[WATCH] Lawrence Cutajar denies Melvin Theuma tip-off, surprised by government’s decision to terminate his consultancy

Former police chief Lawrence Cutajar, who has been placed under formal investigation is interviewed on TVM’s Xtra

Former police chief Lawrence Cutajar
Former police chief Lawrence Cutajar

Lawrence Cutajar rejects the idea that Melvin Theuma knew beforehand about a police raid in which he was arrested, or that he would be granted a pardon.

The former police commissioner insisted he never knew or spoke to Theuma and never accepted money in exchange for information.

Cutajar was interviewed on TVM’s Xtra on Thursday, three days after a magistrate ordered that he be investigated after court testimony suggested that he had tipped off Theuma about a police raid.

The government terminated Cutajar’s consultancy job that same day, something that appears to have caught the ex-police chief by surprise.

Cutajar said his name was besmirched in vain, adding that while under oath, Theuma himself stated that the two had never spoken to each other before the investigation.

“How can you suspend my consultancy the very day that Melvin Theuma had sworn in court that he does not know me and had never spoken to me?” Cutjar asked.

The ex-commissioner did acknowledge that Johann Cremona’s testimony did point towards there being a relationship between the two, but argued that if Theuma told Cremona this, he was simply bluffing in an attempt to impress.

Theuma was granted a presidential pardon to tell all about the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder. He acted as a middleman between suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech and the three men who killed the journalist.

Questioned about his conversations with Theuma confidant Edwin Brincat, known as il-Ġojja, Cutajar said that all his interactions where done with the sole intention of obtaining Theuma’s recordings.

“When Edwin Brincat came to me, I took the opportunity to try to get something from him. That’s what I decided at that time, and I asked him if he knew where these recordings might be. I felt at that moment that I should take the chance,” Cutajar said.

In court it emerged that Brincat had gone to Cutajar’s house in Luqa to clear a fine that threatened his livelihood.

When asked what advice he had offered Brincat, Cutajar said that he simply told Brincat to find a lawyer.

Cutajar explained that at this stage of the proceedings, the investigators were aware of the existence of the recordings, but did not know where they were.

The former commissioner also noted that the investigators were divided as to how to proceed, with certain parties preferring to launch an immediate raid to try to obtain the recordings, while others, including himself, opting to continue with the money laundering investigation so as to have a contingency plan in case the recordings were not found.

“I took the responsibility to continue investigating, so that if we were to find nothing we’d still have a backup,” he said, pointing out that this decision had put a lot of stress on his shoulders since even Europol were not happy with the delay in the raid.

When asked whether he ever took money from Brincat, Cutajar vehemently rejected the allegation. 

Cutajar added that he had informed the Caruana Galizia murder investigating team that he had attempted to extract information from Brincat.

The ex-commissioner said that at the end of the day, the recordings were found, which he insisted negated the doubts and suspicions being raised about his role.

“If, after the decision I had taken, the recordings were not found, then I believe it would have been justifiable to air certain doubts, but not when the recordings were found,” he said.

Asked why Yorgen Fenech was not granted a pardon in the same manner as Theuma, Cutajar explained that a pardon is only granted if there is corroborative evidence that supports what the individual is saying.

“The investigators were convinced that what Melvin Theuma said during the investigation was true, and that this could be corroborated with the recordings, as we are now seeing in court,” he said.

Cutajar also touched upon the topic of Keith Schembri, acknowledging that interrogating the former chief of staff had been an uncomfortable process. Cutajar insisted that Schembri’s name had never come up in the investigation up to that point.

“What I can say is that, until the recordings were found, and even after, Keith Schembri’s name never came up within the context of the investigation,” he said.

However, the former commissioner also added, pointedly, that the investigations did not cease once Fenech was taken to court, but are still ongoing.

Cutajar concluded by singing the praises for the investigating team, describing lead investigators Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra as “responsible and experienced”, and even defending ex-deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta. 

“What I can say of Silvio Valletta is that in the context of the investigation I always saw him as a person of integrity who always worked with the greatest of integrity along with his team,” Cutajar said.

The former commissioner called for more patience from the public in their expectation of quick results, and for the arrest of all those mentioned in connection with the case. 

“There is a tendency that if a person is mentioned in the media then they are immediately guilty. These are complex investigations which take time, and the police must work in silence since the slightest misplaced word can prejudice an investigation,” he insisted.