MSS taps have Ġojja coaching Melvin Theuma on Fenech recording

Police questioned Edwin Brincat over Security Service taps in which he advises Theuma on phone recordings 

Paternal relation: Edwin Brincat ‘il-Gojja’ and Melvin Theuma have a long association
Paternal relation: Edwin Brincat ‘il-Gojja’ and Melvin Theuma have a long association

Police investigators in the Caruana Galizia assassination were concerned that middleman Melvin Theuma had been coached by a criminal associate in “framing up” Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of masterminding the journalist’s murder.

Theuma’s recordings with Fenech and other associates are part of the evidence he offered up to police, to broker a presidential pardon in return for information on the assassination plot.  

After his arrest in November 2019, investigators summoned Brincat, known to be a close friend of Theuma, asking him to explain his telephone conversations with Theuma.  

In the phone taps played out during that interrogation – on the eve of Theuma’s pardon being recommended by then police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar – Brincat is heard advising Theuma on what to do. The phone-calls were made weeks or months before the November arrest.

“I’m calling to tell you... that when you speak, you mention his [Fenech’s] name... so if you have to make someone hear it, his name is heard... And mention Kenneth [Camilleri’s] name, mention it... so they can hear themselves being mentioned, so you get their names on it... and say ‘qabbadtni’ (you recruited me)... all words that will work against him... keep it mind.”  

The hardened Brincat listened impassively to the phone taps as they were played out to him by lead investigators Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, to which he released no comment when repeatedly questioned on the content.  

A resolute Arnaud appealed to Brincat’s concern for Theuma, a long-time friend, warning him that he had “helped Theuma prepare the proof.”  

“If it results that Theuma has been lying, the pardon is dropped, and it will be used against him as the middleman in the assassination.”  

But Brincat refused to answer any of the suggestions or questions put to him on his role in coaching Theuma.  

“What did you know on the case?” Arnaud asked Theuma. “I’m going to make you hear what you told Theuma, about his problem, his issues between the ones in prison and Yorgen Fenech.”  

With Brincat refusing to answer, Arnaud and Zahra insisted that the phone tap was carried out before Theuma had gone to meet Yorgen Fenech. “Do you want us to say that you framed Yorgen Fenech?”  

“Isn’t this your advice to a friend? You didn’t break the law by telling him to record the conversation... it was after the murder...”  

The investigators suggested to Brincat that if he does not answer, he could be made to answer for the suggestion that he framed up Fenech. “I can’t tell you what to do... who is your lawyer?”  

Brincat, who had refused to have his lawyer accompany him for the interrogation, replied that his legal counsel was Amadeus Cutajar. “Tell him to come here. Tell him we’re asking you to corroborate the advice you gave Melvin Theuma, that way you get to clarify Theuma’s position.”  

MaltaToday understands that Brincat refused to answer all questions put to him by the police. It is not known yet how many times Brincat was interrogated on the matter by the police after the November 2019 questioning.  

Bribery allegation  

Ex-police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar – who is known to have met Brincat allegedly for information on Melvin Theuma before the November 2019 arrest – was supposed to be formally investigated following allegations that he tipped off the self-confessed middleman in the Caruana Galizia murder about ongoing investigations.  

The suggestion of police collusion has been formally mentioned in court evidence when Johann Cremona, a business associate of Yorgen Fenech, said Theuma had been tipped off by Cutajar that he was being investigated over money laundering. It was the money laundering arrest in November 2019, which Theuma was anxious about, that pushed him to reveal the recordings to the murder investigators and which prompted the arrest of Yorgen Fenech.  

Cremona claimed Cutajar had told Theuma that Europol knew of his recordings and that Theuma had even played recordings to Cutajar before the arrest. On his part, Brincat insisted in open court that Cutajar and Theuma did not know each other.  

But according to a recorded phone conversation between Theuma and Cremona, the middleman intended to pass on €15,000 to Cutajar in his bid to obtain a presidential pardon, ahead of his money laundering arrest.  

The claim was made by Theuma in one of the conversations he is believed to have recorded secretly. Theuma is heard saying he had given €15,000 to Brincat so that Cutajar could “take the case and go on holiday”.  

“I went to give him the money myself,” Theuma is heard saying of the alleged bribe. “I told him, ‘shall I give them to you in packets of €5,000?’.”  

“I told Edwin, I asked him if he wants the cash in packets of five… he said he would take no cash from me, not even if I paid him a shilling a time, because all he wanted is that I get the pardon.”  

Theuma was a loan shark who ran a profitable taxi system outside the Hilton with the blessing of Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, for whom he acted as a gopher and occasional chauffeur.  

On his part, Cremona himself suggests in the recorded conversations of having the capacity to influence the police’s actions through his “power to speak to Kenneth [Camilleri]” – an MSS security officer detailed at the Office of the Prime Minister, whom Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri would send to speak to Theuma. “You know from where that is coming.”  

Lawrence Cutajar insisted he never knew or spoke to Theuma, and never accepted money in exchange for information. Now under investigation after court testimony suggesting that he tipped off Theuma about a police raid, Cutajar had claimed on Xtra that Theuma was bluffing in his conversations with Cremona.  

Cutajar, who admitted meeting Edwin Brincat allegedly to obtain information on the recordings Theuma was harbouring, claims his interactions were done with the sole intention of obtaining Theuma’s recordings.  

“When Edwin Brincat came to me, I took the opportunity to try to get something from him. That’s what I decided at that time, and I asked him if he knew where these recordings might be. I felt at that moment that I should take the chance,” Cutajar said, denying having taken any money from Brincat.  

However, it is apparent that some form of communication between police top brass was taking place with Castille, at least through the agency of Kenneth Camilleri. The recorded conversations between Cremona and Theuma discuss the rejection of a pardon for Vince Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’ – arrested in December 2019 and accused of having been part of the murder team.  

Theuma also claimed it was the police commissioner who told him, or perhaps through a third party, that Interpol were asking the Maltese police why he (Theuma) had not yet been arrested. Cremona retorts, saying that it is likely untrue that Interpol were knocking on the police’s door. “I think the Commissioner wants money,” he tells Theuma.