The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Daphne murder: Keith Schembri was informing Yorgen Fenech, middleman tells court

Monday, 8 June 2020, 09:52 Last update: about 2 months ago

Middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination Melvin Theuma told the court today that he believed that if the Labour Party won the 2017 general election ‘they’ would have been protected.

Fenech stands charged with complicity in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

 

In his testimony, Melvin Theuma said Yorgen Fenech told him that he was being informed about the investigation into the murder by “sieħbi” (my friend).

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked by the magistrate who ‘sieħbi’ was, Theuma said it was Keith Schembri, the former OPM chief of staff.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello is hearing the compilation of evidence against Fenech.

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.

See below for a minute-by-minute account of the proceedings in court today:

15:14 Melvin Theuma's testimony will stop here for today. The court has been adjourned. The next sitting will take place on 11 June at 12pm

14:58 It looks like things could be wrapping up for today - the parties concerned are now discussing the date of the next sitting. 

14:57 Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud said that it was not possible to have known from beforehand how much time they would have needed to look through the transcripts of the recordings played in court today. 

14:55 He tells the magistrate that he had been taken for the police depot at 7:30am this morning, before being transported to court. 

14:55 Theuma complains to magistrate Rachel Montebello that he is very tired after hours of testimony. 

14:54 Melvin Theuma leaves the courtroom for a few moments but re-enters shortly after, since there are more recordings to be heard.

14:52 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi's line of questioning turns to the infamous party Joseph Muscat held at his Girgenti residence in February 2019, for which Yorgen Fenech was a guest, and in which he gifted the then prime minister fine Petrus wine worth thousands of euro. Theuma says he got to know about the Girgenti party after Fenech told him about it as Theuma was driving him to the actual party. 

14:51 The magistrate now asks Theuma whether Fenech had ever mentioned to him that there were a number of people involved in the murder. Theuma replies that Fenech had not mentioned this. "He never mentioned Keith Schembri [as being implicated in the murder], he only told me he got the information from him," Theuma tells the court 

14:47 Theuma tells the court that he and Yorgen Fenech also felt worried and troubled when the monthly protests organised by civil society, demanding justice for Daphne, took place.

14:45 Azzopardi now notes that, on 16 October 2018 - the one year anniversary since Daphne's assassination - Fenech was now replying to message sent to him by Theuma. Asked why, Theuma says Fenech was troubled on that occasion 

14:41 The subject switches to a MaltaToday story, which Fenech sent to Theuma, on a survey conducted by the newspaper - which showed Labour were projected to win the 2017 election. Asked by Azzopardi why Fenech would send such a survey result to Theuma, Theuma tells the court that the fact that Labour would win the general election would mean that they were protected. 

14:39 Azzopardi asks Theuma about another text message he received from Yorgen Fenech, where Fenech told Theuma that he was "going to also stick his neck out for him about this money laundering business too." Azzopardi asks what the "also" referred to, with Theuma clarifying that Yorgen was implying he would be sticking his neck out for Theuma for both the money laundering and Daphne's murder 

14:31 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi continues cross-examining Theuma. Azzopardi asks him about a text message where told told Yorgen Fenech that he had lost "75". Theuma clarifies that this was a reference to a sum lost in a lottery. 

14:27 Theuma insists he would put Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri in the same group. They were very big friends, he adds. 

14:26 Asked why he was using the word "them", Theuma explains it referred to the hit men that Keith Schembri and Yorgen Fenech might have employed to kill him. 

14:25 On 17 October, Theuma wrote to Fenech: "I don't want to worry you, I am very sad, I wasn't in the wrong, government is launching another inquiry." But Fenech assured him that as long as he is there no one would hurt him. 

14:21 On the public inquiry into Daphne's death, Theuma had said it would put him in the grave. "They would eliminate me before something came out," Theuma says. But Fenech had assured him that "no one would hurt you". 

14:19 Theuma says Yorgen tried giving him a lot of things, which he sent back. He says Fenech would give him the items so he could sell them. These included two clocks, one for Melvin's son and an arloġġ tal-lira, which are now in police possession

14:18 Asked by the magistrate how he linked Muscat (il-Koħħu) with Keith Schembri, Theuma says he arrived at that conclusion following the Kenneth Camilleri incident. Kenneth Camilleri had formed part of the prime minister’s security detail and was a close friend of Keith Schembri. In previous sittings it emerged that Camilleri had gone to visit Theuma with a promise that bail would be granted to the Degiorgios and Muscat.

