Joseph Muscat interrogated ‘under caution’, police inspector tells court

Yorgen Fenech compilation | Joseph Muscat was questioned by police under caution, an inspector has testified in court despite the former prime minister playing down the affair • Muscat insists police told him 'on record' he is not being investigated

Joseph Muscat exiting police headquarters on 21 August
Joseph Muscat exiting police headquarters on 21 August

Joseph Muscat was interrogated under caution when he was called in by the police on 21 August as part of the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

The former prime minister had tried to play down the affair back then, insisting that the police told him that he was not under investigation.

However, court testimony given by police inspector Kurt Zahra today, confirms that Muscat was cautioned by investigators before being asked to answer a series of questions.

Zahra was being cross-examined by lawyer Jason Azzopardi in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech on Monday.

Asked point blank by the lawyer whether Muscat was given the caution, Zahra replied with a plain “yes”.

Muscat was called in for questioning at police depot in a session that lasted almost two hours. He was accompanied by his lawyer Pawlu Lia.

He later told journalists that police sought clarifications over claims made by murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in November 2019 and insisted the police told him he was not under investigation.

Muscat reiterated his stand in Facebook post today, soon after the court hearing ended. “To clarify what was said in court today, I confirm that I asked the police on the record if I am being investigated about the case. The police ‘on record’ confirmed they I am not, and I was called in because of allegations made in my regard,” Muscat wrote.

Bħala kjarifika fuq dak li ntqal illum fil-Qorti, nikkonferma li staqsejt "on the record" jekk hux qed nigi investigat...

Posted by Joseph Muscat on Monday, 31 August 2020

He said the caution is a normal procedure in circumstances like this.

Lawyers who spoke to MaltaToday said that the caution, which informs the individual of their rights, is normally given in cases where the person being questioned is or could be a suspect.

There have been instances, including the Caruana Galizia case, where people have been called in for questioning by the police without being given the caution.

MaltaToday had later revealed that Muscat was asked about a WhatsApp group he was in with Fenech and Keith Schembri, the former OPM chief of staff.

The existence of the WhatsApp group was confirmed in court today by Zahra, the police inspector who formed part of the Caruana Galizia murder investigative team.

'Brothers'

Zahra told the court how investigators had asked Fenech about the group chat between himself, the prime minister and Schembri.

Fenech told police his relationship with the two most powerful men in government was akin to that of “brothers”.

Zahra testified how Fenech had claimed during interrogation that he had two discussions with Muscat about the murder with the former prime minister on one occasion allegedly asking whether Melvin Theuma could be trusted.

Muscat has always denied having these conversations, insisting that the police are privy to facts that contradict Fenech’s version.

The ex-prime minister has insisted that on advice of the secret service he was to maintain normal relations with Fenech despite the businessman's name having cropped up in the murder investigation.

In his Facebook post today, Muscat rebutted what he described as “continuous and systematic attempts to tarnish him”, adding that facts showed how had carried out his duty that led to a significant breakthrough in this case.

Muscat resigned from prime minister in January as revelations from Caruana Galizia case pointed towards the possible involvement of his office in the murder.

Zahra’s testimony has lifted the lid on what Fenech told investigators shortly after being arrested last November.

The Tumas Group magnate had pinned the murder plot on Keith Schembri and alleged the former government official had also paid €80,000.

According to Fenech, Schembri wanted Caruana Galizia dead because she meant “trouble”.

Schembri was arrested and interrogated by the police back in November but was released and never charged. Investigations in his regard are ongoing.

Schembri had denied any involvement in the murder when testifying earlier this year.

Significantly, Zahra told the court today that police believed that Caruana Galizia was murdered because of something she was going to write after she had received a massive cache of emails from the Electrogas servers.

Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder. Three other men stand accused of carrying out the execution.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017.

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