The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

Daphne public inquiry - Mario Cutajar attended Security Committee meetings, MSS head says

Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 14:01 Last update: about 10 months ago

The principal permanent secretary, Mario Cutajar, attended meetings of the Security Committee, the head of the Malta Security Services, Joseph Bugeja, said today.

He was testifying before the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Most of the sitting was held behind closed doors.

Mr Justice Emeritus Michael Mallia is Chairperson of the inquiry, with Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro as members.

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The inquiry was set up to determine, among other things, whether any wrongful action or omission by, or within, any State entity facilitated the assassination or failed to prevent it.

It is also to establish whether the State had and has in place effective criminal law provisions and other practical means to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity through the frequent occurrence of unresolved criminal acts and to deter the commission of serious criminal offences.

The Caruana Galizia family is represented by Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia.

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2.28pm: The media has been asked to leave the courtroom. The session will now continue behind closed doors. Another sitting will be held on Friday, but the media will not be allowed to follow.

2.27pm: Jason Azzopardi now asks about reports from November 2017 that Chris Cardona had met Alfred Degiorgio, one of the three men accused with the murder,, but he is stopped by Judge Mallia, who states that it is a specific question and will be answered behind closed doors.

2.25pm: Therese Comodini Cachia asks whether head of the civil services Mario Cutajar was ever present at Security Committee meetings, to which Bugeja responds in the affirmative.  Jason Azzopardi points out that the Principal Permanent Secretary's presence is not stipulated in the law, meaning that he should not be there.  Bugeja notes that as far as he knows, it is stipulated in law.

2.24pm: Bugeja states that the relationship between the Security Services and the police is a good one. Judge Mallia asks whether there are any particular officers he would communicate with.  Bugeja replies that it would depend on the case - if it is a drugs case, he would communicate with the head of the drugs squad. He explains that they would not necessarily inform the police commissioner of what they are doing.

2.22pm: Judge Mallia asks what would happen if they find that a private citizen is under threat, whether they would take initiative to act. Bugeja replies in the affirmative.

2.21pm: Madam Justice Lofaro asks whether any organisation can ask for a phone to be intercepted.  Bugeja replies that a report is always needed for this to happen, at which point the information of validated before. If it is found that there are enough grounds for further investigation, the signature of the minister is sought and if there is the need, the organisation is then informed of the contents of the interception.

2.19pm: Bugeja explains that there is the Security Committee on which sits the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Home Affairs Minister, and the Principal Permanent Secretary.  He states that he tables a report penned by to them each other which is penned by a Commissioner, in this case Judge Valenzia, which is eventually made public and provides very general details as to how the Service has worked.  Madam Justice Lofaro asks if there is a more detailed report presented, to which Bugeja states that he does present a detailed report but that it would not contain any names or operations.  Those are kept to himself and his employees only, he says.

2.17pm: Judge Said Pullicino asks how many employees the unit has, and Bugeja says that he prefers not to answer. Said Pullicino asks about the procedure that is followed within the Service, to which Bugeja again says that he prefers to answer behind closed doors.

2.15pm: He explains that as head of Security Services he sees that security operations move as smoothly as possible; that they protect national interests against terrorism, espionage, organised crime, all for the well-being of the public. He says that since they have some capabilities which only they have, they are asked by other entities - sometimes even overseas - to carry out certain jobs.

2.14pm: Bugeja says that he has been in his post since December 2014.

2.13pm: Judge Mallia notes that they will ask general questions, while the specific will be left to be heard behind closed doors.

2.12pm: Joseph Bugeja takes the stand.

2.10pm: The judges have walked in.

2.03pm: As always, Daphne's parents are attending the sitting.

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