Daphne hitman's brother charged with extortion, money laundering

Mario Degiorgio, brother to Caruana Galizia hitman George Degiorgio, has been accused of extortion and money laundering offences

File photo
File photo

65-year-old Marsa resident, Mario Degiorgio, brother of Alfred and George Degiorgio, who are indicted over the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, was arraigned in court this morning, accused of extortion and money laundering offences.

Police inspector Leanne Bonello, prosecuting, told the court that a warrant for Degiorgio's arrest had been issued after a police investigation into the accused. On the strength of that warrant, Degiorgio was arrested at his home in Marsa yesterday, she said.

Degiorgio’s lawyers complained to presiding magistrate Rachel Montebello, claiming that there had been no disclosure of evidence to the defence before the accused released his statement.

"He did not reply to almost any questions during his interrogation," pointed out the inspector, however, adding that she had been unable to posit follow up questions in view of Degiorgio's lack of cooperation.

Although the police had disclosed their evidence relating to the money laundering charge to the accused before interrogation, the disclosure of evidence on the extortion charges was incomplete, claimed the defence. Inspector Bonello insisted that the evidence in hand at the time had all been disclosed to the accused.

Degiorgio pleaded not guilty to the charges. Bail was requested.

But the bail request was immediately objected to by prosecuting lawyer Francesco Refalo. The charges were serious, said the prosecution, explaining that the accused had been laundering money together with his brothers and third parties who are yet to testify. "The accused knows what to expect and could approach witnesses," Refalo said.

The prosecutor angrily refused a defence request that he identify the “at least six” civilian witnesses in open court.

For the defence, lawyer Lennox Vella pointed out that the charges related to the period spanning from 2017 to 2018. “These are very old offences,” he said, arguing that his client had not made any attempt to suborn witnesses or destroy evidence in that period of time.

The principal witness, Melvin Theuma, is already under police protection and had already testified several times, added the lawyer, submitting that Degiorgio had no interest in approaching any of the witnesses.

“I am seeing no risk of tampering with evidence,” Vella submitted, before going on to cite the presumption of innocence.

The court, however, opted to deny bail, urging the prosecution to summon all witnesses without delay.

Who is Mario Degiorgio?

During the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, it had emerged that the self-confessed middleman in the murder, Melvin Theuma, had handed over documents to the police following his arrest.

These documents included receipts handed to Theuma by Mario Degiorgio, brother to Alfred and George Degiorgio, to show the flow of money from Fenech to the Degiorgios.

Johann Cremona, an associate of Fenech’s, had also testified to having been told by Melvin Theuma that Mario Degiorgio had claimed that former minister and deputy leader of the Labour party Chris Cardona was involved in the murder, together with lawyer David Gatt, with whom Cardona once shared an office.

Lawyers Francesco Refalo and Marthese Grech represented the AG in the proceedings.

Lawyers William Cuschieri and Lennox Vella appeared for the defendant.