The Malta Independent 7 August 2020, Friday

Joseph Muscat told me to make sure Yorgen Fenech did not leave country - Keith Schembri

Albert Galea Monday, 22 June 2020, 08:59 Last update: about 2 months ago

• Schembri denies giving Dr Adrian Vella a document to pass on to Yorgen Fenech • "Yorgen never asked me about bail or the case" – Schembri • Schembri says that Fenech had once told him that the Opposition Leader Adrian Delia had gone to Fenech to ask for 50,000 euros for David Casa not to be elected • "I used to take it in my stride", Schembri says of Daphne’s criticism • "Definitely not", Schembri says when asked if he had arranged for bail for the Degiorgio brothers. • 'I could not trust Maltese banks', Keith Schembri tells court on reason for Panama company

Former chief of staff Keith Schembri told a court today that his boss Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told him to make sure that Yorgen Fenech did not leave the country.

He was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, who stands charged with complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Schembri testified that he had spoken to Fenech for 24 minutes on the phone hours before the man was apprehended as he was on a boat off the coast of St Julian's last November.

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In his testimony today, Schembri denied giving a note to the family doctor, Dr Adrian Vella, to pass on to Fenech when the latter was being questioned by the police soon after his arrest.

Schembri said he had never spoken to Fenech about the case and had never tried to arrange for bail for the three men accused of the murder, Alfred and George Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat.

He also gave details as to why he opened a company in Panama, the subject of so much controversy in the past years. "I could not trust the Maltese banks," he said.

Schembri also claimed that Opposition Opposition Leader Adrian Delia had gone to Fenech to ask for €50,000 euros for David Casa not to be elected, and that the PN used to collect €20,000 a month from the businessman.

Schembri’s name has cropped up during the court proceedings. Murder middleman Melvin Theuma has claimed that Fenech used to get sensitive information about the Caruana Galizia investigation from the former OPM chief of staff.

Last December, prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud under cross examination during the compilation of evidence against Fenech, testified that Schembri was being investigated for homicide and tampering with evidence.

The court had also heard how Schembri told police that he had lost his mobile phone when they arrested him some weeks before. He had been released with no charges.

The case is being heard by Magistrate Rachel Montebello.

Summary

Follow the minute-by minute proceedings in court below:

1.45pm: Magistrate Montebello departs the courtroom as well for now. Kenneth Camilleri's testimony will follow soon.

1.43pm: The cross-examination of the parte civile and defence will therefore be reserved for that point. Schembri departs the courtroom.

1.42pm: At this stage, this brings Schembri's testimony to a close. This does not exclude Schembri being brought to testify again - in fact Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia says that he will be brought back. The defence protests, saying that they want to the opportunity to cross-examine him. The Magistrate brings Schembri's testimony to a close, saying that the witness will be brought back to court. Galea Farrugia says "if necessary", and the defence points out that the prosecution doesn't know for certain whether the witness will be brought back. "The probability is that he will be brought back", Galea Farrugia says.

1.39pm: Arnaud says he is on his final question, and asks why he thinks that Fenech is alleging all of this to him. The defence - including Fenech - are incredulous at the question. The Magistrate isn't impressed either. She asks whether Fenech had spoken to Schembri about the allegations, and Schembri replies in the negative.

1.38pm: We move on. Arnaud now begins to ask about Schembri's famous lost mobile phone. The magistrate cuts him short, and states that if questions as a suspect are to be made then they should not be made when Schembri is on the stand as a witness.

1.37pm: Arnaud asks whether Schembri has anything to add. The defence takes umbrage at the question. The Fenech family, sitting behind a bench of journalists, can also scarcely believe the question.

1.36pm: Arnaud starts to ask about Fenech being in Gozo but the Magistrate cuts short. "It seems everyone already knows everything in here", she laments. She asks about where Fenech was the week before his arrest. Schembri says that Fenech was in Gozo and he knows this because Adrian Vella had told him.

1.33pm: The court reminds Schembri that he can choose not to answer if he feels the need to. "I feel comfortable answering these questions", Schembri says.

