The Malta Independent 27 January 2022, Thursday

Daphne public inquiry - police inspector says investigation now in 'phase 3'

Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 13:53 Last update: about 2 years ago

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues on Wednesday.

Today Inspector Kurt Zahra, who was involved in the murder investigation, is due to testify.

In the previous sitting, Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon testified.

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the State did all it could to prevent the 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 killers, was granted a presidential pardon last year to tell all.

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

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16:09 That's it for today. Thank you for following. 

16:08 The inquiry now continues on Friday at 2pm with testimony of Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis. On Monday, Paul Apap Bologna is expected to continue testifying. 

16:07 Copies of correspondence are exhibited. The witness leaves the stand. 

16:07 Formosa: “Yes.” 

16:07 Comodini Cachia: “So for four months it was just run by the High Commissioner?” 

16:06 “The High Commissioner and Caruana Galizia,” replies the witness. 

16:05 Comodini Cachia asks how many people were in the New Delhi High Commission. 

16:05 Formosa: “Yes. I had discussed it with the minister and reverted to the High Commissioner, telling him that the recall had to take place. He was eventually replaced in October 2017, some four months after his recall.” 

16:04 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi: "Do you recall High Commissioner Stephen Borg making his objection in writing to you?" 

16:03 Formosa explains that normally, diplomats have three-year postings but in this case Andrew Caruana Galizia was recalled after a year. She says the Maltese High Commissioner had asked for an extension of Caruana Galizia's contract but her instructions were to recall him. 

16:02 Comodini Cachia asks how the instruction was received from the minister but the witness doesn't recall, but promises to check her records. “This would not normally be in the personnel file,” she says.

16:00 The witness says she has no information as to any issues with Andrew’s performance. 

16:00 Andrew Caruana Galizia was posted in Berlin in 2016. He is present in the courtroom, listening intently and exchanging words with his father.  

16:00 The witness couldn't say for sure. 

15:59 Said Pullicino says that normally, when a diplomat is recalled, this is done through the permanent secretary. “But isn't the ambassador informed as to why?” 

15:58 Andrew Caruana Galizia was still on the books but was on unpaid leave, she adds. 

15:57 She is asked if there is a personnel file for Caruana Galizia. Formosa believes so but points out that she is no longer perm sec at the ministry. 15:56 Formosa: “We simply had a direction from the minister [Carmelo Abela] that he had to return.” 

15:55 Formosa is asked about Andrew Caruana Galizia’s diplomatic posting in India from which he was recalled shortly after the 2017 general election. 

15:54 Fiona Formosa takes the stand. She works at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In 2017, she was permanent secretary. 

15:54 Welcome back. We’re back inside the courtroom where the inquiry board is meeting. 

15:17 Journalists and members of the public have been sent out of the courtroom until the next witness is called. 

15:06 He will continue testifying behind closed doors. 

15:05 Zahra says the data will be exhibited in the next sitting of the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, scheduled for Wednesday next week. 

15:05 The police inspector says that the communications are with people from all strata of society. "I don't have all the information and I don't want to mislead the court," Zahra adds.

15:04 "There are several communications with public persons," says Zahra hesitantly. 

15:03 Zahra: "I don't want to say something unnecessary which could prejudice ongoing investigations." 

15:02 Zahra reminds the board that he hadn't seen all the data and makes it clear that all the people communicating were not necessarily part of the plot to murder Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

15:02 Zahra: "There were communications, yes."

15:01 Retired judge Michael Mallia, who is heading the inquiry, asks about ties to political figures or businessmen. “Had the data shown ties of any sort between them?” 

14:59 Zahra: "I don't want to speculate. There is a lot of data to be processed. If I could say with certainty that we know the motive, then we wouldn’t need to investigate further." 

14:59 Chief justice emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, a member of the inquiry board, points out that Zahra had testified that the data had helped establish the motive for the murder. “What was the motive?” 

14:57 Zahra: "I cannot say with certainty but the way things worked out, they must have been passed on in batches. The data is all backed up. The task force tags the data and passes it on to the relative squad. The data was passed on to my unit before the new police commissioner was appointed.”  

14:56 Comodini Cachia asks how the information extracted by Europol was passed on to the task force. 

14:55 Zahra says Europol were appointed by the inquiring magistrate, when asked who Europol were answerable to. 

14:54 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia points out that the witness can only testify on what the task force passed on to him. Zahra says the investigation has not reached the stage where someone knows everything. "Europol have all the extractions passed on to them. In the task force, the data was divided - you have people on the homicide, others on the economic crime aspect, and so on," he explains. 

14:52 Zahra: “The task force leaders number eight at least. They are all police officers. There is no AG representation. There are members of the MSS and Europol on the task force.” 

14:51 Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro asks whether he knew if the Attorney General had a copy of the data. He says he does not know. “I would receive the data not administer it,” he adds. 

14:50 Zahra: “Over 11 separate investigations sprouted from the task force, all with inspectors and officers allocated to them.” 

14:49 Zahra says the devices were handed to Europol that transported them to The Hague for analysis. There was some analysis in Malta but this was sent immediately to Europol. 

14:49 Asked whether anything was extracted by the Malta Security Service in Malta, Zahra says he wouldn't know. "I cannot exclude it, there are several inquiries and investigations underway." 

14:48 Zahra says that the homicide squad, FCID, MSS all have a shared space at police HQ dedicated to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation. He adds that data was extracted at Europol headquarters at The Hague. 

14:46 He says the task force was set up in conjunction with Europol.

14:44 Zahra: “We are currently in phase 3 of the investigation. In this phase, the task force expanded and the work done by different departments was gathered in one room and analysed by officers. There is a massive amount of data garnered from several arrests.” 

14:43 The inquiry is starting. Inspector Kurt Zahra takes the stand and is asked for an update on the investigation. 

14:14 The session has not started yet. 

14:13 We are here for another sitting of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry. 

14:13 Good afternoon. 



 

 

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