Caruana Galizia inquiry: Sandro Chetcuti denies fourth floor office at Labour HQ

Malta Developers Association boss denies claims that he had a fourth floor office at the Labour Party headquarters and says he never had meetings with Yorgen Fenech

MDA boss Sandro Chetcuti
MDA boss Sandro Chetcuti
15:42 Tomorrow's sitting will be held behind closed doors. After that, on Monday 2:30pm, Manfred Galdes, ex director of FIAU will testify. On Wednesday 22nd at 2pm the present director of the Security Services will testify, possibly also behind closed doors. David Hudson
15:41 This concluded Chetcuti's testimony and with it, today's sitting. David Hudson
15:40 Answering a question from the judges, Chetcuti said that pre-2013, he had a grievance against the PN over a personal matter but that then PN leader Simon Busuttil had striven to build bridges and almost going so far as to issue a public apology. David Hudson
15:38 He adds that the construction industry is now very important for the Malta. David Hudson
15:38 Chetcuti says that the developers flocked to Labour after the PN rejected their proposals in the lead up to the 2013 general election. David Hudson
15:36 Chetcuti is asked about donations. "Many small organisations come asking for donations and you realise that sometimes, they would not survive without donations." David Hudson
15:35 "It's because you impressed him," says Said Pullicino, tongue in cheek, referring to Farrugia's mention of Chetcuti at Labour HQ. David Hudson
15:35 The board agrees with him on this point, says that they have an issue with Farrugia's memory of certain events. They do not clarify. David Hudson
15:34 Chetcuti is referring to Speaker of the House, Anglu Farrugia's testimony in a previous sitting, where he claimed to have seen Chetcuti on the fourth floor of the Labour Party HQ. David Hudson
15:34 Chetcuti says that the media always tried to put him in a bad light. "Even Anglu Farrugia, from all the businessmen he saw at the Labour HQ, he mentioned me." David Hudson
15:30 "One of the biggest problems I had with this government was that when the common good was, in our opinion, undervalued, we would argue… I would sometimes argue with Muscat himself about whether State property should be the same value as private property," Chetcuti says. David Hudson
15:29 “It’s how I am. I sometimes overreact when I greet people. I am affectionate.” David Hudson
15:29 He always distances the person from the office, he said. "I condemn the actions of the person and not the person of Mizzi who the MDA had always had a good relationship with." He said he learnt such values at St Aloysius. David Hudson
15:28 "Why do you keep a close relationship with person who is facing serious allegations of corruption?" Azzopardi asks. David Hudson
15:28 Azzopardi asks Chetcuti about his recent appearance at Labour Party Leadership Contender Chris Fearne's rally. David Hudson
15:22 Chetcuti is being asked about his ties to former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi. Azzopardi asks him whether he knew about a tender in which the PL would take a commission. Chetcuti says, “no.” David Hudson
15:21 "Definitely not," Chetcuti says. David Hudson
15:20 Azzopardi asks Chetcuti whether he was aware of a €1 million donation at one point. David Hudson
15:20 Azzopardi asks him whether he knew that during the election campaign, millions of funds for PL came through from the business community he had introduced to Muscat. "Yes often the people I introduced would want to contribute,” Chetcuti replies. A receipt would always be given, he said. David Hudson
15:18 Said Pullicino grills him about the minutes and notes of these meetings, but Chetcuti says he doesn’t know anything about that as he didn't usually deal with those things. David Hudson
15:17 He is asked whether he remembered that a meeting with Piscopo was suggested after a meeting with medium-sized businesses. Chetcuti says that he didn't remember. David Hudson
15:17 Jason Azzopardi asks him about CEO of the Labour party pre-2013, James Piscopo. In what circumstances was Piscopo present during his meetings with Muscat? "There were some circumstances where James Piscopo was present, but I met Muscat more than Piscopo. David Hudson
15:16 "My role at the time was to try and contribute to the growth of the economy. Even when I wasn't president of MDA, I wanted to nurture the drive to give the economy a boost. But those meetings were never held on the fourth floor." David Hudson
15:13 He was once invited to a social gathering by Polidano, the contractor. The judges press him about the fourth floor meetings again. "It is the fourth floor business that is worrying us here,” says Said Pullicino. David Hudson
15:10 The businessmen who Chetcuti would put into contact with Muscat included hoteliers, he said, but denied being the interlocutor for the DB group or Marco Gaffarena. David Hudson
15:09 After the election, he would have meetings with Muscat in Castille. But post-2013, these meetings would generally be social and would take place in restaurants or cafeterias. "They were always in plain sight, they were never held in secret." When he was made head of the MDA he had withdrawn from party politics. David Hudson
15:06 One of the policies he had spoken to Muscat about was the first-time buyers scheme which he had also attempted to speak to former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil about. Muscat was impressed with the idea, Chetcuti says. David Hudson
15:05 "I never heard Muscat promise something to someone in person.” David Hudson
15:05 There was a business crisis at the time and when Chetcuti met Muscat he had told him that "there are a lot of hurt people out there." The majority of their conversations were about policies, he said. David Hudson
15:04 Chetcuti says he got to know Keith Schembri, Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff, after he was made chief of staff to the Prime Minister. Leading businessmen would be brought to speak to Muscat through him, Chetcuti tells the court. David Hudson
15:03 Yorgen Fenech is the Tumas group businessman and the Electrogas investor who has been charged with masterminding the murder of Caruana Galizia. David Hudson
15:03 He never held a meeting with Yorgen Fenech, he says. David Hudson
