Middleman’s relatives to be charged over money laundering, illegal lottery

Daphne Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma’s partner, daughter and boyfriend face money laundering charges

Melvin Theuma
Melvin Theuma

The partner of Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the Caruana Galizia assassination turned State’s evidence, is expected to be charged with money laundering offences that relate directly to Theuma’s criminal activity.

MaltaToday understands the charges concern Theuma’s own criminal career, which include the organisation of an illegal lottery that earned him hundreds of thousands, if not millions over the course of his criminal career.

In a magisterial inquest compiled by Gabriella Vella, Theuma’s partner Charmaine Zammit, 42 of Zurrieq, her daughter Shianne Zammit, 26, and her partner Ryan Farrugia, 26, of Qormi, were referred for charges on money laundering. They are to appear before Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, according to police sources.

Investigators had said they found over €2 million in cash stashed away at his house when Theuma was arrested back in November 2019.

Despite running a lucrative taxi stand at the Portomaso complex, Theuma acted as the personal go-for to alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech. Theuma also ran Malta’s “parallel lotto” – complete with tickets, in which pundits stood a chance of winning major cash – which is pegged to the national one, with players placing bets on a string of numbers and waiting for the national lotto winning numbers to be announced at the end of every week.

Now the money laundering investigations have reached his partner and her daughter, and the latter’s partner, Ryan Farrugia, a partner in Farbros Construction.

Theuma himself was also granted a pardon for what could have been his indirect role in the heist of the HSBC bank in 2010, believed to have put up one of his properties as a safehouse for the men involved in the shoot-out with police.

Theuma was granted a presidential pardon by the Muscat administration in December 2019, after he had been arrested in a money-laundering raid that was months in the making. Theuma was aware of his pending arrest, claiming in conversations he recorded on his phone that it was part of a ruse to assuage Europol investigators after his name was mentioned to police by one of the triggermen, Vincent Muscat ‘il-Koħħu’.

Muscat had already identified Theuma early on in April 2018 in conversations with police in a bid to obtain a pardon for his role in the assassination.

According to the Theuma recordings, the police – then led by Lawrence Cutajar as police commissioner, who was in touch with Theuma’s longtime associate Edgar Brincat ‘il-Ġojja’ – were planning a raid on his property. But Theuma knew weeks beforehand that the arrest would never lead to a prosecution, and that investigations would fizzle out.

Yorgen Fenech, whom Theuma says engaged him to seek out the Degiorgio brothers to carry out the hit on Daphne Caruana Galizia, claimed in his statement to police in 2019 that even former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri, were aware of Theuma’s phone recordings.

Fenech’s categorical insistence in his police statements after being denied two requests for a pardon, was that Muscat was aware that Theuma had been “blabbing” about his mobile phone recordings. Fenech repeatedly claimed that Joseph Muscat inquired as to whether they implicated Keith Schembri. Muscat has already denied this claim.

“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 had told police.

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.