On 18th December last month, Keith Schembri was questioned in court for just over an hour as part of a constitutional case instituted by Yorgen Fenech, who has been charged with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
In his testimony, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff contradicted the versions of events of three people – Fenech himself, his doctor Adrian Vella, and Melvin Theuma, who has been granted a conditional presidential pardon in return for revealing everything he knows about the case.
Lovin Malta has received a copy of the full court session and is publishing its translation below.
KS is Keith Schembri
MC is Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Marion Camilleri
GCC is Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran
VB is State Advocate Victoria Buttigieg
Judge is Judge Lawrence Mintoff
KS: Your Honour, I would like to say something briefly. First of all, I apologise to you and the courts for what happened yesterday [when he had failed to turn up to court], but no one had come to my house to notify me. Just as an aside.
Judge: Mr Schembri, if you don’t open your door, no one can come to your home to notify you and that was the point I had just made. The Court cannot wait until you feel like opening your door so that the Marshall can notify you and that’s why a mandate [for arrest] was issued. Dr Camilleri.
MC: Your Honour, I will start by presenting a document to the witness. Let me show you this document, Mr Schembri.
Victoria Buttigieg: It isn’t exhibited, right?
VB: It isn’t exhibited.
MC: No, no. I’m exhibiting it now.
Judge: The witness is being shown a document that is being exhibited through a note that is marking it as Document KS1.
MC: Mrs. Daphne Caruana Galizia had written a series of articles about you. Did this bother you? And what did you ask Mr Fenech to do?
KS: Let me start by saying that I didn’t ask Mr Fenech to do anything. Regarding whether or not it bothered me… there are some levels that bothered me. However, I’ve been in politics since 2008 and I’ve developed a thicker skin and can take certain things.
MC: But does it bother you? Let me remind you that in an inquiry which has absolutely nothing to do with Daphne, you felt the need to mention her.
VB: Your Honour, no reference you be made to ongoing inquiries.
MC: No, this is a public one.
VB: If you’re mentioning an inquiry…
MC: The Egrant report.
Judge: If you’re referring to an inquiry, you must be specific.
MC: I’m talking about the Egrant report which has been published. Let be explain. The Egrant report includes a part where the witness testified that Daphne Caruana Galizia bothered him [when she wrote about his cancer]…. And rightly so, because no one should take pleasure out of someone else’s illnesses and we sympathise with the witness. However, he had emphasised this point. This is now public, because it was published yesterday, and I’d like to ask the witness because he has just said that he has developed a thick skin and few things can bother him. I am suggesting, or rather, telling him… I am referring to his declaration in this public report and I’m confronting him with it.
Judge: And you are referring yo a closed inquiry and a public document.
MC: Yes, one which is accessible to everyone.
KS: The Egrant report was published yesterday and I’ve only seen snippets of it that have been uploaded by sections of the media. Let me start by saying that everything I had said has been reported properly, I said that I’m not capable of hating and I don’t know how to hate anyone. That is just my character. I also said, and I will say it myself before you tell me, that I felt she crossed the line and she crossed the line not with me but with humanity. To be clear, my daughter was 13 back then and she had come to my bedside and asked me “Daddy, is it true that you’re going to die?”
MC: So her writings used to cause you harassment?
KS: Whether it was harassment or not…
MC: It used to bother you.
KS: It’s not an issue of whether it had bothered me or not.
VB: Let’s not make suggestions, Your Honour. These questions…
Judge: Doctor, avoid direct questions because there’s an objection.
MC: If you may, can you explain what kind of business you had with Yorgen Fenech?
KS: I had no type of business with Yorgen Fenech personally. The business was between our companies. As in my company supplies small items to their companies…
MC: And did he ever transfer money to you from some foreign banks?
KS: No, never.
MC: Can you explain what type of relationship existed between yourself and Yorgen Fenech?
KS: Relationship. Look. There’s a friendship, which for me could mean something different than a friendship could mean for you.
MC: No, for you.
KS: He was a friend.
MC: He was a friend.
KS: He was a friend, but I have many friends. I’m an open person and I have many friends.
MC: U iva, but I’m asking you about Mr Fenech, appreciate this fact.
KS: A friend, a friend, a friend. He was a friend.
MC: So he was your friend. For example, ho often did you and Mr Fenech go on holiday together?
KS: Three times.
MC: Over a period of how long?
KS: Over seven years.
MC: So in seven years, you went on holiday together three times. And how often did you used to call each other every day?
KS: I don’t remember exactly. With regards my days, people used to ask me how much I worked. I used to tell them that I would work from the moment I open my eyes right up until the moment I close them.
MC: So a long day then…
KS: Very long. So I don’t know. Sometimes days would pass and I’d forget to speak to my wife or my children.
MC: So how would you describe the contact between you and him?
KS: He was a friend.
MC: Besides him being a friend…
KS: I mean, I have many friends. Particularly in the past year and a half, sometimes three weeks or a month would pass and I wouldn’t receive a message.
MC: You mentioned a message. How did you used to communicate with each other?
KS: Usually through WhatsApp.
KS: Like with everything. I speak to everyone through WhatsApp.
MC: You speak to everyone through WhatsApp. And how long were your conversations? As in, you remember that you used to use WhatsApp but you cannot remember how often you used to communicate with each other?
KS: I don’t remember.
MC: Give or take…
KS: I don’t remember. I think my charge my mobile four times everyday. I don’t remember.
MC: How many times did you go on Yorgen Fenech’s yacht?
KS: Once. Definitely.
MC: In how long?
KS: In seven years.
MC: And how often did you go to his farm?
