No evidence linking Keith Schembri to Caruana Galizia murder apart from Yorgen Fenech statement

Court hears chief investigator testify in damages case filed by the Caruana Galizia heirs against seven people charged with the journalist’s murder 

Keithn Schembri was arrested and investigated by the police for links with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder but investigators found no evidence apart from Yorgen Fenech's statement (File photo)
Keithn Schembri was arrested and investigated by the police for links with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder but investigators found no evidence apart from Yorgen Fenech's statement (File photo)

Keith Schembri was never charged in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder because the only evidence police had was Yorgen Fenech’s statement, a senior investigator has testified.

Superintendent Keith Arnaud was testifying in an ongoing civil case for damages filed Caruana Galizia’s heirs against seven people charged so far with the journalist’s murder.

Caruana Galizia’s widower, Peter, and her sons, Andrew, Matthew and Paul are suing Yorgen Fenech, Melvin Theuma, Vince Muscat, Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio, Robert Agius and Jamie Vella for damages to the tune of €5 million.

Muscat is the only one so far who has been sentenced after admitting to his involvement in the murder. Muscat was jailed for 15 years in February 2021. The criminal cases against the rest are ongoing.

Arnaud was called to the witness box by the Caruana Galizia family to testify about the police investigation of the 2017 murder. The police superintendent reiterated the testimony he has given in court countless times in the various cases linked to the murder.

He briefly went over the key findings in the investigation that led to the arrests of the men eventually charged in connection with the murder. The first arrests and charges were filed in December 2017 against the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat. They were charged with being the hitmen.

In November 2019, the police arrested Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech.

Theuma, the middleman, was granted a presidential pardon to tell all on the murder, while Fenech was charged as being the mastermind.

In February last year, Muscat pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to jail. He then gave police information on the people who supplied the bomb and subsequently, Robert Agius, known as Tal-Maksar, and Jamie Vella were charged.

Arnaud said Fenech had forked out €150,000 for the murder but ended up paying up to €600,000 over the two years that the hitmen were in prison since they were asking for money to sustain their families.

No evidence against Keith Schembri

Under cross examination by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Anna Mallia, Arnaud said during police interrogations in 2019, Fenech had implicated former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri as the mastermind.

Arnaud said that Fenech admitted to paying the money for the murder but he did so on instructions from Schembri.

Pressed as to why no charges were ever filed against Schembri, Arnaud said the police had investigated the claims and even arrested Schembri but had no evidence in hand apart from Fenech’s statement.

Similarly, Fenech also mentioned to the police ex minister Chris Cardona. According to Fenech, Cardona had admitted to him that he was behind the Caruana Galizia murder. Arnaud said the allegation was also investigated but found no other evidence apart from Fenech’s statement.

The police superintendent said Fenech is now facing his own court proceedings and so cannot testify.

The missing laptop

Arnaud recounted what Melvin Theuma had told police about Yorgen Fenech telling him the murder was because of something the journalist was going to write about his uncle Ray Fenech. Theuma also told police that he eventually understood that the reason had nothing to do with ‘uncle Ray’ but everything to do with Yorgen Fenech himself.

Mallia picked on this statement and asked Arnaud whether the police had recovered Caruana Galizia’s laptop in the course of the investigation, purportedly to establish whether her murder had any links to her writing.

Arnaud said the police had asked the inquiring magistrate to recover the laptop. He also said that the Maltese police only got to know from the media that the laptop was handed over by the family to the German police.

Pressed further by Mallia, Arnaud admitted the Maltese police never got in touch with the German authorities to be given the laptop, insisting that this was done through the inquiring magistrate.

“What the law allowed us to do, we did. We had meetings with the family and we discussed the issue. The family had given us information on what Daphne Caruana Galizia was working on. We asked the inquiring magistrate to do all that is possible to get the laptop… We got to know laptop was in Germany from the media. I did not ask the family for the laptop,” Arnaud testified.

Lost mobile phone last used in Mellieha

Asked about Schembri’s claim that he lost his mobile phone, Arnaud said the police found it strange that he had to lose his phone. He said enquiries were made with the mobile phone companies to recover Schembri’s data but the communication exchanged with Fenech was through WhatsApp and Signal and so could not be provided by the companies.

Arnaud said the mobile phone was last localised in the Mellieħa area, which is where Schembri lived at the time, and was last used at night.

‘Special treatment’

After Arnaud stepped off the witness box, Mallia complained to the court that the family had not yet submitted a number of affidavits. “But these people are given special treatment,” the lawyer complained loudly as the parties exited the courtroom.

The case is being heard by Madame Justice Anna Felice. Lawyers Joe Zammit Maempel and Eve Borg Costanzi are representing the Caruana Galizia heirs. Anna Mallia is representing Fenech, Matthew Brincat and Kathleen Grima are appearing for Melvin Theuma, William Cuschieri is representing the Degiorgio brothers and Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin are representing Robert Agius and Jamie Vella.

The case continues on 18 October at 12:30pm.