they took my daughter's son. They were taken to Appoġġ," he says, referring to Aġenzija Appoġġ. Nicole Meilak
12:51 Arnaud turns to a particular part of the recording where Theuma mentions going to Simon Busuttil. It turns out that Theuma had thought about approaching Busuttil to be his legal representative. Nicole Meilak
12:47 Theuma says that he had several pen drives, along with recording devices bought from a local tech store, which he kept in his evidence box in the run-up to his arrest. Nicole Meilak
12:44 And we're back. Theuma reenters the courtroom looking more composed. Nicole Meilak
12:29 “I used to drink whiskey and take pills all the time. Now with these pills I know what a cross I carry. Jason Azzopardi and three judges, one of them Abigail Lofaro, told me ‘she was a mother’, and that cross and those words can never get out of my head,” Theuma says, with a broken voice and tears in his eyes. He requests a short break, and the Magistrate calls for a brief suspension of the sitting. Nicole Meilak
12:27 Theuma has been highly agitated throughout the whole sitting. He launched into an emotional and impassioned rant about his role in the murder and the presidential pardon he received, saying that he deserved it. Theuma said that he opted to ask for a pardon when he found out that Vince Muscat was trying to bargain for one. Nicole Meilak
12:22 Chris Cardona is mentioned in the recordings. Theuma explains that he was expecting them to pick on Cardona for the murder. Nicole Meilak
12:22 At one point, Theuma says that he knew that the initial arrest would centre around his lottery and gambling operations, but that the raid would lead to an investigation into his involvement in the murder. “Why did Keith never tell me to stop this illegal betting?” Theuma questions passionately. He said that Kenneth Camilleri told him that Keith would speak to Yorgen. Nicole Meilak
12:20 The reference to Keith Schembri is in relation to a Castille security guard, who had been sent to calm Theuma down when he started fearing the worst towards his arrest. Theuma says that he only met with this man once, despite efforts from the security guard’s side to meet again. Nicole Meilak
12:16 Arnaud is looking through the transcripts and points to page 7. At this point in the transcript, Theuma mentions Keith Schembri. Nicole Meilak
12:13 Theuma turns to the Magistrate and tells her that it was one particular person that wanted the recordings to be destroyed. Nicole Meilak
12:12 Arnaud quotes from the recording that it had been agreed to with government that the investigation starts in October. Theuma confirmed this. He also confirmed that he heard how Vincent Muscat il-Koħħu had received €300,000 to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia. The person who paid this amount is linked to previous freemason claims. Nicole Meilak
12:07 Inspector Arnaud refers to the transcript, particularly to a part of the conversation that deals with a €300,000 payment involving Vincent Muscat. Nicole Meilak
12:05 Melvin Theuma is explaining that these recordings were taken close to his arrest. Theuma explains that at the time, Yorgen Fenech was abroad. Nicole Meilak
12:04 One man is heard saying "their lives depend on you". The recording has now finished. Nicole Meilak
12:03 The two are heard speaking about mobiles and recordings. "They have nothing," one persons says. Nicole Meilak
12:00 "You only have one problem - that they conduct a search on you," someone tells Theuma. Nicole Meilak
11:58 "Words mean nothing. Only I have proof," one man, presumably Theuma, is heard saying. Nicole Meilak
11:56 It is evident from the recordings that Theuma was being pressured to get rid of all recordings and files on Yorgen Fenech or other involved parties. Nicole Meilak
11:50 Another recording is being played out. The audio quality of this recording is a bit more forgiving this time. One of the men in the recording can heard saying “he either doesn’t want to continue because he’s being threatened or because of the money”. “And then there are his partners” another man can be heard saying. “Now’s the chance because he’s accused”. Nicole Meilak
11:44 The recording has ended. Between the poor audio quality and a buzzing from the court speakers, it seemed that the conversation was on Theuma's arrest. Nicole Meilak
11:36 The conversation sounds tense. One of the men in the recordings can be heard saying that there isn’t time (m’hemmx ħin). At one point, Theuma can be heard talking about searches on his various properties. Nicole Meilak
11:33 Charles Mercieca, Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer, tells the magistrate that the audio isn’t matching up completely with the transcript, likely due to the poor audio quality or due to a problem with the court speakers. She dismisses this, and allows the recordings to continue playing. Meanwhile, Melvin Theuma can be seen tapping his leg rapidly. Nicole Meilak
11:30  Some phrases can be heard throughout the recordings. One man can be heard saying "that has nothing to do with it" (m'għandux x’jaqsam), and "they've driven me crazy" (ħaduli rasi). Nicole Meilak
11:24 Melvin Theuma confirmed that the conversation was between him and a particular person. They appear to be discussing someone else, whose name is banned from publication. Nicole Meilak
11:19 The hearing starts with a recording. Until now, the recording in question is almost completely inaudible, except for white noise and toilet flushing. Some chatter is heard, but it's very muffled. Nicole Meilak
11:17 Both the magistrate and Inspector Keith Arnaud have requested a ban on certain names be banned from publication by journalists. These names will be omitted from our reporting. Nicole Meilak
11:13 The magistrate has emerged from her chambers. The sitting begins, this time with Yorgen Fenech back in the dock, after falling ill earlier this week. Melvin Theuma has been called in to testify. Nicole Meilak
11:06 Good morning. We are in Hall 22 again, where the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech is set to continue. Nicole Meilak