KS: I don’t know. I had gone a few times though. Sometimes I would be invited to meals but I cannot say how often I went.
MC: And did you ever see Melvin Theuma, the person you allegedly gave a job to, at the farm?
KS: According to media reports, he was in my presence there on one occasion. However, back then, I wouldn’t have recognised him if I had seen him on the street. I see so many people…
MC: Did you ever meet with him at the farm?
KS: I don’t remember, but he is saying that he met me.
MC: No, no. This isn’t about what Melvin is saying.
KS: I don’t remember. I don’t remember.
MC: You. Mr Keith Schembri.
KS: I don.t remember.
MC: You don’t remember. And how many times did you meet Melvin? Do you remember?
KS: I only remember one occasion. At my office in Castille.
MC: For example, we mentioned the farm. Did you ever go to the farm by yourself when Mr Fenech wasn’t there? Perhaps other people were there but Mr Fenech wasn’t?
KS: I can’t recall such occasions, no.
MC: Let’s move on to other points. What is your relationship with your doctor Adrian Vella?
KS: He’s my doctor.
MC: He’s your doctor. It has been reported that you went to the doctor on the day of Mr Fenech’s arrest. Why was this?
KS: I don’t recall going to the doctor when Mr Fenech was arrested.
MC: Never? Maybe… try and remember.
KS: I don’t recall it. I’d be lying if I said yes.
MC: It hasn’t been a long time, Mr Schembri.
KS: So what? A week seems like a year for me right now.
MC: Oh yes, but right now you might have more free time than usual and therefore a higher chance of remembering certain things. Remember a bit. First of all, did you know that Mr Fenech was arrested?
KS: Yes, I found out from the media.
MC: You found out from the media… therefore, perhaps you remember whether, on that day, you went…
KS: I don’t remember.
VB: Let’s not make suggestions [Dr Camilleri].
MC: How often do you communicate with Dr Vella?
KS: When my children get sick, when something happens to my mother or maybe when something happens to my wife. I have a bit of a phobia. I buy with prescriptions and things like that.
MC: Were you investigated? We have mentioned Dr Vella and Mr Fenech. Have you been investigated by the police?
KS: The police picked me up at 5:30am.
MC: Of what day?
KS: I don’t remember the date but it’s in the media so it’s on an open source. You can check for yourself. They picked me up at 5:30am, I spent 30 hours in the lock up and I returned voluntarily and spent another 20 hours there. 50 hours in total. Two searches were carried out at my home, one in the morning and one in the evening. A search was also carried out at my office.
MC: Your office at Castille. Did the police seize certain items during these searches?
MC: What was seized?
KS: All the electronic items that were there. Besides Mr Arnaud and Mr Zahra, members of the Economic Crimes Unit also took some papers with them.
MC: You said you have been investigated and you’ve mentioned Inspector Arnaud. Can you explain the reason you intevrened during the investigation?
KS: I didn’t intervene.
VB: We must be careful, Your Honour.
MC: If anything, caution him, but I can explain to the court. Do you want us be careful, Doctor?
VB: No, no.
Judge: The doctor has the right to ask questions. However, the witness has the right not to answer if he feels he can incriminate himself.
KS: I didn’t intervene.
MC: You didn’t intervene.
MC: I don’t know if you followed Inspector Arnaud’s testimony yesterday, when he confirmed that Adrian Vella told him that he had received two documents from you which ended up in the hands of Mr Fenech? What can you tell us about this? What is your explanation to the court?
KS: We spoke about this letter during my 50 hours under interrogation.
MC: Who’s ‘we’?
KS: The people who were interrogating me?
MC: So during the interrogation.
KS: Good? They asked me about it a lot and I will repeat what I told them over here. I didn’t write the letter, I didn’t hand it over and the letter didn’t originate from me, It is not my letter.
MC: So Dr Vella isn’t telling the truth?
KS: Let’s pause for a moment. When I went to the Depot, I was shown three letters. There was a letter that was allegedly written by Melvin Theuma. There were another four pages, of which I was only shown the first page, which was a typed page with a lot of strikethroughs and blue biro writing on it. When I asked Inspectors Zahra and Arnaud, they told me that Yorgen Fenech had written it. Then there were another one and a half pages which were typed. So they showed me these three letters.
MC: Those three letters.
KS: I didn’t write or pass on any of those letters. I said this at the Depot and I am saying it again over here.
MC: So what was your involvement with regards those letters? I will repeat. You know what Dr Vella said, and you just confirmed that he is your current doctor, who you trust enough to treat your children. So there must be a good relationship between the two of you.
KS: One thing doesn’t exclude the other though.
MC: No, no, no.
KS: So just because he treats my boy, I mean, you can reach conclusions…
MC: Was he your trusted doctor?
KS: Yes. Ehe. Of course.
MC: And he is making certain declarations about you. I am asking you what your involvement was with regards these letters.
KS: And I have denied them all [the declarations]. I have denied them all.
MC: What did you stand to gain out of all this manipulation, Mr Schembri?
KS: I couldn’t have gained anything because I didn’t write those letters. I didn’t write them. I didn’t hand them over. How could I have gained anything?
MC: Do you know the content of these letters? Did you see them at least?
KS: I only started reading the first page.
MC: You only read the first page?
KS: The first page of those four pages.
MC: So you were confronted with them and there were certain declarations surrounding them, and you only read the first page.
KS: That letter. I obviously read the other one from the media, and I didn’t read the other page and a half.
MC: No, I’m not talking about what you learned from the media. I’m interested in the investigation that was led by Inspector Arnaud.
KS: Fine, fine.
MC: So what you found out from the media…
KS: It’s irrelevant.
