Tearful middleman tells court: I once gave lift to Caruana Galizia many years back

Follow our live blog of the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, the men accused of assassinating Daphne Caruana Galizia

From left: Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat, and second from right, George Degiorgio
From left: Alfred Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat, and second from right, George Degiorgio
13:24 Thank you for following, the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat will continue in January. Karl Azzopardi
13:20 The court is adjourned. Karl Azzopardi
13:19 The counter-examination has concluded. Karl Azzopardi
13:18 "A month before I was arrested, I knew that I was going to be arrested. I was informed by Johann Cremona," Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
13:15 Daphne Caruana Galizia's laptop in the hands of German investigators was discussed at one point between Yorgen Fenech and Melvin Theuma. Theuma says that when I asked him about it, Fenech said that if the laptop were to be investigated, it'd be better for him because Caruana Galizia had written many things about many people and it could confuse investigators further. Karl Azzopardi
13:13 Theuma admits that he didn't ask how Fenech could have such information. Karl Azzopardi
13:13 Theuma says that in April 2018, Yorgen Fenech informed him that there was a cabinet meeting taking place which was discussing a presidential pardon for Vince Muscat 'il-kohhu.' Karl Azzopardi
13:06 Theuma tells the court that he once drove Yorgen Fenech to Keith Schembri's house. Karl Azzopardi
13:05 "Yorgen told me that he would not carry the responsibility of guaranteeing bail for the Degiorgio's or even the €1 million each because he didn't order it. Then who did?" Theuma says, adding that he assumed Camilleri was sent by former chief of staff Keith Schembri. Karl Azzopardi
13:03 Theuma says that Camilleri told him that €1 million each will be given to Vince Muscat, Alfred and George Degiorgio. Karl Azzopardi
13:02 In the garage, a conversation took place between Cremona, Camilleri and Theuma. “Camilleri brought a piece of paper then that listed three telephone numbers, one of which was mine. Camilleri told me that I had a problem because it looked like I was the mastermind in the killing but I told him that it was Yorgen Fenech. I assume that Kenneth Camilleri was sent by Keith Schembri. I can confirm this when we hear the recordings,” Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:58 Theuma says that he knew Kenneth Camilleri worked in Castille but not with the Security Services. He says he met him once in the garage of Johann Cremona. Karl Azzopardi
12:58 Yorgen Fenech told Theuma to tell the Maksar family that he knew the bomb was developed there. “I didn’t pay him any attention because I don’t know anyone from the Maksar family,” Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:53 He tells the court that he was unaware of Keith Schembri was involved in the Electrogas deal in which Schembri would allegedly receive €80 million over 18 years. Karl Azzopardi
12:52 Theuma says he used to drive Turab Musayev to Electrogas meetings but he never heard anything untoward, not to mention that Turab spoke with Yorgen Fenech using English, which Theuma said he wasn't too fluent in. Karl Azzopardi
12:50 “I mentioned Keith il-Kasco in the letter to scare Yorgen Fenech into believing what I was ready to do and implicate,” Theuma tells the court. “Keith never mentioned Daphne, never paid me for anything. Only Yorgen Fenech gave me instructions. For me, only he is the mastermind.” Karl Azzopardi
12:47 “I was afraid that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech were too close (bicca wahda) and I started recording conversations between myself and Fenech because I thought it was my turn now.” Karl Azzopardi
12:46 “Fenech once named Keith Schembri as the person informing him. You can refer to the recordings but I don’t quite remember the context,” Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:46 Yorgen informed Theuma that Vince Muscat was revealing everything, Theuma says. Theuma called Fenech at one point after a night of drinking and said that he told him that he was not a true friend because he got mixed up in all of this. Karl Azzopardi
12:45 After the raid that led to the arrest of Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, Theuma says that he wrote a will with the help of notary Andrea Micallef. “I was afraid that now it’s my turn. I feared that Yorgen would kill me,” he says, adding that Fenech never threatened him and Fenech always gave him money when he asked for it. Karl Azzopardi
12:38 "I think that the information he was getting was from Keith Schembri. I think but do not know. He never told me," Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:37 This was before the media had reported it and less than a month after the murder took place. Karl Azzopardi
12:36 Theuma confirms that Yorgen Fenech knew that the Security Services had in their possession the SMS that was used to detonate the bomb. Karl Azzopardi
