Yorgen Fenech defence ‘doubts Europol experts' understanding’ of court-appointed tasks

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continued on Monday afternoon

Yorgen Fenech is indicted with masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia
Yorgen Fenech is indicted with masterminding the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

A former Europol expert has told a court that it was not unusual for them to only hand in their reports on extracted data, without also attaching copies of the data itself.

This after one of Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers suggested that the fact that only the reports had been exhibited indicated that the Europol experts who had assisted the magisterial inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia had “not understood” their tasks.

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, who stands indicted for allegedly conspiring with others to murder journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, resumed before Magistrate Rachel Montebello on Monday.

Konstantinous Petrou had been one of the Europol experts appointed by magistrate Anthony Vella to extract data from a cloned copy of the Caruana Galizia’s phone and other devices. He had completed this task, he said, and submitted his report to Europol's Weapons and Explosives Unit in the Hague.

“When we deliver data, we also deliver the report, but in some cases, we only deliver the report," Petrou replied, when pressed by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca as to why the data had not been exhibited, too.  

Testifying in English, Petrou matter-of-factly replied that he had handled the task in question the same way that he would handle any other. "Nothing special," he added.

When Mercieca asked whether the witness was aware that his manager had also been appointed as a court expert, Petrou replied that he was not.

The court-expert told the court that he had not examined the contents of the data extracted, explaining that the forensic process he was involved in dealt with verifying that the extracted data had not been corrupted. Data analysis was a job carried out by data analysts, he added.

Asked by Mercieca as to whether he had ever communicated with the magistrate leading the inquiry, the witness said that he hadn’t.

Petrou confirmed that he had handed in his report to the Weapons and Explosives department at Europol. "We do this every day, so I was informing my manager of every task that I completed... my manager allocates tasks to me and I do them. If there is a delay, I would inform him."

The court was told that the report about the analysis carried out on the extracted data had already been exhibited by his colleague Martin Van Der Meij.

After the Europol expert left the stand, retired AFM commander, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, who had also been appointed as an expert during the inquiry, exhibited his report on the explosive device used in the murder.

The sitting comes a week after one of Fenech’s lawyers told the court that correspondence between the Italian and Maltese authorities had indirectly referred to a smartwatch-recording of a conversation involving two Maltese persons, in which one says that he had paid around €40,000 to murder the journalist.

Prosecutors had rebutted that claim, telling the court that they had received the document through Eurojust and had exhibited it in the acts of the inquiry. The defence claimed to have been made aware of the recording after the time window for submitting pleas and adding witnesses had lapsed.

Attorney General lawyers Anthony Vella and Godwin Cini are prosecuting.

Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are assisting Fenech.

Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are assisting the Caruana Galizia family as parte civile.


