Cabinet denies Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’ request for pardon in Daphne murder

Cabinet has decided not to give presidential pardon to Vincent Muscat  ‘il-Koħħu’, one of three alleged hitmen in Caruana Galizia assassination

Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, (right) is one of three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia
Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, (right) is one of three men accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

The Cabinet has denied a renewed request for a presidential pardon to be awarded to Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’, one of three men accused of having assassinated the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The decision was taken on Monday, after Prime Minster Robert Abela informed ministers that his legal advice was not to grant Muscat immunity.

Muscat’s lawyer, Marc Sant, had already 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.

A lawyer for the Muscat family had said Abela should consider recusing himself on discussion on a pardon for his client, after it was revealed that he was formerly a lawyer for the Agius brothers, who were referred to by their family nickname in court as the suppliers of the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“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.

Muscat is believed to have told the police he can name a Labour politician whom he believes helped plan a heist on the HSBC Malta headquarters in 2010. He did not identify the man to the police, but shared details of the 2010 attempted heist, in which he was involved. The 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.

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 also 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.

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.