Caruana Galizia public inquiry: Former police commissioner says Keith Schembri denied him post with secret service

Former police commissioner John Rizzo and Speaker Anglu Farrugia testify in the public inquiry looking into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Former police commissioner John Rizzo testified in the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder
Former police commissioner John Rizzo testified in the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder
16:20 Thanks for following. Kurt Sansone
16:19 That's it for today. Kurt Sansone
16:13 The sitting is adjourned to Thursday at 2.30pm. Kurt Sansone
16:13 “I hadn't understood immediately. I had paused and then I understood that he had referred to Daphne Caruana Galizia and I told him 'rest assured that there are guards’,” Rizzo says, adding that Muscat's first action after the election was to ask about Caruana Galizia's safety. “At least that's how I understood it.” Kurt Sansone
16:11 Rizzo recalls that in the counting hall during the 2013 election, Muscat, shook his hands and told him: ‘I'll speak to you, John.’ Rizzo says that after the election, he had received a phone call from the Prime Minister, asking him "is Bidnija alright John?". Kurt Sansone
16:06 Lawyer Comodini Cachia asks him another question about the John Dalli case. “It was around Good Friday,” he recalls. “The MaltaToday had reported that I had asked someone to change his version, something I had categorically denied. We had told the person to be consistent, but the MT decided to say that I had asked someone to change his version.” Kurt Sansone
16:04 On the post-election period, he says: "It was a time of uncertainty. You have changing ministers... it’s a time of transition. New people, people asking for transfers. Lots of changes." Kurt Sansone
16:04 Rizzo says he "honestly could not recall" giving orders to stop the police protection to Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
16:03 The removal from his role clearly still stings Rizzo, whose voice occasionally breaks as he speaks about it. Kurt Sansone
16:02 “He had also offered me a consultancy role and a €10,000 pay rise. I had refused both.” Kurt Sansone
16:02 Rizzo says that he had gone to that meeting with the Prime Minister and found Keith Schembri instead. Kurt Sansone
16:01 “Precisely, the Prime Minister had offered me ‘anything I wanted’ as long as I don't remain police commissioner. I told him I wanted to remain in the police, but after that I had said that the job closest to my police work would be the security services. I said I wanted to remain as I hadn't done anything wrong and to date, I haven't been told whether I had done anything wrong.” Kurt Sansone
16:00 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks him about the meetings regarding his transfer to the Civil Protection Department. Kurt Sansone
15:59 “How could I not go? As an investigator, I'd want to go. As a commissioner, you are mostly doing administrative work but I felt duty bound to go. It wasn't for publicity or something like that. The first duty of the police is to preserve the scene of the crime.” Kurt Sansone
15:58 Rizzo is asked whether he would go to the scene of the crime of murders. Kurt Sansone
15:57 The former police commissioner says he would hold regular meetings with the criminal investigations department (CID) on big cases, and then hold crime conferences. Kurt Sansone
15:57 Rizzo: “Most investigations begin with allegations.” Kurt Sansone
15:56 Lofaro: “Even simple allegations?” Kurt Sansone
15:56 Rizzo: "You're duty bound to do these things." Kurt Sansone
15:55 Rizzo is asked what he would do with reports filed by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit. “I'd pass them on to the investigating team straight away. It wouldn't pass through my mind not to.” Kurt Sansone
15:55 "I believe the police are obliged to investigate every case it is informed of," he says, pointing once again to the 2013 oil scandal. "If it involves any criminal acts I believe that I am duty bound to act." Kurt Sansone
15:53 Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro asks him what he would have done if he had heard of the Panama Papers while still in office. Kurt Sansone
15:53 Asked whether he had investigated things mentioned in Caruana Galizia's blog, he says he had. "There was something about Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, I remember and I had ordered an investigation." Kurt Sansone
15:52 Rizzo says that during his time, the police would not request clearance from above to investigate things. Kurt Sansone
15:52 “I remember it as if it was yesterday, there was an article on the MaltaToday about the oil scandal. I gathered my team and said 'let’s go'. Then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had called me up and I told him we had started investigating and he had congratulated me.” Kurt Sansone
15:51 He is asked whether he would hold back from investigating certain people. Kurt Sansone
15:51 Rizzo says the police force had changed a lot since his departure. “The academy doesn't offer continuous training, whilst in my day once a month police officers would be given training. The police are to be independent and autonomous, without a doubt.” Kurt Sansone
