Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech had said Keith Schembri had told him he would do his best to help out the three men charged with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Testifying in court at the start of the compilation of evidence against Fenech, chief homicide inspector Keith Arnaud said that Fenech had told alleged middleman Melvin Theuma what Schembri had told him.
This conversation was recorded by Theuma as part of his attempts to give himself some insurance in case the police ever found out about his role in the assassination.
Fenech and Theuma had this conversation shortly after Kenneth Camilleri, a former security officer of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, paid an unexpected visit to Theuma at home shortly after Theuma had an argument with Fenech.
During his testimony today, Theuma said that his friend Johann Cremona had called him up to tell him he was going to pay a visit and that he turned up accompanied by Kenneth Camilleri. Theuma said that he has known Camilleri personally since the latter’s days working as a traffic policeman but that he wasn’t expecting him to pay a visit that day.
While at his home, Camilleri called up someone, after which he told Theuma to inform the three murder suspects that they will get bailed out on the 22nd of that month and receive €1 million each. Theuma said he didn’t eavesdrop on Camilleri’s conversation but suspected that he was speaking to Keith Schembri because he worked at Castille.
Theuma said Camilleri also brought out a piece of paper with three mobile numbers written on it, one of which was his [Theuma’s] old mobile number.
“He showed it to me and I said I recognised my old number but not the other two numbers,” Theuma said. “Camilleri then said I must therefore be the mastermind behind the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and I said that the mastermind must be Fenech because he paid for it.”
“I could sense the betrayal coming; that they would pin the blame on me so they won’t have to pay any more money [to the imprisoned suspects].”
Magistrate Rachel Montebello asked Theuma whether he had asked Camilleri why he thought he must be the mastermind after recognising his own mobile number but Theuma said he hadn’t and that he wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.
“You must remember what i was going through, your Honour. Two incredible years…”
Theuma said that he was living in constant fear, both that the murder suspects could rat him out to the police and that Fenech might see him as a liability and decide to get rid of him.
He therefore started recording his conversations with Fenech as a form of insurance in case he were to end up in a sticky situation.
In one of the recordings, Theuma opened up to Fenech about Camilleri’s visit and, according to Arnaud, who has listened to the recordings, Fenech sounded as though he genuinely had no idea about this visit.
Theuma said that Keith Schembri must have sent Camilleri, and Fenech promised to speak to the Prime Minister’s then chief of staff.
Fenech later told Theuma that Schembri had confirmed sending Camilleri to his house but that he hadn’t told him to promise bail to the three suspects. However, he promised to do “the best he could” to help out the suspects.
Whatever Schembri meant by that, the suspects never received bail and indeed, in one of the conversations, Fenech told Theuma that he doesn’t believe Schembri even had the power to ensure bail would be granted.
Theuma then urged Fenech to request bail directly from the magistrate in charge of the case or to use his influence to pressure Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. However, Fenech shot down both these requests, warning Theuma that getting the Prime Minister involved in the plan “would be the craziest thing I could do”.
Besides recording his conversations with Fenech, Theuma also wrote a letter, admitting that he was the middleman in the murder and stating that he was afraid that Fenech and Schembri were plotting to eliminate him. This letter was eventually retrieved by police during a raid on Fenech’s Portomaso properties.
Theuma confirmed that he had no proof implicating Schembri in the murder but that he included his name in the letter just in case.
“I included Keith because I knew that he and Yorgen were really good friends and I was scared that he and Yorgen were going to plan something that would result in me getting killed or jailed,” he said.
“However, I cannot say under oath that Keith ever gave me money or spoke to me about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Under oath, I name Yorgen Fenech as the mastermind and confirm that I only met Keith twice – once at an event at Yorgen’s farm when I shook his hand and another time at Castille [when Theuma was given a phantom government job].”
The recordings will be presented in court in the near future after magistrate Montebello instructed Inspector Arnaud to acquire them from magistrate Gabriella Vella, who is holding the originals as evidence in a separate money laundering case against Theuma.
The full live blog of today’s court sitting can be found below:
Yorgen Fenech is back in court today for the start of the police’s case against him for the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The businessman was charged two weeks ago with conspiring to murder Caruana Galizia and has pleaded not guilty.
Police are today expected to start presenting their evidence against him.
However, Fenech has also filed a separate constitutional case to remove chief homicide inspector Keith Arnaud from the case, on the grounds that he is close to the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri, who Fenech is now implicating in the assassination.
During one of the sitting, Fenech described his relationship with Schembri as fraternal and said the Prime Minister’s then chief of staff had kept him continuously informed about the progress of the investigation.
These included details like Fenech’s phone being tapped, the details of Melvin Theuma’s pardon, and the imminent arrests of the three men who have been charged with carrying out the murder.
Fenech claims that most of this information was fed to Schembri by Arnaud.