The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Daphne public inquiry: Sandro Chetcuti says he never went to PL HQ 4th floor until 2013 election win

Albert Galea Monday, 13 January 2020, 14:11 Last update: about 5 days ago

Construction magnate Sandro Chetcuti said in court today that he had never been to the fourth floor of the Labour Party headquarters until Labour won the election in 2013.

Testifying in the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Chetcuti said that he had never even gone up to that floor before that election, and that he did not have access to it.

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This contradicts what Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anglu Farrugia, said in a previous testimony, namely that Chetcuti had an office on the fourth floor. Farrugia had been PL deputy leader at the time, but had testified that he did not have access to the fourth floor, which has become “fabled” after it was revealed that most of the plans for Labour’s victory had been hatched there.

Chetcuti testified that neither Yorgen Fenech nor his family members held meetings with then Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat and himself. Chetcuti added that he got to know Keith Schembri after the 2013 general election when he became the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.

Judge Michael Mallia is leading the inquiry, with the other two members of the board being chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro.

The board also heard the testimony of former acting commissioner Ray Zammit.

Read the minute-by-minute developments in court below 

3.40pm: The board is now planning out who to summon next.  A closed sitting with an anonymous witness will be held tomorrow.  FIAU Director Manfred Galdes will be summoned on Monday 20 January at 2pm, while Joe Bugeja, the Head of the Security Services, will be summoned on Wednesday 22 January, for a testimony which may be heard behind closed doors.

3.39pm: That concludes Chetcuti's testimony.

3.36pm: Chetcuti once again confirms that a number of business people donated to the Labour Party through fund raising marathons. "If you don't give donations, nothing is going to move forward or happen. Like what happens at a football club. It's done to ensure operations continue." He said that parties always give receipts to those who donate. He repeats that he has given equal donations to both parties, but noted that he hadn't done so during 2013 because he felt a bit hurt by the PN, but credits Simon Busuttil as having rebuilt the bridges between him and the party.

3.33pm: Chetcuti says that although the media likes to spin a certain portrait of him, "I advocate for a level playing field". He then took a swipe at Anglu Farrugia and questioning how, out of all the businessmen, he only remembered Sandro Chetcuti at the headquarters.

3.26pm: Chetcuti is now asked about a recent picture that had been taken of him with former Minister Konrad Mizzi.  Chetcuti said that he has been taught to condemn the behaviour of a person and not the person himself.  He says that he has met with other politicians, including the PN's Marthese Portelli - a mention which annoys Azzopardi who says that Chetcuti should not draw parallels between Portelli and Mizzi. "She hasn't opened up accounts in Panama to make two million a year," Azzopardi said, noticeably angry. "Embracing people like I did with Mizzi is just my nature," Chetcuti replies.

3.23pm: Azzopardi asks whether Chetcuti knows of a donation of 1 million euros to the party - to which Chetcuti replies in the negative.  Azzopardi asks whether he knows of a major donation by a major entrepreneur in return for being given a major national project, to which Chetcuti replies "Had I known, I would have left and never returned".

3.22pm: Azzopardi asks whether he knows whether the funds for the "well-oiled" Labour electoral campaign came from members of the business community for whom he had set up meetings.  Chetcuti said that he knows that many of the people who he used to set up meetings with Muscat for would say many positive things and that they wished to contribute when there were fund raising marathons.  He said that he himself had donated to both parties in equal amounts, and starts to roll out a few papers to state how much he had given, but he is stopped by Judge Said Pullicino.

3.19pm: Azzopardi reminds Chetcuti that he may testify in secret if he would like, before asking whether it was ever suggested that a person meet specifically with Piscopo, to which Chetcuti replies in the negative. Most of the businessmen for whom he would set a meeting up for were more medium-tier businessmen rather than top-tier businessmen, Chetcuti says.

3.17pm: Jason Azzopardi asks in what circumstances Piscopo was present for meetings between Muscat and businessmen.  Chetcuti said that there were instances when Piscopo was present, but that most of the meetings would be with Muscat.

3.14pm: Judge Said Pullicino asks about what indications Chetcuti can give to how the business community supported the Labour Party prior to the 2013 election.  Chetcuti states that he remembers directing people to the PL's CEO - then James Piscopo - during fundraising campaigns.

3.12pm: He states that once he had had dinner with Polidano, but that this was on Polidano's own initiative. Judge Said Pullicino speaks of his preoccupation with Anglu Farrugia's fourth floor assertion, to which Chetcuti states that he had never been up there prior to the 2013 election, and that even after, he had never had any meetings on that floor.

3.10pm: The board is now naming businessmen and asking whether Chetcuti had set up meetings for them with the Prime Minister. He said that he had never set up a meeting between Muscat and db group, and that he had not set up a meeting with Mark Gaffarena - referred to as "of Cafe Premier" - either.

3.08pm: Madam Justice Lofaro asks about Chetcuti's position in the 2017 general election. Chetcuti states that he had taken a step back and had not involved himself in the election especially with respect to then PN leader Simon Busuttil. He said that the first time he went up to the fourth floor inside the party headquarters was on the day that Labour won the 2013 general election

3.07pm: He said that Muscat had remained in touch with the business community, and that he had frequently set up meetings at Girgenti Palace for instance, adding that there was an element of continuity.