15:50 Rizzo tells the inquiry board that nobody gave him an answer as to why he ended up at the civil protection department rather than the Security Service, as promised. “I had to explain this to my family.” Kurt Sansone
15:48 In a quavering voice, Rizzo says he had been promised a post in the security service during a meeting with the Prime Minister, two days before. “But instead there was Keith Schembri who told me that I was needed in the civil protection not the security services as Muscat had wanted. I told him this was unacceptable. They offered me a higher pay but I refused because money isn't everything. I started working at the CPD and spent four years there and left.” Kurt Sansone
15:46 "As a public servant, I was sent to the civil protection department and that is what I did. I was surprised with the move after 40 years in the police force, but I did my duty. I had met the prime minister briefly before the change." Kurt Sansone
15:45 “There was the oil scandal... I had arraigned five or six people. There were no other important investigations in which people had not been charged, at the time,” he adds. Kurt Sansone
15:44 Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro, another member of the inquiry board, asks Rizzo if there were other investigations similar to Dalli's. Kurt Sansone
15:44 There were several important investigations pending at the time of Rizzo’s removal from his post. "I would only involve myself in investigations of a certain importance," he adds. Kurt Sansone
15:43 Rizzo says that at the time he was unable to interrogate Dalli as he was abroad and medically declared unfit to travel. “The week I left, I received information that Dalli was coming to Malta. He had in fact returned a day after I left the police.” Kurt Sansone
15:42 He adds that as soon as he left his post, two days later, incoming police commissioner Peter Paul Zammit had said there was not enough evidence in the Dalli case. Kurt Sansone
15:41 “What I can say is after the OLAF investigation we had done a fresh investigation. In my genuine opinion, the evidence which we had gathered had been enough to press charges and the AG agreed with me,” Rizzo says. Kurt Sansone
15:39 Rizzo is asked by Said Pullicino about former European Commissioner John Dalli’s investigation. Dalli had resigned from his European post after an OLAF investigation implicated his office in an alleged case of bribery. Dalli was investigated but had not been charged because the Attorney General had said there was insufficient evidence to charge him. Kurt Sansone
15:34 “I would not involve the Security Service in investigations,” he says. Kurt Sansone
15:33 Rizzo says that there would be no briefings with the minister or prime minister on Security Service intercepts. The briefings would be with him and his investigative team. Kurt Sansone
15:32 Rizzo says that there was no political interference before the 2013 election. There was a lot of cross-forces cooperation he says, also with the secret service. Kurt Sansone
15:30 Rizzo is asked whether there is an internal police protocol to assess risks to individuals. "There is no protocol, it depends on the circumstances. I would consult with the deputy police commissioner." Kurt Sansone
15:30 Speaking of his departure from the police force, Rizzo says that he did not resign but was transferred. “The Prime Minister told me that I had spent a long enough time in the role." Kurt Sansone
15:28 "What I'm 100% sure of is that during the election the Caruana Galizia family had protection. Whether it finished after I left the post or not I cannot say for sure," Rizzo says. Kurt Sansone
15:28 Asked whether this arrangement persisted after the change in government, Rizzo says that when Labour was elected to government he spent four weeks as a police commissioner. Kurt Sansone
15:27 Rizzo explains that the protection was given without pressure from above. The police would assess the risk and provide protection accordingly. It would be reviewed from time to time. “Sometimes I felt it was my obligation to provide the protection,” he says. Kurt Sansone
15:26 Asked whether the murdered journalist had asked for protection, he says: "My impression is that police protection could have annoyed Caruana Galizia. This is one of the reasons why I had opted for frequent patrols instead of fixed point security." Kurt Sansone
15:25 Rizzo replies: "I was not the one to start the protection. My predecessors already had given her protection. I do not know exactly from when... there were times when I had fixed point guard, others frequent patrols..." Kurt Sansone
15:24 He is asked by former judge Michael Mallia, who is heading the inquiry board, about police protection given to Daphne Caruana Galizia. Kurt Sansone
15:23 Former police commissioner John Rizzo takes the stand. He was police commissioner from November 2001 to April 2013. Kurt Sansone
15:18 QUICK REMINDER: Parliamentary Speaker Anglu Farrugia is testifying in the Caruana Galizia murder public inquiry. He has been asked about his fallout with the Labour Party and Joseph Muscat in 2012 and ample reference has been made to an interview Farrugia gave at the time. The former PL deputy leader had used the interview to decry meetings between businesspeople and Labour officials on the fourth floor of party headquarters. On the witness stand, Farrugia says that he did not have access to the fourth floor and other than mentioning Malta Developers’ Association president Sandro Chetcuti by name, he has so far not identified any other businesspeople. Farrugia has told the board that Keith Schembri had access to the fourth floor. Kurt Sansone
