The Malta Independent 15 August 2020, Saturday

'I felt safer in Brussels', PN MEP David Casa tells Caruana Galizia public inquiry

Friday, 31 July 2020, 09:37 Last update: about 15 days ago

Nationalist Party MEP David Casa has told the Caruana Galizia public inquiry that he felt safer in Brussels than he did in Malta owing to several threats made against him.

Casa - who has been a vocal supporter in the fight for justice for the slain journalist - took the witness stand in the latest sitting of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry.

In the previous sitting, heard on Wednesday, government minister Evarist Bartolo testified as to the fact that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri led a "shadow government" during former prime minister Joseph Muscat's tenure, and had "too much influence."

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Bartolo said that, despite having spoken about his corruption concerns to Muscat, Schembri, and former minister Konrad Mizzi after the Panama Papers revelations came to light, none of them had reacted.

The public inquiry is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the State did all it could to prevent the Caruana Galizia murder from happening.

Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bomb just outside her Bidnija home on 16 October 2017. Three men, George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, have been charged with carrying out the assassination, while Yorgen Fenech is charged with masterminding the murder.

Melvin Theuma, who acted as a middleman between Fenech and the three executors of the crime, was granted a presidential pardon last year to tell all. Theuma is currently receiving treatment in hospital for serious wounds he sustained, which the police said were self-inflicted.

The inquiry is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.

Follow the sitting live below:

10:59 That's all for today. The next sitting is due to be held on 12 August, when Finance Minister Edward Scicluna is expected to testify

10:59 It is understood that lawyers will be discussing a delicate point with the inquiry board behind closed doors

10:55 David Casa has now left the courtroom. The rest of the sitting will continue behind closed doors

10:46 We are out of the courtroom for the next few minutes

10:40 The subject turns to last year's European elections. Azzopardi asks Casa at what time he found out that he was going to be elected, with Casa replying that it was at around noon. Azzopardi now asks the court to continue behind closed doors for his next question

10:39 Azzopardi asks whether the police had ever invited or requested him to speak to them about any investigation on the subject of the Panama Papers or corruption? "No never," Casa replies

10:39 Caruana Galizia family laywer Jason Azzopardi starts questioning Casa. He notes that, during the compilation of evidence against them, Alfred and George Degiorgio, two of the three hitmen in the Caruana Galizia murder - had made a public request to speak to him (Casa) and then Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes. "What happened," Azzopardi asked. "We had refused, telling them to tell the police their information," Casa responds

10:31 Casa says that, just because Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri and others had resigned, this didn't mean their slate was wiped clean

10:30 Casa tells the inquiry board that he is working towards the establishment of a European FIAU to avoid the hijacking of a national unit ever happening again

10:27 The UAE, Casa says, had asked for meetings [with the Maltese police] as well. An online meeting was held between the AG and UAE government, recently, at the behest of the UAE, he says. The UAE ambassador reassured Casa that his country would cooperate, because it didn't want to be seen as complicit in the murder of a European journalist, Casa tells the board

10:26 Casa says that police superintendent Antonovic Muscat and former economic crimes unit chief Ian Abdilla had maintained that they had gotten now acknowledgment of their request for information from the United Arab Emirates. He says, however, that he had received two letters from the UAE's government, addressed to Malta's justice minister, which explained that the Maltese police's request for assistance was not complete, and including information on how to complete such a request

10:21 On the 17 Black matter, Casa says he wrote to the AG of Dubai and to Noor Bank, and that he had met with high-ranking Emirati officials to try to understand what the Maltese authorities were saying, because he still believed them at that point

10:18 "I ended up in a situation where I could not defend the institutions of the country. And then they called me a traitor, instead of helping or defending me," Casa says. He tells the board that he was also called a traitor for calling for a public inquiry at EU level. This, he says, had hurt him a lot

10:16 Inquiry board member Said Pullicno asks Casa how Nexia BIT worked. "I think if you summon Karl Cini [...] they can tell you. I am not the police or the AG. This is why I speak of impunity, because these investigations never took place," Casa says

10:15 Casa turns to Brian Tonna's and Karl Cini's Nexia BT, which he tells the inquiry was "an engine for money laundering". Despite this, Casa says, the company has not even been stopped from operating in Malta he said. He says he had written to the accountancy board to inquire as to whether they had investigated the company

10:13 The subject matter turns to Pilatus Bank. Casa says that only when the bank's owner, Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was arrested in the US did things started to move locally. "He was not punished for reason only the Americans known, but the crimes he was investigated over are different from those which happened in Malta. He should be extradited," Casa says

10:10 The police, Casa laments, did nothing about the FIAU report

10:10 "The FIAU is an important institution in the country and it is very worrying to have attempts at discrediting the officials who, at great personal risk, leaked the report to me," Casa says

10:08 The inquiry board now direct Casa to speak about his leaked FIAU report. He says it attracted much animosity. Finance Minister Edward Scicluna had tried to discredit it, saying it was written to be leaked. "But today I am relieved that it is part of an inquiry into the Panama Papers, so I did a good thing."

10:03 The MEP tells the board that a magisterial inquiry is under way into the allegation that PN was offered money not to have him as a European elections candidate. "I felt that the party didn't want to push me as a candidate. I was given less coverage... I was removed from head of delegation by Adrian Delia."

09:59 Casa's voice quavers as he speaks of Daphne's isolation. "She was a personal friend of mine. I swore to myself that I would continue to press the issues she was writing about"

09:59 Casa tells the board that he has started receiving anonymous phone calls, some of which were from Azerbaijan. He says he had asked for police protection, but wasn't given it

09:58 On one occasion, the police commissioner had offered to close the Gzira police station so as to make a police officer available to protect, Casa says. "How could I accept that? That a whole village is deprived of its police force for me. I was more worried for my mother. I started spending more time in Brussels. I feel safer there," the MEP says

09:56 Inquiry board member and retired judge Joseph Said Pullicino asked about the threats Casa says he received. Casa tells the board that Keith Schembri had threatened lawsuits and people on Facebook has threatened him with violence

09:55 "My FIAU report speaks of a million euro taken by Chang Cheng, who negotiated the sale of Enemalta to shanghai electric. He has not been spoken to by the police yet," Casa says

09:53 The worst threats came when he had published an FIAU report on 17 Black. This had led to him being threatened by Labour MP and former home affairs minister Manuel Mallia, and others in government

09:52 David Casa says that, on the advice of experts, he is not allowed to drive, to go to Mass alone, or to walk unaccompanied. "I must always be accompanied by my secretariat. Yesterday, for example, people insulted me in the street in Valletta," he says

09:50 Casa says Yorgen Fenech has offered money to have him lose his European Parliament seat. The MEP thanks Maltese and international journalists and whistleblowers, and say they deserve protection

09:49 Casa tells the inquiry that he had been threatened after digging into Yorgen Fenech's Dubai company 17 Black. He says he reported the matter to the police, but no action was taken

09:48 "I believe that we cannot do justice to Daphne Caruana Galizia without all the truth coming out," Casa says

09:47 David Casa tells the inquiry board that, although he is not the police or the Attorney General and did not have a duty to investigate, he felt he should exert the pressure he can as an MEP to have such parties to their duty

09:46 Unusually, the press is being given copies of a dossier and letters, at the order of the court

09:42 The inquiry board members enter and the court is now in session. David Casa is called to the stand

09:38 The hall is slowly filling up with journalists and family members. David Casa has arrived

09:34 PN MEP David Casa is expected to take the witness stand today

09:34 Good morning. We're back in court for the continuation of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder


 

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