MC: I’m not asking you about it because everyone can say what they want. You said that these documents were brought to your attention during the investigation. So you are confirming that you only read the first page?
KS: I read the first page and I was then asked about other things that were written in the other pages.
MC: Are you aware that Cabinet colleagues of yours were mentioned in these letters?
KS: Yes, I am.
MC: Who was mentioned?
KS: The Honourable Chris Cardona was mentioned. When I was asked about it, I immediately denied having information that could attribute anything to Minister Cardona.
MC: Ok. What is the relationship between yourself and Minister Cardona?
KS: He’s a colleague.
MC: Besides being a colleague?
KS: We’re colleagues.
MC: Only colleagues. You’re not friends?
KS: No, we’re colleagues.
MC: Alright, I’m going to ask you something else. Sorry?
KS: It depends what you mean by ‘friends’.
MC: Friends as in the relationship between yourself and Mr Fenech? Friends as in the relationship between myself and this lawyer? Friends and colleagues?
MC: You weren’t friends. Please face the Judge and forget everyone else. Can you explain what your role in the Malta Security Services was?
KS: I had no role in the MSS.
MC: No role.
KS: No role in the MSS.
MC: As chief of staff, did you have contact with the MSS?
KS: When there were meetings with a number of other people.
MC: This is a question I probably should have asked at the start. What position did you occupy until recently? Just for the record.
KS: I was the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
MC: Nowadays, do you have any contact with the MSS?
KS: I don’t.
MC: Or with people close to the MSS?
KS: I don’t, I don’t.
MC: You have nothing.
MC: Yesterday, we heard that there were a number of [MSS] meetings about the homicide of Ms Caruana Galizia, where even a number of police officers were present. Do you remember these briefings?
KS: I remember.
MC: Were you ever present for them?
KS: The Prime Minister obviously. Sometimes the AG was were and sometimes Minister Bonnici was there.
MC: First of all, when did the first briefing take place?
KS: I don’t remember the exact date.
MC: Do you have a general idea?
KS: Definitely after the homicide, and when progress was being made in the investigation.
MC: So you remember how many?
KS: The starting point is that, as the Office of the Prime Minister, our role was not to investigate. OK? As the OPM, and I was often at the forefront, our job was to liaise and help. For example, the investigators had needed the assistance of forensic experts from the Netherlands and we stepped in for several reasons: funding whatsoever so we will make sure that we get all the resources they need. The FBI, for example. After Ms Caruana Galizia was killed, within the first 20-25 minutes, I told the Prime Minister that I will speak to the US Embassy to find out what assistance they can offer.
MC: Is this normal procedure for a homicide?
KS: No, it isn’t. This wasn’t a normal homicide.
MC: Why not?
KS: Because it has…
MC: Excuse me?
KS: Because it has certain seriousness as a homicide.
MC: So you had viewed it as being different from other homicides.
KS: The Prime Minister said from day one that he will leave no stone unturned. We spoke to the US embassy and I made that call. They informed me that FBI officials were in Rome and told me that, if I made the necessary arrangements, they could arrive in Malta the next morning. I obviously spoke to the AG and the police to see whether I had their go-ahead, because it’s their jurisdiction.
MC: You said you spoke to the police, did you speak to them personally?
KS: On a case like this? Yes, I did.
MC: And who did you make contact with please?
KS: In this case, the go ahead for the FBI to assist the police in a homicide had to come from the Police Commissioner.
MC: And did you have any contact with other police officials besides the Commissioner?
KS: With regards what though?
MC: About what we’re talking about.
KS: Let’s start from here. This is right when the case broke out. OK?
KS: Then some time passed and the police started investigating. Once they started making some progress, certain briefings were held. I used to liaise directly with Deputy Commissioner Valletta. OK?
MC: And who did you contact after Mr Valletta stopped forming part of the investigation?
KS: Mr Valletta would tell me that we needed to organise a meeting and I would call up everyone, organise the meeting, and the meeting would take place. I used to liaise the meetings.
MC: And where did the meetings take place?
KS: Always. We weren’t involved in a single meeting that took place outside Castille.
MC: OK. So you weren’t also present yourself, I suppose.
KS: No, we definitely weren’t present. Are you understanding? Once Mr Valletta stopped being involved in the case, Mr Arnaud started taking care of it.
MC: How did you and Inspector Keith Arnaud used to communicate with each other?
KS: Mr Arnaud would often tell me that the time had come for a briefing. He’d message me on WhatsApp. I would obviously speak to the Prime Minister and check our schedule. I would usually fast track it and raise. Mr Arnaud would then inform his people and I would inform people from the government’s side.
MC: So were you being kept updated about the investigation as it was taking place?
KS: They used to tell me what they needed to tell me
MC: No, that’s not what I’m talking about. For example, did Inspector Arnaud and Mr Valletta before him provide you with information about the investigation?
KS: Provide us.
MC: To you.
KS: To us. They would provide me with nothing.
MC: To you.
KS: No, no.
MC: You told us that they used to communicate with you. So to you.
KS: I would just arrange the meetings though.
MC: You would arrange the meetings.
KS: That’s right.
MC: But what information?
KS: They would give any information in the present of everyone.
MC: When you say ‘in the presence of everyone’, do you mean during the briefings?
MC: Now can you explain why you used to keep Yorgen Fenech informed…
KS: I didn’t.
MC: With the progress of the investigation.
KS: I didn’t, I didn’t.
MC: You never informed him?
KS: No, I never informed him.
MC: And did you acquire the information [about the investigation] from Mr Arnaud before organising meetings?
