Home Ministry, under Carmelo Abela, had asked for information on investigation – Ferris
home ministry under carmelo abela had asked for information on investigation ferris - Home Ministry, under Carmelo Abela, had asked for information on investigation - Ferris

The public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia continues today before a board led by retired judge Michael Mallia and including Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro and former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino.

Jonathan Ferris, former FIAU investigator and former police inspector, is expected to testify today.

The inquiry was set up, among other things, to determine whether any wrongful action or omission by, or within, any State entity facilitated the assassination or failed to prevent it. It will also seek to establish whether the State had and has in place effective criminal law provisions and other practical means to avoid the development of a de facto state of impunity through the frequent occurrence of unresolved criminal acts.

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Follow the minute-by-minute developments below. Please refresh for updates

4.05pm: Superintendents Ray Aquilina and Antonovich Muscat from the Economic Crimes Unit are being suggested by the Caruana Galizia family’s legal team to testify next, with Jason Azzopardi emphasising that they should be heard before Ian Abdilla and suggesting that they should bring with them any files and documentation to do with their work on the Panama Papers. Dr Andre Camilleri who now works at the European Central Bank is also being suggested, as is Alfred Zammit of the FIAU.

4.02pm: The next sitting is on Monday at 2:30pm.

4.01pm: Ferris departs the stand after a marathon testimony which ran for almost two hours.

3.59pm: Judge Mallia asks whether he had any occasions both as a police officer and at the FIAU whether he had any suspicions that Caruana Galizia’s life was at risk. “No”, Ferris replies before pointing out that she was considered as an open source of information.  Asked whether he felt that there may be a threat, Ferris said that it never really crossed his mind, noting that in Economic Crimes they look more at numbers than threats.

3.56pm: Ferris was asked whether John Dalli had ever spoken to him about Caruana Galizia.  “He was obsessed”, Ferris said.  He described her as a “cyber terrorist”, he said.

3.54pm: Ferris said that he had been summoned by an Inspector Stivala, but when he got to court he found Ian Abdilla with Bugeja.  Ferris said that Abdilla had provided consistent opposition to his testimony.  Ferris said that he had been presented with a report and insisted that he should go through it himself as he did not trust a single person inside the courtroom.  Ferris said that he did and found some discrepancies, but cannot recall exactly what they were.

3.51pm: He said that on 31 May 2017 he was summoned by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja in connection with the article which appeared in The Malta Independent related to Konrad Mizzi and the LNG Tanker. He said that he had taken his red file about the case out of the drawer to take with him, but Kenneth Farrugia had insisted that he should only take with him the last four pages of the conclusions.

3.49pm: Ferris said that he suspected that somebody was entering his office, noting that his office was the only one not covered by cameras. He noted that after office hours he had noticed Ian Abdilla at the FIAU.  This was in May 2017, right after Minister Edward Scicluna had made his “written to be leaked” comments about the reports – which had contributed to a sense of paranoia there. “I started being followed by police cars,” he added.

3.39pm: Ferris states that banks in Dubai, the Bahamas, Miami, and Panama had all rejected setting up an account for Mizzi, and the willingness to pay $4,500 for a service – opening the account – which would otherwise be free also raised suspicions. This was before the Panama Papers scandal broke out.

3.37pm: Konrad Mizzi’s presence in Montenegro soon after an agreement was signed between the country and Enemalta raised suspicions, Ferris said, as did a 1c transaction on a credit card belonging to Mizzi. He also notes that Mizzi made 17 trips to China, and stayed at hotels on 16 occasions in spite of having family there.

3.33pm: Asked who and what figured in this report, Ferris named Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, citing the similarity between their set-up and that of Mizzi, along with Konrad Mizzi’s London flat and the monthly planned income into their companies. Ferris continues to list parties mentioned: “Willerby, Karl Cini, Brian Tonna, Mossack Fonseca, Nexia BT”, he says.

3.31pm: He explained that when cases being investigated by the FIAU were leaked by the media, then the unit would immediately go to the police with the information.  He recalls how The Malta Independent had published a story related to Konrad Mizzi and the LNG Tanker, and states that he had phoned Kenneth Farrugia “at least 13 times” to no reply – with Farrugia actually hanging up on him on one occasion.  When he confronted Farrugia about why he had not made a report to the police, Farrugia said that “I have been given different instructions”.