14:11 Theuma is asked to testify on the written message: "...I have nothing against KK, despite me knowing that he wants to get rid of me". He says that he felt Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri were trying to get rid of him with Vince Muscat, il-Koħħu, helping them. 

14:08 Melvin Theuma says he would be depressed on the situation, but would calm down when he went to Yorgen's. 

14:00 Switching to another conversation, Melvin Theuma says he asked Yorgen whether it was a good idea to arrange a meet up with one of the Degiorgios in prison. Yorgen told him he would try to give a mobile to one of the Degiorgio brothers in prison, but this never happened. 

13:59 Different parts of transcripts are being read out with the parties jumping from one conversation to another. Journalists do not have access to the transcripts so it is hard to sometimes understand the context.

13:58 Melvin Theuma says that one time he had been asked by Yorgen to stay guard outside Keith Schembri's house. Theuma had informed Fenech that he was going to Gozo with his family. But Theuma also asked Yorgen why the need to stay guard and Fenech answered that Schembri (above) didn't trust anyone. 

13:56 Azzopardi says Muscat answered an hour later, saying that the matter will be seen to. 

13:55 Jason Azzopardi asks whether an email had been sent to former prime minister Joseph Muscat over an issue with the common space of an apartment block. The email was sent to the PM's personal email, with Theuma saying he has no memory of it, stating that his partner Charmaine must have sent it. 

13:49 They are now speaking about the incident when Theuma went to wait for Schembri outside Castille.

13:48 Theuma says he referred to Keith Schembri as 'KK'. 

13:43 Azzopardi asks: “Who was the guy who informed you about the arrest?” Theuma replies that he is 99.9% sure that it was Yorgen Fenech (above). 

13:42 Melvin Theuma confirms that the list of locations where the raids were going to be carried out were never given to him. 

13:41 Theuma says that Yorgen told him he would be doing something about his partner’s and her daughter’s arrest. 

13:41 Theuma says the arrest had to be made by Ray Aquilina, an Economic Crimes inspector.

13:40 Melvin Theuma says his agreement with Yorgen Fenech was that after his arrest, he would be asked four questions, and everything would be done with (barra bid-daqq). Theuma is speaking of his own impending arrest on money laundering charges.

13:39 Theuma says he was not prepared to dispose of the pen drives, stating he was always prepared to reveal all, “as Johann knows”. 

13:39 Theuma (inset) says Fenech was refering to the pen drives. In the conversation, there were also calls that discussed the money laundering arrest. 

13:38 Jason Azzopardi asks about a message from Yorgen to make sure “everywhere is clean, not only on this.” 

13:37 Melvin Theuma starts to cry. 

13:37 Theuma says Fenech was meant to give him a list of locations where police would be carrying out raids. Theuma says he was angry at the lack of information provided by Fenech. He was also infuriated that his partner was investigated by the police. “What did they have to do with the case?” 

13:35 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Theuma on the date of the arrest and about a transcript of messages between him and Yorgen Fenech. Date of message: 12 November 2019 Theuma asks – “You forgot me? (Nsejtni sieħbi?)” Yorgen Fenech responds – “Relax we will make it (Serraħ rasek, naslu)” 

13:32 Melvin Theuma enters the courtroom. 

13:07 The magistrate enters the court room.

13:06 Yorgen Fenech re-enters the courtroom. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, and her sister, are also present. 

12:18 The court takes a short break. 

12:17 In reply to a question, Theuma says he believes an amnesty is given by parliament and government. 

12:14 Theuma tells the court that he had asked Yorgen Fenech what would happen if the accused were given an amnesty

12:13 The context of this is the request for amnesty that Vince Muscat had made. Muscat and the Degiorgio brothers are facing murder charges. They have been kept in custody ever since their arrest in December 2017 and at one point Muscat had asked for an amnesty to tell all he knows. Theuma started getting very concerned when he learnt that Muscat was willing to speak. 

12:03 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asks Theuma when the issue concerning the amnesty cropped up. 

12:00 “I wanted to tell him (Keith Schembri) to tell Yorgen Fenech to switch on his mobile,” Theuma says. He also thought of telling Ray Fenech (Yorgen’s uncle), but didn’t do it. 

11:58 Theuma says he once went to wait for Keith Schembri outside Castille to ask him to tell Yorgen Fenech to switch his phone on. However, he didn’t meet him. 