KS: No, no, no. I wouldn’t have a set agenda for the meeting. Never. The only thing Mr Arnaud would tell me is that the time had come for a briefing. I would then speak to the Prime Minister and organise the briefing.
MC: You mentioned Melvin Theuma’s pardon. What was your involvement, if anything, in this regard?
MC: Were you ever present for a meeting?
KS: Never, never.
MC: And did you ever send a copy of a draft pardon with a message to Yorgen Fenech?
KS: No, never. I never gave it.
MC: Never. OK, no problem. Can you please explain your relationship please? You said that you had worked closely with Mr Keith Arnaud.
KS: It depends what you mean by ‘closely’.
VB: He didn’t say that.
KS: I didn’t tell you I worked closely with him.
MC: You had often worked together.
VB: No, he didn’t say that.
MC: No, we didn’t often work together. I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that.
MC: Then I’ll rephrase it. Can you explain what type of relationship existed?
MC: What kind of relationship existed between yourself and Mr Arnaud?
KS: As I said, I got to know Mr Arnaud after Mr Valletta stopped being involved in the case.
MC: Did you ever see him before then?
KS: He used to come to the briefings.
MC: He used to come to the meetings.
KS: Never before the briefings. As in that’s the first time I saw him.
MC: So the first time you met him was at the first briefing you had organised?
KS: Exactly. Obviously, after Mr Valletta left and he [Arnaud] would send me requests for a meeting, he would obviously come to Castille along with other people and we’d wait in the reception room until the Prime Minister arrived.
MC: So did you and Mr Arnaud speak to each other?
KS: Small talk.
MC: What do you mean by small talk?
KS: Like I said, we never hung out. You understand?
MC: What was the small talk about?
KS: Oh, I don’t know. I have a 16-year-old girl and we would talk about what a scary age that is. Football and things like that.
MC: Football, you mentioned football. Did you often speak about football? Do you know which team Mr Arnaud supports?
KS: Yes, of course. Bayern Munich.
MC: Bayern Munich. So you often used to chat.
KS: It’s the first question that’s asked when two men chat. Who do you support?
MC: Alright. So can you please tell us why you decided to intervene to grant a job to Melvin Theuma?
KS: I will repeat what I have already said 20 times. Melvin Theuma was referred to me at work. Alright?
MC: Who referred him to you?
KS: I think it was Yorgen. But we spoke, and you know…
MC: Because you and Yorgen were pretty good friends.
KS: Wait a second. Let me explain my job to you first of all. In the run up to the election, we received an exaggerated number of requests like that.
KS: There were times when I’d go home and try and remind myself who entered [Castille] that day. Several people like him used to come and not only for jobs. Housing, so on and so forth. Especially in the run up to the election. All I do in my position is refer the person involved to customer care, and customer care then takes care of him from there on. At that point, I won’t be involved in what they do.
MC: But how did you meet with Melvin Theuma? You said it was at Castille.
MC: And you met at Castille precisely because of this job?
KS: Because he asked me for a job.
MC: He asked you for a job.
KS: That’s right.
MC: Are you aware of Melvin Theuma’s declaration, where he said that he didn’t even want a job?
KS: No, I’m not.
MC: You’re not?
KS: If he had told me that, I would have told him that someone else can take that job.
MC: I am telling you myself, you’re saying that Yorgen Fenech had asked you to give Melvin a job?
KS: I am saying that Melvin came to my office. Someone had sent him to me. I see many people like him.
MC: But who sent him? You don’t remember?
KS: I don’t remember. I don’t remember.
MC: What you’re saying contrasts with what was said by Melvin Theuma, who has been given a pardon, which means one can assume that he is telling the truth. He said that he had told you that he doesn’t need a job because he works as a taxi driver.
KS: He didn’t tell me that. If he had…
MC: He never told you that?
KS: If someone had to approach to me, at a time when we’re under so much pressure for jobs, and tells me that he doesn’t need a job, I would shake his hand, take an espresso with him and thank you very much. If he doesn’t need a job, I’ll give it to someone else.
MC: What was different about Melvin Theuma though? Because what you’re saying is obviously normal when an election is approaching. What’s so different about Mr Theuma, who got to speak directly to you, and other people who you refer to customer care?
KS: No, no, no. That’s not what I said.
MC: That’s how I understood it.
KS: I will repeat myself then. Many people like Melvin Theuma approach me. Not everyone, but there’ll be…
MC: But was it because you had known Melvin Theuma?
KS: Not necessarily.
MC: Not generally. Did you know Melvin Theuma?
KS: That was the first time I had met Melvin Theuma.
MC: So everyone who comes [to Castille] goes directly to you?
KS: They don’t come directly to me. No one does. They would be referred by ministers and from everyone really. Sometimes even the Curia sends us people to see how we can help them out.
MC: I can imagine. But what was so different about Melvin Theuma?
MC: From other people?
KS: Nothing, nothing.
MC: I can imagine. Give or take, how many job requests does Mr Schembri receive when an election is approaching?
MC: A lot.
KS: That’s right.
MC: It’s impossible for you to handle all of them.
KS: Definitely. But I handle some of them myself.
MC: How many, give or take?
KS: Now you are asking me things…
MC: Half of them? I don’t them, you tell me.
KS: Definitely not half of them. No, no.
MC: A small number.
KS: Perhaps 10% of them?
MC: 10%, and that 10%…
KS: But I’d only spend around 15 to 20 minutes with each of them.
MC: When Melvin Theuma came to you, you said that he didn’t come directly to you. How did the procedure work then?
KS: What do you mean he didn’t come directly to me?
MC: Because I told you that you handled Melvin Theuma yourself directly.
KS: That’s right.
