The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

'If I knew it was going to be so big, I would not have done it' - Theuma says Fenech told him

Rebekah Cilia Thursday, 13 February 2020, 09:47 Last update: about 12 days ago

Middleman Melvin Theuma told a court today that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech had once told him that had he (Fenech) known that the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was going to be so big, he would not have done it.

Theuma was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Fenech, a businessman, who is charged with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.

Three men are facing a separate trial, charged with committing the murder.

The case is being heard by Magistrate Rachel Montebello.

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

1.38pm: Magistrate says she will rule on request for bail during the next sitting.

1.36pm: Date for the next sitting has been set for 20 February at 10am.

1.30pm: Theuma now leaves the courtroom.

1.28pm: Theuma confirms that he never told Fenech that he was recording their conversations. 

1.27pm: Azzopardi completes his set of questions. Arnaud is now questioning Theuma on this recording.

1.26pm: Following questions from Azzopardi Theuma says that Fenech told him that one of the mobiles found on the seabed near the potato shed in Marsa included only Chris Cardona's number. 

1.25pm: Azzopardi presents three photos and asks Theuma if he remembers the person in the car who had been driving Keith Schembri. The magistrate says Azzopardi cannot present them due to court procedure. 

1.24pm: Azzopardi asked Theuma if Fenech ever told him he felt a sense of remorse? Theuma replied that Fenech had once told him had he known it was going to be so big he would not have done it.

1.22pm: Azzopardi is pointing out a mistake in the transcript, which the magistrate confirms, sayong that question shall not be made for now on this paragraph.

1.18pm: Court is now again hearing part of the recording at the magistrate's request as she says that the transcript is not punctuated properly.

1.15pm: Azzopardi is now referring to the section where Adrian Delia is mentioned. In the recordings, Fenech says of Daphne Caruana Galizia that she had 4,000 people following her, 3,000 of which were  “indanatti”, in the recordings. Not even Delia backs her fenech continues to say. Theuma says he thinks fenech was referring to the leader of the opposition. Theuma says that what he believes Fenech meant by this is that no one followed Daphne Caruana Galizia.

1.13pm: Theuma confirms that in the recording Fenech says: “Keith told him he did nothing wrong”. No more context is given.

1.11pm: Recording still going on - not much can be deciphered.

1.05pm: Sitting has resumed. Court is hearing another recording.

12.53pm: Court takes a short break.

12.48pm: Azzopardi is reading from transcript... name of someone Tyson is mentioned. Azzopardi asks if Theuma knows who Tyson was. Theuma says, yes the butcher who was shot.

12.44pm: Azzopardi is reading from transcript and Fenech says “do not forget there is the story of the pills and drugs, because he is a bit stupid”. Theuma says he does not know who Fenech was referring to.

12.43pm: Fenech says in recordings “pressure is made on the one in Zebbug”. Thuema confirms that it referring to Maksar because that is where the bomb was made.

12.42pm: Fenech said in recordings “he would go through fire for me”, which Theuma confirms Fenech was referring to Keith Schembri.

12.39pm: Again Theuma says he does not know the reference when asked about another part of the recording, referring to some packages in a car. Fenech says in recordings “inwerwruh” - Theuma again says he does not know who it was referring to.

12.36pm: Magistrate is again getting angry because Theuma first pointed out with certainty that Schembri was referred to and now he says he does not know the reference. Theuma says there are a lot of words missing from the transcripts.

12.34pm: Azzopardi and Theuma are now talking about someone who drove Keith Schembri to Fenech's farmhouse one evening. This person was a good man, Fenech is heard saying in recordings, as Theuma initially thought he might be involved. Fenech says in recording “Joseph is moved from that”. Theuma is saying he does not know what the reference is.

12.31pm: Azzopardi says that Keith told Fenech that this Owen could not help with this pardon, which Theuma confirms.

12.26pm: Azzopardi reads again from transcripts and mentions Owen and Xih. Azzopardi asks Theuma to explain. Theuma says it refers to presidential pardon of Vince il-Kohhu. Theuma confirms that someone named Owen had something to do with pardon. Azzopardi points out that the minister of justice at the time was called Owen. 

12.24pm: Now journalists hear a mention of Cardona in the transcript read out by Azzopardi. Journalists hear the recording again with higher volume this time - but it still not clear.

12.23pm: Theuma confirms that Keith used to call Fenech every day because he was worried about Yorgen. Theuma also confirms that Keith and Yorgen obviously used to speak about this.

