The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Malta under the microscope: International scrutiny and local testimony

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 8 December 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

The past week has seen a number of developments in relation to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the ensuing investigation, and the political situation.

Family members of the slain journalist testified in court during the first sitting of a public inquiry.

In addition, an MEP delegation was in Malta and met with local authorities, Prime Minister Muscat, journalists and members of civil society in the wake of the latest revelations surrounding the investigation, and the country's current political situation.

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Timeline:

Monday, 2 December

7am: Konrad Mizzi, now a PL MP after having resigned as minister, thanks Joseph Muscat – who the previous day announced that he would be resigning from the post of prime minister in January – for his achievements. “You know I was always behind you, right to the last minute.”

8am: The Chamber of Advocates tells Muscat that delaying the inevitable by a month serves no purpose but seriously risks tainting the integrity and credibility of the investigative process.

9.30am: Muscat says the five-week period until 12 January is the shortest possible interim period during which the election for his successor can be staged. From now onwards, he will limit himself to the day-to-day operations of the government, he states, adding that as of January, a new prime minister will be taking the decisions that need to be taken.

9.45am: Brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio, who are accused of planting and detonating the bomb which killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, file a judicial protest attacking the presidential pardon granted to middleman Melvin Theuma.

11am: A lawyer representing former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri in a libel case he filed against The Malta Independent announces that he has dropped his client.

12.30pm: The Caruana Galizia family files constitutional proceedings against the prime minister, asking that he desist from further involvement in the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and place his own involvement in the case under the court’s scrutiny.

2pm: Muscat says he will hold meet-and-greets in different localities before he quits as prime minister and Labour Party leader next month.

2.30pm: Yorgen Fenech withdraws an injunction filed in a bid to have the lead investigator on the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case removed.

4pm: Nationalist MPs walk out of Parliament, saying they will not participate in debates while Muscat is prime minister. A protest is staged outside, and fake money is thrown into the chamber.

5pm: Vincent Muscat, one of the three men accused of the murder, writes to President George Vella asking for a pardon in return for “all the information he knows on various facts.” He hints that Schembri has been decisive in the failure of an earlier pardon attempt.

5.30pm: Justice Minister Owen Bonnici says he was “shocked” when he saw the photo of middleman Melvin Theuma posing with former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

5.40pm: Muscat tells Parliament that the FBI has been crucial in the murder investigation. He says he will stay on as an MP after his resignation.

6pm: A group of Labour supporters gather outside the Labour Party’s headquarters, where journalists are harassed and attacked.

7.30pm: Labour MPs are blocked from leaving Parliament for more than two hours as protests in Valletta’s Freedom Square intensify. Labour MP Clifton Grima and Nationalist MP Karol Aqulina clash and a Newsbook journalist is assaulted by a minister’s driver.

9.30pm: The PL approves the process to elect a new leader. Nominations will open on Monday, 9 December and close on Wednesday 11 December. A general conference will be held on Monday, 6 and Tuesday, 7 January.

 

Tuesday, 3 December

7.50am: A letter found during a police search implicates both Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

8am: Alfred Sant writes that when one ignores a scandal like the Panama Papers, it is likely to escalate.

9am: Nationalist MPs walk out of Parliament again.

9.10am: Angry protesters throw eggs at Justice Minister Owen Bonnici as he walks towards the prime minister’s office.

10am: Muscat tells a European Parliament delegation that he feels “betrayed” by Schembri.

10.55am: The PL urges its supporters not to attend any unofficial events being organized by individuals.

11.50am: The PN says Schembri must be investigated by the police and the prime minister should resign immediately, not in January.

11.55am: Family Minister Michael Falzon expresses disappointment at Opposition MPs, whom he accuses of directing protests in Valletta the day before. “I have no problem with being hit by eggs, what truly worries me is that those throwing eggs and plastic bags full of urine are also members of parliament with us in the same chamber.”

12.40pm: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family asks Magistrate Nadine Lia to abstain or recuse herself from the compilation of evidence regarding Yorgen Fenech. Her father-in-law, Pawlu Lia, is the prime minister’s personal lawyer.

1pm: The bishops of Malta and Gozo appeal for unity, truth and justice in the wake of unrest following developments in the investigation.

1.50pm: Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms Julia Farrugia Portelli files a police report over a Facebook comment which stated that Labour supporters gathered in front of party headquarters on Monday night deserved to be bombed.

2pm: Muscat denies interfering in the police investigation, in response to a court case filed by the slain journalist’s family on Monday.

3.30pm: Renew Europe’s Sophia in ‘t Veld, head of the EP delegation on a fact-finding mission in Malta, says it is clear that there are individuals, or a group of individuals, who are engaging in very serious wrongdoing in Malta.

4.30pm: Muscat urges all Labour supporters to stay at home and not engage in demonstrations to show their support for him.

4.40pm: Yorgen Fenech also requests the recusal of Magistrate Nadine Lia.

5.50pm: Eve Borg Bonello, a 16-year-old student and activist who was one of the key speakers at Sunday’s protest, says she received numerous death threats.

6pm: Protesters lay out a banner outside the Police General Headquarters in Floriana, calling for the police commissioner to arrest former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

8pm: President George Vella addresses the nation and says that “we need to go back to the road of normality before the damage that is being caused to Malta becomes irreparable.”

 

Wednesday, 4 December

7am: The Malta Independent, quoting a spokesperson, says Muscat has admitted to having had contact with Yorgen Fenech after his name had cropped up in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation; however, this was done “in consultation with the Malta Security Services.”

