Lawyers propose settlement in dispute between murder suspect and bomb victim

Caruana Galizia murder suspect George Degiorgio and murdered businessman Giovann Camilleri had filed case against each other over owed monies

On 31 October 2016, Camilleri, 67, was blown up in his car as he was driving away from one of his Bugibba properties at 7am
On 31 October 2016, Camilleri, 67, was blown up in his car as he was driving away from one of his Bugibba properties at 7am

One of the suspects in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the family of murdered businessman John Camilleri, have agreed to settle a contentious property dispute out of court.

MaltaToday first reported on the two cases filed between George Degiorgio ‘ic-Ciniz’ and ‘Giovann’ Camilleri ‘tas-Sapuna’ back on 17 December 2017. Since then, lawyers on both sides underwent changes, with Camilleri’s lawyer Keith Borg being replaced by Clint Tabone, and lawyer Joseph Bugeja taking up Degiorgio’s brief from Nationalist MP Mario de Marco.

Both sides have now given notice to drop the cases and reach an out-of-court settlement.

READ MORE Murder suspect George Degiorgio ‘ic-Ciniz’ was associate of 2016 car bomb victim

Degiorgio – one of the three men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia – had been fending off a claim in court by his former friend John Camilleri for thousands of euros owed on a property deal under threat of eviction since 2011.

But on 31 October 2016, Camilleri, 67, was blown up in his car as he was driving away from one of his Bugibba properties at 7am.

In the case, Camilleri was suing Degiorgio, demanding that he pay him back over €52,000 for a St Paul’s Bay apartment he ‘sold’ him back in 1996 – not by legitimate property transfer, but through a verbal agreement.

The case throws up a veritable cast of players and a small window into the world of what Maltese cops tend to describe as people ‘known to the police’ – amongst them Degiorgio’s brother Alfred ‘il-Fulu’, also a murder suspect in the Caruana Galizia assassination.

Witnesses included Daren Debono ‘it-Topo’ – the latter charged with participating in the failed HSBC heist of 2010. In this case, even the third accused in the DCG assassination, Vincent Muscat ‘il-Kohhu’, is charged with involvement – his defence lawyer was Chris Cardona, the Labour minister who this week denied newspaper reports that he was seen speaking to Alfred Degiorgio at a Siggiewi bar after the murder.

In his claim of 2011, Camilleri said he was owed over €52,000 with interest from a property deal and the sale of speedboat to Degiorgio, and wanted the court to force the sale. Degiorgio also counter-sued.

Camilleri had said he had a verbal agreement with Degiorgio way back in 1996, to allow him to move immediately into one of his St Paul’s Bay apartments for the price of Lm30,000 (€71,000), which had to be paid within one year so that a property deed could be signed.

Degiorgio said he knew Camilleri when he had his restaurant in Bugibba called ‘Hannibal’, which he would frequent. “Camilleri had mentioned he had a block of flats for sale. I told him I was looking for a place and was interested. He told me to check them out and gave me the keys to go see them. I went to see them that very moment,” he recounted in a 2013 affidavit.

Degiorgio chose the penthouse at ‘Marushka’ flats on Triq l-Ghabex. But since at the time he had his own “judicial problems” in court, no property deed was signed.

“At the time I had my own problems of a judicial nature, so I was not comfortable having a promise-of-sale agreement and contract done, and Gianni knew this.”

Not having an asset in his name also reduced Degiorgio’s risk of losing it in the case of an adverse outcome in a criminal court.

Instead, they agreed that Degiorgio would pay him Lm25,000 of the full price, which he did in 1997, and then sign a formal contract once the pending Lm5,000 balance was settled. “He gave me the key to the house there and then… we did not fix a date for when the balance would be paid. It was irrelevant anyway because I had paid him almost the full price.”

According to Degiorgio’s former partner, who testified in court, Camilleri would often be at Degiorgio’s place. “He came to the apartment many times for a coffee, we’d frequently have a drink there, he’d come to see the place…”

She even said that Degiorgio had paid Camilleri the Lm25,000 in cash – a common denominator in other deals. For example in 1999, Degiorgio acquired from Camilleri’s company Jetglass Limited a Maxum speedboat for the price of Lm11,500.

According to witness Daren Debono, he had been with Alfred Degiorgio when George called his brother up and “told him to bring up cash because he was negotiating the purchase of a boat”. The pair went to meet George Degiorgio with the cash in hand, which was handed over to Camilleri at his restaurant.

But Camilleri claimed that the purchase of the speedboat and another personal loan of Lm6,200, were part of the ongoing credit he had extended to Degiorgio, leaving a pending balance of Lm22,700 (€52,800).

Degiorgio denied this. He said he had paid for the boat separately.

“I gave him Lm11,500, before Daren Debono and my brother Alfred Degiorgio, at Hannibal restaurant. Afterwards I went to get the boat registered in my name. It is also untrue he loaned me money,” Degiorgio said, revealing the extent of his relationship with Camilleri.

“He once got me to stalk his wife, who was separating from him, because he wanted to know if she had another man. I spent a number of evenings following her on his instructions. He gave me some Lm3,000 in cash altogether. This was a payment, not a loan,” Degiorgio said under cross-examination.

John Camilleri, known as Giovann, was involved in a number of companies that dealt in property. His company Dove Trading Ltd, had €800,000 worth of property for resale and cash reserves of €2.3 million. It also owned rental property worth €137,000. The company made a profit of €2.4 million in 2015, according to the accounts filed with the Malta Financial Services Authority.

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