12.22pm: Fenech says that Keith kept on calling him everyday, Theuma confirms. Azzopardi reads from the transcript: "Keith is a very busy person as he is the PM right hand man, Fenech says".

12.21pm: Magistrate allows Fenech to sit next to his lawyers to follow the transcripts. “Every day they tell Keith,” Theuma confirms Fenech as saying in recordings.

12.20pm: Reference is made to someone in hospital in the recordings by Fenech. Theuma says it was probably referring to him because he had switched off his phone that night and only switched it back on in the afternoon.

12.15pm: Magistrate warns Theuma, telling him that at times he remembers things very clearly and in other instances Theuma is say he "thinks". In the recordings it seems like he is understanding the reference to what Yorgen is saying.

12.13pm: Theuma confirms that he does not know who Fenech is referring to when he said he called him at 3am, as heard in the recording. He thinks he was referring to Keith Schembri. Theuma says he had switched off his phone that night.

12.10pm: Theuma once again says that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri sent OPM employee Kenneth Camilleri to his house.

12.07pm: Azzopardi asks if Fenech knew that this conversation heard today was being recorded. Theuma said "no" as he would not have had to hide the phone in his sock or pocket. Fenech is making a sign which could be interpreted to mean that he knew he was being recorded.

12.06pm: Theuma says that Johan Cremona told Fenech that he (Theuma) was recording conversations with him (Fenech).

12.01pm: Thuema is attempting to explain who panicked who. Fenech gets agitated in court, clearly angry about Theuma's testimony. Fenech exclaims "Le, le", and Theuma now hesitates.

11.59am: Defence is very concerned that since Theuma does not remember when the conversation took place, how can he know the context? Camilleri is arguing: "is Theuma saying what he is saying because he remembers or because he can infer the context?". A heated discussion ensues between magistrate and defence. Magistrate says defence can raise this during cross-examination.

11.56am: Magistrate Montebello reads a part in which Fenech says “we panic, we panic, not you.” She asked Theuma what it means. Theuma replies that it was in reference to Kohhu revealing information about the murder to the police.

11.55am: Azzopardi says that, in the transcript, Fenech says “the government is panicking”. Azzopardi asks Theuma why Fenech had said this. Theuma replies “I don’t know”.

11.53am: Thuema says he asked Fenech about what was being revealed by Kohhu.

11.52am: Theuma points out a mistake in the transcript, as Azzopardi is reading out a part.

11.50am: Theuma said that he never spoke to Vince Il-Kohhu. Theuma testified that Fenech told him that when Alfred Degiorgio came to collect the 125k there was Kohhu with him.

11.48am: Fenech keeps making hand movements indicating he is not agreeing with what Theuma is telling the court.

11.47am: Theuma confirms that Fenech claimed that Johan (Cremona) knew about the murder of Caruana Galizia. Cremona found out details about the murder after it happened, Theuma said.

11.46am: Jason Azzopardi asks Theuma: who said “i am going to Las Vegas” as per the transcript. Theuma said it was Yorgen Fenech. Azzopardi identifies a mistake in the transcript referring to the wrong person.

11.44am: Theuma is now saying that Fenech told him that Kohhu could not give much detail about him (Theuma) because he didn’t know much about him. Theuma says that Owen is mentioned as Owen and not Owen Bonnici.

11.43am: Arnaud is reading from the transcript and mentions Owen again and Ix-xih, which Theuma again confirms the Xih is Joseph Muscat.

11.41am: Theuma is given a transcript to read this part. Fenech says in this part of the conversation “this is the crux of it all.” Theuma is asked to explain this conversation but says he doesn’t know what this conversation refers to - "maybe if I hear the recordings clearly," it would be better, he notes.

11.39am: Arnaud made a reference to transcript which refers to Fenech mentioning Owen, Arnaud himself and Chris Cardona. Arnaud asked Theuma what he knows about this part of the conversation.

11.33am: Theuma says the Degiorgios asked for 30k which, through Theuma, Fenech gave them. When George asked for another 30k, he offered a Rolex and gold in exchange for the money. Fenech gave him the money without taking the gold and watch.

11.28am: Arnaud asks Theuma when this recording took place. Thuema says that he does not know but it was when Kohhu was supposedly revealing information to the police. Theuma says that he does not believe that Kohhu was revealing information about him because he never spoke to Kohhu.