12:34 Theuma identified Mousaif in Azzopardi’s documents as the one present during that meeting in Portomaso. Karl Azzopardi
12:34 Jason Azzopardi presents a copy of the passport of this Turab Musayev, an Electrogas director from Azerbaijan, representing Socar. Karl Azzopardi
12:34 “After the bomb was detonated, I saw Yorgen Fenech at a meeting in Portomaso. One of the men present in the meeting, I knew. His name is Turab,” Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:30 “Yorgen told me to talk to Alfred Degiorgio to let him know that the bomb should kill Caruana Galizia and not end up like the one that didn’t kill Romeo Bone,” Theuma tells the court. Karl Azzopardi
12:27 Theuma says that Yorgen Fenech once told him to use Whatsapp because the calls on Whatsapp could not be tapped, unlike the normal calls. Theuma says Yorgen Fenech was aware that Security Services had tapped their calls. Karl Azzopardi
12:26 In August, the cheques stopped coming. Theuma tells the court how Yorgen Fenech told him he would be receiving them. Karl Azzopardi
12:22 "I don't know what job I was employed for. I received around €800 per cheques every month," he says. Karl Azzopardi
12:22 Theuma tells the court how he met a certain Tony Muscat for an interview the next day and that the interview lasted five minutes. He says that he told Tony Muscat that he wouldn't replace this new job with his taxi job but he was reassured that this would not happen. Karl Azzopardi
12:18 Theuma says that he also took a photo with his phone, of the portrait of former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff in one of Castille's rooms. Karl Azzopardi
12:15 “I was so embarrassed going to Castille, because I’m not the type to go to Castille. Yorgen Fenech informed me how to go in from the front door,” Theuma says, adding that he met with Schembri at the top of the stairs, offered him an espresso, gave him a tour and then led him to Sandro Craus. Karl Azzopardi
12:13 "There is a huge friendship between Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri," Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:12 Theuma says he met him another time after Sandro Craus called him at 7pm in the evening to tell him he would be meeting Schembri in Castille. Karl Azzopardi
12:11 Theuma recounts how Yorgen Fenech once introduced him to Keith Schembri. He only met him once in a farmhouse in Zebbug owned by Fenech. Karl Azzopardi
12:08 "I was at the Hilton with my taxi and saw Daphne Caruana Galizia a long time ago. Her tires were flat so I offered to drive her home. I didn't charge her. That's the only time I encountered her," Theuma tells the court. Karl Azzopardi
12:07 Theuma starts crying in the courtroom when Jason Azzopardi asks him whether he knew Daphne Caruana Galizia was a mother and daughter. Karl Azzopardi
12:07 "Yorgen Fenech called me two weeks or three, I'm not sure, before the April 2017 election. I met outside a restaurant with him and he told me to get in contact with George Degiorgio to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia because she was going to reveal information about his uncle Ray." Theuma says Karl Azzopardi
12:03 "I once asked Yorgen Fenech about bail and referred to the Prime Minister and Keith Schembri. Fenech told me that going to the Prime Minister would be the worst mistake," Theuma says. Karl Azzopardi
12:02 Jason Azzopardi asks Theuma—did you once refer to ‘ix-xih’ in one of the recordings? Karl Azzopardi
12:01 We are back in session. The parte civile counter-examination has started. Karl Azzopardi
12:00 In another phone call before the break, George Degiorgio was heard swearing, evidently quite angry. He told Mario Degiorgio to go speak to the lawyer, and after talks briefly to Theuma. There was also a reference to “ix-xih” (the old one) before the call ended. Karl Azzopardi
11:44 The break was asked for by Jason Azzopardi, appearing for the family. He wants to also question the witness, he tells the court. Karl Azzopardi
11:42 The court has taken a five-minute break. Karl Azzopardi
11:28 Other calls with Alfred Degiorgio on one end and Theuma, Mario Degiorgio and Mario's wife on the other end are played in court. Alfred asks Theuma and Mario for some help with money and to obtain bail. Guza tells Alfred that she prays for them. Karl Azzopardi
11:23 Another call that took place on 20 May, 2018 is played in court. Theuma and Mario Degiorgio promise to bring rooster meat to Alfred Degiorgio in Corradino. Karl Azzopardi
11:20 George and Alfred Degiorgio seem agitated as the recordings are being played in the courtroom. A whistling in the recording is heard and Theuma confirms that the warbling comes from birds owned by Mario Degiorgio as the call took place while Theuma was at his house. George huffs and tuts in the courtroom. Karl Azzopardi
11:14 Another call takes place at 29 March 2018. Theuma says that the call took place when he was at Mario Degiorgio's house. During the phonecall between Theuma and George Degiorgio, Theuma tells the accused that he would try to get permission to visit him. Matthew Vella
11:12 During the phonecall, they exchange pleasantries, ask how each is feeling. 