15:13 The board will now take a five-minute break. Kurt Sansone
15:13 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks him once again about the visitors to the 4th floor. She also reminds him that he could reply in a confidential manner if he so wanted but Farrugia declined that option. Kurt Sansone
15:12 Farrugia replies: "I worked in the party, in the police force and international fora. You must always be careful that when working with people, even if you're acting correctly, you do not take for granted the rectitude of the people working with you. I could not give Cardona protection about the alleged frame up. I wrote to him, explaining why I could not take a position... In life, you're going to have these situations. There are going to be people quietly setting you up." Kurt Sansone
15:10 Inquiry board member Joseph Said Pullicino asks him about a letter Chris Cardona wrote to him, asking for his protection over an alleged frame up in his regard. The reference is to a note allegedly passed on to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech by Keith Schembri in which the former was asked to pin the blame on Cardona. Kurt Sansone
15:07 "Well, you have a person in a high position in the party who ends up without a role right before the election... it's clear," Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
15:06 Azzopardi asks him about his article in which he spoke of "political murder". Kurt Sansone
15:05 The question is repeated. Why hadn't he been asked to accompany Muscat? "I don't know. Probably because he knew I would decline." Kurt Sansone
15:05 Farrugia is asked whether Joseph Muscat had gone on trips to Libya and China and whether he had ever gone with him. "I never went to China and I never went to Libya on a point of principle," he replies. Kurt Sansone
15:04 Asked about the sale of passports scheme, Farrugia says he was never made aware of the scheme while deputy leader. Kurt Sansone
15:03 The incident refers to a Xarabank debate in 2012 when the PL had sent Franco Debono, then still a PN MP at loggerheads with his own party, to confront then PN deputy leader Simon Busuttil. The debate had to pitch Busuttil against PL deputy leader Anglu Farrugia. Kurt Sansone
15:02 “Franco Debono had indeed done that. The leader sent him. Joseph Muscat decided that I shouldn't go and Franco Debono should go in my stead,” Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
15:01 Azzopardi asks whether former Nationalist MP Franco Debono had ever been sent on Xarabank in 2012 instead of him. Kurt Sansone
14:59 Azzopardi asks whether Keith Schembri was running the show. "I was not involved in the campaign, as I had resigned before," Farrugia answers. Kurt Sansone
14:58 The Speaker says that Keith Schembri had access to the fourth floor. Kurt Sansone
14:57 Farrugia replies: "I was on the third floor. I don't know if they ever went to the fourth floor." Kurt Sansone
14:56 Azzopardi asks him whether he had ever seen Neville Gafa and Konrad Mizzi at the PL HQ. Kurt Sansone
14:55 Azzopardi says it was not because of that. He asks whether the witness knew of any lack of support inside the Labour Party to get the proposal through its Second Reading. "There wasn't agreement. It needed a 2/3 majority," Farrugia replies. Kurt Sansone
14:54 "Alfred Sant had been in favour of the 'super-magistrate' idea. Why it hadn't succeeded, was because it needed a 2/3 majority to pass through parliament and the PN had not supported it," Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
14:53 Azzopardi asks about a 1997 proposal for magistrates to be allowed to investigate corruption on their own initiative. Kurt Sansone
14:53 Caruana Galizia family lawyer Jason Azzopardi starts his cross-examination. Kurt Sansone
14:52 The Speaker is asked whether he had any more hard facts or names. “Hard facts no,” Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
14:51 Farrugia is asked whether he had ever seen businessman Yorgen Fenech on the 4th floor. “I didn’t,” he replies. Kurt Sansone
14:48 Asked whether, with hindsight, what he saw tallied with the power station deal being agreed before the election, Farrugia says he did not know. "I resigned in 2012. Konrad Mizzi had come out as a strong contender after my resignation. He was a candidate on the 4th district." Kurt Sansone
14:46 Farrugia says that when Alfred Sant was elected leader, he had told the party executive that there was no place in the party for persons involved in corruption. “There was a commission appointed and I even had arrested ministers and Labour MPs,” Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
14:42 Farrugia says: "I believe, as a person involved in politics, that when you are comfortable with people who are not members of the party but who approach the party for a reason, there are going to be problems." Kurt Sansone
14:38 "I received threats, even a written letter. John Rizzo, the former commissioner of police knows... You have a hierarchy, a leader and a deputy leader. The deputy leader is supposed to be the long arm of the leader and I wasn't..." Kurt Sansone