1.32pm: Arnaud says that Fenech had alleged that after the Degiorgios were arrested, he had met Schembri who then called Kenneth Camilleri to kill Melvin Theuma. Schembri denies it as well.

1.31pm: Arnaud says that Fenech is alleging that he (Schembri) is the brains behind the assassination and that he had passed on money to the Degiorgio brothers. "It is not true", Schembri says. Arnaud continues, saying that Fenech had said that he had given him 75,000 or 80,000 to pass on to the Degiorgios; Schembri denies again. "In a Reebok bag", Arnaud continues. "Absolutely not true", Schembri again insists.

1.27pm: Arnaud asks another question related to information about the arrest; Schembri says that it was the Prime Minister who told him to speak to Fenech to make sure that he does not to leave the country.

1.25pm: Arnaud says that it was alleged that Fenech received some terms and conditions about a pardon, and asks how he has a copy of this pre-agreement. "I don't know". He says that he never saw this document and he does not know what is in it. He knew it was being discussed by the Commissioner, the Attorney General and possibly Arnaud as well. "There were a lot of versions of this document", he says, clarifying that he is referring to the pardon to Theuma. He is being grilled over how he knew there were many versions. "My office is right next door to where all these people were going in and out - even the media probably knew about it... the leaks that happened were incredible", he says.

1.22pm: "Up until Theuma's arrest, there were always doubts about Yorgen Fenech's involvement", he says. He indicates that Theuma and his recordings are key for the case against Fenech. "How do you know this?", the Magistrate asks. "Because I was part of the briefings", Schembri says.

1.18pm: "Fenech sent me a message that there are the Times right behind him - today I know that's because of Ivan Camilleri's messages", he says. He adds that he received a telephone call at around 9pm that they had information that Fenech was trying to leave the country. The court asks who called him, but Schembri says he would clarify this later. He says that he was told to try and convince him not to leave the country - after which he called Fenech and spent 24 minutes talking to him. He said that Fenech had told him that he would take the boat to Italy, to which Schembri had said that it wasn't necessarily the time to do that, but Fenech replied that his lawyer had said it was fine. "He (Fenech) said, okay I will think about it", and that was that. Then I woke up at 6am and found six missed calls from Keith Arnaud.

1.14pm: Arnaud says that Fenech had asked him for help. This would be just hours before the arrest took place - Fenech was arrested in the early hours of the 20 November.

1.13pm: Arnaud brings up screenshots of a Signal chat between him and Fenech, dated to 19 November 2019 - the day before Fenech was arrested. There Fenech sent a link of a MaltaToday article which was about the Prime Minister granting a pardon to the middleman. "I don't remember that message but since you found it there then it exists... that week felt like two years for me," he says.

1.11pm: Schembri's demeanour and tone has remained calm through his grilling - which has now been ongoing for almost three hours. Schembri also denies passing on a letter to Fenech before his arrest. "Definitely, definitely, definitely not", he says.

1.09pm: Arnaud states that Vella had testified that Schembri had given him a document to give to Fenech. Schembri says that this is not the case. "He took no document from me", he says. "So the doctor isn't telling the truth?", Magistrate Montebello asks. Schembri sticks to his statement. The court warns him of the consequences of perjury, but Schembri insists that he did not give the doctor any document.

1.07pm: Arnaud asks if, in November 2019, Vella had gone to him. Schembri confirms that Vella had indeed visited him. He thinks it was on a Sunday because he had a party at Girgenti - the Prime Minister's summer residence - that night. This was the Sunday in the week that the arrests took place, in the late morning or afternoon as the party was in the evening - some 450 people were invited to the party hosted by the Prime Minister, he says. Vella gave a prescription for his wife during the visit, Schembri says, after which they shared a whiskey.

1.04pm: Arnaud now turns to the doctor Adrian Vella. Schembri says that he does know him as he is his doctor, and has known him for 7 to 8 years. He says that Vella had gone abroad with him for medical reasons. Asked who had recommended him, Schembri says that the Fenech family had recommended Vella to him.

