Melvin Theuma's relative refuses to testify in Yorgen Fenech compilation

A relative of pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma has refused to testify in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, fearing that she could incriminate herself in light of separate proceedings against her

Yorgen Fenech
Yorgen Fenech

A relative of pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma refused to testify on Monday in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech since she is facing separate criminal proceedings.

The relative, whose name cannot be published, is accused of financial crime in separate proceedings and was cautioned by the court that she may not reply if she feels the answers could incriminate her. The relative had helped Theuma with the recordings of conversations the middleman made.

The witness refused to answer put to her by the prosecution.

In a relatively short sitting in front of Magistrate Rachel Montebello, the court also heard witnesses testify about garages that were used by Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassins to store the explosive used in the murder.

Fenech was arrested in November 2019 and is charged with masterminding Caruana Galizia's murder. He denies the charges.

The evidence against Fenech primarily rests on the testimony of Theuma, who acted as a middleman between the business magnate and the three men who carried out the assassination. Theuma had secretly recorded various conversations between himself, Fenech and others, and was given a presidential pardon to tell all in 2019.

Caruana Galizia was murdered on 16 October 2017 just after leaving her house in Bidnija. A bomb placed inside her car was detonated remotely by an SMS.

In the last sitting, Daphne's son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, testified. His cross-examination by Fenech's defence lawyers is expected on 12 August.

READ ALSO: No sensitive documents were saved to Daphne Caruana Galizia's devices, her son testifies

Courtroom players

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.

