Senior Electrogas Consortium players 'not being investigated over Caruana Galizia murder'

Yorgen Fenech’s constitutional case over the courts’ repeated refusal to grant him bail continued on Wednesday

A Homicide Squad inspector has confirmed that several senior Electrogas officers are not being investigated in relation to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, as he defended the 2019 decision to release former Electrogas Director Yorgen Fenech on police bail before charging him with complicity in the murder.

Fenech’s constitutional case over courts’ repeated refusal to grant him bail continued before Madam Justice Miriam Hayman this afternoon.

Cross-examining Inspector Kurt Zahra, lawyer Charles Mercieca, who is defending Fenech together with lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri, pointed out that the police had released the suspect on police bail no less than four times after his initial arrest.

Inspector Zahra explained that at the time, his squad had been juggling multiple related investigations and also Melvin Theuma’s request for a pardon in exchange for information. After disclosure, Fenech also asked for a pardon, said the inspector. “It was not an investigation which we could conclude in 48 hours and so we had to resort to police bail,” Zahra said.

Police and AFM personnel had moved to arrest Fenech after he was seen boarding his yacht in Portomaso on November 20 2019, shortly after the arrest of self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma.

Mercieca argued that Fenech was not under police guard when Theuma was talking to the police, “despite being in full knowledge that he would be arraigned.” Zahra disagreed, saying he had the opposite impression. “He had asked for Arnaud to be taken off the case. There were attempts to delay the interrogation of Fenech…the perception I had at that point was that he thought that he was not going to be arraigned.”

Mercieca asked the inspector whether he recalled Fenech telling him that the police were in a “mad rush” to arraign him. Zahra said he did not, but could not exclude it, reminding the lawyer that this took place many months ago and that the videotape of Fenech’s questioning was available to the defence.

After his arrest, Fenech had cooperated with the police, the inspector said in reply to further questions from Mercieca. The lawyer suggested that Fenech had a clean criminal record at the time, but answering a question by parte civile lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, the inspector said he knew that Fenech had at least one conviction abroad. “Yes, I believe in Houston, Texas, he was caught with a substance… I think it was cocaine, and had admitted the charges. He was jailed for a month.” The inspector said this information had come to the police through “information sharing between police forces.”

Zahra explained that it was a complex investigation and at the time the police had not planned on arresting Fenech at that stage as Theuma had just been arrested and had to be investigated. “What happened, was that whilst questioning Theuma, I was informed by Arnaud that Fenech had just been arrested as he was leaving Portomaso on his yacht.”

Police were facing two investigations, with Theuma requesting a pardon in exchange for information. After disclosure, Fenech also asked for a pardon. “It was not an investigation which we could conclude in 48 hours and so we had to resort to police bail.”

Whilst on police bail, Fenech had access to his lawyers and doctor and made several calls on his mobile phone, he said.

Zahra went on to say that the suspect’s release was the result of an “agreement between the parties.” Mercieca submitted that when a person is released, but with a police escort, this was not an effective release, but Zahra replied that he would not have released Fenech without this escort. “Definitely not,” said the inspector.

Commodini Cachia asked the witness whether he knew that Fenech’s inherited wealth was not struck by the freezing order imposed on him by the Maltese courts and whether he knew that Tumas Group also held assets offshore. Zahra replied that he had not come prepared to answer these questions, and could not reply as he did not have the information at hand.

Electrogas Consortium players 'not investigated about Caruana Galizia murder'

Repeating a question also posed earlier by Mercieca, the parte civile lawyer moved on, asking Zahra whether he was investigating other main Electrogas consortium players, namely Kathrin Halpin, Salman Rahman, Hayal Ahmadzeda and Turab Musayev in connection with the murder. He was not investigating them about the murder, repeated the inspector, but made it clear that he did not know whether other sections of the police force were investigating them for other offences.

She asked Zahra about Turab Musayev, an Azerbaijani-born, naturalised Scottish national, who Fenech was in contact with. Zahra said he could only cite information he had gleaned from open sources, as he was not involved in that aspect of the investigation, but confirmed that Melvin Theuma had mentioned a certain “Turam.” “We understood that he was referring to Musayev.”

Both parties declared their evidence closed, as today’s sitting drew to an end. The case will continue with written submissions by the parties, with the next sitting scheduled for March.