Yorgen Fenech is back in court on Thursday over his role in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The case now threatens to spiral out of control with the leak of short snippets of as-yet-unheard recordings of state witness Melvin Theuma.
With Theuma’s suspected suicide attempt the eve before the recordings were set to be played in court, questions have been rife whether they played any part in his decision to do so.
It’s still far too early to say. However, the tapes formed part of the evidence box Theuma eagerly handed over to the police that eventually led to his presidential pardon. This begs the question, who stands to benefit for the leak?
1. What are the recordings?
The recordings are five, 20-second excerpts of tapes played behind closed doors in the court. Court sittings have so far revealed that eight recordings, in between 20 minutes to 45 minutes long, were recently uncovered.
They focus on conversations between Melvin Theuma and Johann Cremona, a business partner of Fenech. 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.
Cremona has confirmed he set up the meetings but insists he was just a bystander.
2. Who was in possession of the tapes?
Theuma’s devices found in his evidence box were immediately handed over to Europol for extraction. Four parties have been handed a copy:
The prosecution (police and Attorney General’s office), the magistrate, the parte civile lawyers and the defence.
Publication of the tapes is prohibited by court order and police have already launched an investigation into the leak.
3. Who leaked the recordings?
They were released on Reddit by an anonymous user. The platform used raises its own issues. Daily social media users in Malta seldom use it, and it is not a platform followed rigorously by journalists. Whoever published it, must have directed journalists to the post.
The user seemingly quotes Caruana Galizia’s last words and invoke feelings associated with the calls for truth and justice. However, its goal seems to put significant doubts on the prosecution and state witness, without ever providing the public with the entire truth of the conversation.
4. What is discussed on the new tapes?
It’s impossible to understand the entire context of lengthy conversations with short snippets. However, they imply the potential involvement of former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar in the leak of information on the investigation.
Cutajar, who is already subject of an official investigation into the leaks, allegedly could have tipped off Theuma on an FIAU investigation while a potential bribe is also referenced.
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.
At one point, Theuma also accuses two other people of potentially framing him in the murder.
5. Should you trust them?
With a pinch of salt, there is no way to absolutely confirm the veracity of these tapes, especially since they form part of just a minuscule fraction of an entire conversation between two players in the case.
They are selectively cut soundbites, and it raises questions as to why so much was left out. The potential implications are damning, but without the full picture, it’s impossible to pass judgement. The Cutajar claims have also been denied by Cutajar, Theuma, and dismissed by Chief Inspector Keith Arnaud.
Regardless, Cutajar is already subject to an investigation over potentially passing on sensitive information to Brincat. The new tapes, in their entirety, are also in the possession of the police, the magistrate, the parte civile lawyers, and the attorney general’s office. Their contents are being looked into.
6. Who could benefit?
It’s simply impossible to say who is behind the leaks at this stage. However, if the claims are confirmed the biggest losers would undoubtedly be the key state witness and the prosecution.
Ultimately, it is Fenech’s benefit for Theuma’s pardon to be revoked.
Beyond Fenech’s omission from the list of potential players in the murder uploaded to the Reddit page, the post also makes numerous references to the pardon issue.
“The Maltese Government pardon criminals to spin lies,” it reads at one point. “Lawrence Cutajar has tea with criminals to broker illegal pardons,” at another.
Whatever the case the magistrate will undoubtedly raise the issue on Thursday at 10am.
What do you think of the new tapes? Comment below