Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona has long faced allegations of misconduct, whether that’s with an alleged brothel visit or his role in the VGH scandal. Now, he’s being increasingly implicated in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, with his questionable relationship with one of her killers being revealed to the court by the State’s witness.
This follows a series of other issues linking Cardona to the case including mobile phone numbers, family jobs, and marijuana procurement all surfacing in court sittings. And that’s not to mention the dodgy frame-up letter that first put his name in the headlines.
Under recent questioning from lawyer Jason Azzopardi over an alleged €350,000 fee for the murder revealed in secret recordings, middleman and State witness Melvin Theuma told the court that Cardona had a financial relationship to suspected triggerman Alfred Degiorgio via a middleman “whose name began with ‘B'”.
Theuma – who was given a Presidential pardon by then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – said he knows this from conversations he had with main suspect Yorgen Fenech and their mutual friend Johann Cremona. He said under oath that either Fenech or Cremona had once shown him a photo of this middleman, as have the police during questioning.
More sensationally, Theuma, who must provide true testimony in exchange for a pardon, said that Fenech claimed Cardona was so worried about the murder that he ended up hospitalised after an overdose on pills. Cardona’s associate, David Gatt, also allegedly threatened the lives of the Degiorgios if they revealed the former minister’s involvement.
Cardona has dismissed the claims as “lies and nonsense”. But with so many things now pointing in his direction, why should he be believed?
Malta first heard of Cardona’s dodgy relationship with Degiorgio in October 2018 after the Daphne Project revealed that the pair met at a bachelor party four months before the murder. They also used to frequent a Siggiewi bar together.
“Like most seasoned criminal lawyers in Malta, I know who some of the suspects in the case are. The particular pub you mention welcomes patrons from all walks of life, including other politicians. I do not, however, recall having any discussions with any of these individuals and have definitely never had any meetings with them. Anything else is baseless rumour and speculation,” he said at the time.
The allegations were brushed off with the investigation into the assassination seemingly running dry. This all changed in November 2019 with the arrests of Theuma and Fenech.
Cardona was suddenly thrown in the spotlight again when it emerged that a letter detailing his involvement in the killing was revealed as having been sent to Fenech by then OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri via their mutual doctor. This was immediately interpreted as being an attempt to frame the murder on Cardona to deflect from Schembri’s own involvement. The letter included details linking Cardona to the Degiorgios contraband business.
Theuma has been reluctant to confirm Schembri’s “100% involvement” in the crime, but he’s been far more forthcoming when providing mysterious details over Cardona’s links to the crime.
Secret recordings of Fenech taken by Theuma show Fenech clearly describing how he was secretly lobbying with Cardona and Muscat over Vince Muscat’s pardon request.
Details of Cardona’s relationship with Alfred Degiorgio are even more chilling. In February 2020, it was revealed in court that Cardona’s number was the only number found on Degiorgio’s burner phone. The exact reasons for the burner phone are unknown, but testimonies are indicating a financial relationship between the pair. Whether that’s with regard to the assassination or some other activity, possibly criminal, remains to be seen.
During the same sitting, it was also uncovered that Alfred’s daughter was handed a job at Cardona’s Economy Ministry just before the murder. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi revealed the woman was handed the position sometime in the summer of 2017. The killing was first planned and confirmed in June.
The links don’t stop there. While Alfred and his brother George were in prison over the murder, Theuma was dragged along with their brother, Mario Degiorgio, to meet a Cardona associate to acquire a medical marijuana sellers license. The person, a certain ‘Mario’, had strong connections with the Economy Ministry, Theuma said, but could not remember the person’s full name.
The revelations ran cold with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the first sitting of the case since the break saw Cardona’s name thrust in the spotlight once again.
Cardona has taken a backseat from politics over the past six months. He had suspended himself as Economy Minister during the political crisis and was not retained in Prime Minister Robert Abela’s cabinet. He later resigned as an MP.
However, Cardona remains firmly the Deputy Labour Party Leader and in effect is the party’s foremost representative.
Now, at bare minimum, he is accused of having an unsavoury and dodgy financial relationship with a man who killed a journalist and ushered in an era of instability in Malta.
Cardona is insisting on calling Theuma a liar. But where does that leave the case?
We cannot be left in a situation where a state witness who has been given protection by the government is being discredited by one of the most influential figures in the ruling party.
What is the position of Prime Minister Robert Abela?
If Abela backs Cardona, does this mean that Theuma’s entire testimony is not credible, along with his downplaying of Schembri and Muscat’s involvement?
And what would it mean for Muscat, the man who negotiated Theuma’s pardon without even informing cabinet?
Whatever the answer, silence from Malta’s Prime Minister on the issue is not the solution.
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