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Keith Schembri 'went cold' when Fenech told him about Daphne's murder - Melvin Theuma

Wednesday, 5 February 2020, 09:54 Last update: about 5 years ago

The middleman in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia said he was told by alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech that former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta was leaking information from the investigation.

The compilation of evidence against Fenech continued with the court listening to recordings that Melvin Theuma had made of his conversations with Fenech.

Valletta made headlines recently when it was revealed that he had a close friendship with Fenech. The revelation led to the resignation of his wife, Justyne Caruana, from the post of Minister for Gozo.


In the recordings, Fenech was also heard telling Theuma that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri “went cold” when he learnt of the murder. Fenech had also claimed that Schembri told him that, “you (Fenech) should have come to me before you did what you did, but now I will help you,” Theuma said.

It was also suggested that Keith Schembri was speaking to the judge assigned preside over a bail hearing for the three murder suspects.

The defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran.

The prosecution is being led by inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, assisted by the attorney general.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family.

Follow the minute-by-minute proceedings below. Please refresh for updates

1.15pm: The case will continue on 13th February at 10am.

1.13pm: The next recording is a long one - 53 minutes and 52 seconds to be exact - and it will be heard at the next sitting.  Melvin Theuma meanwhile has left the witness stand.

1.12pm: Magistrate Montebello meanwhile has requested new transcripts of the recordings to be written.

1.11pm: That brings Azzopardi's cross-examination to a close.  The defence has said that they will cross-examine Theuma later once subsequent recordings connected to this one are heard.

1.10pm: Azzopardi asks about a point in the recording where it is said that someone will throw acid at someone else's wife.  Theuma clarifies here that the wife in question was that of Vince Muscat, and that Fenech had shared this information with him.

1.07pm: Judge Antonio Mizzi is mentioned in the recording. He was the judge who was going to hear the Degiorgio's bail case. Theuma asked in the recording whether Fenech knew Mizzi, to which Fenech replied in the negative. "But do you think that he didn't speak to him?", Fenech is heard in the recording. Theuma says that this is a reference to Keith Schembri. "So you think that this is Keith Schembri speaking to Judge Mizzi," Azzopardi asks. Theuma nods in agreement.

1.02pm: In the recordings, there are three levels of the crime mentioned: "Those who carried it out". "Those who were in the middle", and "Those who were on the top". Azzopardi asks Theuma who the "those" were. Here he insists that from the middle down it was him, the two Degiorgios and Vince Muscat and nobody else. Gianluca Caruana Curran has meanwhile come down to the front row and is in deep conversation with his client, Fenech, who has watched on attentively throughout.

12.59pm: Azzopardi asks about the Prime Minister's private party at Girgenti Palace, which Fenech attended. "I took him to the airport after", Theuma says.  Azzopardi asks whether Fenech told him that somebody at the party had told Fenech to watch out for Theuma, to which Theuma replies that Fenech didn't tell him anything.

12.57pm: The recording is re-checked for a specific piece of the recording. "They've arrived", Fenech is heard saying followed by some colourful language on his part. This is Keith Schembri telling Yorgen Fenech that they had arrived at catching who was involved in the murder. "They were angry, Joseph and everyone," followed. “Who was he referring to?”, Azzopardi asks of the name Joseph. "Joseph Muscat", Theuma replies, but notes that this was the only time Muscat was mentioned.

12.46pm: A claim made in the recording by Fenech is that someone has information about seven assassinations. Theuma clarifies that Fenech is referring to Vince Muscat who, he explained, had offered information to the police about seven murders on the condition that he does not reveal anything related to the HSBC heist. Theuma isn't sure whether all were car bombs, but he says that some were. 

12.41pm: Theuma is asked again by Jason Azzopardi about Tal-Maksar, and he replies that he does not know who they are and where they are from.

12.39pm: "We didn't use names when talking. Keith knew everything from Yorgen, Keith panicked and he sent Kenneth to calm me down,” Theuma says.

