[WATCH] Caruana Galizia murder: Decision to assassinate the journalist was taken in early 2017, postponed for election and re-activated on Sunday of election result

Melvin Theuma is testifying in the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat • Magistrate Nadine Lia recuses herself from Yorgen Fenech compilation of evidence

Melvin Theuma leaving the court building after today's sitting
Melvin Theuma leaving the court building after today's sitting
Middleman in assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia leaves court
12:35 That's it for today from court. Thank you for following. Kurt Sansone
12:31 The court has adjourned the sitting for 12 December at 9.30am and then on 7 January. Kurt Sansone
12:20 The lawyers have all approached the bench, out of earshot of the media. Kurt Sansone
12:18 Theuma's testimony is suspended until copies of the recordings can be made and given to the court. Kurt Sansone
12:17 Theuma says that he mentioned Keith Schembri in the letter because Yorgen was a very close friend of his. Kurt Sansone
12:16 After these recordings, Yorgen would say “if we remain friends ibusulna l-bajd (they can kiss our ass)”. It is not clear who Theuma is talking about. Kurt Sansone
12:14 Theuma says that the envelope containing the pen drive was his insurance so if something happened to him it would go to Stamperija and reveal all. He did this because he was scared they would kill him or put him in jail. Kurt Sansone
12:12 Theuma says he had prepared a pen drive with snippets of the recordings done in Portomoso, the car and Level 22, the letter and the photo taken at Castille. He sent these with Johann Cremona to show that he really had the recordings in hand. He started recording conversations after being tipped off that Vince Muscat was talking to the police. Kurt Sansone
12:07 Theuma says he started recording his phone calls when he started to suspect that they would dispose of him. He put three pieces of the recordings in three separate pen drives. He would place his mobile phone in airplane mode and turn on the voice recording function to record the calls. Kurt Sansone
12:07 “Nobody sent for Kenneth and I told him that I would go to Keith’s doorstep myself.” Kurt Sansone
12:07 He had to pass on a message that they were supposed to take a million after getting bail, but no bail and no million were ever given. It is not clear what Theuma is talking about. Kurt Sansone
12:07 Theuma tells the court that he met a certain Kenneth from Castille, and he thought: "Mela baghtu Keith?" Kurt Sansone
11:56 Theuma says the bomb that blew up Carauna Galizia was manufactured at Maksar. Maksar is the family nickname of Adrian and Robert Agius, two men who had been arrested in December 2017 in connection with the murder but released. Kurt Sansone
11:53 Theuma says he had been informed that Kohhu (Vince Muscat) was spilling the beans and got more depressed. Kurt Sansone
11:52 Theuma says he was suicidal after the murder. Kurt Sansone
11:52 Theuma says he would pay out expenses for the arrested men and get refunded by Yorgen Fenech. But sometimes he would be embarrassed to ask for the money or some other problem would arise and he would pay from his own pocket. Kurt Sansone
11:43 A second €30,000 was requested through Mario Degiorgio, a cousin to the brothers. Theuma says that Mario would ask him for the money and Yorgen would give them to the witness for disbursement. Kurt Sansone
11:40 Theuma went to London for a week in February 2018. There was a certain il-Gambli from Hamrun who told him that he had been contacted to arrange a phone call with Alfred Degiorgio. “I spoke to him. Degiorgio told me they needed €30,000 for their lawyer.” Kurt Sansone
11:38 After the murder, the witness says he was in a bad mental state and started drinking and taking pills. “After the Degiorgios were arrested I made a will because I said I'm next. I said to myself that Fenech went so far as to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia to avoid information coming out, so he wouldn't think twice about killing me." Kurt Sansone
11:36 Theuma tells the court that Fenech had warned him about the raid the Thursday before it happened. Kurt Sansone
11:36 Theuma says that Fenech warned him that the killers were in trouble, “around 5 December”. There was going to be a “big raid”, Fenech told him. Kurt Sansone
11:31 Theuma and Alfred Degiorgio had passed on a coded message to meet each other through a certain il-Lolly. Kurt Sansone
11:27 Theuma tells the court that the three men were tipped off about the potato shed raid in December 2017 by Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
11:24 Theuma says he spent €5,000 out of his own pocket for the telescope and binoculars and other expenses to avoid looking bad with Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
11:24 The witness is grilled on the point of whether he had heard of anyone else being involved in the murder, but he says that it was Yorgen Fenech alone. The defence objects to the line of questioning. Kurt Sansone
11:23 Inspector Arnaud asks Theuma whether anyone else had asked him about Daphne's murder. "No, as far as I'm concerned the 'mandant' is Yorgen Fenech because he paid me," Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