1.02pm: Arnaud asks if anyone had contacted him to speak to Theuma to see what had become of him; "No, I don't know", Schembri replies.

12.59pm: The transcript is found; indeed, the transcript shows that Fenech had given the impression that Schembri had spoken to Judge Mizzi about the bail request. "I never spoke to him", Schembri says of the judge.

12.57pm: The court asks for references to the transcripts to be prepared beforehand, as Arnaud continues to leaf through the pages.

12.54pm: Arnaud goes back to other recordings, one in particular in which Fenech said that he would speak to judge Antonio Mizzi about the request for bail. All three of Fenech's defence lawyers rise to say that Arnaud is mistaken in his quoting of Fenech. The prosecutor is now leading through the recording transcript.

12.53pm: "Yorgen never asked me about bail or the case", he insists again when asked another question. "No single person can help anyone get bail - it's obvious", he adds.

12.52pm: Arnaud goes back to his going through fire for Fenech remark. Schembri says that it is in his character to go through fire for his friends. He says again that Fenech never asked for information, and adds that Fenech was one of the few businessmen who never asked for anything from the government.

12.51pm: "Why did Saviour Balzan call you?" "Because I was Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister", he says. Balzan was the only journalist to call him on that night, he clarifies.

12.50pm: Schembri says that others had more details about the case, and that a media house knew about the date of the raid the night before. He clarifies that the media house in question is MaltaToday. He says that Saviour Balzan had contacted him about the raid and told him "you could have told me about the raid - he expected me to give him the information". However, MaltaToday did not publish this information, he points out.

12.49pm: Magistrate Montebello asks: "So all these people are lying?". "I deny ever having this involvement as described by the people in this case", Schembri replies.

12.47pm: Arnaud asks about Fenech's words in the recordings, saying that Schembri would give him information about the investigations. "Definitely not", Schembri replies. "What I can say is that I really would go through fire for him, but we never spoke about this case. Not even when you were getting close to him - I had to keep a straight face and pretend not to know", he says.

12.44pm: "I think that the position I had, and the how close I am to people made me the perfect...", Schembri begins before the Magistrate cuts him short again and asks whether he ever discussed the case with anyone. Schembri said that it was discussed at government level a lot, but at a personal level he never even discussed it with his wife.

12.43pm: Schembri is now shown a document. The document is an allegation from Theuma which says that Schembri, along with Fenech, commissioned him to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia, and asks what his comment is on this. "I deny categorically", he says. He tries to explain some reasoning to why the document may have been written, but the Magistrate cuts him short and tells him to stick to what he knows for certain. Schembri insists that Fenech never mentioned anything related to this case to him.

12.41pm: Arnaud turns to another recording, where Theuma is angry over a promised bail request through Kenneth Camilleri. "Definitely not - I definitely did not speak to Kenneth about bail... Kenneth Camilleri never mentioned Melvin Theuma to me", Schembri replies.

12.39pm: The Commissioner (Lawrence Cutajar), Arnaud, the Brigadier, the Deputy Brigadier Mark Mallia, one or two people from the Secret Service, the Prime Minister, and the head of communications were also all present for this along with himself. He says that no records of attendance are kept. 

12.37pm: He also says that he was not privy to the details of the police raid on Theuma which ultimately resulted in his arrest. However, he knew about the date of when the raid on the Degiorgios was to be carried out. "I was with you in the room", he tells Arnaud. Some ten people were present for this meeting, he says. Arnaud asks whether he remembers what was said in these meetings. He said that in a meeting on Saturday which finished at 2pm, they had decided that the raid would take place the following Monday. The date was not decided beforehand, he says.

12.34pm: He says that there were a lot of details in the recordings related to Vince Muscat which he had not heard during the briefings. He says that he did not know these details - the ones which Fenech had shared with Theuma on the recordings.

12.32pm: He says that he wasn't present for every meeting - there were some instances where he was told not to come for the meeting.

12.30pm: Magistrate Montebello asks whether a request by Vince Muscat had ever been discussed. Schembri says he was not present when it was discussed - this is with regard to a possible pardon for Muscat. "I was present for the meeting when we were told that Vince Muscat had started talking", Schembri says.