14:36 Farrugia adds: "My father would say: have you ever seen a pigeon flying with a greenfinch? If you’re not comfortable you have to leave." Kurt Sansone
14:35 "One of the incidents that hurt me a lot was related to energy. When I was deputy leader, I was never informed of how the energy plan would be implemented in detail. When I went on Xarabank, a TV programme, before resigning, somebody asked me if we were going to reduce energy bills and I wrongly said no... I was very short on detail." Kurt Sansone
14:34 Farrugia insists he had no access to the fourth floor at Labour HQ. Kurt Sansone
14:30 “Of course. He would take an active part in the party's activities,” Farrugia replies. Kurt Sansone
14:30 The inquiry board asks Farrugia whether Keith Scehmbri, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, used to be present on the fourth floor. Kurt Sansone
14:28 “I always had respect for the judiciary. When I was asked to resign, I was abroad. I had said that the time had come when we would come into government, when a magistrate has a potential political conflict he should recuse himself. I meant this with no disrespect to Magistrate Audrey Demicoli, her father was my friend and course mate.” Kurt Sansone
14:27 Farrugia says that he resigned because he was accused of attacking the judiciary. Kurt Sansone
14:26 Farrugia replies: “I confirm what I said at the time. Joseph Muscat never asked me 'what are you saying?' I made it clear that the PL is the party of the powerless and the middle class. I was very clear. What was bothering me, I made very clear. When I decided to resign on the 20 December, my letter was not a two-liner. There was a period where I stayed in silence. Two months passed before I gave that interview.” Kurt Sansone
14:23 Inquiry board member Said Pullicino asks Farrugia about the newspaper article complaining about the links between big business and politics. Kurt Sansone
14:21 QUICK REMINDER: Speaker Anglu Farrugia was deputy leader of the Labour Party between 2008 and 2012. He resigned in December 2012 after pressure from Joseph Muscat over comments Farrugia had made on a magistrate during a TV programme. Kurt Sansone
14:19 “When Muscat became leader, I wasn't his favourite and I was deputy leader. I was concentrating on parliamentary work. I did a lot of work to bring Mintoff's people back into the fold,” Farrugia says. Kurt Sansone
14:18 Farrugia says that one of the things he had told Muscat was that when the PL gets into office he must address all the injustices under all administrations. Kurt Sansone
14:17 "I never supported Joseph Muscat. When he ran for leader I didn't endorse him. The only time I met him was when the European Parliament dealt with some cases about Eddie Fenech Adami. I met Muscat there, when he was an MEP, and that’s where I got to know him." Kurt Sansone
14:16 Instead, the Speaker recounts an anecdote about his father being a pharmacist and how he would give medicine to the poor, going on to explain his political idea of having a "super magistrate" for corruption cases. Kurt Sansone
14:14 Former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino, a member of the inquiry board, confronts him with the fact that he had said all this in a newspaper interview. He asks him to expand on why he was uncomfortable with certain people being there. Kurt Sansone
14:13 He adds: “Businessmen would come with €50 and €20 donations but I would refuse them.” Kurt Sansone
14:12 Farrugia sidesteps a question when asked who else, apart from Chetcuti, he had seen at Labour HQ. He replies that on one occasion he had been at the HQ very late at around 11pm and had seen someone there but had not spoken to anyone about it. Kurt Sansone
14:09 Farrugia says he resigned from the PL in December 2012. Kurt Sansone
14:09 Asked who he had seen at Labour HQ, Farrugia said: "For example Sandro Chetcuti." Kurt Sansone
14:08 Farrugia says that at the time he had seen certain movements in the party which bothered him. "I was always closer to the grassroots, so when I'd see certain individuals at HQ, I'd ask what they were doing here. Then I established there was the 4th floor where people would meet.” Kurt Sansone
14:06 He is asked about an interview with the Times of Malta in January 2013 in which he had expressed concern about what he was seeing in the Labour Party at the time - too much rapprochement between the party and big business. The reference is to an interview in which Farrugia mentioned the now all too famous fourth floor meetings at Labour HQ. Kurt Sansone
14:04 The three judges have entered the courtroom and the first witness, Speaker Anglu Farrugia, takes the stand. He enters accompanied by law professor Ian Refalo. Kurt Sansone
14:02 The courtroom has opened. We're just settling in, waiting for all the main players to arrive. So far, lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Andrew Borg Cardona and Therese Comodini Cachia are present. Some members of the Caruana Galizia family have also arrived. Kurt Sansone
14:01 We are at the law courts in Valletta where the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia will get underway shortly. Kurt Sansone
13:59 Good afternoon. Kurt Sansone