12.37pm: Arnaud states that he does not wish for Theuma to be testifying on his own conclusions, to which Theuma replies that he is testifying under oath and that he has lived through all this.  Magistrate Montebello laments that Theuma is joining different episodes in the same sentence.

12.35pm: The defence through Gianluca Caruana Curran interrupts the magistrate's questions to question Theuma's credibility. Magistrate Montebello in return sits Caruana Curran back down and tells him that she will not accept his interruptions and that he will have his own time to ask questions.

12.31pm: In the recording, Fenech is heard speaking of someone who "went cold" when he heard of the assassination.  Theuma clarifies that this someone is Keith Schembri. "Before you did what you did you should have come and told me, but now I'll help you", Schembri had told Fenech, Theuma said.

12.29pm: Theuma says that Yorgen Fenech had told him that two people were passing information on to him.  One of them was Silvio Valletta, he says. "Valletta giving information to Keith Schembri?", the magistrate asks; "To Yorgen", Theuma replies.

12.27pm: Theuma is asked about his mention of "Tal-Maksar" - keeping in mind that Theuma told the court earlier that he did not know who "Tal-Maksar" is - to which he replies that he assumed that "those of Zebbug" are a reference to "Tal-Maksar" because Yorgen Fenech had mentioned the name to him in a message.

12.25pm: Questions on the recording begin.  Keith Arnaud asks about the context of a particular sentence: "Keith is telling Yorgen that he sent Kenneth Camilleri to speak to me because of Yorgen", Theuma explains.

12.17pm: The recording is held. The media, again, is not provided with a transcript. Again, the audio isn't always completely audible. At one point, Fenech speaks of pressure to be put on those who are in Zebbug. "Tal-Maksar" is again mentioned, although this isn't noted in the transcript.  The mention is verified and the transcript is amended.

12.06pm: There are some issues with the transcript being pointed out at the moment which has stalled things somewhat.

12.03pm: The cross-examination ends.  The next recording is loaded up and is about to be heard.

12.02pm: The defence returns to the note with the mobile phone numbers, where Theuma is again asked whether he had spoken to Kenneth Camilleri about who those numbers belonged to.  Again, Theuma states that he did not.

11.57am: "I didn't need to record Kenneth, Yorgen is the person I needed to record because he gave me the money", Theuma says when asked why he did not record his meetings with Kenneth Camilleri. He says that he met Camilleri between two to three times. That third time is the meeting that never happened in Zejtun, Theuma clarifies.

11.55am: Melvin Theuma and Johann Cremona would meet regularly, practically every day after the bail request. "I would go crying, and he would try calm me down, and I would tell him about the case", Theuma says. "So you know Johann Cremona?", defence lawyer Marion Camilleri asks. "Yes, very well", Theuma says. "But he knows Yorgen Fenech?", the magistrate asks. "Of course, they have a business together", Theuma replies

11.54am: Theuma is now asked about the note with the phone numbers that Kenneth Camilleri showed him (Theuma), and how he felt comfortable naming Yorgen Fenech as the mastermind to a stranger.  Theuma replies that he was confused and panicked when he saw his number there.  "Was there Yorgen Fenech's number on the note?", the magistrate asks, "No", Theuma replies.  The reply is the same when he is asked whether he asked to whom the other two numbers belonged to.

11.49am: "Yorgen Fenech didn't know Kenneth (Camilleri). He only found out about him after I told him and then he went to find out who he was," Theuma states.

11.48am: Theuma is asked about his assumption that Kenneth from Castille was sent by Keith Schembri, to which Theuma replies that he assumed it because "Yorgen and Keith are one and the same". "Did you ever hear anything pertinent to the case when Fenech and Schembri were speaking on the phone?", Theuma is asked. "Never", he replies.  He does however point out that Fenech and Schembri were so close that Schembri once sent Fenech a picture of him cooking a rabbit, which Fenech showed Theuma.

