Police question Joseph Muscat over WhatsApp chats with Yorgen Fenech

Former Prime Minister interrogated over WhatsApp group with former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and alleged Caruana Galizia murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech

The former Prime Minister had a WhatsApp chat group with 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech and his chief of staff Keith Schembri
The former Prime Minister had a WhatsApp chat group with 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech and his chief of staff Keith Schembri

An interrogation of Malta’s former prime minister Joseph Muscat by police on Friday has delved into the contents of a WhatsApp group chat with his former chief of staff Keith Schembri, and the Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech.

Fenech is accused of being the mastermind of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination. In November 2019, Fenech was said to have told investigators that Muscat had asked him if Schembri had featured in recordings secretly taken by murder middleman Melvin Theuma.

MaltaToday understands that the contents of the WhatsApp group chat were retrieved from Yorgen Fenech’s smartphone, and contain communications that underpin a certain level of intimacy between the three men.

Muscat yesterday told MaltaToday he could not comment about “assumptions” in the questions from this newspaper about the police’s questions on the WhatsApp group chat.

“I have already stated publicly that I was advised to keep normal communications with the said person,” he replied when asked by MaltaToday whether he continued using the WhatsApp group chat after the Malta Security Services named Fenech as a potential suspect in the Caruana Galizia assassination.

“The said communications are in possession of the authorities and can be independently verified,” Muscat said.

Muscat’s briefings from the MSS included Keith Schembri himself, who at that time had a long-time business relationship with Yorgen Fenech: a secret Dubai company called 17 Black was connected to Schembri’s own Panama company, which had been revealed by the Panama Papers in 2016. The 17 Black link to Fenech was revealed in November 2018, and since then the role of the company in channelling millions in cash from corrupt deals such as the Montengro Mozura wind farm project, has clearly exposed the Schembri-Fenech relationship.

Yesterday Muscat also denied having any business relationship with Schembri when asked by MaltaToday. On Friday he could not deny being in contact with Schembri.

“I never had a business relationship with Keith Schembri, so the use of the word ‘still’ is totally misguided. I do not have any type of business [or] consultancy relationship with Keith Schembri,” Muscat told MaltaToday yesterday.

Muscat has previously denied claims by Yorgen Fenech that in November 2019 he had assured the then prime minister that he was doing his best to protect Schembri when asked about Theuma’s recordings. Fenech claims that Muscat discussed Theuma with him twice in early 2019, once at the former prime minister’s birthday bash at Girgenti and on another occasion when he was summoned to a meeting with Muscat and Schembri at Auberge de Castille.

Muscat has denied the Castille meeting, and has claimed he was threatened with “a claim on alleged telephone calls that it was confirmed did not take place. Now it seems that the calls claim transformed itself in a claim on meetings.”

Theuma was granted immunity from prosecution by Muscat in exchange for testimony that has implicated Fenech as the person who ordered and financed the October 2017 car bombing.

Fenech says Muscat also warned him that the police would be forced to carry out a raid on Theuma at some point, particularly due to mounting pressure from abroad.

This fact alone was made clear to Theuma himself, through a mutual contact of Yorgen Fenech’s, who in the recorded conversations reveals himself to be in knowledge of plans by the police to raid his homes on a money laundering investigation.

Former police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is mentioned as the source of the information on an impending raid on Theuma’s properties.

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