12.29pm: Justice Minister Owen Bonnici also used to be present, as would the Attorney General. "The Prime Minister held his thinking highly", Schembri says.

12.28pm: These meetings, Schembri says, were briefings. He says that the Prime Minister wanted the case to be solved and that the briefings were many. "So you used to know the details?", Magistrate Montebello asks. Schembri says that there was only a certain level of detail that they would know - "If they were talking about Vince Muscat, then that's all we would know", Schembri says. Arnaud asks for the scope of the meetings and the mention of Vince Muscat. "To see what you can get out of him to find the middleman", Schembri replies.

12.25pm: Arnaud asks about how Fenech is able to give details of the investigation to Theuma about Vince Muscat. Schembri explains that Silvio Valletta used to go through him for meetings with the Prime Minister, which he then used to set up. He says that both Valletta and Arnaud used to do this. However, the details of what was being said was never made available to him. He was not privy to such details of the investigation. Magistrate Montebello asks whether he was present for the meetings, to which Schembri replies in the affirmative however clarifies that he would not know exact details about the investigation.

12.22pm: "Yorgen never told me about any murder", Schembri says. "He never mentioned this murder - never", he adds when asked whether they had discussed the case.

12.19pm: Schembri says that he has listened to the recordings time and time again. He was given the CDs and his statement by the police.

12.18pm: Arnaud cites a recording where Fenech states that he had spoken to Schembri about a bail request, and that he had confirmed it himself. "I deny it. Bail was never mentioned", he says.

12.17pm: "When you pressed Melvin Theuma about why he wrote Keith Schembri in the letter, Theuma said that Schembri is not involved but he knew that Schembri had a high post in the government and wanted to needle Fenech", he adds. "I never spoke to anyone about bail for anyone", he says.

12.16pm: Arnaud asks about the mentions of his name in the recordings in the same context as Kenneth Camilleri and bail for the brothers. "I have no connection with something like that", he says.

12.14pm: He now asks about allegations that Schembri had arranged for bail for the Degiorgio brothers. "Definitely not", he says.

12.13pm: The same set of questions are asked in relation to Mario Degiorgio; Schembri again replies that he does not know him and never had any contact with him.

12.12pm: Arnaud asks about the three alleged hitmen - Alfred Degiorgio, George Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat - and Schembri replies that he does not know them and never had any contact with them - both direct or indirect. He asks whether anyone had ever made any requests to him for the trio, to which he also replies in the negative.

12.11pm: Magistrate Montebello asks therefore that the only recolleciton he has of Theuma is his meeting at Castille. Schembri says now that Fenech had mentioned him that he was a taxi driver and that he (Theuma) had driven him (Fenech) around.

12.09pm: Arnaud asks whether Camilleri had ever mentioned Melvin Theuma. Schembri says that he never had. He asks whether Fenech had ever mentioned Camilleri to him; "I don't imagine Fenech knew him", he says after replying in the negative. He asks whether Fenech had ever mentioned Theuma, to which he also replies in the negative.

12.08pm: Schembri says that he never really spoke to Camilleri. He says that he spoke to several staff members about football, but Camilleri didn't like football. Camilleri used to keep to himself, he says.

12.07pm: Questions turn to Kenneth Camilleri. Schembri confirms that Camilleri was one of the OPM staff - a member of the secret service attached to the office. He was employed in 2013 up till 2018 or 2019 when he finished his 25 years of service.

12.06pm: "This was regularly done - it was extortion of money", he says. Schembri says that he never witnessed this personally but that he knew for certain. Magistrate Montebello asks how he can know this. Schembri says that Fenech had told him this, and that he knew that they would spend hours waiting in the reception of Portomaso for Fenech. This was before the 2019 MEP Elections, he says. Arnaud asks whether he had seen this personally but Schembri replies that he had been told by people he trusts. He says that he once met Portelli there, but didn't ask why he was there.