11.27am: Questions will still be made and Theuma can comment if he feels recordings were not clear enough for him not to reply.

11.26am: Arnaud is asking Theuma if he is comfortable with recordings. Theuma replies he is not and he was more comfortable in the smaller hall (the sitting is being heard in a different hall today, much bigger than the one used normally)

11.25am: Jason Azzopardi is pointing out that person A and person B as labelled in the transcripts are not always the right person referred to in the recordings. Magistrate agrees. Questions will still be made to Theuma but he has to have a transcript made available to him.

11.24am: Recording has now been stopped. Perhaps we will get context now.

11.23am: Adrian Delia was also mentioned but we don’t know in what context.

11.22am: Theuma is heard saying “what can I tell them?” Probably referring to the Degiorgios.

11.20am: "No-one knows Keith as much as I know him", Yorgen Fenech is heard telling Theuma. After this Fenech was also heard saying “Keith will tell me what he always tells me”.

11.10am: Journalists make out “xih” from the conversation, which the court was previously told by Theuma was a reference to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

11.09am: Recording is still ongoing and journalists cannot really make out anything.

11.06am: Lawyer William Cuschieri, who represents brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio in separate proceedings, is present in the courtroom, sitting at the back and following proceedings with interest. The Degiorgios stand charged, along with Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, of planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.

11.05am: 'I was left betrayed,' Melvin Theuma could be heard saying. 'And me?' Fenech replied. 'Not you,' Theuma said. “Kelma, kelma u wassaltilu lil Keith?” Theuma is heard saying in the recording

11.02am: “There was some movement” Theuma is heard saying in the recording. We need to wait for theuma to be asked questions to understand the context.

11.01am: Fenech who is hearing the recordings is gestulating to his lawyers.

10.59am: The defence once again complains that the transcripts aren’t correct. The volume of the recordings has been increased but are still very unclear. Journalists hear the word “traitor” being said by Theuma from the recordings.

10.58am: Theuma complains to the court that he is not feeling comfortable as he is not hearing the recordings well. The magistrate replies that the recordings are what they are.

10.55am: Hearing the recordings journalists can make out that Theuma say “of Kohhu isn’t true”. They also hear “Keith comes and sends Kenneth”. But journalists cannot make out the context of the conversation from the recordings.

10.53am: The magistrate is also agreeing and saying that this transcript needs to be done again. The magistrate however added that the witness can still testify. The sittings and recordings will still continue.

10.52am: Parte civile lawyer is suggesting that along with the transcriber Margret Debattista there will be someone else, double-checking her work. The defence is also saying the transcripts are “a bit of a mess”.

10.50am: Journalists are hearing names like Keith, Kohhu in the recording which seems to be a conversation between Theuma and Fenech. The recordings are not clear and the conversation cannot be made out. There also seems to be some errors with the transcripts. The court is noting that the error is that the words “or else Keith will come” are not said by the person named in the transcripts.

10.43am: A reminder that while journalists can only hear the recordings, which are not very clear, all parties to the case, as well as Theuma, have transcripts.

10.42am: Magistrate Montebello says the court has already warned Theuma not to give his interpretation and the court is also weighing his testimony in this regard.

10.40am: Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri says the defence is concerned because Theuma is giving his interpretation to the recordings because they are being heard piecemeal. She argues Theuma’s version conflicts immensely with reality.

10.38am: Melvin theuma has taken the witness stand and the same warning to say the truth is issued by the magistrate. We are now going to here a recording and theuma will be asked questions about what we are going to hear.

10.37am: Magistrate and inspector Arnaud are now discussing administrative details of the transcripts and recordings.

10.31am: Margaret Debattista, who did the transcripts of the conversations, takes the witness stand. Debattista is exhibiting again some recordings after court last week found some errors with the transcription. Debattista is also exhibiting two new transcriptions of the recordings.

10.29am: Magistrate also orders that the accused's statements to the police be produced in the next sitting by the prosecution.

10.28am: Today new transcripts of conversations recorded by Melvin Theuma will be exhibited to replace some of the old ones, as well as new recordings.

10.26am: Magistrate walks into the courtroom.

10.12am: Yorgen Fenech has been brought in. Middleman Melvin Theuma is also present, as are members of the Caruana Galizia family. Fenech's wife is also in the courtroom.

10.11am: The sitting is still to start.

9.50am: Sitting is expected to start at 10am

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