Castille man Schembri sent to ‘calm Melvin down’ was shocked to learn of bail demand

Kenneth Camilleri said Keith Schembri sent him to Zurrieq to ‘calm Melvin down’ when he learnt middleman wanted bail for Degiorgios, men accused of carrying out Caruana Galizia assassination

Kenneth Camilleri (circled) formed part of Joseph Muscat’s security detail
Kenneth Camilleri (circled) formed part of Joseph Muscat’s security detail

A former security detail inside the Office of the Prime Minister believed to have acted as a go-between for Keith Schembri and the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, has stated under oath that he never knew of the connection between Melvin Theuma and Schembri.

MaltaToday has learnt of sworn statements given by Kenneth Camilleri, a security detail for Joseph Muscat, confirming that Camilleri had met middleman Melvin Theuma at least four times.

Camilleri claimed in the statement that he was scared of retribution from Schembri, but the information he offered had corroborated his role as an unwitting go-between between his boss and Theuma.

From information this newspaper has gathered, the former security detail was adamant in his statement that he was unaware, when Schembri asked him to meet Theuma, that the ensuing conversation would turn to a request for bail for the Degiorgio brothers.

Theuma turned State’s evidence in December 2019 after being arrested on a money laundering charge; the event precipitated the arrest of Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, the businessman accused masterminding the assassination of Caruana Galizia. Theuma has said he was commissioned by Fenech – a shareholder in the Electrogas power plant – to organise the hit on the journalist, whose work uncovered the existence of 17 Black, a Dubai company Fenech owned and was clearly connected to an offshore Panama company owned by Keith Schembri.

MaltaToday understands that in his statements, Camilleri describes in detail that in 2018, months after the arrest of Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’ and the Degiorgio brothers – accused of carrying out the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia – he was sent by Keith Schembri to speak to Melvin Theuma.

Camilleri said that he was asked by Schembri to ‘calm him [Theuma] down’: “Camilleri said that Schembri called him on Whatsapp in the evening and told him to go to Theuma to calm him down,” sources told MaltaToday.

Camilleri drove to Zurrieq, together with Yorgen Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona, although he claims to having not known why he had to tell Theuma to ‘calm down’.

But Camilleri also stated that Theuma had then told him to tell Schembri to arrange for bail for the Degiorgio brothers. “Camilleri said that as soon as Theuma told him that, he panicked, claiming he had no idea Theuma was going to talk to him about the Degiorgio brothers. He said he tried calling Schembri, but he hung up on him as he was in a meeting.”

In court in the compilation of evidence against Fenech, Melvin Theuma has corroborated part of this version of events, having claimed that Keith Schembri had “panicked and sent Kenneth to calm me down” when he was attempting to convince Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff to secure bail for the Degiorgio brothers, George and Alfred.

Theuma has insisted in court that it was Camilleri who told him to inform the Degiorgio brothers that they would be granted bail and given €1 million each. He described Camilleri as being close to Schembri, having been sent by the former chief of staff to meet him in person.

But in the statements released by Camilleri, the former security officer claims the first time he met Theuma had been in an unsolicited approach outside the Auberge de Castille in Valletta. Camilleri was then exiting the prime minister’s car, when Theuma approached him, asking him for his mobile number. But Camilleri, not knowing who Theuma was, did not give him his number.

Camilleri said he later got to know about Theuma from Johann Cremona, who told him that he had a taxi stand at Portomaso.

In another meeting Camilleri had with Theuma was outside the Maltese Parliament, where he was on duty and was called by Johann Cremona. “Camilleri said he had been asked to meet up for a coffee with Cremona, and out of nowhere, Theuma appeared and started to talk about bail for the Degiorgio brothers. According to Camilleri, Theuma would have said they should give them two ‘big bags’, possibly cash… Camilleri was adamant that Cremona never call him up again.”

The statements reveal the extent to which throughout 2018 and 2019, Schembri – Joseph Muscat’s right-hand man – was aware of what had happened in October 2017, while the then prime minister was busy building a personal campaign in Europe to take the top post of president of the European Council.

Theuma has previously claimed in court that the Degiorgios had reached out to the former economy minister Chris Cardona with a bail request as well. Testifying during the compilation of evidence against murder suspect Yorgen Fenech in February 2020, Theuma: “If anyone could help them, Cardona knew all of the judges. Mario had told me that Cardona had ignored them over the bail though. They had sent him a message to him over the bail but he ignored them.”

Phone conversations

The claims were based on Theuma’s mobile phone recordings of conversations he had had with Fenech, as well as with his associate Johann Cremona. The trove of clandestine recordings however also feature long conversations in which Theuma and Cremona flesh out a plan by the middleman to request a pardon, apparently in a bid to avoid a money laundering charge that was worrying Theuma.

The recordings contain information that show Theuma was leaked information in 2019 that could have only come from top police brass or people high up in Castille with inside knowledge of the Caruana Galizia investigation.

Theuma for example was aware that Vincent Muscat had requested a pardon for information on the journalist’s assassination in April 2018, by offering up his name as a middleman in the murder. In September 2019, Johann Cremona had learnt that Muscat would be made to recant the information he gave to the police – an event that never came to pass, and which appears to have informed the relinquishing of his brief by long-time lawyer Arthur Azzopardi.

The conversations suggest that Muscat’s mentioning of Theuma back in 2018 led to the money laundering investigation that the middleman was anxious about. Cremona also is heard in the conversations praising Schembri for protecting Theuma. “Forget Yorgen… it’s not Keith who harmed you. It’s that bastard Arthur… in reality he [Keith] protected you, he didn’t sleep on it, because as I can make the story out… Keith is not confused, Keith is focused.”

The two men appeared confident that pressure from Interpol on the FIAU file on Theuma, would be diverted by Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar.  Theuma was so determined not to be arrested on the feared money laundering charge, that he is told by Cremona to impart on Yorgen Fenech the importance of speaking to Keith Schembri about the matter. “I will be clear,” Cremona says. “I’ll say, ‘Listen Kenneth, don’t call me on Melvin. He is determined that he will not be picked up by the police. If they raid him, he will reveal everything he knows.”

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