“It was good to hear your voice,” Theuma tells Alfred. 

A man known as il-Gandhi joins in the call as well at one point but it’s barely comprehensible. Matthew Vella
11:12 The first call takes us back to 22 March 2018 between Alfred Degiorgio and Melvin Theuma. Matthew Vella
11:12 Recordings will now be heard of the conversations between the Degiorgios and Melvin Theuma while the Degiorgios were in prison. Matthew Vella
11:05 “I never went to prison. Once I asked for permission to speak to Alfred Degiorgio in Corradino. I didn’t do it because I was afraid. Besides, Alfred told me that I better not do it,” Theuma says. 

He adds that he often called the Degiorgios to ask how they were holding up. Matthew Vella
11:02 Theuma says that he used to sometimes fork out his own personal money, which he gave to Mario Degiorgio and didn’t ask Yorgen Fenech to reimburse him because he was afraid. Kurt Sansone
11:01 Theuma explains how he had originally mentioned the word ‘betrayal’ in the context of him fearing for his life. He says he believed Fenech and Keith Schembri [the former chief of staff in the Office of the Prime Minister] were either conspiring to get him into prison or kill him. “Like they killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, they would have killed me too.” Kurt Sansone
11:00 “I had mentioned the word ‘betrayal’ once when the phone was tapped. Yorgen sent me a message then, instructing me to phone him and mention the word ‘betrayal’ in the context of not allowing my taxi to enter Portomaso,” Theuma continues. Kurt Sansone
10:56 “Yorgen Fenech once told me that our phones were tapped,” Theuma says. Kurt Sansone
10:54 Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Karol Aquilina have just walked into the courtroom to listen to proceedings. Kurt Sansone
10:54 Quick reminder: Melvin Theuma was the middleman between Tumas group magnate Yorgen Fenech and the three men who planted and detonated the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Theuma was given a presidential pardon to tell all. In separate court proceedings, Fenech is being charged as the mastermind of the murder. Kurt Sansone
10:52 Theuma presents receipts for €25,000, €4,000, and €50,000 and other amounts. Kurt Sansone
10:51 When asked why he kept the receipts, Theuma says: “I kept them so that I would have proof of where the money was going to, so that if Yorgen Fenech asks, he would know. So, he wouldn’t think I was taking them myself.” Kurt Sansone
10:51 Theuma tells the court that Mario Degiorgio also handed him receipts whenever he received the requested money. Kurt Sansone
10:47 “Mario Degiorgio, another of the Degiorgio brothers, once WhatsApped, telling me that he needed €15,000. I was abroad and I instructed someone to hand them to David Baldwin, someone I used to work with. David Baldwin handed them to Mario himself,” Theuma tells the court. Kurt Sansone
10:45 Theuma testifies: “When I got to know Mario Degiorgio myself, I no longer needed Lawrence Pace and I started giving him the money myself.” He adds that he often brought food to the Degiorgios in prison. Kurt Sansone
10:42 Three other security officers sit between Vince Muscat, Alfred and George Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
10:42 Theuma is accompanied by two security officials. He has been kept in a secure location under police protection ever since he requested and was given a pardon. Kurt Sansone
10:40 Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the murder of the journalist, has just entered the courtroom. Kurt Sansone
10:39 Mamo presents the court with a CD containing footage of this meeting with Theuma as Theuma drove him to the spot in the outskirts of Bidnija and told him what he did with Degiorgio. Kurt Sansone
10:38 Police officer Sandro Mamo from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) takes the stand. He tells the court that on 22 November, Inspector Arnaud gave him instructions to go with Melvin Theuma so that he could show him the surveillance spot from where Theuma and Alfred Degiorgio spied on the Bidnija residence. Kurt Sansone
10:34 Quick reminder: We are in court for the compilation of evidence against brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat, who are accused of Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination. Kurt Sansone
10:31 Inmates are handed a PIN code containing 10 digits. It’s through this that inmates make phone calls from prison. Prisoners can call anyone between 8.15am and 11.50am and between 1pm and 7pm, Zahra explains. Kurt Sansone
10:30 Clint Zahra, who works at the Corradino prison facility, takes the stand and is presenting two CDs containing telephone calls made by Alfred and George Degiorgio from prison. Kurt Sansone
10:30 "What the money was for, I don't know, and frankly couldn't care less," is-Sukku tells the court. Kurt Sansone
10:28 Brincat says that Lawrence Pace told him in early 2018 to hand out the money to a certain 'Marju.' This Mario used to hand him a receipt for the money received. It used to contain the amount and the word 'Corradino'. Kurt Sansone
