Caruana Galizia murder: Yorgen Fenech's defence suggests middleman paid for pardon

Lead investigator Keith Arnaud confirms in court that the mobile phones of Yorgen Fenech’s personal doctor and his business associate were not seized as part of the investigation

Murder middleman Melvin Theuma was cross-examined by Yorgen Fenech's lawyers
Murder middleman Melvin Theuma was cross-examined by Yorgen Fenech's lawyers

The compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia continued with disagreements in court over recordings from middleman Melvin Theuma’s cache the defence wanted played.

The technicality arose over the prosecution’s insistence that the defence could not counter-examine Theuma on the contents of his taped conversations which had not been played out in court.

The dispute arose after several pointed questions from defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran, who questioned Theuma whether former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar had been paid a €30,000 sum by Edwin ‘il-Ġojja’ Brincat – one of Cutajar’s sources in the criminal world.

Theuma laughed it off and was reprimanded by the court. But the implication by the defence lawyer was that Theuma had bought his pardon. Theuma denied in court that he had been mentioned a presidential pardon in connection with the date of his arrest on a money laundering charge in November 2019.

Theuma told the court however that Fenech had once told him the commissioner had to inform him about his arrest. “I suggested that he speak to Keith Schembri,” Theuma told the court.

Theuma said Edwin Brincat had spoken to Cutajar at his own house to enquire about a fine, and claimed Cutajar had asked Brincat about whether he had any recordings related to the murder. 

Theuma, a self-confessed loan shark, said he was regretful about the assassination. “Murder, nobody can ever take it off your conscience. You can live a hundred years and it will still be there,” he said.

READ ALSO: Yorgen Fenech compilation of evidence live blog: new recordings discovered in February this year

Theuma claimed that he had helped police with information on two other crimes in return for his presidential pardon.

He denied having the pardon suggested to him by Cutajar. “No. It came from me. I’ll tell you something else, during my arrest there was no agreement between my lawyers and Arnaud. Arnaud had already told me that he was going to arraign me. Then the government issued a statement, a paper, and I was asked whether I wanted to sign it and I signed it.”

Theuma said Brincat had warned him he would end up in prison for life.  “The pardon I mentioned several times, as well as 20-30 years’ prison with Johann Cremona,” Theuma said of Yorgen Fenech’s associate, with whom he discussed the pardon. “I still have the remorse that I became embroiled in this murder and nobody can take it away.”

Theuma says he asked for Arnaud after he was arrested, since he knew he was involved in the Caruana Galizia assassination case and the prosecution of the three men accused of the murder.

“I requested the presence of Arnaud, the magistrate too, possibly also the commissioner of police, but he wasn’t there. I wasn’t trusting anybody. I know the recordings were taken by the magistrate,” Theuma testified.

Inspector Keith Arnaud and lawyer Charles Mercieca (file photo)
Inspector Keith Arnaud and lawyer Charles Mercieca (file photo)

Keith Schembri present for meetings

In questioning investigator Keith Arnaud, defence lawyer Charles Mercieca also suggested that Theuma paid for the pardon. “Do you know if any money changed hands for this pardon?”

“We had asked Melvin Theuma about it and he said no,” Arnaud replied.

Arnaud confirmed that former chief of staff Keith Schembri would be present for meetings with the prime minister on the investigation. “We never felt the need to hide anything from him. The developments were about Melvin Theuma’s recordings. With time, we noticed that the recordings were tied to Yorgen Fenech... We took into consideration what would happen if the recordings turned out to be useless or unrelated. The commissioner would also be present for these meetings. It was my first such experience; I’d never had such a request before.”

Arnaud met Joseph Muscat and Schembri about the case in November 2017, then once a week before the arrests of that same year, and then in April and May 2018.

Theuma was arrested outside his home, but police later found €600,000 in cash at his home, four mobile phones and a laptop.

At least six statements were taken from Melvin Theuma during a three-week span in November 2019. 

Mobile phones not seized

Arnaud also said that the police did not seize Fenech’s personal doctor Adrian Vella’s mobile phone, who is still being investigated for attempting to pass on a message to incriminate former Labour minister Chris Cardona for the assassination.

He was last spoken to on 19 December, 2019.

Arnaud said that Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona is not being investigated, and that his mobile phone had not been collected by police.

Keith Schembri was arrested on the 26 November, 2019 and spoken to whilst on police bail, with police taking some three statements. Arnaud said that during the first arrest they almost used all the 48 hours during which Keith Schembri could be kept.

He added that Europol were not present for any interrogation. Arnaud said that Schembri’s laptop was seized but that he had claimed he had lost his mobile phone. A report from Vodafone to reconstruct his mobile phone messages using his SIM card was commissioned by police.

Arnaud said that the Malta Security Services is still sifting through some 10 terabytes of data from the recordings made by Theuma.

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