While police may have apprehended all their suspects (so far) in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, the case itself has only just begun.
During a press conference this week, police commissioner Angelo Gafa made it a point to confirm that separate investigations which branched off from the central murder investigation are still very much ongoing. Prime Minister Robert Abela repeated the same point a day later.
And so they should be.
Caruana Galizia’s murder case has evolved into an intricate web, one which will take superhuman effort to untangle. There’s likely to be more twists to the tale yet, but here’s some questions which must be answered before the case can be declared solved.
1. What did Yorgen Fenech discuss with Keith Schembri the night before his arrest?
One day before Fenech’s arrest, he had a 24-minute phone conversation with Keith Schembri. Schembri said that Fenech had told him he had planned to sail his yacht to Sicily for repairs, and that he [Schembri] tried to convince him not to leave considering “everything that was going on”.
His version of events has been backed up by Muscat, who said he had instructed Schembri to make sure Fenech doesn’t leave after receiving a tip-off from the authorities.
This is peculiar. If the authorities knew Fenech planned to escape, then surely they would have prepared a contingency plan – as in fact they did, with AFM boats strategically placed to force Fenech back to Malta. So why bother speaking to Fenech in the first place?
It’s also been reported that the Malta Security Services had been tapping murder suspect Yorgen Fenech’s phone for at least a year and that Muscat himself had signed the tapping warrant. If so, the former Prime Minister would have known that anything Schembri told Fenech was going to be recorded.
Either way, seeing as Fenech later implicated Schembri in the murder, this final conversation between the pair of them seems crucial to the case.
2. Who kept Fenech in the loop with secret details of the investigation?
Fenech had a shocking level of access to the investigation that would eventually land him in jail.
He knew in advance about the impending arrests of George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, and told Melvin Theuma to inform the suspects that a “big raid” was coming, he received information on Theuma’s wiretapped conversations and even obtained a copy of Theuma’s draft pardon the eve before his own arrest.
Fenech has already named Schembri as a leak, and while his version of events remains dubious, the fact remains that someone did leak this information. Very few people had access to the information, so if it wasn’t Schembri, then who was it?
If, on the other hand, it was Schembri, then why did Muscat ask his chief of staff, out of all people, to stop Fenech from leaving Malta? Was Schembri duping Muscat the whole time? If so, why did Muscat defend Schembri’s role several months later?
3. Why did Muscat bypass Cabinet when giving Theuma a pardon?
A day before Fenech’s arrest, Muscat announced to the press that he had given Theuma a pardon without even consulting Cabinet.
Back then, Muscat’s explanation was that he didn’t want to burden his team with such a controversial decision and that he wanted to shoulder political responsibility all by himself.
However, shortly after, it was Cabinet, and not Muscat by himself, which rejected Fenech’s request for a pardon. Years later, it was Cabinet, and not Robert Abela, which approved Vince Muscat’s pardon request. Also, unlike the Muscat pardon, the Theuma pardon has never been published, although it did somehow find its way to Fenech’s phone.
It’s normal for Cabinet to take major decisions collectively to ensure everyone’s on the same page, which begs the question as to why Muscat bypassed his team here.
Was there a risk that Theuma wouldn’t have been given a pardon had the request gone to Cabinet? Why hasn’t the pardon been published yet?
4. Why did Muscat and Schembri set up a WhatsApp chat with Fenech a day after the first arrests?
Muscat and Schembri were both renowned for being ‘pro-business’ (probably too much) so it’s not that surprising that they had a private WhatsApp chat with Fenech. However, this particular chat was set up on 6th December 2017, just one day after the Degiorgio brothers and Vince Muscat were arrested. Police superintendent Keith Arnaud has confirmed that Joseph Muscat set up the chat himself.
Fenech has said in court that Schembri had informed him in advance of the raid; if he’s telling the truth then the date this chat was setup becomes extremely significant.
Arnaud has confirmed that the chats don’t reference the murder so does this mean the date the chat was set up was just a pure coincidence? Did Muscat know that Schembri had allegedly leaked details of the raid to Fenech in advance?
If he didn’t, then the Prime Minister was extremely unlucky (not to mention naive), but if he did then Fenech’s statement to police that Muscat was one of three people who knew of the murder plot after the assassination becomes more important.
