Lawyers of Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, wanted to build a PR campaign to diminish the credibility of state witness Melvin Theuma, in a court sitting concerning bribery allegations from the legal team.
Earlier today, Fenech’s lawyers, Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran, were charged in court over an attempted bribe of a Times of Malta journalist, Ivan Martin. Mercieca and Caruana Curran pleaded not guilty.
Martin told the court that he first contacted Mercieca in May 2020 when he heard that the young lawyer was leaving the Attorney General’s office to join Yorgen Fenech’s defence team. He said they exchanged some messages over court applications submitted by Fenech.
In summer, the pair met twice, with Mericieca offering him leads for potential stories. Martin said that there was one piece of information which interested him, and he told Mercieca he would confirm the detail before publishing.
He had sent an early draft of that story but held off from publishing because he was uncertain over particular details.
Mercieca, Caruana Curran, and Martin then met on 2nd November 2020. The lawyers were keen on creating a campaign of stories that “would undermine the credibility of Melvin Theuma as a witness”.
During that meeting, Martin was allegedly offered between two and five €500 notes in return for favourable coverage towards his client, which he rejected and returned.
“I handed them back and told Caruana Curran that he could not pay me. I was a bit unnerved because this was the first time that someone had given me money like that. I cracked a joke saying that only the Times of Malta could pay me even if they don’t pay me enough,” Martin said.
Caruana Curran has confirmed to inspectors that he had offered one €500 note but had done so with no bad intentions. He said he had joined mid-way through the meeting between Martin and Mercieca, and offered the money because he felt Martin deserved to be compensated.
Mercieca, meanwhile, categorically denied that Caruana Curran tried to bribe the journalist, but confirmed that he did attempt to pass on money to Martin.
Martin said that Caruana Curran was apologetic, saying that he had never dealt with a journalist before and that “time costs money”. Martin said that he spoke to his superiors Diane Cacciotolo and Herman Grech about the issue.
Grech made it clear to the courts that is normal for journalists to meet people, even lawyers, to get all sides of the story. However, they cannot get extra remuneration unless expressly approved by the company.
Defence lawyers, Gianella De Marco (Caruana Curran’s mother) and Stephen Tonna Lowell, did not cross-examine Martin, electing to do so once they have been given access to his police statements.
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