14:31 Next sitting before the Criminal Court is on 6 March. The court adjourns the compilation of evidence to March 11 at 1:30pm. Karl Azzopardi
14:30 The court, after noting that the Europol experts had now testified and exhibited their reports in the manner ordered by the Criminal Court, remits the acts of the case back to the Criminal Court for a clarification on whether the extractions also need to be exhibited. Martin Bajada will also have to testify again to explain the situation to the court. Karl Azzopardi
14:29 The prosecution informs the court that it has no further witnesses summonsed for today. Karl Azzopardi
14:28 "A month in prison is still a month in prison and four years in prison is still four years in prison," Mercieca tells the court. Karl Azzopardi
14:27 The courtroom reopens. We find the defence continuing its argument, insisting that that the report must be exhibited "in its entirety." Karl Azzopardi
14:25 The Brigadier leaves the courtroom less than five minutes later, which usually indicates that he had only handed in a document. The press and the public remain outside the closed courtroom for the time being. Karl Azzopardi
14:23 Next witness is Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, who had been appointed as explosives expert, testifies briefly behind closed doors after the public and the press are ordered out of the courtroom. Karl Azzopardi
14:22 Mercieca argues the expert had to present the exhibit with his report, but this argument was rejected by the court. Karl Azzopardi
14:19 Inspector Zahra says the defence had made a very incorrect statement when it said that it did not know what had been done with the extracted data. The witness had been clear, as had the Criminal Court he says. Karl Azzopardi
14:15 The lawyer expresses doubt as to how well the experts had understood their tasks. Karl Azzopardi
14:14 Mercieca tells the court that as far as he knew, the procedure was that when an expert presents a report he also presents the original exhibits he examined. Karl Azzopardi
14:13 The court stops Merceica from repeatedly asking the same questions to the witness. Petrou is dismissed and leaves the stand. Karl Azzopardi
14:12 Konstantinous Petrou: “It was a copy - a .rar file, compressed. If anything was changed the file would show it.” Karl Azzopardi
14:10 Asked by Mercieca as to what he had managed to extract from the phone and other devices, Petrou explains that the forensic process was about verifying the data extracted was not corrupted. He had not looked at the contents, he says. Karl Azzopardi
14:08 Mercieca asks whether he had communicated with the inquiring magistrate, at the time Anthony Vella. "I never communicated with him. When we deliver data, we deliver the report, but in some cases, we only deliver the report." He says the task had been handled as every other. "Nothing special." Mercieca asks whether Petrou was aware that his manager was also appointed as a court expert. He did not, replied the witness. Karl Azzopardi
14:07 The lawyer suggests that he had chosen to ignore the magistrate's instructions, but was shut down by the prosecution and the court. He is stopped by the magistrate when he asks to see a copy of the report, which the magistrate points out was under seal at the orders of the Criminal Court. Karl Azzopardi
14:05 Konstantinous Petrou denies that Bajada had told him what to do with it. Karl Azzopardi
14:04 Mercieca repeated his question about why when aware of his responsibility towards the court. He had not reported back to the court. Karl Azzopardi
14:03 He had come to Malta with the report in 2018, he says. Karl Azzopardi
14:02 His manager had given him the instruction, he said, prompting Mercieca to point out that he was an expert of the court, and not his manager's. Karl Azzopardi
14:01 The decree had been in Maltese and was explained to him by Mr Bajada, he said Karl Azzopardi
14:01 Mercieca asks who had communicated the task to him. The witness replies that his manager had done so. Karl Azzopardi
14:00 He confirms that he had handed in the report to the Weapons and Explosives department. "We do this every day, so I was informing my manager of every task I complete... my manager allocates tasks to me and I do them. If there is a delay, I would inform him." Karl Azzopardi
13:59 Konstantinous Petrou: "I did the extraction, I didn't find problems, I made the report and handed in the report. As forensics we don't really analyse the data, that is done by analysts." Karl Azzopardi
13:58 Petrou explained that he is no longer a Europol employee. Mercieca asks about his manager and the tasks assigned to him. Karl Azzopardi
13:57 Inspector Zahra corrects the lawyer, and says that the Criminal Court had only requested the report, and not the data. Karl Azzopardi
13:56 Mercieca retorts that as a court expert appointed by a Maltese court, he was exclusively answerable to the Maltese court. Karl Azzopardi
13:56 Asked whether he had a copy of the data, he replied that the request would have to go through Europol. Karl Azzopardi
13:55 A cloned phone, as the actual phone of the victim had been destroyed, was examined, together with other data from online accounts. He says he had extracted the data from the phone. Karl Azzopardi
13:54 Lawyer Charles Mercieca, Fenech’s lawyer, asks him to walk the court through the report and give details about what he had done and recommended. Karl Azzopardi
13:52 The court shows Petrou a document that it had just unsealed, asking whether his report was part of the document. It was, he replies, and it described when he received the exhibit in November 2018. After confirming the report, the court asks Petrou to sign the relevant part, which he proceeds to do. Karl Azzopardi
13:50 He confirms that he had never reported back to the inquiring magistrate. "It was delivered by my colleague Martin Van Der Meija. An analysis report based on extracted data." Inspector Kurt Zahra explains that Van Der Meij had since exhibited the report, in the last sitting. Karl Azzopardi
13:48 He says her was never asked to exhibit it in Malta. Karl Azzopardi
13:48 He was appointed to examine a clone of the victim's phone and other devices and extracted the data. He completed this task, he said. He had submitted his report to the Weapons and Explosives Unit in the Hague. Karl Azzopardi
13:47 The court askes whether he has finished his examination of exhibits. Karl Azzopardi
13:46 Konstantinous Petrou from Interpol takes the stand. He testifies in English. Karl Azzopardi
13:46 A court-appointed transcriber exhibits her transcriptions of videotaped interrogations and statements. Another exhibits transcriptions of the statements released by a long list of persons of interest to the investigation, including the Degiorgio brothers. Karl Azzopardi
13:44 Caruana Galizia's sisters sit on the public benches, behind the defence lawyers, following the proceedings together with lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia. Karl Azzopardi
13:43 The court is in session. None of Fenech’s family members are present. Karl Azzopardi
13:40 Good afternoon. Senior court reporter Matthew Agius is in the courtroom waiting for proceedings to begin. Yorgen Fenech is in the court building and is expected to be escorted to the courtroom shortly. Karl Azzopardi