Also, why was the chat closed a month before Theuma and Fenech were arrested? Muscat had known Fenech was a person of interest by then and he has already said the MSS had advised him to act normally when dealing with Fenech so as not to arouse his suspicion. If Muscat had to accept Fenech’s Petrus wine gifts to “act normally” then wouldn’t closing the chat have aroused Fenech’s suspicion?
5. Who sent an OPM official to Melvin Theuma’s house and who did he speak to?
One of the most bizarre aspects of the case was surely Theuma’s recollection of how OPM security official Kenneth Camilleri had turned up at his house unannounced sometime during June 2018.
During the meeting, Camilleri called up someone, after which he told Theuma to inform the men charged with the murder of Caruana Galizia that they will get bailed out later that month.
Theuma said that while he didn’t eavesdrop on Camilleri’s conversation, he suspected he was speaking to Keith Schembri because the two of them both worked at Castille.
The next day, Camilleri paid Theuma another visit and showed him a piece of paper with three mobile numbers written on it, one of which was Theuma’s old number, and told Theuma that he was the murder mastermind.
Camilleri has refused to testify in the case against Fenech out of fear he could incriminate himself, but he has said in the Caruana Galizia public inquiry that he never told Schembri about his meeting with Theuma.
So if it wasn’t Schembri, who was it? Were Schembri and Muscat at all aware that one of their security officials was trying to help people involved in the murder of Caruana Galizia? If Camilleri was acting behind their backs, then surely it means he must have trusted Theuma implicitly despite having never met him before. Surely he must have known he was putting his own future on the line through his rendezvous with Theuma.
6. Who sent doctor Adrian Vella to Yorgen Fenech’s home after his arrest?
Let’s not forget that doctor Adrian Vella has testified under oath that he had passed on documents from Schembri to Fenech while Fenech was under police bail.
Vella insists he did not look at the documents, but they were reportedly letters instructing Fenech to pin the murder on former Economy Minister Chris Cardona, which have been published by Lovin Malta.
Schembri has confirmed meeting Vella during the period messages were exchanged, but said he forgets why he met him and insists he didn’t write, send or deliver the note in question.
There’s no two ways about it – one of the two men has lied under oath. If Schembri is telling the truth, it would imply that Vella had actually received the letter from a third party, presumably someone so powerful that he was ready to throw Schembri under the bus to protect their name.
7. Was Chris Cardona framed, and if so, who framed him?
Besides the mysterious letter, Cardona’s name has cropped up again and again in this saga.
In June 2020, Theuma claimed Cardona had used a friend to pay one of the hitmen €350,000 and that lawyer David Gatt had warned the Degiorgios’ brother Mario that he would kill them if they pinned the blame for the murder on the minister.
Last Friday, Times of Malta reported that Vince Muscat had implicated Cardona in a plot to kill Caruana Galizia back in 2015, which was later abandoned. Muscat said Cardona had approached the Degiorgio brothers and settled on a price of €150,000 to kill the journalist, but no money ever exchanged hands.
Cardona has said he’s the victim of a cruel frame-up but hasn’t indicated who could be framing him and why, only stating during an interview that he doesn’t believe Schembri is behind it, despite doctor Adrian Vella’s testimony.
If Vince Muscat is telling the truth, it would mean powerful people were planning to kill Caruana Galizia from way before her murder. Did the person who sent a letter to Fenech via Vella know about this aborted plot or was it just a coincidence that they named Cardona as the mastermind out of all people?
Unless Vella is lying, then it must mean Schembri tried to get his colleague convicted for the murder of Caruana Galizia. But if this is the case, then why would Cardona defend Schembri publicly and say there’s no proof that he wrote the letter?
If neither Cardona nor Schembri had anything to do with it, then there must have been dangerous hidden hands behind the scenes who have yet to be uncovered.
8. Why did Schembri give Theuma a fake government job he didn’t even want?
Theuma has said that a few days after arranging the price for Caruana Galizia’s assassination (€150,000), Fenech called him to tell him to expect a call from Sandro Craus, the former OPM head of customer care who recently stepped down from his role.