10:24 Is-Sukku says that he knows Lawrence Pace well and knows Melvin Theuma by sight. Kurt Sansone
10:23 He explains how he knows Vince Muscat, Alfred Degiorgio, and George Degiorgio back in school. He turns around as he is asked to identify them. He smiles at them in the courtroom and nods. "Yes, it's them." Kurt Sansone
10:20 Joseph Brincat, is-Sukku, now takes the stand. Kurt Sansone
10:20 Quick reminder: Geogre Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat were arrested in December 2017 and charged with Caruana Galizia's murder. Their attempts to get bail have all failed and they remained in custody ever since. They are now awaiting trial. Kurt Sansone
10:19 Pace says that all this took place while the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat were in prison. The men had already been charged with executing the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
10:17 Pace tells the court that Melvin Theuma used to give him €300 in early 2018. He used to hand the money to a Joseph Brincat known as is-Sukku, a Marsa shop owner. This happened five times, with Pace receiving a total of €1,500 from Theuma, which he handed to s-Sukku. Pace believes that is-Sukku eventually gave them to the Degiorgio family. Kurt Sansone
10:12 Pace says that he knows Melvin Theuma because he usually met him in bars and tea shops where they discussed racehorses. Kurt Sansone
10:11 A Lawrence Pace, born and raised in Marsa, also known as il-Lolly has taken the stand. He identifies the three accused in the courtroom and names them when asked by Inspector Keith Arnaud to do so. Kurt Sansone
10:10 Baldwin was then told by Theuma to hand the money to a man in a car. “It happened in less than a minute,” Baldwin says as he recounts how he handed the money to a man in Marsa in the late afternoon last year. He does not remember the name of the man who he gave the money to. Kurt Sansone
10:06 Baldwin tells the court that he was instructed by Melvin Theuma to collect the money from the previous female witness over a year ago. Baldwin explains that he did not know what the money was for. Kurt Sansone
10:05 Baldwin tells the court that he knows Melvin Theuma in Marsa from the horse races. “I’ve known him for more than 5 years.” Kurt Sansone
10:05 David Baldwin now takes the stand. “I know Melvin Theuma because I work with him,” Baldwin says. Kurt Sansone
10:04 The accused's defence choose not to counter-examine the witness. Kurt Sansone
10:00 The witness tells the court that she didn’t know what the money was for and why it was handed to this David Baldwin. Kurt Sansone
09:59 The witness says that Melvin Theuma was abroad and he phoned her one time and told her to meet someone named David Baldwin and hand him €15,000. “I met him in Marsa and gave him the money.” Kurt Sansone
09:57 Lead inspector Keith Arnaud questions the witness. The female witness says she knows nothing about this particular case except what she has been hearing on the news. Kurt Sansone
09:54 Quick reminder: Melvin Theuma is the middleman in the murder. He was given a presidential pardon to tell all. Kurt Sansone
09:53 A female witness who cannot be named takes the stand. Her name will not be revealed due to ongoing investigations in her respect, the court hears. Her age is somewhere between late 20s and mid-30s. She looks subdued and is being assisted by Kathleen Grima, a lawyer assisting Melvin Theuma. Kurt Sansone
09:49 Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding. The court is now in session. Kurt Sansone
09:45 Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is yet to make an appearance. Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination and the main witness in today’s compilation of evidence has not arrived yet either. The session is running late. All the players inside the courtroom — Vince Muscat, Alfred and George Degiorgio — are waiting quietly, hands on their laps. Matthew Vella
09:35 Jason Azzopardi and Keith Arnaud are having a conversation out of earshot of the journalists present. Matthew Vella
09:33 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Nationalist MP, is appearing for the family. Matthew Vella
09:33 Vince Muscat 'il-kohhu' has taken his place on the bench. Matthew Vella
09:32 Chief Inspector Keith Arnaud has also entered the courtroom. Across from him is Josette Demicoli, who will be assisting Melvin Theuma. Matthew Vella
09:32 Matthew Caruana Galizia and Paul Caruana Galizia, two of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sons, have been joined by their father, aunts and grandparents. Matthew Vella
09:31 Alfred and George Degiorgio have taken their place on the bench as security crowds the courtroom. Matthew Vella
09:14 Court will start at 9:30am, we are told. Matthew Vella
08:54 Good morning. We should be going live from the law courts at around 9am. David Hudson will be reporting. Today’s sitting is the continuation of the compilation of evidence against the three men accused of having executed Daphne Caruana Galizia - yesterday’s sitting was the case against alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech. Matthew Vella