MC: And then you told me that he didn’t come directly to you but that someone had sent him to you.
KS: Exactly. There’s a difference.
MC: Who was he referred to?
KS: I don’t know. I have two secretaries and there’s a long list of people. Him, him, him, him. Yes to him, yes to him. They’d often choose them for me themselves.
MC: So someone chose Melvin Theuma?
KS: Sometimes I’d tell [my secretaries] to, for example, give importance to someone who a minister had recommended but not to go too much into it because there isn’t much thought involved.
MC: What did you do when Melvin Theuma came for a job? Are you aware of the version of events that Melvin Theuma gave investigators?
KS: I gave him a coffee, we took a photo and as we were leaving, he started talking about Mintoff and I took him to see a portrait of Mintoff. He told me he will take a photo of Mintoff to send to his mother or something like that.
MC: In December 2016, it seems as though the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was commissioned. Shortly afterwards, Melvin Theuma was given a job. Can you explain this please?
KS: What do you want me to explain?
MC: I’m asking you a question; you know how to explain it.
KS: I have nothing to explain. Those two things are unrelated to each other in my eyes. They’re definitely unrelated.
MC: They’re unrelated in your eyes. Fair enough. It doesn’t matter. Now let’s move on to Mrs Arnaud’s job. How did this happen?
KS: I had nothing to do with it myself.
MC: You had nothing to do with it?
MC: We know how things work, you know. It’s normal, it’s normal that…
KS: I had nothing to do with it.
VB: Your Honour, you want to ask something…
KS: In this case, Mrs Arnaud never spoke to me and I had nothing to do with the granting of her job.
MC: Did someone else speak yo you about her job?
KS: No, no one. No one, no one.
MC: No one spoke to you.
KS: No one.
MC: If not her, did someone close to her speak to you about it?
KS: No, never.
MC: Perhaps while you were chatting during a game? During a football game?
VB: You can’t make these suggestions.
MC: Did you ever speak to him about this?
Judge: Don’t pose direct questions because there’s an objection.
MC: I apologise, Your Honour. So that day, when you tried to help Yorgen Fenech escape…
KS: Sorry, sorry, sorry. I never tried to help him escape.
Judge: Have some patience. Doctor Camilleri, you must ask questions and not make unproven statements.
MC: No, I am saying things, and then he can comment.
Judge: No, ask him whether he was involved in the attempted escape of Yorgen Fenech. That is the question.
KS: What escape?
MC: You tell us.
KS: No, you tell me. You asked the question.
MC: Were you involved? Perhaps in Gozo so that he can head to Gozo, and then on to Tunis and then elsewhere?
VB: You are making suggestions.
MC: Were you involved in this?
KS: Definitely not. Definitely not.
MC: Was Dr Adrian Vella involved?
KS: You must ask him that question, not me.
MC: Do you know whether Dr Adrian Vella was involved?
KS: I’m not informed.
MC: You aren’t informed.
KS: I’m not informed.
Judge: There was an attempted escape that everyone knows about and an attempted escape that some say had happened and others say hadn’t happened. Be specific.
MC: He is saying he doesn’t know. Your Honour, the witness understood me immediately because he said he had nothing to do with it.
Judge: Because you then mentioned the word ‘Gozo’ when you shouldn’t have. If anything, mention the attempted escape that took place and not the other attempted escape that so far hasn’t.
MC: But I can still ask him about it.
Judge: Ask ahead, ask ahead…
MC: The question is whether he was involved.
Judge: But you didn’t ask a question, you made a statement.
MC: Whether he was involved in Yorgen Fenech’s attempted escape from the island of Gozo.
Judge: That is the question. And the answer is?
MC: You hadn’t known about it.
KS: No, no, no.
MC: OK. Did you know that Yorgen Fenech’s phone was being tapped?
MC: You hadn’t known?
MC: Did you ever give Yorgen Fenech any information in this regard.
KS: Let me tell you… in my position as chief of staff, I wouldn’t be privy to who is being tapped and who isn’t being tapped.
MC: You wouldn’t have this kind of information? Was this ever said in the briefings?
KS: No, no, not in the briefings. These are things that the MSS doesn’t share with us.
MC: So you’re saying you wouldn’t have any kind of information like this.
KS:No, I wouldn’t.
MC: Was there some discussion about the fact that Yorgen Fenech’s phone was being tapped? Did you ever discuss this with Inspector Arnaud?
KS: No, and let me tell you something. Tapping is the remit of the MSS, the police don’t get involved in it.
MC: Did you have any information that Melvin Theuma was being tapped?
KS: No, I didn’t.
MC: Now that we’ve returned to the topic of Mr Theuma, I will ask you once more. Why did you send a copy of Melvin Theuma’s pardon to Yorgen Fenech?
KS: I already told you that I didn’t send it to him.
VB: He already said this.
MC: Are you sure about this?
Judge: Doctor, please.
MC: Your Honour, we are currently at a stage…
Judge: Don’t make statements. Ask questions.
MC: Because it isn’t in our possession yet. So Yorgen Fenech’s phone was obvious seized and confiscated by the police. During the investigation, we requested they provide all the information so that we can refer to it, but we were informed that the phone is in the hands of Europol. So I obviously cannot confront him with this because it isn’t in our possession. I therefore have no other choice but to ask these questions.
KS: And I’m saying no.
MC: You’re saying not. If anything, that is something I can verify later and perhaps confront the witness with it then. First of all, do you remember the day when Yorgen Fenech was arrested?
KS: I don’t remember the exact day. I know it was early in the morning.
MC: Do you remember whether there was any communication between the two of you that day? Between yourself and Yorgen?
KS: When he was arrested?
