State witness Melvin Theuma’s suspected attempted suicide the eve before new recordings were set to be played in court brought a new twist in the Daphne Caruana Galizia case. However, journalists and the public at large will be kept in the dark for the time over its contents with the tapes being played behind closed doors.
Few people were able to listen in with the prosecution, defence, and a handful of interested parties currently privy to what was discussed.
The recordings contents are still unknown. Still, with Theuma’s suspected attempted suicide and Yorgen Fenech’s legal team currently claiming that they could reveal new details about the case, questions remain. Lovin Malta took a look at what the tapes could mean for the case.
1. What are the recordings?
Theuma has testified that he was aware of a potential arrest on money laundering charges in the lead up to the day police finally intervened on 14th November 2019. However, he was actually surprised when the raid took place, expecting to happen two days later.
The arrest, court sittings have revealed, was brought forward because of suspicion that Theuma was going to move or destroy evidence.
Upon Theuma’s arrest, an evidence box was found in his possession and he told police that he wanted to hand it over to the then-Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar in person.
Theuma claimed that both Fenech and close confidant Johann Cremona had detailed a plan whereby then-Economic Crimes Unit Inspector Raymond Aquilina would handle his case and make it go away.
When Aquilina failed to turn up in the interrogation room, Theuma immediately requested he speak to Chief Homicide Inspector Keith Arnaud.
Inside the evidence box, which also held a photo with Keith Schembri and a letter naming both Schembri and Fenech, were several storage items like a hard drive and pen drives. A laptop was later uncovered.
Every device was immediately handed over to Europol for extraction.
Several damning recordings, which detail discussions of the murder plot, have already been played in court.
These include information of potential significant leaks from critical players like former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, which could also implicate Keith Schembri, and the perpetrators’ in-depth knowledge of a pardon request for one of the men charged with carrying out the murder.
2. How were these new recordings uncovered?
Every device was immediately handed over to Europol for extraction. However, it seems that files became corrupted while being forensically transferred to each interested party in the case.
Even Theuma was puzzled when police played recordings to him, with Arnaud confirming in court that Theuma insisted he had taken more.
Both the courts and Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa have confirmed that eight recordings have been discovered.
They could have never been found. However, Fenech’s legal team’s reference to them in a previous sitting seemingly spurred police to act, with Arnaud indicating that the police had only uncovered them on Tuesday 21st July at 2pm.
3. What are in the recordings?
For now, that’s anyone’s guess, but Fenech’s defence team have suggested that former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar could heavily feature. Meanwhile, Arnaud has confirmed that people mentioned on the tapes are either already under investigation or could face danger if their contents are revealed for the time being.
What’s clear is that this is not a recorded conversation with Yorgen Fenech. But who could that be? Until now the only other person known to have been recorded is Johann Cremona.
4. Will they ever be played in public?
Yes, the tapes are crucial evidence and will be played eventually. However, we may just hear snippets of the conversation.
5. So how could Cutajar be involved?
During a recent sitting, Fenech’s lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran asked Theuma whether Edwin Brincat (Il-Ġojja) had paid €30,000 to Cutajar, with the implication being that Theuma had bribed Cutajar to secure a pardon.
Brincat is a mutual acquaintance of Cutajar and Theuma, and Cutajar is under investigation for leaking information to Theuma, via Brincat, about the police investigation into the murder.
Theuma immediately denied the claims, and it was here the lawyers first revealed the existence of the tapes. Without a full copy of the recordings, it’s impossible to understand the context of the alleged conversation.
6. And who is Johann Cremona?
Cremona is a director of gaming company Bestplay and Oracle Gaming, which was part of Fenech’s Tumas Group business empire. He’s also a close confidante of Theuma.
Theuma has told the court several times that he would visit Cremona almost daily to confide in him over the case and unload the significant pressure he felt after the murder took place.
Secret recordings played in court have revealed that Cremona was the one to inform Fenech of Theuma’s secret tapes. Meanwhile, Theuma has testified that Cremona was the one to set up several infamous meetings with former OPM Security Guard Kenneth ‘From Castille’ Camilleri.
During that meeting, Camilleri detailed a plan to bail the three men charged with the murder of Caruana Galizia.
Cremona has confirmed he set up the meetings but insists he was just a bystander.
8. So were the police hiding something?
It’s still too early to say, but it does not seem like it. The courts have confirmed that the devices were immediately passed on to Europol who provided a data copy to each party involved.
That’s not to say the police should get off scot-free. Magistrate Rachel Montebello said it was “unacceptable” that it took investigators nine months to discover the recordings.
However, the delay speaks more to severely under-resourced and under-qualified police force who seemingly lack the technological know-how to deal with such cases.
9. So is Keith Arnaud incompetent or complicit?
Arnaud has been the face of the Daphne Caruana Galizia investigation for close to two years, and it’s easy to mistake him for the top dog in Malta’s police force when it’s far from the truth.
Police inaction over major corruption and money laundering cases has made a nation distrustful of the force. However, that falls nowhere under Arnaud competence, who heads homicide cases.
It is clear that Arnaud has seemingly made several mistakes when it comes to Keith Schembri. Arnaud, was briefing Schembri on the case all while being unaware that he’s best friends with Fenech, while Schembri’s missing phone and the decision to leave Schembri’s office unguarded for 10 days after his arrest should not be forgotten.
However, if you’re angry about police failing to act when it comes to Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, and the many others linked to major corruption allegations – your determination should remain focused on the Economic Crimes Unit.
Thankfully, the unit has just changed hands with Alexandra Mamo now leading the division and several officers leaving. However, with years of perceived inaction from still-Assitant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, she is expected to have a lot of her plate.
What do you think the tapes could reveal? Comment below