11:57 He insists he cannot testify on Schembri’s involvement in the murder. 

11:57 Asked by the magistrate about Keith Schembri and how he came to mention him by name, Theuma says he arrived to the conclusion after hearing the news about Schembri. “I arrived to the conclusion after what I heard… I jigsaw puzzled his involvement in my mind.” 

11:50 Asked what would happen to the recordings on the laptop, Theuma says he doesn’t know. “I dont know how to use it,” he admits. Theuma adds that duplicate recordings on the USB sticks might be due to his lack of knowledge in using laptops. 

Yorgen Fenech and Melvin Theuma

11:49 Asked how he learned to record on his mobile phone, Theuma says he asked his partner’s daughter to teach him how. He also says that he used to transfer the recordings on to the laptop of his partner’s daughter so that he would put them on a USB stick. 

11:46 Asked what he would do with the recordings, Theuma says he gave a copy to Yorgen Fenech only. “I never gave them to anyone else.” 

11:45 Theuma says that he met with the police commissioner at the depot when he was arrested. “Before the arrest, I swear I never met the police commissioner,” Theuma says. 

11:41 Theuma returns to the courtroom.

11:41 Theuma is asked to leave the courtroom so that Arnaud explains some recordings to the magistrate. 

11:38 Theuma says he bluffed by using the police commissioner’s name with Yorgen Fenech. “I told Yorgen the commissioner knew about the recordings. I admit it, I bluffed using the police commissioner. I wanted to make it seem people were on my side.” 

11:32 The day Melvin Theuma was arrested, Edwin Brincat was also arrested. 

11:30 Theuma says he told Fenech to talk with that guy from Luqa (ta’ Ħal Luqa). He says the reference was to then police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar (above)

11:29 Asked by the magistrate whether the informant was Keith Schembri or Silvio Valletta, Theuma says he doesn’t know. 

11:29 Asked who would have given Yorgen Fenech that information, Theuma says he doesn’t know. 

11:26 Theuma says he is 99.9% certain that Yorgen had told him the police were coming for him on the 16 November of last year. 

11:25 Theuma says Johann had told him that he would be giving him a paper with a list of locations the police would be investigating. He says he had an argument with Yorgen Fenech the night before he (Theuma) was arrested. 

11:19 When Theuma was arrested, Yorgen Fenech had assured him he would be waiting for him outside the depot with pastizzi. 

11:18 He also says that Yorgen Fenech was prepared to lend him money so he wouldn’t lose the complex of flats. 

11:18 Theuma says that as a result of the money laundering investigation in his regard, an account he had with HSBC was closed and Bank of Valletta had withdrawn a sanction letter for the purchase of a San Ġwann apartment complex. 

11:15 “I was on the brink… On the day they killed her, my life ended,” Theuma says. 

11:15 Theuma says that his paranoia nearly led him to organise a meeting between Alfred Degiorgio and Yorgen Fenech. The context of this is Theuma’s fear that he was the only one the Degiorgios knew since he had been the middleman between Fenech the murderers. 

11:13 Theuma insists that he was close to telling police on multiple occasions but would remember that Yorgen Fenech is well known (jaf in-nies). “I sometimes drove to the Pieta police station but turned back... I admit, I wasn’t cut out for this,” he says.

11:11 “The time I spent with Johann (a Yorgen Fenech business associate) at his house, I used to be crying most of the time,” Theuma says. 

11:10 Theuma speaks of his concerns and paranoia. When he used to speak to Yorgen Fenech about his worries, Fenech would tell him “they can kiss our… (ibusulna l-...)”. 

11:08 Theuma says that on the day he was arrested, he was convinced that he wanted to testify. He says that he had insisted to speak to Inspector Arnaud. Asked why the insistence to speak to Arnaud, Theuma replies: “Because I knew he was investigating the case.” 

11:06 Asked what he told him: “Everything (mhux kollox!)” 

Melvin Theuma entering the law courts (file photo)

11:05 The witness also mentions an Edwin Brincat, a friend of his, who he says he would go to speak to on his problems. Brincat goes by the nickname, il-Ġojja. 

11:04 “I was very scared… Yorgen Fenech is a lion and I am a mosquito, he knows everyone and I know no one,” Theuma tells the court. 

11:03 Theuma says the Degiorgios only knew about him. The brothers were not privy of Yorgen Fenech. He adds that he was very paranoid that he would be caught. 

11:01 Theuma says that if the Degiorgios got an amnesty he would be blamed for everything: ‘Nispiċċa nibilgħu.’ 