12.04pm: Schembri says that Fenech had once told him that the Opposition Leader Adrian Delia had gone to Fenech to ask for 50,000 euros for David Casa not to be elected. Schembri adds that Fenech had also told him that the same Opposition Leader used to send his secretary - Pierre Portelli - to pick up 20,000 euros at the end of each month.

12.03pm: Magistrate Montebello asks which politicians were present. Schembri states that he knows that politicians used to go, but not when he was present. "I want to say something important though - Fenech was a very highly regarded person in society before all this. After this all happened and the allegations came out, they demonised everyone who met him." "Others who present themselves as being clean - others in politics - used to go there, eat with him, drink with him, leave drunk, and ask for money", Schembri says. He clarifies that Fenech had told him this, and that he did not witness this personally.

12.01pm: Arnaud asks about Fenech's ranch, asking whether he remembers anyone particular who used to be there. Schembri asks whether this is a relevant question. The Magistrate states that it is. Schembri says that the usual business people and investors used to be there. Magistrate Montebello asks if there was anyone specific. Schembri says that one time there was (former deputy police commissioner) Silvio Valletta present.

11.58am: Questions go back to how many times he met Theuma. Schembri clarifies that it was Theuma who had said that they had met before - he hadn't negated it because he didn't know. This is centered on what Schembri said, that Theuma had met him at Fenech's ranch. He says that this was during a dinner, but that Theuma wasn't a part of it - but Arnaud asks how he knows this was during a dinner if he doesn't know when he met Theuma. "Generally we used to go for dinner to the ranch", he says.

11.56am: He says that the meeting must have been in around February 2017. It was soon after he had gone back to work after his cancer treatment. He is fairly certain about the date because he was still wearing glasses at the time as a result of his treatment, something he had done for around two to three months.

11.54am: Arnaud asks whether he knows how Theuma had come to him. Schembri states that he does not know, but notes that he must have made an appointment with someone. Theuma's name appeared on a list of appointments which is later presented to him by his secretary. He says that many people used to come and meet him because they wanted to keep an open door policy to be close to the people.

11.52am: He says that he had thought about how police had found in the raid, the recordings, the picture, his job contract, and the letter which Theuma had penned implicating him in the murder. He assumed that he wanted to implicate him along with Fenech. The magistrate advises him to stick to facts, and not assumptions. He is asked about whether he can date the picture. Schembri states that it is probably from the beginning of 2017.

11.51am: He said that nobody had told him that Theuma had gotten a job. He said that he had just put him through to customer care who handled it themselves; "we get a lot of these things".

11.50am: He said that he is almost convinced that nobody sent Melvin Theuma for a job. He says that Theuma had come to his office to ask for a job. In these cases, he says that they pass such requests to customer care. After that, he says that Theuma asked for a picture and asked specifically for the frame with Muscat in it to show in the background. He says that Theuma also asked to take a picture of Mintoff in the Cabinet room, which he allowed, and then it ended there.

11.48am: Arnaud asks about Melvin Theuma. He says that Theuma was once at Fenech's ranch, but that he had met him properly only once at his office before this.

11.46am: He says that someone from the police - Mario Scerri - told them that it was very likely that Caruana Galizia had been in the car. He says that he called American Ambassador Mark Schapiro to ask for help. The ambassador replied that some FBI agents in Rome could help. The decision to call Schapiro was within five minutes of the news, he says. "Keep in mind, we were all in shock".

11.45am: Questions turn to the assassination. He says that he was at OPM with Kurt Farrugia, then director of communications, now Malta Enterprise CEO, when Mater Dei CEO Ivan Falzon called him to say that they had reports of a bomb in Burmarrad. Joseph Muscat, at that point since he is from Burmarrad, made a couple of calls because his father has a fireworks factory in the area. It was found that his father was fine, when Falzon then phoned back to say that the explosion had been a car bomb in Bidnija.

11.43am: He said that after leaving politics he wanted to get back into business, and Yorgen Fenech was one of the people he wanted to do business with, hence the listing of 17 Black as a target client. "Doing business with Fenech was prestigious", he says. He says that he had no other links to 17 Black or had done no other business with Fenech.

