Former Economy Minister Chris Cardona’s number was not found on the mobile phones seized by the police during a raid during which three men suspected of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder were arrested, sources told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
The sources have not excluded that information could eventually be found on these phones, as the devices are still being analysed. The information regarding Cardona’s number seems to stem from a conversation that took place between the Degiorgio brothers, and has not yet been corroborated by evidence.
During a court sitting in the compilation of evidence against suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech, the middleman, Melvin Theuma, said that Cardona’s mobile number was the only number found on one of the burner phones used by the three men, following questions put forward by Jason Azzopardi, who is appearing for the Caruana Galizia family.
The now infamous raid on the potato shed in Marsa took place in December 2017, when brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, and Vince Muscat, were arrested. They were subsequently charged with planting and detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia.
During this raid, a number of mobile phones were discovered on the seabed near the potato shed. These mobile phones are often referred to as burner phones, which generally refers to an inexpensive mobile phone that is designed for temporary use. Burner phones are usually discarded after their intended one-off use is completed.
During the court sitting, earlier this month, under cross-examination by Azzopardi, Theuma recalled that the police had found some mobile phones after the arrests near the potato shed.
“Yorgen told me that in one of the mobiles they had only found [Chris] Cardona’s number,” Theuma said.
During the sitting, it was unclear whether this information volunteered by Fenech was corroborated by police evidence. It, however, transpires that it was not, as so far no information has been found on any of the burner phones elevated, sources close to the investigation told this newsroom.
Sources confirmed that the police have not spoken to Cardona on this matter, but emphasised the fact that investigations were still ongoing.
Speaking to the Times of Malta recently, Cardona said that the police have never questioned him about the claim, adding that “the police haven’t confirmed it. It’s just what Yorgen Fenech told Theuma. The police never questioned me on this particular information.”
Cardona questioned by police in November 2019
On 23 November 2019, Cardona was taken in for questioning by the police but said he had told them he had no involvement in the murder.
Cardona had told Malta Today that the police had asked him four questions, including whether he knew Theuma, to which he had replied in the negative. He was also asked about his involvement in the murder, and he also answered in the negative.
Cardona also said, “I was also asked whether I had passed on money, and again my answer was no.” The minister noted that he was also asked why he had dropped libel proceedings against Daphne Caruana Galizia. “I told them that I did not drop libel proceedings,” Cardona said.
Cardona had started libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia after she reported that Cardona had been seen in a German brothel, while on official duty in January 2017, a scandal that became infamous in Malta.
The libel case was struck off by a court and, with it, the opportunity to verify the veracity that the minister was inside the brothel.
The public inquiry board, however, which is looking into the circumstances surrounding Caruana Galizia’s assassination, had ordered the preservation of Cardona’s phone data which could confirm if he was indeed at the brothel that night. This data had initially been preserved by the court for the libel cases.
Until now, these records have not seen the light of day, and it is not confirmed they ever will, considering the terms of reference of the public inquiry board, which allows it to redact information from its final report.
‘Frame-up’ to pin murder on Cardona
When Fenech was arrested, he claimed to have received a letter from former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, passed on to him from their common medical doctor, to pin the assassination of the journalist on Cardona.
During an interview on national TV, at the end of January 2020, Cardona had said, about this, that he felt relieved that there was proof that the letter was fake and the plot to attempt to involve him in the murder did not work.
Cardona had also said, “I had noticed a build-up of allegations from certain people since the assassination of the Daphne Caruana Galizia.”
Cardona seen in Siggiewi bar talking to murderer
It was reported, by the Daphne Project in 2017, that Cardona had been seen, on two occasions, in the presence of Alfred Degiorgio at a Siggiewi bar, citing two witnesses who had corroborating evidence.
Cardona ‘categorically’ denied being in the bar on December 3, the day before the three alleged killers were arrested. He added that he was a regular patron of the bar and did not exclude the possibility that there might have been any of the suspects at the bar at the same time he was there.