The Malta Independent 21 September 2018, Friday

Caruana Galizia laptops: Magistrate Vella travelled to Germany with lead investigator

Rachel Attard Sunday, 15 July 2018, 10:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

Former Magistrate Anthony Vella, who was recently promoted to Judge, together with one of the lead investigators in the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, has travelled to Germany to meet various authorities in connection with the slain journalist’s laptop, The Malta Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Police Inspector Keith Arnaud said during a closed meeting with members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee that the then Magistrate Vella had travelled to Germany as part of Caruana Galizia’s murder investigation, sources in Brussels have informed this newspaper.

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Inspector Arnaud was one of the representatives from the Maltese authorities present at this meeting in Brussels, which took place last Wednesday. The meeting’s first session was held behind closed doors, while the second was in the form of a public session during which the committee discussed the rule of law and the safety of journalists.

Asked by Socialist MEP Ana Gomes about the journalist’s laptop and access to data regarding the Panama Papers, Arnaud said that the former inquiring Magistrate had appointed an expert to access the Panama Papers data as part of the murder investigation. The police inspector said that, in Germany, the then Magistrate Vella and one of the lead investigators had been given full access vis-à-vis the Panama Papers.

Two laptops and three hard drives that Caruana Galizia was using at the time of her assassination were given to the German federal criminal police, the BKA, on 27 April.

According to reports, the equipment was handed over by a ‘representative’ of the family. This newspaper had reported that the equipment was handed over to the German police by a German lawyer. The Caruana Galizia family had said that it entrusted the equipment to the German police, rather than to Maltese investigators, because they did not trust the Maltese police.

A month ago, Wiesbaden public prosecutor Oliver Kuhn had told The Malta Independent on Sunday that, with respect to Caruana Galizia’s laptops, the German police were only working on the Panama Papers angle, which meant that they had nothing to do with the murder investigation.

Kuhn had said: “The public prosecutor’s office of Wiesbaden is officially involved only in the international legal assistance in the case of the Panama Papers.”

The German police had also confirmed that they had informed Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is leading the Egrant inquiry, about the possession of the laptop.

Sources in Brussels said that Gomes had also questioned Arnaud about the fact that the Caruana Galizia family had refused to pass on the journalist’s laptop to the Maltese authorities and the inquiring magistrate.

In reply, Arnaud said that it was not true that the family members did not have faith in the judiciary. He said that, in the public domain, the family have expressed full faith in Magistrate Vella. He also mentioned Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, who is carrying out the compilation of evidence, saying that while he could not speak on their behalf, it was evident that the family also had full faith in Stafrace Zammit.

A few weeks ago, the then Magistrate Vella, who was leading the inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia, was promoted to Judge. As a result of this promotion, Magistrate Neville Camilleri took over the murder inquiry. In view of this development, Arnaud was also asked by the LIBE committee whether the investigation was at a standstill or not.

According to our sources, the inspector insisted that the investigations have definitely not been scaled down. He said that things were moving at the same pace as they had been under now Judge Vella. He said that the police and the magisterial inquiry were still receiving support from Europol when they requested it and that, up until a few weeks ago, they (Europol) had been in Malta.

Assistant Attorney General and Head of Criminal Law & Prosecutions Unit Philip Galea Farrugia was also present at the Brussels meeting and also intervened on the continuation of the investigation.

Sources explained that the assistant AG said that a magisterial inquiry would need police support for the interrogation and interviewing of people. He said he was aware of constant meetings between the magistrate and the police. The new Magistrate, Camilleri, has already had meetings with the lead investigators and has told the MEPs that there is ongoing cooperation.

Sources in Brussels also told this newsroom that at the same committee meeting it had also been announced that in September a new mission, headed by Dutch MEP Sophia in’t Veld, will be coming to Malta to chair a rule of law monitoring group that will look into the investigation of the murder of Caruana Galizia.

The rule of law monitoring group was established by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee after concerns were expressed about the lack of progress in the murder of Caruana Galizia and the Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and “repeated claims of harassment and intimidation of journalists”.

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