3.06pm: Chetcuti said that he had discussed certain policies, such as the first-time buyers scheme, with Muscat but that after the 2013 election he didn't used to go to the party headquarters that much, and that after taking the role of MDA President he had distanced himself from party politics.

3.05pm: Chetcuti says that neither Yorgen Fenech nor his family members held meetings with Muscat and himself. Chetcuti said that he got to know Keith Schembri after the 2013 general election when he became the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, and that Schembri had never been present for meetings in which he was present. The board is puzzled by this, pointing out that Anglu Farrugia had said that he used to see Schembri within the party HQ a lot - to which Chetcuti replies again that he did not have access to the fourth floor and had not been there before the election.

3.01pm: He states that he used go to the party headquarters only when he was summoned by party officials. He is asked by Judge Said Pullicino whether he had hosted any fourth-floor meetings prior to the 2013 election. Chetcuti replies that he had never even gone up to that floor, and that he did not have access to it.

3pm: Judge Mallia asks whether he is aware what Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne said about the news.  Chetcuti states that he is not. Asked in what capacity he was invlolved in the party, he said that Joseph Muscat had sent for him for help and that he had volunteered to help the party.  Chetcuti states that prior to the 2013 election he had never stepped inside the Labour Party's fourth floor.  He said that he would meet Joseph Muscat - then Opposition Leader - on the third floor and not the fourth.

2.59pm: Judge Mallia cuts straight to the chase, and asks Chetcuti about Speaker Anglu Farrugia's assertion that Chetcuti had a desk or office or constant presence at the Labour Headquarters.  Chetcuti states that as soon as he read the testimony of the Speaker, he had gone to make an affidavit which states that he had no such office in the Labour Party Headquarters.

2.56pm: Malta Developers President Sandro Chetcuti now takes the stand.

2.55pm: That concludes Zammit's testimony.

2.54pm: Asked whether he had received another position after he left the role of Acting Commissioner, Zammit says that he had never resigned from the role of Acting Commissioner. After he was replaced, he remained Deputy Commissioner till the following July before fully leaving his role at the force the following November, after which point he took a job within LESA where he is still contributing today.

2.52pm: Judge Mallia asks whether the Security Services had ever drawn his attention to security threats to Caruana Galizia; "Never", Zammit replies again.  Asked whether anyone from the Office of the Prime Minister was ever present at Security Service briefings, Zammit replies once again that they had never been present and that he had never informed anyone from OPM about such matters.

2.51pm: Asked by Judge Lofaro whether during his tenure he had received any reports from the FIAU, Zammit replies that he had never received any such reports.

2.50pm: Azzopardi says that Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about one of Ray Zammit's children and business ties to the criminal underworld, saying that he would like to ask Zammit whether this was correct and what steps he had taken when these happened, with Azzopardi pointing out that Zammit's son was in the Economic Crimes Unit investigating money laundering.  The board doesn't seem convinced, and they tell Azzopardi to reserve the question. Azzopardi states that he has no further questions.

2.48pm: Azzopardi refers to the shooting incident which had involved then Home Affairs Manuel Mallia and his driver, where the driver had shot at a vehicle and where a cover-up scandal followed.  Zammit had been acting commissioner at the time. Judge Said Pullicino cuts in and asks what relevance this holds to the inquiry.  Azzopardi explains that there had been an attempted cover-up which shows an impingement on the rule of law, but Judge Said Pullicino is not convinced.  Azzopardi drops the question.

2.45pm: Jason Azzopardi, representing the Caruana Galizia family, asks why Zammit had been appointed Acting Commissioner.  Zammit replies that he had been told by his predecessor Peter Paul Zammit that he would be resigning and that he had told him to take the role of Commissioner if it was offered to him. "To this day I don't know why I was appointed Acting Commissioner", Zammit says when asked by Madam Justice Lofaro why he was only made Acting Commissioner.

2.43pm: He says that he recalls that there had been a fixed point some 10 years prior, when her front door had been set alight, and he recalls that he had been instructed back then by Commissioner John Rizzo to speak to Daphne Caruana Galizia to advise her that the fixed point would be ending.  He said that he had been met by Peter Caruana Galizia who had insisted on taking the message himself, which was eventually passed on.

2.41pm: Madam Justice Lofaro asks whether there are any records of the patrols, to which Zammit replies that the order would have emerged from the district, and that there would be written records of fixed points.

2.39pm: Asked whether there was any initaitive on his part for an evaluation of the situation to be made, Zammit said that there had never been such a re-evaluation because there was never a request for it.  Mallia asks whether he had perceived a threat at the time; "No, I didn't feel like there was a threat", Zammit replies.

2.38pm: He said that it was the responsibility of the district police to see that the area was monitored, but there was never any request on the district's part for a fixed point.  He said that he had never received any form of request - be it in writing or otherwise - for a fixed point to be set up.

2.37pm: Judge Mallia asks what he has asked all other Commissioners; what the security situation was in relation to Daphne Caruana Galizia.  Zammit states that he knows that there was frequent patrolling in the area, but that there was no fixed point at the residence.

2.35pm: Ray Zammit is the first to testify. He had served as Acting Police Commissioner between the tenures of Peter Paul Zammit and Michael Cassar, between July and December 2014.

2.34pm: The judges are in, the session is about to begin.

2.28pm: The courtroom has opened.

2.16pm: Caruana Galizia family members are waiting. Both Chetcuti and Zammit are also waiting outside the courtroom.

2.15pm: Courtroom is still to open.

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