Yorgen Fenech statement revisited: how magnate accused Schembri of Daphne murder

No response on pardon request by hitmen in Daphne murder who claim political mastermind • ‘Minister’ mastermind rekindles first claims by Yorgen Fenech to police

A request for pardons by the two hitmen accused of assassinating Daphne Caruana Galizia to name a former Labour minister as one of the masterminds, is set to rock the Maltese political establishment. 

Yet so far lawyers for both George and Alfred Degiorgio, as well as the third hitman Vince Muscat – who has filed a new request for a pardon – have heard nothing from the authorities.

An eventual breakthrough appears to be aligned with initial statements made by Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, the alleged mastermind facing charges in court, who first told police that former minister Chris Cardona was the mastermind, and then also accused Keith Schembri, the chief of staff to former PM Joseph Muscat, of being part of the plot

Joseph Muscat has already denied the claims Fenech made to police on 29 November that he had knowledge of the Melvin Theuma tapes and consulted with Yorgen Fenech about their existence in a January 2019 meeting at Castille, and then again at the Girgenti Palace at a party. 

But Fenech’s categorical insistence in his police statements – recorded after being denied two requests for a pardon – was that Muscat was aware that Theuma had been “blabbing” about his mobile phone recordings.  

In his statement to police, Fenech insisted he wanted a confrontation with Schembri, and claimed that Joseph Muscat had spoken to him twice about the Melvin Theuma tapes – something Muscat had denied back in June 2020. 

“Everything started from Keith… it is shameful that Keith is not here,” Fenech told police in the first of his statements. 

“The police are doing everything to cover up for Schembri. I have offered police information that involves millions, huge millions in corruption, and three days in the police does not want to hear me out. The police does not want to hear me out,” Fenech told them. 

The suspect was emphatic in claiming he could tell police of “millions in euros that involve Keith Schembri” and alleged corruption. 

Fenech accused Schembri of having, since 2015, repeatedly asked him or goaded him into having Caruana Galizia killed. “He wanted me, and he asked me, if there was a way of killing Caruana Galizia… and there is another person who knows Keith ordered this murder,” he told police. When asked by the police, Fenech said: “The Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, sir.” 

‘Schembri wanted to get rid of her’ 

Fenech claimed that after 2014, Schembri had “tried many times… he would come to my house every day. We were intimate friends, I’d say he was almost my brother… Keith was irked and wanted to get rid of Caruana Galizia. But I never actively sought out someone to do it, at the time we were not this kind of people… in 2015 he told me he had found someone to do this job and that he gave him €30,000.” 

Fenech claimed Schembri told him Caruana Galizia was being watched ahead of the hit. “I told him, ‘you’re mad’ (qed tiggennen). But we didn’t talk about it as much. After some time he told me the plan fell apart. So he had paid €30,000 for that.” 

Fenech however alleged Schembri was always encouraging him to help him carry out the murder. “There was a time where he kept telling me, ‘help me, help me, help me… let’s find someone to get rid of her because she can’t keep going on this way’… towards October, November 2016 Keith had a medical problem and we went together to America, came back and had this meal at our razzett in Zebbug. 

“We started talking, there were my cousins at this meal. And there was Melvin Theuma at this meal. The talk turned to Caruana Galizia in a sort of casual way and then turned to Keith saying how he wanted her dead. Obviously, to me [Keith] was a person who she had hurt, I was great friends with him, he loved my kids and I still think he does to this day, we were just like a family. 

“On our way home, Melvin Theuma drove me home and said: ‘I spoke to some friends… a plan is brewing to kill Caruana Galizia’. He didn’t tell me who they were, just people he trusted. I had no interest in knowing. I said ‘we’ll talk later’. 

“At the time I was travelling to London back and forth, and when I came back Melvin picked me up and told me, ‘I spoke to my friends and your share will be €120,000, there are others behind it’. I told that we would talk later about it.” 

Fenech was categorical in accusing Schembri of having ordered the murder. “On the homicide, Keith would tell me continuously… I mean, Daphne attacked him a lot personally as well as the government, and sometimes he would tell me, ‘I want to get rid of her, she causes me so much trouble, etc, etc…’” 

Alleged Castille meeting 

Fenech repeatedly claimed with police that Muscat was aware of the Melvin Theuma recordings and that he inquired as to whether they implicated Keith Schembri. Muscat has categorically denied this claim when asked by The Times last year. 

“I don’t know if he knew before, but he knew after for sure. The Prime Minister in January of this year [2019] asked for me at Castille… there was Keith. He asked me about what was happening because he was worried about Melvin Theuma, and he asked me if I trusted him and I said ‘no’.” 

Fenech said that he had told Muscat: “No I don’t trust Melvin because I know he is recording.” 

Fenech claimed Muscat asked him many times if Schembri was mentioned in the recordings. “I answered: ‘I have tried many times, many times and I have tried. I tried to protect Keith from this’.” 

Fenech also claimed with police that Muscat had mentioned that Theuma would have to be raided by police because of pressure from abroad. Muscat has already denied having had any knowledge of the raids on Theuma that took place in November 2019 when he was arrested and the tapes were discovered.  

“He told me there was no other way but for this raid to take place, that the raid had to be done with the excuse of [Theuma’s] illegal lotto, since Theuma was talking about these recordings, so the police had to raid him on the lotto, but search undercover [sic] for these tapes. And he told me to speak to Theuma so that he makes sure these recordings are not found when the raid happens. And then the PM spoke to me another time at Girgenti on 27 January. I went to a party and he spoke to me privately at Girgenti, in a first-floor room.” 

‘Theuma is blabbing’ 

Fenech was emphatic in his statement when stopped by interrogators that he wanted to talk about Muscat’s alleged knowledge of the tapes. 

“The Prime Minister sent for me because I knew Melvin Theuma. I knew I was being investigated, that my phone was tapped – 100% – because Keith told me that my mobile phone was being tapped, and he warned me, to pay attention to what I say on my mobile phone, and I felt I had nothing to be careful about because I did not do anything wrong. 

“[Muscat] asked me about Melvin Theuma and said: ‘he is blabbing [qed iparla fil-vojt] on the mobile phone and you will have problems with him. Do you trust him?’ And I said: ‘I don’t trust him… because he was recording me.’ Theuma was blabbing and threatening.” 

Fenech again reiterated that he felt he had been called to attention by Muscat because of the impending raid on Theuma. 

At the time, in 2019, Theuma was already a person of interest known to police investigators as well as Europol, after hitman Vincent Muscat had told police that Theuma was the middleman in the assassination. 

“[Muscat] had told me the raid had to be after the summer. And that’s what happened. It happened on the lotto, it had to take place on a Saturday as I was informed by Keith… everyone was prepared for that raid so as not to find the recordings that implicate Keith. This is a fact,” Fenech had told police. 

Police interrogators then asked Fenech why he was mentioning Muscat only now after having first accused Chris Cardona and Schembri. 

“I tell you why: am I going to mention him when I have to ask him for a pardon? Do I ask for a pardon from the person I am implicating?”