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Keith Schembri Is Officially Under Investigation For Murder, And 5 Other Takeaways From Today’s Court Sitting

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With four separate ongoing court cases that all relate to the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, recent sittings in court have been defined by sensational testimonies from the key players in the crime and its investigation.

Today was no different. The police’s case against Yorgen Fenech, the businessman charged with conspiring to assassinate the journalist, continued with chief Inspector Keith Arnaud revealing shocking details of the case and its inner workings.

With Keith Schembri still under investigation for murder, his missing phone, a letter framing Chris Cardona, and a rehab stint all grabbing attention, here are key takeaways from today’s day in court:

1. Keith Schembri Is Under Investigation For Murder

In court, Arnaud revealed that Keith Schembri is still under investigation for murder and his  potential involvement in the assassination of Caruana Galizia, and a litany of other offences which include:

Allegedly leaking extensive information about the investigation, obstructing justice, and acquiring a phantom job for middleman Melvin Theuma.

However, while Arnaud is overseeing the murder investigation, the other two are being handled by different departments.

During the sitting, Arnaud confirmed that, along with Silvio Valletta, they informed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Schembri that the arrests of the three men charged with the assassination were imminent.

This, Arnaud said, happened the “Wednesday or Thursday” before the arrest.

The same day, Melvin Theuma has confirmed, Fenech told him of the upcoming arrest, and in turn, informed the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat.

Meanwhile, Arnaud once again confirmed under oath that Vella corroborated the claims that Schembri was using him as a messenger to Fenech while he was under police bail.

2. Keith Schembri’s Lost Mobile Phone

The Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff seemingly lost his phone the day of his arrest in connection with the assassination, Arnaud revealed

“He told us he lost it, we looked for it and couldn’t find it, so we took all the electronic devices we could,” Arnaud said.

These, Arnaud explained, included Schembri’s laptop and the electronic devices of all his family members, including his two children.

The news of the lost phone left the courtroom dismayed with noticeable chuckles erupting from the audience. Even Magistrate Montebello looked shocked, asking whether they had asked for the phone since.

However, Arnaud said they asked Schembri during his interrogation, who continued to insist that he lost it.

Despite looking at phone collection data, investigators still haven’t been able to locate Schembri’s mobile.

Schembri’s position seems puzzling when the day before he told the court that he is “always on his phone”.

“Sometimes, a day goes by, and I realise that I haven’t spoken to my wife and kids!” Schembri said under oath.

Schembri’s late-night visit to Muscat the day before his arrest also seems to have gone by unnoticed by investigators, with Arnaud saying he was not aware because he “wasn’t following the news”.

3. Yorgen Fenech’s Escape Plan

First revealed by Lovin Malta a few weeks ago, the courts confirmed that Fenech hatched a plan to escape Malta a week before his arrest.

Arnaud told the court that part-time Keith Schembri messenger Dr Adrian Vella confirmed the plot.

The inspector said Vella explained that a week before his arrest, he took Fenech to his Gozo farmhouse after noticing h was looking noticeably frail.

“Vella told us that Fenech was acting strange all day, wearing a cap, keeping his coat up to his face, and refusing to leave the car when they got on the ferry,” Arnaud said. 

At the farmhouse, Vella, Fenech, and Fenech’s brother Franco, starting working on a way for Fenech to leave the island. However, contrary to Fenech’s claims, Vella said Schembri was not at the farmhouse or involved in the plan.

Ultimately, they decided on Fenech catching a boat to Tunis before boarding a flight to Dubai.

4. The Chris Cardona Letter

As confirmed by Vella to officers, Schembri passed on a note to Fenech through their shared doctor, while the former was on police bail.

The note, the second of its kind to be passed on to Fenech, focused on the alleged plot to frame Economy Minister Chris Cardona for the murder. Fenech claims that Schembri offered a pardon if he shared the information on the letter with investigators. 

The message detailed how Cardona wanted to get rid of Caruana Galizia over the story she had written over his visit to German brothel. The Economy Minister is also named in the letter of having formed part of a plan to legitimise contraband cigarettes with the three men accused of carrying out the crime and lawyer David Gatt.

The plan, the letter claimed, was concocted at the infamous potato shed and Ferdinand’s bar.

However, whenever confronted with the information, Fenech said that Melvin Theuma passed on the details. Theuma would deny this was the case, and a lack of knowledge over the plan meant this claim was discarded.

“This is why the first pardon was quickly turned down, it was all hearsay,” Arnaud said.

Arnaud also revealed in his testimony that Schembri could not explain why he spoke to Vella the night before he allegedly passed on the note.

5. Investigators Have Known About Melvin Theuma’s Recordings Since April 2018, But So Did Keith Schembri

In detailing the long chase investigators went on to arrest Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech, Arnaud revealed that they became aware that Theuma was recordings his conversations with Fenech.

However, Arnaud said, they had no idea what they could contain until Theuma passed over his evidence box when he was arrested in November 2019.

Arnaud did confirm that he had informed the Prime Minister and Schembri of the existence of the recordings and that Theuma was a key suspect. At this point, investigators were not aware of Fenech’s involvement, which only come to light in September 2018.

Both the Prime Minister and Schembri were continuously informed of updates in the case, Arnaud confirmed, with their last briefing coming in October 2019, and would have known of Fenech’s links to the assassination.

Between September 2018 and October 2019, Schembri didn’t once mention his close relationship with Fenech to investigators. However, Arnaud insists that investigators only knew of Schembri’s potential involvement when they listened to Theuma’s recordings in November 2019.

6. Yorgen Fenech Was In Rehab At Some Point Over The Past Two Years

In a side remark where he detailed funds provided to the Degiorgios and Muscat for the assassination and their time in prison, which is believed to have cost up to 450,000 euro, Arnaud revealed that Fenech has spent time in rehab.

“Sometimes Theuma had to pay for these things, either when Fenech was abroad or in rehab,” Arnaud said.

Before Fenech was even named by investigators, rumours of his involvement and rehab stints were rife. However, Arnaud has now confirmed it.

According to a report by The Shift News, Fenech had been sentenced to 30 days in an American jail in July after being caught in possession of cocaine by the Houston police.

In the same report, it was revealed that Fenech was released under court order and taken to Sierra Tuscon Hospital, a treatment centre for drug and alcohol addiction, where he was admitted on 17 July.

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