11.42am: Arnaud states that the article had alleged a link between Schembri and 17 Black. He says that 17 Black was one of 20 target clients he had listed. Magistrate Montebello asks why this particular company. Schembri says that it was always his intention to go back into business after politics, and was advised to open a trust, which he did in 2013. He says that one day he was told that the PN knew exactly how much money he had in his trust, after which he contacted the bank - BOV - to only be told that they could not exclude that there weren't any leaks about his trust. From this, he concluded that he cannot trust Maltese banks anymore and was hence given advice to open the same trust in New Zealand or Singapore. After choosing to open the trust in New Zealand, he says that they asked for him to open a company in relation to it. The quickest way for this was to do it in Panama, and he had to give a list of target clients. 17 Black was one of those 20 target clients.

11.39am: "Like this blog, there are 12,000 others which make the same assumptions to try and find something that's true", Schembri says.

11.38am: Questions continue on the blog post - Schembri states that there were some facts, but a lot of assumptions as well. He said that he had explained this to journalists. Some had suggested he files a libel case, but he noted that a libel case would have taken too long for justice to be done.

11.36am: Magistrate Montebello warns that if there are further arguments and comments between the benches the sitting will be suspended. It's a decree which has become almost usual in these sometimes tense sittings

11.35am: The defence again objects - but a now irate Azzopardi pounces to the microphone to state that the defence is trying to stop questions being made about 17 Black. "If questions about the witness' association with 17 Black bother them, then there has to be something", he says.

11.34am: The magistrate asks what the nature of the discussion was; he says that he explained what was in the blog - "the reality and the fiction".

11.33am: "I used to take it in my stride", Schembri says. Arnaud asks whether he had spoken to anyone about this particular post. Schembri first says no, but then when prodded by the Maigstrate, says that he had discussed it with some friends at OPM and with journalists when they asked. "I discussed the blog", he says.

11.31am: Arnaud begins to ask a question related to an article and mentions 17 Black - the defence immediately objects to the question. Arnaud states that the blog article was in February 2017 where 17 Black was mentioned and a picture of him was in the article. The defence again objects. Magistrate Montebello slams the table and tells them to "cut it out". Arnaud asks how that post had affected him. "I can't understand why you are asking about this post and not other, much worse, posts", Schembri says.

11.29am: Questions turn to Caruana Galizia. Arnaud asks how the journalist's writing affected him. Schembri says that in 2011 when he was still a businessman he used to take it badly, but as time passed and the attacks increased he was affected less by them. "The effect it had on my family bothered me more", he says.

11.27am: Arnaud asks about Johann Cremona. Schembri states that he met him once in a meeting at Castille where Cremona put forward some proposals for the gaming sector. The meeting lasted 10 minutes or so, he says. Schembri says that it was Cremona who had requested the meeting - an outright contradiction of Cremona's testimony last week - and notes that he had asked him how Yorgen was as he hadn't spoken to him in a while, but had gotten no feedback from him.

11.25am: Arnaud asks whether this friendship had remained in place. "Today, definitely not", Schembri said. However, he notes that prior to his arrest Fenech used to go abroad a lot and in fact contact between the two became less. They still met, but less than before. Arnaud asks why contact had lessened in 2019. Schembri said that Fenech was abroad a lot - "he was abroad for nine months out of the last year". He states that he doesn't know for what he went abroad - whether it was on holiday or otherwise. Many would ask this, he says. He says that he might have had some health problems - Fenech that is - but does not know.

11.24am: He says that Fenech had invited him over to his ranch sometimes, other times he had invited him on his boat. He says that when going to the ranch he wasn't generally alone. "Fenech was a person who was loved - there used to be many different people", he says. These people were from every social sphere: "business, politicians, police."

11.23am: He says that Fenech had visited him at home twice in around 2015 or 2016 - once on Boxing Day, and once between Schembri's chemotherapy sessions.

11.22am: He states that there were no real business relations - Tumas Group used to buy some supplies from him, but that's about it.