11.47am: The defence is now going to ask Theuma about the recording.

11.46am: The court is back in session.

11.20am: Azzopardi ends his cross-examination.  A new recording is about to be played. But before that new recording is played, the sitting is suspended.

11.18am: Theuma is giving some insight into the period of the recording, noting that he had phoned Jason Azzopardi and told him he wanted to speak to him about the "big case".  Azzopardi replied that he was abroad at the time, and that Theuma should phone Karol Aquilina instead. Theuma explains that he phone's battery died at that point and he fell asleep, and the next day he decided against calling Aquilina. "How is this tied to Vince Muscat?", he magistrate asks.  Theuma replies that he took the news that Muscat was talking to the police about him as a betrayal and that he wanted to get a pardon in return for the information he had.

11.07am: Theuma is asked whether he had ever recorded the conversation between himself and the Degiorgios to cover himself, to which he replies in the negative.

11.06am: Azzopardi asks what level of friendship there was between Yorgen Fenech, Keith Schembri, and Joseph Muscat. On Joseph Muscat, he does not know, Theuma replies. "Did Yorgen tell you that there was a Whatsapp chat between him, Schembri, and Muscat?", Azzopardi asks.  "He did not tell me, no", Theuma replies. The friendship was between Fenech and Schembri, Theuma states before adding that even when he had gone abroad with Fenech, Fenech had called up Schembri in front of him.

11.01am: Theuma states that he was told by Yorgen Fenech that Muscat was talking to the police. Azzopardi asks whether Fenech had told him from whom he got the information. "Keith Schembri and Mr. Valletta", is the reply. "Mr Valletta who?", the magistrate asks. "The one who was with the police", Theuma replies. Theuma confirms to Azzopardi that he is later referred to as "Valletta, the fat one" (l-ohxon) in a recording. Mr Valletta here is most likely being referred to Silvio Valletta, husband of former Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana, and who was recently in the news after it emerged that he had holidayed with Fenech more than once.

10.58am: Jason Azzopardi is now asking Theuma questions. Theuma states that the recording happened in 2018, not 2019. Azzopardi states that he is asking this because there was a bail hearing on 22 April 2019.  Theuma says that he cannot be sure, but should ask when Vince Muscat had started speaking to the police.  "It is a fact that Muscat started talking in 2018", Azzopardi tells him.  "Then the recording was in 2018", Theuma replies.

10.56am: Theuma speaks of his fear at the possibility of one of the Degiorgio or Muscat family being sent to him to eliminate him, as they did not know that Fenech was the person who ordered the murder. He said that he had never spoken to them about who the mastermind was, and who had told him about the bail request and the date. Fenech meanwhile is shaking his head on the front row, with his lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran also shaking his head as he seemingly mouths something to Fenech.

10.52am: Theuma confirms that Yorgen Fenech had told him in the recording that he spoke to Keith Schembri every day.

10.51am: "Keith and Yorgen are one and the same", Theuma says before noting that he knew they would betray him because he was the "loose end". "It was better if I was dead than alive," he adds.

10.48am: At one point in the recording, Theuma is asked whether everything it settled for the 22nd (December, 2017) - he elaborates now that this meant that if the trio (the two Degiorgios and Muscat) applied for bail on that day, they would get it.

10.46am: The next evening, Theuma said that he was unexpectedly confronted by Johann Cremona and told that Camilleri wanted to see him in Zejtun.  Theuma said that he did not go to see Camilleri.  "I was afraid they would do something to me", he says.

10.45am: The next day, Camilleri visited Theuma again and brought a note with three phone numbers on it.  Camilleri asked if Theuma recognised any of the numbers - Theuma replied that he did, stating that one of them was his own old phone number.  "Then you've got problems", Camilleri told him before adding that the phone numbers belonged to the masterminds behind the assassination. Theuma states that he retorted by saying that Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind, as he had given him 150,000 euros to take to Alfred Degiorgio.