Craus did indeed call up Theuma to invite him to Castille, and when Theuma went he found Schembri waiting for him on the steps of the Prime Minister’s office.
He was then given a phantom job within the Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Company that basically entitled him to free public funds in return for zero work.
However, besides being a blatant abuse of public funds, there’s also contradictory testimony about what actually happened.
While Schembri has testified that Theuma had asked for the job himself, Theuma has said it was offered, and pretty much forced onto him, even though he said straight out that he didn’t even need the job.
If Schembri is telling the truth, then why would Theuma have lied about something so relatively insignificant when he knows false testimony could see his entire pardon crumble? If, on the other hand, Theuma is telling the truth, then why was he invited to Castille in the first place?
Did Fenech set up the meeting himself, and if so, did he just want to show off his power to Theuma? Or was Fenech used as a middleman to set up this meeting, just as he was allegedly used as a middleman by Schembri and Pierre Portelli to leak certain stories to the press?
9. Do recordings exist of Melvin Theuma implicating Keith Schembri in the murder?
Sensational claims have emerged that Julian Hofstra, a young Dutch criminal prison currently serving a prison sentence in Amsterdam, has recordings of Theuma implicating Schembri in the murder.
While the existence of these recordings hasn’t been verified, their veracity would prompt serious questions to Theuma, who has said he can only confirm that Fenech was the mastermind.
His pardon hinges on him telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and the content of these recordings could go a long way in informing people whether or not he’s a reliable witness.
10. Did Schembri really bring the FBI on-board?
Schembri has testified that he was the person who brought the FBI on-board to help the Maltese police solve the case, and that he had called up the US Embassy in Malta to ask what help they can offer within 25 minutes of Caruana Galizia’s murder.
However, Superintendent George Cremona, the head of the police’s anti-terror squad, has said he started contacting foreign experts, including the FBI, himself around an hour and a half after the murder.
Muscat has described the request to the FBI as “the most crucial moment” in the investigation and said the suspected hitmen would still be at large without their aid, but whose decision was it really?
If Cremona did indeed act completely independently, then he might well have set off a chain of events whose repercussions are still being felt today.
11. Did the Security Services really advise Muscat to invite Fenech to his birthday party?
Nine months before his arrest, Fenech was one of a few guests of honour for Muscat’s birthday party at the Prime Minister’s official residence of Girgenti.
It was during this party that Fenech gifted Muscat three bottles of Petrus wine and, according to Fenech, spoke to the Prime Minister about Caruana Galizia’s murder and whether or not Theuma can be trusted.
Back then, Muscat had already signed a warrant allowing the Malta Security Services to tap Fenech’s phone and had known he was a person of interest in the Caruana Galizia murder case.
He has claimed he invited Fenech to his party because the MSS advised him to do so, presumably so as not to raise suspicions that he was being investigated.
However, Muscat’s version of events has yet to be corroborated by the MSS, whose testimony to the public inquiry took place behind closed doors.
If Muscat is telling the truth and that excluding Fenech from his guest list would have aroused suspicion, then it must mean he was much, much friendlier with Fenech than he let on when he was doorstepped by The Times a few days before the businessman’s arrest.
Back then, Muscat was asked when he last met Fenech and he responded that he thinks it was a year or two ago and that this was “just like he meets all people in business”.
12. Why was Daphne Caruana Galizia killed?
One person has pleaded guilty, five more are facing murder charges and a seventh person (Theuma) has been given a pardon, but we still don’t know the crux of it all – why was Daphne Caruana Galizia killed?
Several suspicions have been floated around. Was she killed to stop her reporting on a trove of ElectroGas documents that had been leaked to her? Was she killed out of fear that she would reveal Fenech as the owner of 17 Black and perhaps discover the Montenegro wind farm scandal? Was it some other scandal that has yet to be uncovered?
Whatever the motive was, it must have been an extremely strong one to involve, and therefore compromise, so many people in its plotting. A dirty can of worms has been opened and, for the country’s sake, the case shouldn’t be closed until the web has been untangled and full justice has been served.
Malta’s police force has done well in arresting and charging dangerous criminals, but their work in the Caruana Galizia murder has only just started.