MC: Or perhaps the previous night? Obviously before he was arrested because his mobile was taken from him afterwards. Before.
KS: Yes, there was.
MC: There was communication… do you remember at what time you had communicated and how long the communication lasted?
KS: I received a message from Mr Fenech in which he asked me whether someone was after him. I told him no. Alright? Then he called me and we spoke for a while. He told me that he wants to leave for two days to conduct repairs on his yacht in Sicily, so on and so forth. I spoke to him for a while. I asked him whether he thinks the time is right to leave the country as things stand? He said he has nothing.
MC: Why did you tell him that? Why did you ask him whether he felt the time was right? First of all, Yorgen wasn’t under arrest at the time, right?
KS: No, he wasn’t.
MC: So why did you feel the need to ask him whether he thinks the time was right to leave.
KS: I’m going to have to ask a reverse question, Your Honour.
Judge: No, no. Answer.
KS: OK, I’ll answer and I’ll ask it to myself. Can you imagine if he had left the country, and I’m not saying he was leaving the country, how Malta would have turned on us and told us that we had helped him escape? That was the reason why.
MC: But you said that Yorgen wasn’t under arrest at that stage. Did you have any information in this regard? You responded that the time wasn’t right for him to escape, which means you had known, right?
VB: He didn’t say…
KS: I didn’t tell him it wasn’t the time to escape. Excuse me.
MC: What did you tell him?
KS: Because you are trying to put words in my mouth.
MC: No, no, no. You tell us exactly.
VB: No, because you…
Judge: Patience, Dr Buttigieg, the question is a legitimate one. The witness just said that he felt the need to tell Yorgen Fenech that the time wasn’t right to leave Malta and this after Fenech told him that he plans to repair his boat in Sicily. The question is now why he felt the need to pass this remark? Was he a suspect? Was he under investigation? That is the question.
KS: The information [I had] is that he was a suspect in that position, at that moment.
MC: Did you know?
KS: Yes, I knew.
MC: But for how long had you known?
KS: Not long.
MC: Give or take? Give or take, Mr Schembri.
KS: There are levels of suspicion, you know.
MC: No, no, no. I didn’t ask you about the levels. You aren’t a police officer as far as I know
KS: No, in fact I was going to tell you that I didn’t carry out the investigations myself.
MC: I didn’t ask you about the levels of suspicion. I asked you when you found out.
KS: Dr Camilleri, I don’t know exactly.
MC: You don’t know? But give or take? I can’t provide suggestions but, give or take, when did you find out?
GCC: Months? Weeks? Years?
KS: No, not years. How could it be years? No, no.
MC: Give or take, when?
KS: Weeks. I am not being very specific, you understand. But is that good in the moment?
MC: In the moment, you told us that you [and Fenech] knew each other well and were quite friendly, so much so that before Yorgen left, he asked you whether anyone was after him.
KS: That’s right and I told him no.
MC: So why did you tell him no? Why did you tell him no? He asked you whether anyone was after him and you told him no. Why did you feel that you were in the position to answer that question and tell him no when you had known he was a suspect? Why did you tell him no?
KS: Because I couldn’t give out information in my position. With all due respect. So I told him that, in my opinion, he shouldn’t leave, and I said this in writing.
MC: But you told him no. Which means that you didn’t ignore the message.
KS: And I wrote a message saying no.
MC: You wrote a message saying no too.
KS: I’m telling you, I wrote a message saying no.
MC: Oh come on, it doesn’t matter.
KS: L and four e’s (Leeee).
MC: L with four e’s. As though to assure him that nothing was going to happen…
KS: That’s right.
MC: Could it be because you knew something other than what you’re explaining to the court today?
KS: No, I didn’t. I gave Mr Fenech my opinion. I told him that, as things stand…
MC: But when you say ‘as things stand’…
MC: What things? You told us that you didn’t know his level of suspicion, right? Back then, you occupied a very important position, he asked you a question and you answered him. What did you know when you told him the time wasn’t right? [When you said] If I were you, I wouldn’t do it now. What did you know?
KS: I knew that it wasn’t the moment for him to leave.
MC: But why?
KS: I told you why.
MC: Because you felt…?
KS: I told you why.
KS: Because he was under the spotlight at that point in time.
MC: Because he was under the spotlight…
KS: Thats right.
MC: When you told us that you were friends, you are telling us that he was under the spotlight.
KS: Just one second, because you’re going to keep going on with the friends thing. Excuse me, Your Honour.
MC: That he was under the spotlight.
VB: That’s a statement.
KS: Excuse me, your Honour.
Judge: Avoid making open-ended statements.
MC: But Your Honour…
Judge: That they were friends. And then you will have to stay defining what it means to be friends and we’re back to square one.
MC: Your Honour, I get annoyed when someone tries to insult my intelligence.
KS: Me too.
MC: He said he was the chief of staff back then, that he received this message and answered it. Afterwards, how long did they spend talking over the phone?
Judge: Do you mind if I ask a question myself? When you told Mr Fenech that it would be better if he doesn’t go abroad at that moment, did Mr Fenech ask you why?
KS: He asked me whether he cannot go abroad. I told him to do as he pleases. Alright? Because he had spoken to other lawyers before he spoke to me.
MC: How do you know that he had spoken to a lawyer?
KS: Because he told me so while we were talking.
MC: So long did the phone call last?
KS: 24 minutes.
MC: 24 minutes.
VB: Give him a chance to respond.
MC: Yes, doctor..
VB: Because he hasn’t even answered the question yet.
MC: 24 minutes. So the chief of staff had known that someone was a suspect…
VB: Let him answer the question the Judge had asked him first.