8am: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo says “this is the worst time in my political career.”

9am: Magistrate Nadine Lia abstains from hearing the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech.

10am: Christmas comes early for MPs as Parliament rises for the holiday season and will reconvene on 20 January.

10.30am: Melvin Theuma tells a court that Yorgen Fenech had informed him about a “big” raid that the police were to carry out in December 2017.

10.40am: Over 300 academics from the University of Malta call on Muscat to resign or for him to be removed, rather than wait till January for him to step down.

11.30am: Most barriers blockading Parliament square are removed.

12.30pm: Twenty-three academics write to the Apostolic Nuncio saying that it is unwise to “involve the Holy Father in a propaganda exercise in an attempt to postpone an inevitable outcome.”

2pm: Kenneth Camilleri, a former OPM security official, is mentioned by Theuma in court. Theuma says he had been approached by Camilleri and another man, Johan Cremona, and suspects they were sent by Keith Schembri.

2.20pm: Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar confirms that Theuma was indeed employed by the government, only hours after he said that no record of his employment could be found.

2.30pm: The head of the EP mission, Sophie in ‘t Veld, says it would not be a bad idea for the police to question Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

3.30pm: The Malta Chamber of Commerce “on behalf of Ethical Business” urges the prime minister “to do the right thing.”

3.35pm: Civil society groups Repubblika and Occupy Justice announce that they are organising another national protest in Valletta on Sunday afternoon.

4pm: MEP Sven Giegold says the European Commission should open an investigation into the rule of law and that preparations must now be made for Article 7 proceedings against Malta.

4.30pm: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen describes the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia as an attack on free media.

5.50pm: PL MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer says the damage being done to the country is beyond imaginable.

8pm: PN leader Adrian Delia says it is clear that not only was the prime minister’s office involved in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, it was also involved in an attempt to stop justice in this case being done.

9.30pm: Rabat Mayor Sandro Craus tells his council colleagues he will not be stepping down after he is mentioned in connection with the phantom government job given to middleman Melvin Theuma.

 

Thursday, 5 December

6.30am: Evarist Bartolo says he regrets not taking a stronger position in 2016 when the Panama Papers scandal broke, and considers it one of the mistakes of his political career.

8am: Joseph Muscat’s worst mistake in his career as prime minister was to remain oblivious to the fallout of the Panama Papers scandal, former Labour leader Alfred Sant writes.

9am: Politico reports that the EU’s smallest country (Malta) could become its biggest problem.

11am: Yorgen Fenech claims in court that Schembri had kept him continuously informed of progress in the murder investigation.

Noon: Labour MEP Miriam Dalli says she will not run for Labour Party leadership.

12.50pm: The head of the civil service says Theuma was employed “after a public call.” His job only lasted a few months.

1pm: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte cancels a lunch meeting with Joseph Muscat that was due to be held on Friday in Rome.

2.15pm: Nationalist MEP David Casa urges the President to take action, saying that George Vella should “take the only step which can bring this country back to normality.”

3.30pm: The Malta Independent reveals that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s visit to the Vatican “is no longer an official visit.”

3.40pm: Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna tells The Malta Independent that he has not been contacted by the police, despite the revelations over the past week.

7.30pm: Neville Gafa, the Office of the Prime Minister’s unofficial envoy to Libya, visits Schembri at his Mellieħa home.

8.30pm: A number of people, mostly Nationalist MPs, decline the President's invitation to Republic Day activities because of the ongoing political crisis, and due to the presence of the prime minister.

 

Friday, 6 December

7.30am: Evarist Bartolo says there must be real change in reference to the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

8.55am: The family of Daphne Caruana Galizia gives a chilling account of the way the journalist was threatened, insulted and vilified in a bid to stop her from continuing her investigations and writing on her blog. They spoke during the first sitting of the public inquiry.

10.30am: Investigations into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia are still ongoing in an “intensive” manner in spite of the fact that four people have already been taken to court in connection with the case, the police say.

11am: The Malta Developers Association (MDA) says the prime minister’s resignation “was inevitable, considering all the circumstances that were recently revealed.”

11.15 am: Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne announces that he will be contesting the Labour leadership election. Minutes later, Ian Borg expresses support, indicating he will not run for the post.

1pm: Muscat says “established procedure” was followed on Thursday, 28 November, when journalists were blocked from leaving Castille after an early morning press conference. The Malta Institute of Journalists, however, says the prime minister’s reply confirms the serious problems journalists are facing.

1.30pm: A letter signed by 360 people who identify with socialist, left-wing and progressive ideals expressing outrage and demanding that the Labour Party cleans up the current mess is sent to all Cabinet members.

2pm: PL MP and potential party leadership candidate Robert Abela launches a scathing attack on what he described as a “devilish” pact which would sell out the country, the Labour Party and its genuine supporters.

5pm: OPM customer care chief Sandro Craus is questioned by the police over Theuma’s phantom government job.

6pm: Muscat withdraws from a EuroMed event in Rome at the very last minute.

7pm: The GRTU says the political instability is “killing business.” It reports a 50 per cent drop in sales.

 

Saturday, 7 December

7am: Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna heaps glowing praise on Joseph Muscat. He says Muscat is “the best that ever was and that ever will be.”

11.30am: Robert Abela announces he will be contesting the PL leadership election

12.30pm: Muscat and his family meet Pope Francis during a private visit.

4pm: Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri was questioned on Saturday afternoon in connection with the phantom job given to middleman Melvin Theuma.

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