[WATCH] Koħħu claim: Labour politician linked to 2010 HSBC heist

Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ would have information linking Cabinet minister to 2010 HSBC heist in which he stands accused of taking part in

Photo from 2010: Vince Muscat 'il-Kohhu' is escorted from court after being charged with involvement in the 2010 HSBC heist
Photo from 2010: Vince Muscat 'il-Kohhu' is escorted from court after being charged with involvement in the 2010 HSBC heist

Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’, one of three men accused of having assassinated the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has told the police he can name a Labour politician whom he believes helped plan a heist on the HSBC Malta headquarters in 2010.

Muscat has however not identified the man to the police, and instead shared details of the 2010 attempted heist, in which he was involved. At the time, the Labour Party was in Opposition.

Yesterday this claim was given further credence by the Nationalist MP and lawyer of the Caruana Galizia family, Jason Azzopardi, who alleged that a Cabinet minister was implicated in a serious crime.

Jason Azzopardi declared on Saturday during a programme on 103FM that Prime Minister Robert Abela has been aware since March 2020 that a member of his Cabinet – “not a lawyer” – has been implicated in a crime by Muscat, in his pleas to police for a presidential pardon in return for information on a series of crimes.

In the radio show 'Andrew Azzopardi on 103', Jason Azzopardi said:

“The Prime Minister knows, he has known since March, that he is not the only one who has to leave that room,” Azzopardi said, referring to the Cabinet. “Because the prime minister knows that Vincent Muscat, in the information he gave to police this March, and I’m not entering into any details, mentioned a person who occupies a Cabinet post, a minister, sitting not past - let nobody think that I am referring to some past minister - and this person is not a lawyer, he did not give some advice to some perpetrator;

“The prime minister is acting just like the three monkeys, he hears, sees, says nothing. No wonder we say this is a country controlled by the mafia. When I say that in the Cabinet there is someone who, a first-class criminal has mentioned him in connection with a serious crime that happened years ago… not connected to Daphne’s murder, but which happened before. Don’t ask me what the crime is. He is not a lawyer… I tell you that he was not simply mentioned over some drink or meal.”

The claim would leave at least nine ministers in Robert Abela’s Cabinet open to suspicion, and five who had been MPs at the time of the HSBC heist, but the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday refused to issue any comment on the allegation. 

Muscat wants the pending trial over his alleged involvement in the 2010 failed HSBC heist to be postponed until a decision is taken on his pardon, ostensibly because the information he has to offer is also related to this case.

Azzopardi himself refused to elaborate on who the alleged Cabinet member is or what crime he is referring to. But his declaration chimed in with allegations advanced in court by Muscat’s lawyer, Marc Sant, who accused lead inspector Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra of playing for time in the interests of “prominent third parties”, in delaying a decision over Muscat’s request for a presidential pardon.

According to Muscat’s court protest, filed back in September 2020, the only reason for the “exaggerated delay” were hidden interests to protect “prominent individuals” yet to be mentioned in connection with Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Muscat held five sessions with the police between January and February 2020, detailing his knowledge of various crimes predating the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Muscat now wants the entire cabinet from 2017 to date, including former prime minister Joseph Muscat and former chief of staff Keith Schembri, to testify about his presidential pardon request.

Muscat says it was him who pointed the finger at middleman Melvin Theuma back in April 2018, leading police to the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Muscat filed another formal request for a pardon when Theuma and alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech were arrested by the police in connecti­on with the murder in November 2019.

Marc Sant told MaltaToday earlier this week that Prime Minister Robert Abela should consider recusing himself on any Cabinet discussion dealing with a pardon for Muscat, given that he previously represented the Agius brothers – mentioned in open court by Melvin Theuma as the suppliers of the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia – on financial disputes.

“I hope he is aware that his is not the only conflict of interest among the current Cabinet members,” Sant said, referring to his client’s case dealing with his request for a pardon. “In our judicial acts we did not mention prominent persons, including some involved in politics, capriciously,” Sant said, refusing to delve any further into his client’s suggestions.

A joint investigation by MaltaToday and The Times showed the Agius brothers, who police believe are at the head of an organised crime group, are part of the conspiracy that supplied the bomb used to assassinate Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Muscat’s former defence lawyer, Arthur Azzopardi, had told the Caruana Galizia public inquiry in 2020 that his client’s information had been dismissed as hearsay evidence. But Azzopardi, who has represented Robert Agius in fending off drug trafficking charges, dropped his brief for Muscat in November 2019. MaltaToday later established that Keith Arnaud was then given the impression by Azzopardi that Muscat would recant on his claim that Melvin Theuma was the middleman in the assassination; recordings between Theuma and an associate also confirm they had inside information that Muscat would be made to recant, although this never happened.

HSBC heist

The HSBC heist in Qormi had targeted the bank’s underground vaults.

The robbers included Vince Muscat and Fabio Psaila. A police witness, former constable Mario Portelli, would later allege that the lawyer and sacked police inspector David Gatt, had masterminded the heist. The case was never proven in court and Gatt was acquitted. At the time he shared his legal office with former Labour minister Chris Cardona.

Some 65 shots were fire at police who turned up on site and foiled the daring robbery, which had taken full advantage of the general absence of police on duty due to the State visit of the Italian President and an Isle of MTV event.

A number of HSBC bank employees were interrogated by the police at the time, suggesting that the police believe that insider information must have been provided to the robbers, to enter the first security doors inside the building that led to the vaults.

An SAG police officer on duty inside the building was held hostage for some time, before a mobile squad police car arrived on site and foiled the heist, prompting the robbers to abandon their plans and flee with their guns blazing.

When Gatt was arraigned in court, the police accused him of masterminding the HSBC heist as well as another €1 million armed robbery on the Balzan branch in 2007, a hold-up on a security van in Mriehel and a hold-up on an Attard jeweller.

Gatt was dismissed from the police force in 1998 by the Commissioner of Police, on suspicion of having had contact with criminals. But he was dismissed from the force without having been informed of the charges against him and he subsequently won a constitutional case for redress.

When Gatt was arrested in December 2010, the police mounted a claim that the former inspector would portray himself as some mafia don.

Gatt himself had represented Vincent Muscat in court when the latter was granted bail in November 2010 for a botched hold-up on the jeweller Michael Mizzi. Also implicated in the crime was Darren Debono ‘it-Topo’, who was seriously injured in both his legs when Mizzi’s son confronted him and fires a gun at him.