3.25pm: Ferris is asked what he was working on at the time of his dismissal. Ferris states that the most sensitive piece that he had was in March 2017, when he finished a 130 page report on Konrad Mizzi and his financial structures.  A copy was sent to himself, the analyst, Alfred Zammit, and Kenneth Farrugia. He states that they had agreed to meet a week later to send it to the police, but noted that it took a long time for the others to read the report – to the point that they missed that deadline to send it to the police. Ferris said that Farrugia had dismissed the report despite having barely skimmed through it.

3.22pm: Things come to Ferris’ sacking, with Ferris stating that he did not know why he was sacked.  He said that it came soon after it was alleged that the FIAU reports had been “written to be leaked”, but noted that he had asked whether this was the reason that he was sacked.  This, he had been told, was not the reason he was sacked.  Ferris explains that he still does not know the reason for his sacking.

3.19pm: He said however that he did receive a telephone call from Daphne.  He said that he had been at mass at the time, and then phoned her back afterwards.  He said that they had spent 45 minutes arguing because she had insisted that they had treated Efimova badly.  But three days later, she phoned back and apologised for that introduction and asked to start afresh.  Ferris clarified that Caruana Galizia had never asked him for information. On 30 June 2017 when the story had broke on him being sacked from the FIAU, she had sent him a message saying that these are hard times and that “they” had done the same thing to her son’s diplomatic post.

3.17pm: Ferris explains that he had never met Caruana Galizia. He said that he remembered the date 29 April 2017 because he received a whatsapp message from Alfred Zammit asking whether he planned to go to the office on that day, a Saturday.  Zammit said that there was a sensitive meeting on that day and that it would be better if he did not attend the office. He said that he then received a call from the police board to speak to him the following week about Maria Efimova (whistleblower)

3.13pm: Comodini Cachia asks whether the FIAU board had ever asked him for information about specific investigations.  Ferris replies that this was not the case as a specific committee would decide whether to pass reports to the police or not.

3.09pm: Ferris explains that on 2 November 2016, which was his second day, he had been given the report on Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman. “I made some small changes to the English and sent it to the police”, he said.  That report was about “some kickbacks”, he said. Ferris explains that the FIAU works on reasonable suspicion, but the police works on beyond doubt.  He said that this means that if the FIAU issues a report it is because there is reasonable suspicion.

3.07pm: In March 2017, an analyst of the FIAU had finalised the report on Konrad Mizzi and the Panama structures, Ferris continues.

3.03pm: Ferris says that he received the Pilatus Bank compliance report on 21 April 2017 when he was already at the FIAU. The report was given to him after a blog post was published that claimed that over $1million had been transferred. 

3.02pm: Ferris is continuously being told to stick to answering the questions he is asked by both the board and by Therese Comodini Cachia, who has replaced Jason Azzopardi as cross-examiner.

3.01pm: Ferris says that it was the Msida district police that handled the Pilatus Bank complaint about their former employee Maria Efimova. “When they saw numbers involved, they panicked and called in the Economic Crimes Unit,” he said.

3pm: Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia tells the witness. “Nobody knows what you know, we’re going to have to go through this piece by piece,” she says, asking him to fill in the blanks between the compliance report and the clean bill of health.

2.57pm: Ferris now gets to his time at the FIAU, speaking of the first things he found when he started the job. The FIAU had a common password for everyone, he said.  He then said that despite the compliance record of Pilatus Bank which found numerous breaches, the FIAU had given the bank a “clean bill of health”.

2.55pm: The discussion now centres on a case called Red126. Ferris says he was prepared to charge John Dalli’s daughters, Elouise Cobin and others, in relation to crimes related to a ponzi scheme.  The charges went before Ian Abdilla, he said, and charges were later filed, he said.