Former police commissioner John Rizzo said it was the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri who offered him a post at the Civil Protection Department, overturning Joseph Muscat's offer for a post with the Security Service.

Rizzo said that after the 2013 election, the Prime Minister had asked him to leave from police commissioner, a post he had occupied since 2001. "I did not resign but I was transferred," he told the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Rizzo said he had been promised a post in the Security Service by the Prime Minister. But at a meeting in Castille with Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff told him that he was needed in the civil protection not the security services as Muscat had wanted.

"I told him this was unacceptable. He offered me a higher pay but I refused because money isn't everything. I started working at the CPD and spent four years there and left... As a public servant, I was sent to the civil protection department and that is what I did. I was surprised with the move after 40 years in the police force, but I did my duty. I had met the prime minister briefly before the change," Rizzo recalled.

Also testifying today was Speaker Anglu Farrugia, who was aksed about comments he gave in early 2013 after resigning from the Labour Party. At the time, Farrugia described his forced exit as "political murder" and expressed concern over Joseph Muscat's closeness to contractors and businesspeople. He had said secretive meetings were held on the fourth floor of Labour Party HQ.

Farrugia told the inquiry that he stood by all he had said, mentioning Malta Developers' Association President Sandro Chetcuti as one of the people helping the party at the time.

Farrugia said he never saw Yorgen Fenech at Labour HQ and refrained from mentioning any names. However, he said that he had no access to the fourth floor despite being deputy leader at the time.

Farrugia said Keith Schembri had access to the fourth floor.

"I wasn't Muscat's favourite," Farrugia said, adding that he had not campaigned for Muscat during the leadership race.

The public inquiryis looking into, among other things, whether the State did enough to prevent the murder and protect the journalist.

In the last sitting, held on 27 December, the Board heard Paul Caruana Galizia testify how Keith Schembri had tried to associate Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder with fuel smuggling by feeding misinformation to the media despite being privy to investigations.

Previous sittings heard Caruana Galizia family members describe the harassment they had been subjected too and how, after the 2013 election and following the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, the threats against Caruana Galizia had intensified.

Former judge Michael Mallia is chairing the inquiry board, while Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro are the board’s other two members. The inquiry's terms of reference stipulate that it must be concluded within nine months.