Updated | Degiorgio brothers charged over refusal to testify in Yorgen Fenech case

Warned by the Court that refusing to testify could lead to imprisonment, George Degiorgio replied ‘OK’ • Both Degiorgio brothers to face charges on Monday after refusing to give evidence in Yorgen Fenech case

Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio had pleaded guilty to murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia and were jailed for 40 years each
Brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio had pleaded guilty to murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia and were jailed for 40 years each

Updated at 4pm with charges 

Alfred and George Degiorgio were charged with prevarication on the witness stand after they refused to testify in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech.

The Degiorgio brothers were brought to testify against Fenech before magistrate Rachel Montebello on Monday.

The compilation of evidence had been reopened following an October 2023 ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeal, which instructed the magistrate presiding over the compilation of evidence to hear the testimony of a number of specific witnesses.

Caruana Galizia, an outspoken critic of the Labour Party and its associates, was assassinated in October 2017 after a bomb had been planted inside her car. The Tumas heir, who is indicted for complicity in Caruana Galizia’s murder, has been described as the mastermind behind the assassination plot.

Brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio were sentenced to imprisonment for 40 years after they pleaded guilty to carrying out the journalist’s murder, on the first day of their trial. The brothers had unsuccessfully appealed against the sentence, which was subsequently confirmed on appeal.

A third assassin, Vincent Muscat, is also currently serving a 15-year sentence for his role in the killing, having received a lesser sentence in return for information after reaching a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution.

A fourth man, Melvin Theuma, received a presidential pardon for his part in the plot, in return for turning State’s evidence on this case. Fenech’s lawyers have requested the revocation of the pardon, claiming Theuma’s testimony was, in part, “half-truths” and “blatant lies.”

Fenech himself had also made multiple requests for a pardon, all of which had been rejected. 

Alfred Degiorgio refuses to testify “at this stage”

When the case was called on Monday, lawyer Leslie Cuschieri, who is assisting the Degiorgios, informed the court that there were ongoing constitutional proceedings about the brothers’ trial by jury, in which they were claiming to have suffered a breach of their fundamental right to a fair trial.

The magistrate noted the Criminal Court’s decree of 22 March, which ordered her to hear the Degiorgios’ testimony and remarked that it would not have done so if there was an impediment to it.

Alfred Degiorgio took the stand first.

Superintendent Keith Arnaud asked the witness whether the criminal case against him was over. He confirmed that it had.

Arnaud asked Degiorgio what he was doing for a living at the time of Caruana Galizia’s murder. “I choose not to reply.”

Court warned him that he did not have this right to do so and would face further criminal proceedings for doing so. Cuschieri attempted to explain but was told that he had no right of audience.

“I choose not to testify at this stage. Not that I will not testify, but that I do not want to at this stage.”

The court, having previously explained the consequences of a refusal and in view of Degiorgio’s insistence on doing so, ordered that he be arrested and charged as a prevaricating witness in terms of the criminal code.

If found guilty, he will be liable to a fine of between €2,300 and €4,600, or imprisonment for up to three months, or indeed to both the fine and imprisonment. His deposition was suspended, with a view to be continued at a later date.

Should he again refuse to testify, the fines and jail time will simply continue to accrue.

George Degiorgio was called to the stand next.

He, too, argued that he was contesting his conviction in constitutional proceedings. The court explained that his constitutional case did not impinge on these proceedings. “I’m not going to testify,” he replied sullenly. When the court warned that he would be arrested and charged as a result, his reply was a deadpan “OK.”

The sitting was adjourned. The case will continue later this month.

Prosecutors Anthony Vella and Godwin Cini are representing the office of the Attorney General. Lawyers Charles Mercieca, Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri are assisting Fenech.

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

Degiorgio brothers plead not guilty to refusing to testify

George and Alfred Degiorgio have pleaded not guilty to charges of refusing to testify and recidivism, in an arraignment which took place just hours after they did exactly that in criminal proceedings against Yorgen Fenech.

Whether or not guilt is found will change little for the self-confessed hitmen.

They were escorted into court on Monday afternoon to be arraigned before magistrate Noel Bartolo, having flatly refused to testify during the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech earlier.

Inspector Wayne Camilleri explained to magistrate Bartolo that the defendants had been called to the witness stand in order to testify in the case against Fenech before magistrate Rachel Montebello earlier on Monday. “Both defendants, in spite of an order from the Criminal Court by Judge Edwina Grima that they testify, refused to do so,” he said, adding that magistrate Montebello had requested that the case be investigated by the police.

A not guilty plea was filed by the Degiorgio brothers’ lawyers, Noel Bianco and Leslie Cuschieri.

The magistrate asked whether there were any requests by the parties. Inspector Camilleri was told to exhibit a number of documents relating to the earlier sitting, as well as a copy of the judgement confirming the defendants’ guilt for Caruana Galizia’s murder, which had been handed down by the Court of Criminal Appeal

The defence did not request bail.