11:56 That's it for today. Thank you for following. A summary of proceedings will follow. Kurt Sansone
11:55 Before the magistrate puts the case off, Arnaud offers to summon Matthew Caruana Galizia, but the defence say they prefer it remains on 12 August as planned. Kurt Sansone
11:54 Arnaud says the prosecution has no more witnesses for today. Tomorrow the police will summon at least two more witnesses, he tells the court. The case continues tomorrow at 10am. Kurt Sansone
11:52 Pace steps off the stand. The cross-examination is reserved for another day. Kurt Sansone
11:52 Pace would ask Muscat why he wouldn't go himself and Muscat would answer “it's not as if I'm putting a stone block on your shoulder”. The witness says that Muscat never told him who the money was from. Kurt Sansone
11:48 Sometimes he would join Muscat on errands as he didn't drive. Kurt Sansone
11:45 “If I were to ask you about a garage?” Arnaud asks. “I don't know,” replies the witness. Kurt Sansone
11:45 The witness is allegedly one of the persons who would act as an intermediary for rent payments on the garage. Kurt Sansone
11:44 He had served Theuma around four times, handing the money to a man in a shop who knew the Degiorgios. Theuma would give him €300 each for “Fredu, Ċensu and George” every time to pass on. The shop owner is known as iz-Zukku, Pace testifies. Kurt Sansone
11:42 The witness explains that he is known as il-Lolly tal-Marsa. Pace says that Theuma had approached him around three years ago “when the things happened”. Kurt Sansone
11:42 On one occassion Melvin Theuma had approached him because he wanted to send the Degiorgios money. ‘Will you take them to them for me?’, the witness recalls Theuma’s words. Kurt Sansone
11:40 Pace: “I don't know anything about these things.” Kurt Sansone
11:39 Superintendent Keith Arnaud asks him about the murder. Kurt Sansone
11:38 He knows Vince Muscat. “He used to live behind me... in Marsa. I've known him since he was young, but then he got married,” Pace testifies. In recent years, the witness would bump into him in shops and so on. Vince Muscat would be with George and Alfred Degiorgio, who were also from Marsa, he says. Kurt Sansone
11:37 A new witness enters the courtoom. He is Lawrence Pace from Marsa. Kurt Sansone
11:36 “I had only seen him for five minutes,” Azzopardi testifies. He steps off the witness stand. Kurt Sansone
11:33 Azzopardi says he later found the lock of the garage broken. “I don't think this Charles Cassar existed,” chuckles the witness ruefully, answering a question as to who Cassar was. Kurt Sansone
11:31 After January 2018, Azzopardi could no longer get through to the tenant. He stuck a note to the garage door, asking Cassar to get in touch. But that didn’t work either. Kurt Sansone
11:28 He had gone to the police station to try and find out who Cassar was and contact him. It emerged that the ID card and details given were false. Kurt Sansone
11:26 That January he was unable to contact Cassar on his mobile phone, since the number was not in use. Kurt Sansone
11:25 The witness says he met Charles Cassar just once in Siggiewi's square. The last rental payment was in September 2017, backdated and covering until January 2018. Kurt Sansone
11:23 The garage is part of a complex, Azzopardi says. He owns three garages in this complex. He identifies the property in the photographs. Azzopardi says he bought the one-car garage in October 2011 to rent it out. Between 2014 and 2018 it was rented to a Charles Cassar from Marsa, he says, consulting his records. Kurt Sansone
11:22 Another man, Natalio Azzopardi takes the stand now. He owns a property company dealing in garages. Arnaud asks him about a garage in Santa Venera, which had two entrances on different streets. Kurt Sansone
11:21 The money for the rent was paid for by the witness as he was in debt to Robert Agius over some other garages he had rented, the court hears. This concludes Bugeja’s testimony and he steps off the stand. Kurt Sansone
11:20 Bugeja says he gave Agius the keys but didn't know what happened after that. At the end of the lease, Robert Agius gave him the keys back, he adds. The witness says he had rented it in 2017 but doesn't remember the time of year. Kurt Sansone
11:18 Bugeja is shown photographs of the garages and the complex and identifies which one we're talking about. He paid €700 for a year. Bugeja dealt with the owner, he tells the court. “I never went there, except when the owner gave me the keys. It fits about two cars and it was rented out for around two years to me,” he says. Kurt Sansone
11:16 The former owner of the Mosta garage, John Bugeja, testifies, telling the court that Robert [Agius] tal-Maksar had asked him to rent it for him on Bugeja's name. He says that he was told it was to store a car. “He [Robert Agius] told me he had some court stuff going on and he didn't want it to show,” the witness testifies. Agius had found the garage himself, he adds. Kurt Sansone
11:15 Arnaud exhibits photos of another garage, in Santa Venera, also mentioned by Vince Muscat. Kurt Sansone
11:07 Arnaud takes the stand next. He exhibits photographs of the Mosta garage where the explosive allegedly used in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, as mentioned by Vince Muscat, was stored. Kurt Sansone
11:05 Mercieca argues that this is a worrying practise as it was not allowing the defence to make its cross-examination. He points to the testimony of Keith Schembri who might not be able to be cross-examined now [because of health reasons]. Kurt Sansone
11:04 Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia says the cross-examination cannot take place on the suspended testimony. He adds that the cross-examination can only be about the examination in chief and in this case the witness said nothing. Kurt Sansone
11:03 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca wants to ask questions to the witness but cannot as her deposition is suspended. He argues with the court and says the defence want to cross examine her but the fact that her deposition is suspended precludes it from doing so. Kurt Sansone
11:03 The witness also refuses to answer what her connection to the case is. Arnaud tells the court that he is unable to ask any more questions to the witness. Her testimony is suspended. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Arnaud asks her to explain what the police took when they searched her home in 2019. The witness refuses to answer. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Supt. Arnaud begins the questioning. We are precluded from publishing the first question. Her lawyers, Kathleen Grima and Veronique Dalli protest. Kurt Sansone
11:01 The witness is called back into the courtroom as Yorgen Fenech discusses something with his lawyers animatedly. The witness takes the stand. The court explains that she has the right not to answer questions, which she feels are incriminating to her. Kurt Sansone
10:59 The court said that in its judgment, the fact that the witness was indicated in the AG's note of renvoi indicates that the AG is not trying to preclude her from testifying. It also took into account the fact that the criminal proceedings against this witness were not tied to the murder and the charges in this case, but contains as evidence the recordings which she was asked to testify about today. The witness could possibly incriminate herself through certain questions which may be put to her. For this reason, the court says she should testify after being given the cautions and warnings required by law. Kurt Sansone
10:57 AG: “At this stage I am duty bound to inform the court of pending criminal proceedings.” Kurt Sansone
10:56 The defence says that the witness is essential to the defence of the accused and failure to have her testify would deprive it of vital evidence. Kurt Sansone
10:41 From Mercieca's argument it emerges that the witness is accused of financial crime in separate proceedings. She had helped Melvin Theuma with the recordings. Kurt Sansone
10:40 At this stage, it is still unclear whether the witness’s name can be published or not. There was a ban in other proceedings but it is unclear whether the ban also applies today. Kurt Sansone
10:39 The court notes that Mercieca says that the way he is being treated is bringing his presence to naught. “The court says the manner it is being addressed is contempt and warned him to be careful and that if this behaviour continues steps would be taken against him,” Magistrate Rachel Montebello says. Kurt Sansone
10:38 There evidently is a lot of tension between the magistrate and Mercieca. They are talking over each other and interrupting. The court warns him that if he shakes his head again, the court would take steps against him. Mercieca says that he would be here for nothing. Kurt Sansone
10:38 The court rebuts: “What you imagine is not relevant.” Kurt Sansone
10:37 Mercieca says that the woman had testified in other proceedings. “I don't think the AG is scared of what she is going to say, or that it will incriminate her.” Kurt Sansone
10:35 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks what the problem is. “If she is precluded from testifying, the defence is deprived of its evidence.” Kurt Sansone
10:34 The court says that if there are criminal proceedings against her she cannot testify today. Kurt Sansone
10:34 A relative of pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma takes the stand. Deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia tells the court that she is subject to separate criminal proceedings and asks that she be cautioned. The AG indicated that she would be testifying about recordings made by Melvin Theuma. Kurt Sansone
10:32 The magistrate and Yorgen Fenech enter the courtroom from separate entrances. Kurt Sansone
10:22 All the courtroom players, bar Yorgen Fenech and the magistrate are here. Kurt Sansone
10:16 We are still waiting for the sitting to begin. Kurt Sansone
10:14 In a decree dated 30 July the court denied a request by Yorgen Fenech's lawyers for access to Edwin Brincat's phone intercepts. Brincat is also known by his nickname, il-Ġojja. Magistrate Montebello ruled that in this particular case, the defence already had access to the audio-visual record of the interrogation, during which excerpts of the intercepts were played. "It did not emerge, rather the police excluded, that together with their use during the interrogation of Edwin Brincat, these recordings were used for other reasons or at later stages in the investigations about this case." For these reasons the court refused the request as "unnecessary." Kurt Sansone
10:00 We are waiting for another sitting in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. Our senior court reporter Matthew Agius will be providing us with live updates from inside the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
09:59 Good morning. Kurt Sansone