MC: When you found out that Mr Fenech was a suspect, when, in your own words, the spotlights were on him, did you tell this to anyone? Did you tell Inspector Arnaud perhaps?
KS: Tell him that?
MC: That you and him are friends.
KS: To Mr Arnaud?
MC: I’m asking you. Did you tell anyone that this person, a suspect in a homicide that, in your own words, was different to other homicides, was your friend? Did you declare this fact to Inspector Arnaud or to anyone else?
KS: No, I didn’t.
MC: You told no one.
MC: Why not?
KS: So let’s begin. With the benefit of hindsight and according to what’s being reported and how things are turning, alright? It might look ugly. But when you look at how things happened? With everyone’s involvement and investigations.
MC: What do you mean by ‘with everyone’s involvement’, Mr Schembri?
KS: The involvement of the police, the MSS, Europol, the AG. It was a team effort. Of the executive, alright?
MC: Of course…
KS: It was a team effort. We moved closer to solving the case, so with hindsight I say ‘look, objective attained’. Are we in agreement?
KS: Objective attained. Are we in agreement? Alright? As in I did my job as I was supposed to.
MC: So you didn’t feel the need to inform Mr Arnaud or anyone else that you and him were friends?
MC: You told us that you weren’t informed when Yorgen Fenech’s mobile phone was tapped.
KS: No, I didn’t know.
MC: Did you find out that his phone was tapped at some point before Yorgen’s arrest?
MC: You never knew?
KS: No. However, after reports that were published in the media…
MC: No, Mr Schembri. The first thing I told you was to forget about the media. You’re speaking to a Judge, not the media. We’re in court here.
KS: Excuse me, Your Honour, but the media is part of my response.
Judge: Ok, let him answer and then we’ll take it from there.
KS: Right. So it had been reported that Mr Melvin Theuma and a businessman close to him [were suspects]. Alright? You don’t need to be an astronaut to add one with one and reach the conclusion that, if Mr Fenech was under investigation, his phone might have been tapped. But no one ever told me that Mr Fenech’s phone was being tapped.
Judge: At that stage, and I’m now talking about what everyone can read in the papers, Melvin Theuma’s name wasn’t mentioned.
Judge: The report you’re referring to.
KS: No, after Melvin Theuma was arrested.
Judge: When it was reported that someone was requesting a pardon and that a major businessman was suspected, the names of the major businessman and the person requesting a pardon weren’t published. Melvin Theuma’s name wasn’t mentioned at that stage.
KS: I’m talking about the next stage. After Melvin Theuma was arrested.
MC: If you’d just give me a second…
Judge: Of course.
MC: Thank you, Your Honour. I don’t know whether the court can give us a few seconds with [Fenech] please? It’s important that the witness remains on the witness stand.
Judge: Of course. How long are we talking about? Five minutes Ten?
MC: Five minutes.
VB: And we can all remain inside.
MC: No problem.
MC: Look, Mr Schembri, are you aware of the fact that Yorgen Fenech has testified that you used to provide him with information? Are you aware of this? About this declaration that Yorgen Fenech made user oath?
MC: How do you respond to it?
KS: It’s not true.
MC: It’s not true. So you’re telling us that you never gave him any type of information?
KS: We’d discuss things that were published in the media.
MC: That’s normal.
MC: And are you aware that, in his testimony yesterday, Keith Arnaud declared that there was some kind of leak of sensitive information? Had you known about this? Had anyone informed you about this problem? These leaks happened…
KS: So let’s speak about the leaks. I never leaked anything about the case.
MC: That’s not what I just asked you.
KS: But I’m saying…
MC: I’m asking you whether you were aware. Did the police ever tell you? You and other people were present at these meetings. It nor results that there was a leak of information, as Keith Arnaud declared under oath. Did anyone tell you about this fact? As in, did anyone tell you ‘Mr schemer, we have a problem because someone is leaking information’?
MC: No, and you were investigated over it as the person who was present for meetings from which information was leaked… were you investigated by the police on this fact?
KS: Three things. I was arrested in the morning, at 5:30am, alright? While I was under interrogation, things that were being said at the time were being reported live on media portals. While I was under interrogation. One. Two, when I was called in for further interrogation, the media had already known and were waiting outside the Depot when I arrived. Three, when I was asked to go to the Depot because of Melvin Theuma’s phantom job, the story was published online before I even left the house. So if we’re going to talk about leaks, leaks are leaks. I live in a world of leaks. You asked me whether I had passed some information to Mr Yorgen Fenech and I told you no.
MC: So in brief, you were investigated or asked about it.
KS: I was asked.
MC: You were asked about it. But before your interrogation, had anyone informed you that there was this information leak?
KS: We had long heard about an information leak and there was no need for anyone to inform me.
MC: So you’re saying you found out from the media.
KS: From the media.
MC: Weren’t you told before? Didn’t anyone officially inform you of this information leak?
KS: No, no.
MC: And I will ask you again. Did you ever give Mr Yorgen Fenech any type of sensitive police information about this case, in a general manner?
KS: This is the third time you’ve asked me this and I will repeat the same answer.
MC: Because I don’t think that the truth is being said but we’ll see later on.
VB: Your Honour, I don’t think such statements should be uttered.
Judge: Aha, but I think this is the root of everything. So I don’t think it’s a big deal for certain questions to be repeated.
VB: Questions should be asked but that statement shouldn’t be made.
Judge: With regards the truth or lack thereof, we’ll leave that out, Doctor.
MC: Did you ever tell Yorgen Fenech that…
VB: A direct question is coming.
MC: What do you mean? Your Honour, with all due respect, I haven’t yet asked the question.