11:22 Theuma tells the court that Yorgen replied: “Isn’t it the Maltese police who will investigate at the end of the day?" Kurt Sansone
11:20 Theuma says: “When I heard of the murder, I started to be very scared. I had gone to meet Yorgen Fenech at Portomaso. I told him about the FBI and stuff like that and how concerned I was.” Kurt Sansone
11:17 Five or six days before the murder, Theuma tells the court he was unable to contact Alfred Degiorgio on the dedicated mobile phone. Yorgen Fenech would phone him incessantly telling him to speak to Degiorgio for updates. Kurt Sansone
11:15 The Caruana Galizia home was so far away that Alfred Degiorgio had to use optics to observe his target. He would spend days in the observation post. Kurt Sansone
11:14 Theuma describes the location where the accused would observe Caruana Galizia's home and movements. They had gone in Vince Muscat il-Koħħu's car, he says. It was either a Toyota Passo or a Daihatsu. Kurt Sansone
11:11 Alfred Degiorgio had given Theuma a mobile phone and told him to communicate with him only through it, and to stop meeting. Another time he had taken the witness to Bidnija to see their lookout position. This was to show he was doing his job. Kurt Sansone
11:09 Theuma asked Yorgen Fenech where Daphne Caruana Galizia would be and two cafes were mentioned. Kurt Sansone
11:08 George Degiorgio had told Theuma: "Mietu daqs dawk bulijiet, ma tmutx din?" Kurt Sansone
11:08 One day, Yorgen told me to tell Alfred to take care that this would not end up like Romeo Bone's case, as things would get worse. Romeo Bone had lost his legs to a car bombing, but survived. Kurt Sansone
11:07 Theuma says that from that day on, Yorgen continuously called him up, telling him to get it done or the information would come out. "I said to myself, this [hit] isn't for Ray, this is for him [Yorgen Fenech]." Kurt Sansone
11:03 The envelope contained €150,000. Theuma gave €30,000 to Alfred Degiorgio and the rest, he could not remember whether he placed in a safety deposit box or at home. Kurt Sansone
11:02 Theuma says that later, when he picked up Yorgen Fenech from the airport, he was handed a brown envelope containing cash for Alfred Degiorgio. He confirmed to him that the plan was back on. Kurt Sansone
11:01 Theuma says he ignored him because he thought Yorgen was drunk. He later met him again and no mention was made of the plan. Kurt Sansone
11:00 This was on the Sunday of the election result. Kurt Sansone
11:00 After the election, Theuma had been approached again and told that the plan to assassinate Daphne Caruana Galzia was back on. Yorgen sounded drunk, he said. Kurt Sansone
10:58 The witness says he had gambled some €150,000 for Fenech on the election outcome. I was given 5% commission on the winnings, amounting to approx €7,500. Kurt Sansone
10:58 Theuma says that when the election was called, Yorgen Fenech called him to stop everything. The witness had gone to meet Degiorgio and pass on the message. In order not to lose face with Alfred Degiorgio, Theuma gave him €1,500 of his own money when he told him to stop. Kurt Sansone
10:56 Theuma says he received three or four monthly cheques from Castille. They had stopped around two months after the election. Kurt Sansone
10:56 The day after the Castille meeting Theuma went to the ministry he had been assigned to and met a certain Tony Sammut or Muscat. Kurt Sansone
10:55 Theuma says he had met Schembri once before at a meal at the farmhouse in Zebbug. Kurt Sansone
10:55 Theuma went to Castille and was met by Schembri. They shook hands and took a photo together. Craus told him he now had a job with the government. Kurt Sansone
10:54 One or two days later, Yorgen Fenecg called Theuma up. He told him a certain Sandro Craus from Castille would call him. “He told me you will have a meeting with Keith Schembri.” Kurt Sansone
10:53 Theuma says he went to Yorgen Fenech and told him they wanted €150,000. Kurt Sansone
10:53 Theuma says that Alfred told him that he spoke with his friends and they told him the price was €150,000, with €30k upfront and the rest to be paid after the deed was done. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Two days later, the witness and Alfred Degiorgio met at the Busy Bee in Msida. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Theuma tells the court that he knew the Degiorgios. Yorgen Fenech told Theuma that he needed to “kill Daphne Caruana Galizia because she had a story about his uncle Ray Fenech." Kurt Sansone
10:45 Theuma says that this meeting took place in 2017, before the Prime Minister had announced the general election. Theuma and Fenech met near the Blue Elephant restaurant at the Hilton. Fenech asked Theuma whether he knew George Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
10:44 "One day, I was at work at the Hilton, went home and made a coffee and Yorgen Fenech called me up, asking me to come to his office." Kurt Sansone
10:43 Theuma says that he had known Yorgen Fenech through his bookmaker business. Theuma was a taxi driver. "He gave me a slot at the Hilton. That means a lot. If you're at the airport you'll find 50 cars ahead of you, but at the Hilton maybe five." Kurt Sansone
