The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

Degiorgio brothers case: Court to deliver decree on Koħħu testimony

Tuesday, 2 March 2021, 09:59 Last update: about 2 months ago

The court will be delivering a decree on the testimony of Vince Muscat, known as il-Koħħu, in the case against the Degiorgio brothers.

The compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio and Alfred Degiorgio accused of planting and triggering the bomb which killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today.

George Degiorgio 55, from St Paul's Bay, known as Ic-Ciniz, Alfred Degiorgio, 53, are charged with murder and a number of charges relating to explosives. 

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Muscat had been accused with the two brothers of killing the journalist, but last week changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to 15 years.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is presiding.

Lawyer William Cuschieri is appearing for the Degiorgio brothers.

 

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10:20 The magistrate leaves the room and the accused are led out of the back. 

10:20 If the court decides that Muscat will not testify in that sitting, only the expert Keith Cutajar will testify. The sitting is over. 

10:20 The next sitting is to be held on 11 March at 10:30am. 

10:19 The court nominates a transcriber for the voice recording and next time a USB containing the converted audio files will be exhibited. The court says it will deliver a decree from chambers on Vince Muscat's summons. Once the transcriptions of the recordings are ready, the defence will summon Melvin Theuma for cross-examination. 

10:18 Galea Farrugia: “There's no such thing. There's only an order by the Criminal Court.” 

10:18 Cuschieri: “If the AG wants to summon a witness, he does so during the time assigned to them.” 

10:17 Galea Farrugia says the only difference is whether Muscat is heard this month or the next. Cuschieri adds that there is “material and obvious prejudice”. The defence lawyer points out that Vince Muscat is a witness being summoned by the prosecution.

10:08 “This is procedural,” adds the court. 

10:07 Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia argues that this is not the right forum for this argument, as it is not the court authorising Muscat's testimony.

10:07 Cuschieri: “Therefore in the name of my clients I reserve the rights to make preliminary pleas at the appropriate stage.” 

10:06 Cuschieri objects to the production of Vincent Muscat as a witness in the manner and procedure as adopted, first of all because the Degiorgios had been given no opportunity to reply to the application and secondly, in view of the fact that because the acts were already sent back to this court, the Criminal Court could not give that order. 

10:06 Cuschieri dictates a note to the court. He says that yesterday he received an email from the registrar of the criminal court attaching an application by the Attorney General, requesting that in view of the admission of guilt by Vincent Muscat, and the sentence handed to him and the renunciation to the term of appeal, he be produced as a witness before this court. There is also a decree where the criminal court upholds the request.

10:03 Defence lawyer William Cuschieri stands up to object. “Two weights, two measures,” he says. 

10:02 In the next sitting the court will hear a witness it says. 

10:02 Meanwhile, the expert informs the court that he will finish changing the file format in 30 minutes. He advises the court that it can appoint a transcriber.

09:56 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi comments that there are some people in the courtroom – a reference to Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Charles Merceica - who accused the prosecution of hiding these files. Mercieca stands up to try and explain his argument but is ordered to be quiet by the court as he has no locus standi in these proceedings.

09:55 The expert opens the computer files in court in Windows Media Player.

09:55 Arnaud makes his own verifications and identifies the files which the defence is requesting transcription of. The expert confirms. A transcription will be made.

09:52 The files in question are in a separate folder, the path of which had not been specified by the defence. The court says it has to be certain that the files in question were the ones requested.

09:51 The parties are discussing the practicalities of how this difficulty will be overcome. Defence lawyer William Cuschieri insists that the recordings have to be accessible.

09:50 QUICK REMINDER: An accomplice of the Degiorgio brothers, Vince Muscat known as il-Koħħu, last week admitted his role in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. Muscat was handed down a 15-year prison term after a plea bargain in exchange for information he gave police on other crimes. George Degiorgio and Alfred Degiorgio stand accused of procuring, planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia in October 2017.

09:45 Arnaud says that he can indicate the folder on his laptop. The defence is unable to play eight of the recordings, explains Arnaud.

09:44 Court expert Keith Cutajar testifies. In June 2020, he had presented a number of drives, with clips. There are more than nine, he explains.

09:43 The magistrate emerges from chambers.

09:43 Lawyer William Cuschieri walks in and heads to his clients, to discuss something. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi darts in and out of the courtroom. Assistant Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia, Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra arrive.

09:42 The Degiorgio brothers, George and Alfred, have been led into the courtroom, accompanied by security guards.

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