Koħħu lawyer set up family for Muscat Christmas greetings where Theuma was present

Accused’s relative: ‘We did not know who Melvin Theuma was at the time, and if he was there we were completely unaware’

Arthur Azzopardi (right) was the lawyer to murder suspect Vincent Muscat, in the photo standing in the centre with dark shades (left).
Arthur Azzopardi (right) was the lawyer to murder suspect Vincent Muscat, in the photo standing in the centre with dark shades (left).

The former lawyer to one of the men accused of assassinating Daphne Caruana Galizia, had advised the family of Vince Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ to visit the Office of the Prime Minister for the official New Year’s greetings in December 2018.

As it happened, also present at the same event was Melvin Theuma, the middleman whom alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech tasked to deal with the triggermen who killed Caruana Galizia by car bomb.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, who dropped his brief for Vince Muscat shortly before the arrest of Yorgen Fenech in November 2019, confirmed that he had advised his wife and daughter to face Joseph Muscat over the accused’s demand for a pardon, at the official Yuletide greetings at Castille.

The revelation of the chance encounter was made by Joseph Muscat himself on Friday when appearing before the Caruana Galizia public inquiry: according to Muscat, right after Theuma greeted him at the ceremony, Vince Muscat’s family stepped forward. The family says they are unaware of the ‘coincidental’ meeting, raising questions as to how that event drew both the assassination’s middleman and the family of one of the accused at the same time.

While the Muscat family claims it was unaware of who Theuma was then, Vincent Muscat had already in April 2018 told lead investigators who the assassination middleman was, in a bid to clinch a presidential pardon. Azzopardi has also said that both Joseph Muscat and his then-chief of staff Keith Schembri were informed of the information that Vincent Muscat had provided at the end of that month.

Joseph Muscat told the inquiry that in the December 2018 event, he had been alerted by the Malta Security Service that Melvin Theuma – then on the radar of the investigators in the Caruana Galizia assassination – had made a request to be present for the annual exchange of New Year’s greetings.

But so were Vince Muscat’s family present at the same event. “We were advised by our lawyer Arthur Azzopardi to visit the Office of the Prime Minister and raise the question of a pardon for our father. We did not know who Melvin Theuma was at the time, and if he was there we were completely unaware,” said a member of the Muscat family who spoke to MaltaToday. “Our father was already then warning us not to trust Azzopardi, thinking that he had been toying with him and informing the Degiorgio brothers of what he had said. But we ignored him and went ahead.”

Joseph Muscat told the inquiry that Muscat’s daughter, who greeted him at the Castille event, raised the matter of her father and his role in providing information to the police. “When we came up to Dr and Mrs Muscat we told him we were Vincent Muscat’s family and had come to remind him about the pardon,” the family member said.

“Our lawyer had told us that the pardon only needed the prime minister’s signature.

“Muscat blushed and told us that this was not the place to discuss such a thing. Michelle Muscat at that point asked who Vincent Muscat was. One of us politely told Muscat that it was not a problem and wished them a happy Christmas. At that point the photographers approached to take a photograph but we told them not to.” The family member insisted that at that point, they were unaware who Melvin Theuma was. “We only got to know him when we were talking to Inspector Keith Arnaud, who had showed us a picture of the man.”

Azzopardi in the Theuma recordings

Arthur Azzopardi, at one point lawyer for one of the Agius brothers, also arrested and then released in connection with the Caruana Galizia assassination, featured in numerous conversations recorded by Melvin Theuma when he met a business associate of Yorgen Fenech, Johann Cremona.

Theuma was leaked information that accused Vincent Muscat had indeed requested a pardon for information on the journalist’s assassination. Muscat had attempted back in April 2018 to obtain a pardon by offering up Theuma’s name as the middleman who commissioned him and the Degiorgio brothers to carry out the assassination.

In conversations with Cremona which he recorded on a mobile phone, Theuma was told in August 2019 that Muscat had “tried to reveal” what he knew but that “the court did not even calculate him”.

Then in September 2019, Cremona learnt of a strange development: that Muscat would be made to recant the information he gave to the police. “You know Kohhu revealed your name, right? Tomorrow he will tell that what he said about you is false. That enough? I tell you… it gives me the shivers!”

The relieved Theuma says: “Ostja!”, at hearing the confident Cremona’s claim. Cremona then boasted: “I’m all about action, not words…”

The conversation appeared to be linked to the attempt by Muscat’s now former lawyer Arthur Azzopardi, to convince his client to recant on his information to police inspector Keith Arnaud that Theuma was the middleman. Indeed, Muscat did not recant, and in late October, Azzopardi dropped the brief for Muscat.

But in the September conversation, Cremona tells Theuma – apparently reading from some text – that “the client… did not accept a 12-year sentence… he didn’t accept it.”

In the conversation, Theuma remarks: “This is some luck.” Cremona: “Some luck? This goes to Arnaud tomorrow…. Koħħu is going to say the information on Melvin is wrong. That’s it. That is it.”

The conversation suggested that Muscat’s mentioning of Theuma back in 2018 also led to the money laundering investigation that the middleman was anxious about. “The inspector will tell those abroad [Europol]… the accused wanted to harm [you] and you won’t have to be arrested,” Cremona says.

Cremona stated in this same conversation that there are “big threats going on here… with Koħħu’s family. Not money… threats. Fingers crossed, this goes away tomorrow.”

Cremona also claimed that Arthur Azzopardi had mentioned Theuma’s name to The Times “some eleven months back” (October 2018).

The two men lambasted Azzopardi as being “Cardona’s man”, ostensibly a reference to former minister Chris Cardona. “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 media knows who you are, but they cannot name you. Keith Arnaud said ‘I cannot arrest someone without proof in hand’. That’s how the media was kept at bay, otherwise your name would have been out nine months ago. They’re all out on Yorgen’s name. All out. No secrets. That’s why he’s taking so much blow [cocaine]… he’s going to hang himself, mark my words.”