10:43 Theuma says that he had gone abroad several times with Yorgen Fenech and friends. "Everything was free, including the food. " Kurt Sansone
10:42 Theuma: "I was a friend of Yorgen Fenech, of Tumas... One time we had been in France and he had given me advice… he said that once he had spoken to someone and he had been recorded. I took it to mean that he meant that I had recorded him." Kurt Sansone
10:40 Inspector Arnaud asks Theuma what he knows about the murder. Kurt Sansone
10:40 Theuma says he got to know them by renting a flat to them. Kurt Sansone
10:40 Theuma identifies George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat by name and nickname in the courtroom. "I know them all. The first I knew was Alfred. From Alfred I got to know his brother and Vince." Kurt Sansone
10:39 The court makes it clear to him that proceedings will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the pardon by not giving all the evidence he had. Kurt Sansone
10:36 Theuma takes the stand and is administered the oath. Kurt Sansone
10:36 Lawyer William Cuschieri for the Degiorgios says that legal proceedings had been started, first by a judicial protest and now a court case would be filed to attack the pardon handed to Theuma. Kurt Sansone
10:35 Inspector Keith Arnaud informs the court that Melvin Theuma had been given a presidential pardon on 25 November 2019 and that no criminal action would be taken against him with regards to evidence he will give. Kurt Sansone
10:34 Quick reminder: The court is expected to hear the testimony of Melvin Theuma, the person who acted as middleman between the mastermind and the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia. This sitting is one where Theuma is expected to testify against the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat. Kurt Sansone
10:32 The magistrate is Claire Stafrace Zammit. Kurt Sansone
10:32 With the arrival of the assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia, all the courtroom players are now here. Kurt Sansone
10:31 Vince Muscat, the third man accused, enters almost at the same time as the magistrate. The sitting has begun. Kurt Sansone
10:29 George and Alfred Degiorgio have entered the courtroom. Inspector Keith Arnaud is speaking with Matthew Caruana Galizia, Peter Caruana Galizia and the family lawyer, Jason Azzopardi. Kurt Sansone
10:25 Matthew and Andrew Caruana Galizia have entered the courtroom, together with their father, Peter. The victim's parents and siblings are also present. Kurt Sansone
10:16 He is expected to start testifying at 10.30am. Kurt Sansone
10:16 Theuma was granted a presidential pardon to tell all on the Caruana Galizia murder. Kurt Sansone
10:15 Theuma was seen briefly in the corridors of the courthouse accompanied by a bodyguard and his lawyer Matthew Brincat. Kurt Sansone
10:15 Welcome back. We are in court waiting for Melvin Theuma to testify in the case against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat. Kurt Sansone
09:46 Meanwhile, at 10.30am Melvin Theuma is expected to testify in the compilation of evidence against three men accused with carrying out the Caruana Galizia murder. Kurt Sansone
09:44 It will be up to the Chief Justice to appoint a new magistrate to hear the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. Kurt Sansone
09:30 Magistrate Nadine Lia has abstained from the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. Matthew Vella
09:16 The incorrect information appeared to have been passed on, as both defence and parte civile were present this morning. The magistrate’s deputy told them that the sitting on the recusal was not given a date yet. Meanwhile sources say the magistrate may give a decree on her recusal later this afternoon. Matthew Vella
09:12 Prosecutors will not be presenting evidence today against Tumas magnate and 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech, charged with complicity in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, as the magistrate selected by lot to preside over the case is facing a recusal request by the Caruana Galizia family.
Magistrate Nadine Lia, daughter-in-law to the prime minister’s lawyer Pawlu Lia, has yet to decreed the recusal.
At 10:30am, middleman Melvin Theuma, who was asked by Yorgen Fenech to contract the three men who carried out the Caruana Galizia execution, will be giving evidence.
Matthew Vella
09:07 A decree on the recusal request by the Caruana Galizia family, which said that Nadine Lia, the daughter-in-law of the Prime Minister's lawyer, should not preside over this case, will be take later this morning. Matthew Vella
09:06 We have confirmed that the sitting was not supposed to happen today, but the court has not yet issued an official decree. Magistrate Nadine Lia has also not decreed the application by the Caruana Galizia family on her recusal, either. So for now, we are logging off - but there will be a 10:30am live-blog as suspected middleman Melvin Theuma appears in court today. Matthew Vella
08:52 Good morning, and welcome to this live-blog. Matthew Vella