Judge: Proceed with the question.
MC: Did you ever tell Yorgen Fenech that Keith Schembri had given you certain information about the murder?
KS: Can you repeat the question?
Judge: You are referring to the witness’ name.
KS: I definitely can’t ask myself.
MC: No, no, sorry, that’s what happens when you get interrupted. When you were speaking to Yorgen Fenech, did you ever tell him that Keith Arnaud had kept you informed about what was going on?
MC: Not even in a general way, you’d tell him… Sorry, you are constantly glancing to this side. Your Honour, I am asking the witness to face the court.
Judge: Patience, face the Maltese flag or myself.
MC: Because he keeps looking over here for some reason that I cannot fathom. If you please.
KS: OK. OK.
MC: So in a norma discussion, you never told Yorgen that Mr Arnaud was giving you information?
MC: Are you sure about this?
KS: I never told him that he was giving me information, I’l be honest with you. I never told Yorgen that Mr Arnaud was giving me information. Do you understand? We had discussed the case sometimes…
MC: That’s normal.
KS: With all due respect, we often spoke about it when Mr Fenech wasn’t a suspect. But we used to discuss the case just as it’s discussed in bars everywhere.
MC: So perhaps you had told him that you and Mr Arnaud were communicating with each other to organise meetings etc? Did you ever tell him this?
KS: I don’t know. I don’t think so but I don’t know.
MC: You’re unsure.
KS: That a meeting was being organised?
MC: No, no, You’d be talking to him and, for example, tell him…for example did you ever show him your mobile and say that Mr Arnaud was messaging you?
KS: With my position, I never show my mobile to anyone.
KS: With my position, I never show my mobile to anyone. I never show it to anyone.
MC: Or you’d tell [Fenech] that [Arnaud] had just messaged you?
KS: I never showed it to anyone.
MC: I’m not asking you whether you showed it. Did you ever tell him that Mr Arnaud had just sent you a message?
KS: No, because you asked me whether I showed…
MC: No, you told me that you never showed your mobile to him. I’m now asking whether perhaps you ever informed him [that Mr Arnaud was messaging you].
KS: Things usually happen in reverse.
MC: What do you mean?
KS: [People say that] Mr Schembri is messaging me. Name dropping.
MC: So did you ever tell him?
KS: No, I didn’t.
MC: Did you ever tell him or never?
KS: No, I told you that I didn’t tell him.
MC: Are you sure of this?
KS: I’m sure that I never told him ‘Mr Arnaud is messaging me…look what he wrote’. No, definitely not.
MC: Could it be that Melvin Theuma’s recordings were brought to your attention while you were under interrogation?
KS: Some of them.
MC: Some of them. So you know what they contain… you’re doing it again!
KS: Sorry, because I was looking at you. Sorry, sorry.
MC: Don’t look at me. Look at the Judge.
Judge: Look at me.
KS: Sorry, I was raised to look at people when they speak to me.
MC: If you were looking at me, it wouldn’t be a problem. But you’re looking over there.
KS: OK OK.
MC: Some of the recordings were brought to your attention. Do you know that you were mentioned in these recordings?
MC: You know.
KS: I know.
MC: Why were you mentioned in these recordings? First of all, can you briefly explain which parts of the recordings were brought to your attention?
KS: I don’t remember by heart.
MC: How many times were you investigated, Mr Schembri?
KS: Fifty hours and two strip searches.
MC: Once though.
MC: Twice but related [to each other]. You should remember… it wasn’t a long time ago. Come on, try and remember a bit.
KS: What should I try and remember? Tell me.
MC: Which pairs of Melvin Theuma’s recordings did the police bring to your attention?
KS: There were several of them. As in there were several. As in I think there was half an hour, forty minutes. I can’t remember exactly. First of all, let me tell you that they aren’t clear enough.
MC: Yes, I know that. The witness has a point because listening to them is a hassle.
KS: I heard them once.
MC: But you heard your name getting mentioned, right?
KS: Yes, of course.
MC: You heard it.
KS: With some nice adjectives accompanying it too.
MC: Excuse me?
KS: With some nice adjectives accompanying it.
MC: I’m not going to ask you about that though. In what context were you mentioned?
KS: In what context was I mentioned…
MC: And who mentioned you?
KS: Mr Theuma mentioned me once and said that he will send the Degiorgio family to my home in Mellieha.
MC: Do you know why he said that?
KS: Because he expected that, in some way or other, because I am powerful… as in name dropping and afterwards he admitted [he named me] because my position allowed me to, in some way or other, ensure that the Degiorgio brothers were granted bail.
MC: Did anyone speak to you about their bail?
KS: Never, never.
MC: No one.
KS: And if anyone had spoken to me, I would have asked them whether they knew what they were talking about.
MC: Look, you didn’t even tell the police that you were Yorgen’s fried. So no one ever spoke to you [about the bail]?
KS: No one ever spoke to me.
MC: Do you know Kenneth Camilleri?
KS: Yes, I know him.
MC: How do you know him?
KS: I know him as a security official at the Office of the Prime Minister.
MC: Part of the security. Do you know whether he still works there?
VB: Your Honour, the requests are what they are but I’m not going to stay objecting.
MC: No, no, this is relevant. Did you ever instruct Mr Camilleri to speak to Melvin Theuma?
MC: Are you sure of this?
MC: And did you ever discuss this homicide case with Kenneth Camilleri?
KS: Never, never.
MC: I have no further questions. Thank you very much, Mr Schembri.
Judge: Will the counter-examination take place today?
VB: I will reserve my right, Your Honour. It could be that I don’t need to.
Judge: That’s alright.