11:00 Melvin Theuma confirms that he had expressed concern about the Degiorgios being caught and feared they would spill the beans on the case and be given an amnesty. 

The three men accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia: George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat

10:59 On the day of the recording Melvin Theuma had given Yorgen Fenech two bottles of whisky as a sign of gratitude for the €5,000 holiday Fenech had paid for him.

10:51 The court moves on to another recording. 

10:49 He also recalls that on the day of the Camilleri murder, he and Yorgen Fenech were on a plane on the way to France. 

10:45 Theuma tells the court that had the Degiorgios been imprisoned on the other murders and bombs, he would have been happy because they wouldn’t be imprisoned for the Daphne Caruana Galizia case. 

10:44 Nobody has been charged with the Camilleri murder. 

The scene of the Bugibba car bomb in 2016

10:44 Theuma says that in separate conversations, Fenech had mentioned the ‘Bomba tas-Sapuna’ murder. Ostensibly, this is a reference to the car bomb that killed John Camilleri, known as Giovann tas-Sapuna, in Buġibba. The murder happened in October 2016. 

10:41 “I first heard about Cardona, on television after the whole Acapulco situation… I assumed it was him after the news,” Theuma replies

10:41 Jason Azzopardi asks: how did you know it was Chris Cardona? 

10:40 Questioned by lawyer Jason Azzopardi, Theuma says that after asking Fenech what would happen if they were caught, Yorgen Fenech told him that he would see to these things himself - “L-affarijiet tiegħi narahom jien.” 

10:39 Theuma says he would have been happy to know that police were closing in on someone else not on himself and Yorgen Fenech. 

10:39 Arnaud asks Theuma why he would have been happy to know that someone else was involved in the murder. 

10:29 The defence says Arnaud can’t suggest what is being said to the witness.

10:28 A recording is played but Melvin Theuma says he hasn’t heard anything. Inspector Keith Arnaud says that an article and a newspaper were mentioned but Theuma insists he did not understand the recordings. 

10:22 As the recordings continue, children and dogs barking can be heard in the background. 

10:20 Confirming what is being said on the recording, Melvin Theuma tells the court that Yorgen Fenech told him that he thinks they found Cardona’s mobile. The reference is to a burner phone, which allegedly contained only one number on it – Chris Cardona’s – and which was used for communication between the former minister and one of the murder suspects – Alfred Degiorgio. 

10:18 Theuma says that had they found Chris Cardona’s (above) mobile, and he was involved in the murder, he would have been very happy. 

10:17 Inspector Arnaud asks Theuma what the conversation was about. 

10:16 On the mobile found in the sea near the potato shed, Melvin Theuma is heard telling Yorgen Fenech: ‘Xieraq tiegħi’

10:15 The recordings continue being heard. 

10:09 Theuma tells the court whether there is another way to listen to the recordings since he is not understanding what is being said. He was provided with headphones by the court but insists he is still not understanding what is being said

10:08 Melvin Theuma is finding it difficult to understand the recordings. 

10:06 Melvin Theuma says Yorgen Fenech told him that he was being informed by “sieħbi” (my friend). Asked by the magistrate who ‘sieħbi’ was, Theuma says it was Keith Schembri (above), the former OPM chief of staff. 

10:01 Theuma says that he had been told by Yorgen Fenech that police had found mobiles linking the Degiorgios to “around seven murders”. 

10:00 Inspector Arnaud asks Theuma what he knew about the mobile phones found in the sea. 

09:59 Theuma says Yorgen Fenech told him they had found a mobile phone used between Alfred Degiorgio and Chris Cardona.

Police during the raid in Marsa in December 2017, which led to the arrests of the suspects in the murder of Caruana Galizia

09:58 Theuma says that when the police found mobile phones in the sea near the potato shed in Marsa, he feared it was his mobile. The potato shed is the location where the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat used to hang out and where they were arrested in December 2017.

09:57 After hearing a recording, Melvin Theuma tells the court that he heard someone say they found Chris Cardona’s mobile phone.

09:54 The sitting has started.

09:49 Theuma is expected to testify, based on the recordings he had made himself of conversations between him and Fenech.

09:46 Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma has entered the courtroom

09:42 Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi and prosecutor Keith Arnaud are discussing some of the recordings and transcripts

09:42 Yorgen Fenech is inside the courtroom, wearing a mask. As is customary, there is also heavy security

  • don't miss