Key points from Melvin Theuma's testimony so far:

• Theuma claims Yorgen Fenech was the person who ordered the murder, saying Fenech had been the person who paid him for it and was therefore the “mandant”
• Theuma says Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat were tipped off about the police and army raid on the potato shed in Marsa in December 2017 by Yorgen Fenech
• Yorgen Fenech had gambled €150,000, through Theuma, on the outcome of the 2017 election. Theuma was given a 5% commission, amounting to €7,500.
• Yorgen Fenech had put the planned murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia on hold when the 2017 election was called. After the election, Fenech told Theuma the plan to assassinate the journalist was back on.
• Theuma was given a government job through Keith Schembri’s intervention. Previously, Yorgen Fenech had arranged for somebody from Castille to contact Theuma and schedule a meeting for him with Schembri. The photo showing Theuma and Schembri was taken during that meeting.
• Yorgen Fenech first told Theuma about his intentions to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, before that year's general election was announced.

Earlier

Magistrate Nadine Lia has recused herself from hearing the compilation of evidence against 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech.

Nadine Lia, daughter-in-law to the prime minister’s lawyer Pawlu Lia, faced a recusal request by the Caruana Galizia family last night.

Prosecutors will not be presenting evidence today against Tumas magnate and 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech, charged with complicity in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

In her decree, the magistrate said that it was "absolutely not true" that she had already decided not to recuse itself. This was misinformation intended to be fed to the media and create a sensation, she said. The objections could also have been filed before she was even selected, added the magistrate.

Although it was not a legal requirement, the magistrate said, after consulting with European judgments and law, that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. For this reason, Magistrate Lia recused herself from hearing the case.

At 10:30am, middleman Melvin Theuma, who was asked by Yorgen Fenech to contract the three men who carried out the Caruana Galizia execution, will be giving evidence.

Yesterday Fenech claimed in a separate court writ filed by his lawyers, that former chief of staff Keith Schembri had made “considerable efforts” to stop him from passing on incriminating information to the police, including interventions by third persons and through promises.

This had led to Fenech being impeded “for some time and in a most deceptive manner” if not also in breach of the law, from passing on all the information he had to the competent authorities, he claims.

This emerged in an action for judicial review filed by Fenech against the apparent refusal of his request for a presidential pardon, in return for information which could implicate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s former Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri.

In a sworn application to the First Hall of the Civil Court, Fenech, who described himself as a “person of interest” in the homicide investigation, said that he had not been informed of the outcome to his request, but that the media appeared to have been informed that it would not be granted.

He argued that he had the right to a fair hearing, “free of the interference of political interests, if not frankly direct personal interests and a serious conflict of interest.” Therefore the situation whereby the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, which up till a few hours ago still had Keith Schembri as a member, also decided whether to grant or reject his offer to tell all, was “worrying,” he said.

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