15:02 In 2011 the MDA had formed and he had held meetings with the Leader of the Opposition before then. He had been invited by Joseph Muscat, but it had been his own initiative to bring business people to the PL. David Hudson
15:02 He is asked whether he had ever held meetings on the fourth floor of the Labour Party HQ before the election. "No, I never went to the fourth floor." David Hudson
15:01 Asked if he was close to the party, Chetcuti said that at the time he was a facilitator, on a voluntary basis, to bring people to the PL. David Hudson
15:01 Chetcuti is asked whether he was aware about what Labour leader candidate Chris Fearne had told a local newspaper about Chetcuti’s office. Chetcuti said that he was not aware. David Hudson
15:00 "When I heard the report, I had filed an affidavit with Notary Sam Abela that I had never had any office at the Labour Party HQ," Chetcuti says. David Hudson
14:59 "A previous witness said that you had a desk at the Labour Party HQ. Can you give more details?" Mallia asks. David Hudson
14:59 Judge Michael Mallia asks: “I imagine you know why you’re here.” Sandro Chetcuti replies: “Yes.” David Hudson
14:57 MDA head Sandro Chetcuti now takes the stand. David Hudson
14:57 "I was always loyal to the oath of office I took," he said as he concluded his testimony. David Hudson
14:57 He had spoken to Owen Bonnici to offer his services wherever needed. He had taken up a role at LESA which he occupies to this day, he said. David Hudson
14:57 Asked whether he was given another role after his resignation he corrected Azzopardi, saying he never resigned and had completed his service. David Hudson
14:57 Judge Abigail Lofaro asks whether Castille persons were present while security services would brief him. “Never, never, never,” he says again. David Hudson
14:56 This question is also disallowed. David Hudson
14:55 The point of the question was to establish how seriously the State took the money laundering investigations, Azzopardi insists. David Hudson
14:55 Azzopardi asks another question regarding Caruana Galizia's allegation that Zammit’s son had business ties to the criminal underworld. His son was an officer at the economic crimes unit at the time. David Hudson
14:54 Zammit is asked whether the Head of the Security Services ever informed him of any risks to Caruana Galizia. "Never, never and never," he replies. David Hudson
14:51 The question is disallowed. David Hudson
14:51 Paul Sheehan, the former driver of former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia, was accused of shooting at an unarmed motorist. David Hudson
14:50 Azzopardi tries to ask him about the Sheehan shooting incident. David Hudson
14:49 Peter Paul Zammit had testified in the previous sitting. He had spoken about serious shortcomings in investigation into John Dalli, the former politician and European Commissioner who was made to resign his post in Brussels after a bribery investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF. David Hudson
14:46 Family lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Zammit about his appointment to acting commissioner. On the day he had been ordered to go to the Office of the Prime Minister, he says. He had spoken to his superior, the Commissioner of Police and had told his Commissioner about it. Zammit was told by then outgoing commissioner Peter Paul Zammit to accept the role if he was offered it. David Hudson
14:44 He is referring to Peter Caruana Galizia, who is also present in the courtroom. David Hudson
14:43 On one occasion I had tried to speak to her, but when I approached the house, her husband came out and insisted that I speak to him." David Hudson
14:43 "Every official of every district has key points to take care of whilst on patrol." Before his appointment to commissioner, he said, he had been aware that she had a fixed point at a point in time. David Hudson
14:40 "There was no evaluation because there was no request." He had not felt the need to review the journalist's security arrangements in the short time he was Commissioner, he said. David Hudson
14:40 In his time he said he knew there were frequent patrols around Caruana Galizia’s house, but no fixed point. There was no request for a fixed point, nor was there any evaluation of the situation. "I can confirm that I never received a request, verbally or in writing." David Hudson
14:37 Zammit had been commissioner of Police from July 2014 to December of that year. David Hudson
14:36 The judges have entered the courtroom. The sitting begins by the calling of the first witness - former police commissioner Ray Zammit. David Hudson
14:31 Today's main witness, Malta Developers Association boss Sandro Chetcuti, was seen entering the courtroom a few minutes ago. David Hudson
14:29 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. David Hudson
14:29 We are waiting for the retired judges who make up the board of inquiry to enter the courtroom. David Hudson
14:28 The hearing is set to start. David Hudson
14:26 Good afternoon. David Hudson

Malta Developers Association Head Sandro Chetcuti is expected to testify alongside former acting police commissioner Ray Zammit today as the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues this afternoon.

Former police commissioners Peter Paul Zammit and Michael Cassar testified during the last sitting, held on Thursday 9th January. Cassar gave the panel of retired judges an account of “Operation Green” – an investigation into former the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and auditor Brian Tonna which began in April 2016.

According to Cassar, Operation Green was started when allegations related to the Panama Papers implicating both Schembri and Tonna were pouring in.

Cassar mentioned how one of the cases in the file on Schembri made reference to a €100,000 loan Schembri had granted to Tonna.

Although the operation’s file mentioned several politically exposed persons, nobody from the Office of the Prime Minister or any ministry had contacted him about it, Cassar said.

Former judge Michael Mallia is chairing the board of inquiry, which is also composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro. The inquiry began last December and its terms of reference stipulate that it must be concluded within nine months.

More in Court & Police