The Malta Independent 20 May 2022, Friday

Daphne public inquiry - FBI no longer involved in case, acting police chief says

Monday, 15 June 2020, 14:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

Acting police commissioner Carmelo Magri said today that the FBI are no longer investigating the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, but he is "not sure why".

After a three-month lull because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today with Magri's testimony.

Magri is filling in a police chief after the resignation of Lawrence Cutajar last January.

Magris said that the police lacked staff to investigate the Panama Papers in full. Their publication had revealed that former minister Konrad Mizzi and former chief of staff Keith Schembri had opened companies in Panama.

The inquiry is tasked, among others, to determine whether the State did all it can to prevent the murder from happening.

The inquiry is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, with former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro as the other members of the board.

Follow the minute by minute updates in today's session below:

15:35 The next sitting will be held on Wednesday at 9:30am. 

15.34 The inquiry is over for today. Magri will testify again on Friday at 9:30am.

15:33 Magri says that he does not have the information but will be willing to verify with police force records. 

15:22 Comodini Cachia asks whether any roadblocks were carried out between August and October 2017, to substantiate Melvin Theuma's claim that the Degiorgios had found a roadblock on the way to Daphne's house. 

15:17 Magri: “No, they are no longer involved but I’m not sure why.” 

15:16 Comodini Cachia goes on to ask about the FBI and whether they are still involved in the murder investigation. 

15:15 Magri insists that all investigations continued under his leadership. He insists he crippled and slowed down other departments to ensure that all key investigations are well-staffed. 

15:13 Magri: "I learnt about it from the newspapers." 

15:13 She also asks Magri, whether he knew about Valletta’s relationship with Fenech. 

15:12 Comodini Cachia: "So you're not interested in what he says on WhatsApp?" 

15:11 Going back to the Silvio Valletta case, Comodini Cachia asks what evidence was gathered from him. Magri says that only Valletta’s call logs were taken. 

15:10 Said Pullicino: "This scandal rocked the world, and everywhere something happened, except Malta… I don't know (ma nafx jien)." 

15:09 Magri says that there was a problem with the unit tasked with investigating such matters not having enough staff. "I beefed up the unit since my time there," Magri continues.

15:08 Said Pullicino: "Did you investigate anybody which was mentioned in the Panama Papers, apart from the same five persons we hear about?” 

15:06 Said Pullicino switches to the Panama Papers scandal. The local aspect of the international scandal was revealed by Caruana Galizia in February 2016 when she wrote about the fact that then minister Konrad Mizzi and then chief of staff Keith Schembri had opened secretive companies in Panama. 

15:04 Judge Said Pullicio remarks on the lack of knowhow that is becoming “symptomatic of the police corps”. "It's as if no one knows what is going on," he says. 

15:03 He says that in issues like these, the internal affairs unit do not carry out a criminal investigation. 

15:03 Comodini Cachia says that hats off to Magri, he had told the police's internal affairs unit to launch an investigation into the traffic section scandal. "So, when you had leaks from the police, didn't you feel that the internal affairs unit had to investigate the matter?” 

15:01 Magri: "No. Valletta denied the claims categorically." 

15:00 Judge Lofaro interjects: “Did you take Valletta’s laptops, hard drives, and mobiles despite his denial?” 

14:59 Mallia goes on to ask: “Has an investigation been launched into the leaks?” 

14:58 Magri: “I don't know.” 

14:58 Judge Michael Mallia adds to the question: “Can we agree that the leaks emerged from the police?” 

14:57 Comodini Cachia asks about the presumed leaks from the police force which led Melvin Theuma to know that police would be arresting him. 

14:56 Valletta has been indicated by pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma as one of the informants to Fenech, leaking important information about the Caruana Galizia murder investigation. Magri says Valletta has categorically denied the allegations.

14:54 Lofaro asks what happened with former deputy police chief Silvio Valletta, whose name cropped during the compilation of evidence against Fenech. The judge asks at what stage had the investigation into Valletta arrived. 

14:53 Magri says three people and Yorgen Fenech have been apprehended and stand charged in court. "There must be something good going on, I think," Magri says. 

14:52 Judge Abigail Lofaro asks: “You seem to be content with how things are going.” 

14:51 Magri was appointed acting police commissioner in January, after Lawrence Cutajar resigned, following a change in prime minister. 

14:50 Magri nods half-heartedly. He insists he was appointed to the post for a short period of time. "I am only here to keep the ship going, there is still much more needed to be done." 

14:48 Judge Said Pullicino asks further: “So can you say that you made the task force function?” 

14:48 Magri says that soon after being made acting police commissioner earlier this year, he had a meeting with Europol where they asked him if he was still interested in their collaboration. Magri adds that he also formed a task force made up of personnel from different departments, to investigate cases related to Daphne, such as 17 Black and Pilatus Bank. “I beefed up the task force in order to equip it in the best way possible,” he says. 

14:46 Magri is asked where he was on the day of Daphne’s murder – 16 October 2017. “I was in a meeting and didn't go on site,” he replies. 

14:45 Last January it emerged during testimony given by former police commissioner Michael Cassar that Operation Green was the title for an investigation into former chief of staff Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna of Nexia BT. 

14:43 Magri says that he was not involved in the FIAU's work. 

14:42 Comodini Cachia asks what happened in the months after Cassar's resignation. She asks whether Magri was involved in the FIAU's work, and about a certain Operation Green. 

14:41 Magri replies that there was no one, as the official announcement was not published in the Government Gazette yet. 

14:40 Cassar had resigned from police commissioner in April 2016. 

14:40 Comodini Cachia asks who was police commissioner at the time after Michael Cassar’s resignation? 

14:39 “I don't know,” Magri replies. 

14:38 Inquiry judge Joseph Said Pullicino continues to press on the matter: “Did you ever go back and review the case? Did you ever think that maybe Daphne needed better protection?” 

14:38 Comodini Cachia asks him to clear the ambiguity and explain if the police felt that it was appropriate at the time to only protect Daphne using an RIU patrol. 

14:37 Magri says that they did, but doesn't recall with whom he discussed the issue. All he remembers is that the police commissioner was part of the discussion. 

14:35 Comodini Cachia asks: “Following the 17 Black story [which Daphne first wrote about in a cryptic fashion in February 2017] did you discuss whether Daphne deserved police protection?” 

14:34 He says the decision is taken by the RIU. 

14:30 Comodini Cachia continues to asks about police protection: "Is police protection asked for, or do police post someone if they feel someone is in danger?" 

14:28 Comodini Cachia asks Magri if the police rapid intervention unit had carried out operations outside her house "like roadblocks", to which he answers: “I don’t know.” 

14:27 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, appearing for the Caruana Galizia family, says that Rizzo had said that despite not wanting, he would have still posted police outside her house. 

14:26 Magri replies that he believes he had heard former police commissioner John Rizzo say it. 

14:25 Judges ask again: "Did Daphne ever tell you not to post police outside her house?" 

14:21 However, Magri says that the police still did the rounds outside her home during patrols. 

14:20 Magri is asked about police protection for Daphne Caruana Galizia, to which he replies that she did not want a police officer posted outside her house. 

14:19 Judges ask if Magri was involved in the protection of people, to which he says no. 

14:19 Magri served under both. 

14:18 The judges ask if Magri had worked with former police commissioners Michael Cassar and Lawrence Cutajar. 

14:17 The public inquiry is headed by retired judge Michael Mallia with former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro as members. 

14:16 Acting Police Commissioner Carmelo Magri takes the witness stand. He says he has been in the police corps for 36 years. 

 

 

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