2.48pm: Ferris speaks about the time when he had met OLAF Head Giovanni Kessler in Rome who asked him whether he had received a report from OLAF about John Dalli.  Ferris replied that he had not, with Kessler saying that he had sent it two months prior. Ferris said that he went to the Attorney General Peter Grech’s office and told him about the report.  Grech, he said, had replied that he had not received any such reports. Ferris told Grech to look properly, and the report was eventually found under some papers on his desk, with the envelope still sealed.

2.46pm: Ferris says that he had spoken to the head of the FIAU, Manfred Galdes, a childhood friend of his, saying that he wasn’t happy in the police force and Galdes had offered him a job. A few days later he was contacted by Galdes’ underling and was asked to send a CV. “Not even a letter of application was needed,” he remarks. Galdes had told him that he needed an investigator of his calibre.

2.41pm: Ferris speaks of how the Police Corps had been in decline at the time he had left, with the Economics Crime Unit having little to no resources to work with, something which had pushed him into leaving the force for the FIAU. Asked whether there were any other similar cases of ministerial interference during his time besides this incident, Ferris replied in the negative.

2.40pm: Judge Said Pullicino asks whether the Minister himself had asked for the information. Ferris replies that the Minister was merely cc’ed to the email and that is it. Copies of the email exchange have been submitted to the inquiry board.

2.39pm: Judge Said Pullicino asks whether there was ever any intereference in his work as police officer.  Ferris produces an email, and says that the secretary of then Home Affairs Minister – which at the time was headed by Carmelo Abela – emailed asking for updates about an investigation.  He said that he had replied that details about ongoing investigations were not to be shared.  He noted that the person must have gone to a higher-up person as the request came back from another person in the police, which he once again rejected. Another email followed, written in caps, stating clearly that the minister himself had asked for the information.  The minister himself was cc’ed in the email, Ferris says. Ferris continues that he had been called in by Ian Abdilla who told him not to “create diplomatic incidents” and to hand over the information.  Ferris explains that in any case he had refused, replying to the email that “data protection laws are for everyone (even the Minister)”.

2.32pm: Ferris says that John Dalli had told him that Egrant belonged to the Labour Party and stands for “election grant”.  He said that he did not give this any great weight as he was not really focused on this case.  He said that he told Magistrate Aaron Bugeja about this, and that it was leaked by someone to MaltaToday.

2.25pm: Ferris goes through his service history, noting that he had served in the police under John Rizzo and had been part of the Economic Crimes Unit under Michael Cassar (who headed the unit) before moving to the FIAU.

2.22pm: Ferris noted that the FIAU had investigated the transaction which Caruana Galizia had exposed. Ferris points out that whenever he found something he told the police.  Madam Justice Lofaro asks whether anything happened with the information he had handed over, to which Ferris replies that he hopes so but does not know. Jason Azzopardi, representing the Caruana Galizia family, but who has in the past also represented Ferris in some court cases, says that he would like to go through things with the witness chronologically.

2.20pm: Ferris states that on that day a blog post was uploaded by Daphne Caruana Galizia speaking of a $1.017 million transaction.  Ferris says the FIAU had investigated a claim that Michelle Muscat had transferred $1million involving the Azeri ruling family. He states that Daphne’s blog was used as an open-source quite frequently in their work.  He explained that a compliance report into the case did not match other cases.

2.17pm: Ferris clarifies that Magistrate Aaron Bugeja (Egrant inquiry) had ordered Ferris to answer some questions with regards to some of the conclusions he had made, something which he had done on 8 August 2018, which was the only time the police had called for him.  There, things had been clarified with regards to a specific transaction which had taken place on Friday 21 April 2017.  On that day he said, he, the director of the FIAU Kenneth Farrugia and two others had remained there till late and had come up with a set of questions for Pilatus Bank.

2.14pm: Judge Mallia starts by giving an official order to Ferris to answer questions even if they have something to do with his former employment as a policeman and with the FIAU.  He starts his first question by saying that the board had looked at Ferris’ testimony in the Egrant inquiry, and asks whether he can add anything to what he had said there.

2.11pm: Court is in session.  Jonathan Ferris takes the stand.

1.55pm: As usual, among the first to arrive are Daphne’s parents. Jonathan Ferris is also waiting outside the courtroom.

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