The compilation of evidence against the three men accused of having assassinated Daphne Caruana Galizia continues today in court.

The men are George Degiorgio ‘ic-Ciniz’, his brother Alfred Degiorgio ‘il-Fulu’ and Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’, and they stand accused of having executed the journalist by means of a car bomb on 16 October, 2017.

In a court sitting yesterday in which the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech stands accused of having been the mastermind behind the assassination, the middleman turned State’s evidence Melvin Theuma, revealed that the men were paid €150,000 to carry out the assassination.

Caruana Galizia assassination: Middleman feared that Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri would pin murder on him

Theuma testified how the three men accused of the murder did not know that Fenech was the mastermind and feared they would take it out on him.

Theuma told the court he feared being blamed for the assassination in a plan hatched by Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Theuma said that “a certain Kenneth” - now believed to be security officer at the OPM Kenneth Camilleri - had asked him to inform the three men who were accused of the murder that they would be granted bail and receive €1 million each. But this Kenneth also accused Theuma of being the mastermind behind the assassination.

Theuma has been given a presidential pardon to tell all about the murder.

The middleman said that it was Fenech who mentioned Keith Schembri and no one else. “Yorgen had told me that ‘Keith sent Kenneth because of me... the million-euro bail deal should never have been mentioned to you’,” Theuma told the court.

Schembri had been mentioned in a letter Theuma had penned as an insurance of sorts, should he be eliminated. In court, Theuma said that he put Schembri’s name on the paper because he was worried that he would arrange for him to be jailed. “I cannot say under oath that Keith ever paid me for the murder... for the rest of it he has nothing to do with anything,” Theuma said, implying that Schembri’s involvement may have come after the murder as a favour to his close friend Yorgen Fenech.

Theuma said that he was scared that Fenech and Schembri were planning to kill him. “Like he murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia he could murder me,” Theuma said, adding the recordings were intended to give Fenech a signal that even if he was eliminated the information would still come out.

What is a compilation of evidence?

The compilation of evidence is a pre-trial evidence gathering exercise which often spans months, if not years. Every witness and piece of evidence presented before the court during this stage of proceedings can be disclosed to jurors in an eventual trial. But before that, the compiling magistrate must decree that there is sufficient prima facie evidence for a bill of indictment to be issued.

Fenech stands accused of promoting, organising or financing a group with the intention of carrying out a criminal offence, actively participating in this criminal organisation by giving information, material means or the recruitment of new members whilst aware of the purpose of this organisation, complicity in the wilful homicide of Daphne Caruana Galizia, conspiracy to commit a crime in Malta punishable by imprisonment and complicity in causing an explosion which caused Caruana Galizia’s death.

If convicted by a jury on the complicity in homicide charge, he faces a possible life sentence.

Who are the courtroom players?

Yorgen Fenech is being represented by lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri.

The prosecution is being led by police inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra. They are being assisted by deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia.

Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Andrew Borg Cardona have appeared for the Caruana Galizia family as an interested party in the case. The case is presided by Magistrate Rachel Montebello.