10.44am: At one point during Camilleri's visit to Theuma, Theuma explains that he was telling Camilleri about the situation with Vince Muscat at which point Camilleri moved away to make a phone call.  Theuma says that he assumed that the phone call was to Keith Schembri.

10.43am: Theuma states that he knew Kenneth Camilleri worked with Joseph Muscat, and hence assumed that he had been sent to him by Keith Schembri.

10.40am: Theuma points out that Fenech once mentioned a person nicknamed 'Tal-Maksar' as the bombmaker.  "I don't even know who Tal-Maksar is.  I didn't even take the comment into any consideration," he says

10.39am: Theuma said that Fenech sent him to buy four pizzas to take to Mario Degiorgio, at which point he told him to pass the message about Vince Muscat to his brothers.  Asked whether he knew who had told Fenech that Vince Muscat was talking to the police, Theuma replies that it was Keith Schembri who had told him.

10.36am: Theuma says that when Kenneth Camilleri came to speak to him about the €1 million and bail for the three men accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia, he understood that Keith Schembri was involved.

10.35am: Theuma recounts: "I had been at home one night and Yorgen called me and said he needed to speak to me. Fenech told me: ‘We have a problem because Vince Muscat is exposing you...’ I said what has he got to say about me, I always spoke to Alfred Degiorgio [when dealing about the murder]. That is what made me feel I was being betrayed."

10.30am: The recording comes to an end.  Keith Arnaud now stands up to ask Theuma about the recording. "Me, Yorgen Fenech, and his children", Theuma states when asked who was in the car. He had picked Fenech up from the airport, but states that he has no idea when the recording had taken place. It was however a couple of weeks after he had started recording Fenech.

10.27am: Fenech, flanked by an armed bodyguard on either side, has spent most of this time staring at the floor, while Theuma looks nowhere else but ahead of him.

10.26am: "He told me, you're sure, right? If not we'll bump into something and I'll take him to Mellieħa, to Keith." This part of the recording is probably a reference to Keith Schembri. In previous testimony, middleman Melvin Theuma said that he told Kenneth Camilleri that he will take Mario Degiorgio – the brother of accused George and Alfred Degiorgio – to Keith Schembri’s house in Mellieħa.

10.24am: The conversation between the two is sometimes drowned out, either by the sound of the traffic or by the sound of Fenech's children chattering.

10.21am: Media have not been provided with transcripts so it is difficult to follow what is being said in the recordings.

10.20am: The audio isn't particularly clear, but some key names and phrases can be made out - "Il-Fulu" (which is Alfred Degiorgio's nickname) is mentioned more than once, as is the name Kenneth (referring to OPM employee Kenneth Camilleri) . "Now I will hopefully have some time to speak to him this week, but I will not shoulder responsibility", Theuma is heard telling Fenech at one point.

10.15am: Jason Azzopardi made a request for the transcripts to be made available as soft copies so they are more easily searchable.  The request was accepted by the magistrate.

10.12am: Inspector Keith Arnaud, who is leading the prosecution, explains that the court will now hear a recording of a phone call, after which Theuma will answer questions. The recording plays a child's voice, traffic, then finally, men's voices. They are discussing football.

10.07am: Melvin Theuma takes the stand. We are picking up where the last hearing left off; with the recordings which Theuma had taken. The magistrate last week ordered transcripts to be made for the court to be able to follow testimony being provided better.

9.58am: Magistrate Rachel Montebello leaves the courtroom, followed by her deputy registrar. Sitting is temporarily suspended.

9.56am: Melvin Theuma briefly takes the witness stand but is then sent out of the courtroom.

9.55am: In one file there were 130 recordings, says the court expert in his testimony.

9.54am: A court expert is presenting a copy of documents which he exhibited on 30 January. The copies are for the parties. Transcripts of a number of recordings are also presented.



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