11.21am: Arnaud asks about Schembri's contact from Fenech. "The chemistry was there; Fenech is a person who is easy to get along with," he says adding that there are some things which you can't really explain.

11.19am: Schembri says that he has known Fenech since he was a child of around 13 to 14 years old. He says that they became close again in 2010, to the point that he felt comfortable having him over to his house. Schembri says that he got reconnected with Fenech as he started to move towards politics.

11.18am: Arnaud starts questioning, asking what his role was before November 2019, and he states he was Chief of Staff of OPM.

11.16am: Magistrate Montebello tells him that he has the right for silence if he so wishes, and that anything he does testify can be held against him. Schembri states that he is choosing to testify.

11.15am: Keith Schembri now takes the witness stand.

11.14am: The Magistrate makes a declaration: At this stage, it cannot excluded that the witness will be subject to criminal procedures in connection with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The witness therefore will be given the right not to testify. So it cannot be excluded that Keith Schembri will be subject to criminal procedures in the future.

11.12am: Magistrate Montebello again asks whether the witness is being considered as a suspect today, at this stage. Arnaud replies that it was never the prosecution's intention to bring the witness up to the stand today. He states that he cannot say that the witness is not a person of interest at this stage because investigations are ongoing. Gatt tries to get a word in edgeways, but Marion Camilleri - on the defence's bench - points out that Gatt shouldn't even be in the courtroom because a lawyer cannot represent a witness.

11.08am: Lawyer Edward Gatt states that his client was arrested last December, but notes that he has been chasing the police for information but there has not been full disclosure as the police are still investigating data, which puts the witness in an anomalous position.

11.06am: Arnaud states that investigations are still ongoing; he states that if there are certain questions which it is felt, when asked, the testimony should be suspended namely because investigations related to the witness would still be ongoing, this should be done. Magistrate Montebello asks for it to be verbalised whether the witness is being considered as a suspect or as potentially subject to procedures related to this case.

11.02am: Kenneth Camilleri - former OPM security guard - will also be testifying today.

10.59am: A registrar takes the stand. She returns transcriptions of four DVDs of the accused's statements, although one is in part because the DVD in question corrupted after 44 minutes. The prosecution however, through Inspector Kurt Zahra, presents a copy of the offending DVD, which is not corrupted.

10.54am: In this regard, the Magistrate appoints Alvin Cardona to optimise the said recordings. Another set of transcripts will be made after this process is completed.

10.52am: Parte civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi makes a suggestion related to the recordings, asking for the same optimised recordings exhibited in another sitting to be exhibited in this one as well. The court says that the sitting should start first, then the issue can be handled.

10.50am: Magistrate Montebello in fact enters the courtroom.

10.49am: More chairs were brought in - a number of press members were still standing up in the corners of the courtroom, though that situation has now been rectified. The fact that some newsrooms brought three journalists to the sitting hasn't quite helped the situation, but we should soon be ready to go.

10.44am: The media are in. Any concept of social distancing has gone out of the window in an effort to fit everybody into the courtroom, but nonetheless everybody seems to have made it inside without any undue trouble.

10.36am: Both families have now been allowed in. The media remains outside.

10.31am: Yorgen Fenech has been led into the courtroom. Keith Schembri can be seen waiting patiently further down the corridor.

10.24am: Common sense doesnt seem to have prevailed. Jason Azzopardi has just emerged to tell those waiting that both parties had requested the use of a bigger courtroom, which he said is currently available, but the court registrar Frank Mercieca has refused to allow it. One of the court attendants has now come past with some extra chairs for the courtroom.

10.18am: Sitting was supposed to start at 10am, but the courtroom has not opened yet. It could be that the sitting is moved to a bigger courtroom.

10.05am: A guard has emerged from the courtroom to state that only a limited number of people will be allowed in, due to Covid-19 related measures. An attempt to put a limit to how many family members can enter is shot down immediately by the Caruana Galizia family, and then the Fenech family right after. People - family members and journalists alike - are currently waiting outside the courtroom door.

9.35am: A small crowd has gathered outside the law courts as people await Schembri's arrival/

 

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