Judge hears testimony in Keith Schembri's Constitutional case over phone's 'disappearance'

Schembri's lawyers claim the phone had disappeared for several weeks before it turned up amongst exhibits in a separate case

Former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Agius (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Agius (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

A court mobile telephony expert has told the judge presiding a Constitutional case filed by Keith Schembri, who claims that his mobile phone had disappeared from court custody for several months, that he had not handled the device in question.

Lawyers for the former OPM Chief of Staff had filed the case last November, claiming a breach of his right to a fair hearing and requesting the phone be removed from evidence. 

The phone had “disappeared for several weeks” before turning up amongst the exhibits in a separate case. The allegation has been denied by the magistrate compiling evidence against Schembri, who has also given her account of what had happened to the device, in those proceedings.

Schembri is currently a defendant in ongoing criminal proceedings in which he is accused of receiving kickbacks, bribery and money laundering. 

When court expert Keith Cutajar took the witness stand before Mr. Justice Mark Simiana on Monday, he said that he had gone to the strongroom to withdraw exhibits that he had been examining in relation to another case. “I went to look for my exhibits…all this is documented on CCTV,” Cutajar said.

Cross-examined by lawyer Edward Gatt, who is representing Schembri together with lawyer Mark Vassallo, he confirmed that he had told magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech that he had not processed the phone in question, and that it had been examined by another IT expert, Martin Bajada.

Gatt suggested that Cutajar had also asked the magistrate why she had dragged him into this mess, when he had not been the one to examine the device. He confirmed that this had been the general thrust of the conversation.

Lawyer Mark Vassallo declared that Schembri’s counsel required one more sitting to complete their evidence and asked the court to order the exhibition of the strongroom CCTV. “Between January and August 2023, nobody knows where the exhibit was,” insisted the lawyers.

Mr. Justice Simiana agreed that the issue was a valid one and instructed Schembri’s lawyers to file an application to request the exhibition of the strongroom CCTV footage. 

The case will continue next month.