Attempt to make Vincent Muscat recant after naming Melvin Theuma in 2018

Lawyer of Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’ dropped brief after meeting with inspector Keith Arnaud • Arnaud told Muscat family that accused intended to recant on Melvin Theuma, but Muscat denied this

Vincent Muscat (third from left) had denied in October 2019 that he wanted to recant on his statement in April 2018 Melvin Theuma being the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination. His lawyer Arthur Azzopardi later dropped his brief
Vincent Muscat (third from left) had denied in October 2019 that he wanted to recant on his statement in April 2018 Melvin Theuma being the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination. His lawyer Arthur Azzopardi later dropped his brief

The former lawyer to Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’, one of the three men accused with executing the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, has denied attempting to make Muscat recant on an April 2018 statement, in which he named Melvin Theuma as the middleman in the assassination.

Arthur Azzopardi, who dropped his brief for Muscat in late 2019 just before the arrest of Melvin Theuma on charges of money laundering, denied having attempted to convince Muscat to change his version of events that fingered Theuma as the man who commissioned the Degiorgio brothers to murder Caruana Galizia.

But MaltaToday has learnt that just one month before the arrest of Theuma in November 2019, the lead investigator in the assassination, inspector Keith Arnaud, had informed Muscat’s family that Muscat was changing his version on Theuma.

But it turned out that Vincent Muscat had never instructed Azzopardi on such a decision, and Arnaud was duly informed that this was not what Muscat had wished.

In comments to MaltaToday, Azzopardi insisted that he “definitely did not tell Arnaud that his client was reneging on the statement that Theuma was the middleman”.

Arthur Azzopardi also said that when he had gone to Arnaud, it was to inform him that he was no longer Muscat’s lawyer. When asked why he had chosen to drop Muscat’s brief, Azzopardi said that this was a confidential matter and he could not answer.

But back in late October 2019, Azzopardi had claimed the decision to drop Muscat’s brief had been a decision pertaining to his legal partnership and taken together with his partners.

It turns out that in April 2018, Vincent Muscat had asked for a pardon in return for revealing details on 15 major crimes including murders, car bombs and heists.

He had also offered details of the Caruana Galizia murder, hinting at Melvin Theuma as the middleman; and it appears this was the first time that the police had been given the name of the man who had served Yorgen Fenech in canvassing for the hit-men who murdered Caruana Galizia.

Muscat had also told Arnaud that the bomb used for the Caruana Galizia murder was one of several devices that had been imported, with similar bombs still in circulation.

It was after this meeting, sources tell MaltaToday, that Theuma started making mobile phone recordings of all his encounters and meetings with people connected to Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri.

Two days after Muscat had told Arnaud on 23 April, 2018 that he would cooperate with the police in return for the pardon, the two incarcerated brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio informed their own family members that Muscat was dishing the dirt on the murder and other crimes. But Muscat’s request for a pardon then was not only ignored but simply buried and disregarded by the police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, as well as Attorney General Peter Grech; even the Office of the Prime Minister at that point was made aware of Muscat’s willingness to spill the beans, but snubbed his request for a pardon.

When news of Muscat’s request for a pardon, and the revelation of a middleman made the news in 2019, only weeks later Azzopardi dropped his brief for Muscat, leaving the suspect in an invidious position as the weakest link in the chain of alleged murderers.

Only recently, Arthur Azzopardi was acting as defence lawyer for Robert Agius, one of 10 men who were arrested in connection with the Caruana Galizia investigations, along with his brother Adrian Agius, and released on bail. Robert Agius, 36, known by family nickname ‘tal-Maksar’, was acquitted in June 2020 of drug trafficking charges dating back to 2012 after a court found there was nothing to prove he had a part in any conspiracy.

The Agius brothers were released and never charged but court testimony given by murder middleman Melvin Theuma shows how he had been sent by Yorgen Fenech to the Maksar brothers, who allegedly made the bomb.

Muscat, 57, was charged in December 2017 along with brothers George Degiorgio ‘ic-Ciniz’ and Alfred Degiorgio ‘il-Fulu’, with the murder of Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.