Middleman: Police tot up millions held in assets

Melvin Theuma declared €250,000 in income over 12 years, but held millions in property, cash and vehicles

Melvin Theuma leaving court
Melvin Theuma leaving court

Police investigators totted up millions in assets that Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, held despite only ever declaring €250,000 in income over a period of 12 years.

Theuma was officially registered as a “cleaner” with Malta’s national employment agency between 2005 and 2011, and then as a “taxi driver” between 2011 and 2017. He was later given a job as a driver for a government entity in 2017, the same year that Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb.

Despite having declared only an average of €20,000 every year, Theuma – who organised an illegal lottery pegged to the national lottery, and has also been a money laundering suspect for years – was revealed by police of having acquired over €1.25 million in properties from 2005 onwards, apart from holding promise-of-sale agreements on two other apartments.

Additionally, Theuma is also registered as a licenced car dealer under the operator Brincat Auto Imports, the dealership nominally owned by Edgar Brincat ‘il-Ġojja’. Theuma was revealed to be the owner of two taxis and six other vehicles, among them a Mercedes GLC and a Jaguar F-Pace, which the police valued at €600,000.

The police also deduced that Theuma had effected transactions of some €2.23 million through Maltese banks, with accounts having held €1.26 million at Bank of Valletta, €795,000 at HSBC, and €170,000 at BNF.

Police had also seized over €550,000 from Theuma’s apartment in Żurrieq, apart from foreign currency. Another €40,000 in cash was found in an apartment he owned in Ħal-Qormi. A total of €448,000 was eventually confiscated in favour of the Maltese State as a precondition for Theuma’s presidential pardon to turn State’s evidence against Tumas magnate Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of having masterminded the assassination of Caruana Galizia.

The police investigation had spread its net wider, seizing some €132,000 in the possession of Carmen Catania, the mother of Melvin Theuma’s partner. Police sources told MaltaToday the cash was eventually returned after it was not deemed to have been of criminal provenance.

But police are still investigating the relatives of Theuma, namely his partner Charmaine Zammit, 42 of Zurrieq, her daughter Shianne Zammit, 26, and her partner Ryan Farrugia, 26, of Qormi, who have been referred for charges on money laundering

Apart from 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.

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 had been 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.

Theuma is believed to have known of the raid on his property, because of information passed on to his longtime associate Edgar Brincat ‘il-Ġojja’ by Commissioner of Police Lawrence Cutajar. Theuma surmised that the arrest would never lead to a prosecution, and that investigations would fizzle out.