Former Minister Konrad Mizzi on Friday refused to answer most questions put to him during a hearing of the public inquiry investigating the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, preferring to remain silent as he was asked about the Electrogas deal, the wind farm in Montenegro, the Panama Papers and other subjects that created so much controversy during his time as part of the Cabinet.
He did deny all involvement in the murder of the journalist, saying he “played no part in the murder and I am saddened by it”.
“I am saddened for the family… How can you not be angry or hurt if you lose your mother?”, he said.
“Ms Caruana Galizia was a vocal critic of mine. But, I was still saddened by her passing and I understand the family’s anger”, Mizzi said.
When the news of Caruana Galizia’s assassination emerged, he says was on a visit abroad with then President Marie-Louise Coleiro. “Everybody was shocked. The President was shell-shocked and locked herself in her suite at the hotel”, he said before adding that he had spent time with her after.
But to most other questions he faced by the board as well as the parte civile lawyers, Mizzi said he would not be answering.
Mizzi said that there are a number of ongoing magisterial inquiries and investigations. Had these been concluded, he would have had no problem to testify and offered to come back and testify when these inquiries are concluded. “I never received any rewards or kickbacks. I simply worked for the best of the country, and I am sure that I will have the opportunity to testify fully once all inquiries are concluded”, Mizzi said.
Otherwise, Mizzi did not answer questions put to him on a variety of matters, ranging from the Panama Papers, the Mozura wind farm in Montenegro, the Vitals Global Healthcare concession, and the Electrogas power station.
Follow the live commentary from court, below:
11:38: That brings Konrad Mizzi’s testimony to a close. He departs the courtroom, thanking the board.
11:37: It is pointed out that Mizzi has a pending libel case against the Caruana Galizia family, which he confirmed and says that this is over something related to his family. He says he has no intention to take any money from the family if he wins it.
11:36: “I played no part in the murder and I am saddened by it”, Mizzi says.
11:36: He says that he does not remember whether reference to the assassination was made in a Cabinet session, but notes that the Prime Minister had mentioned that they wanted to get to the bottom of the investigation.
He says that he does not want to prejudice investigations by expressing guilt on anybody, noting Angelo Gafa’s previous testimony here that the motive for the crime is not yet certain yet.
“I was shocked, yes. It impacted me, because it impacted my future ministerial ambitions as I wanted to change the country for the better.”
“I am saddened for the family. Once again I express my condolences – and I have been very cautious because I did not want to bother the family, and I understand because they are hurt. How can you not be angry or hurt if you lose your mother?”, he says.
11:34: “Ms Caruana Galizia was a vocal critic of mine. But, I was still saddened by her passing and I understand the family’s anger”, Mizzi begins. He expresses his condolences to the family, looking around the courtroom, although he notes that the family may not like to hear it – something he does not necessarily blame them for.
When the news of Caruana Galizia’s assassination emerged, he says was on a visit with then President Marie-Louise Coleiro likely in Ukraine. “Everybody was shocked. The President was shell-shocked and locked herself in her suite at the hotel”, he said before adding that he had spent time with her after.
11:27: Azzopardi now asks about his reaction to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Mizzi, surprisingly actually, says he will be making a statement on this soon. Azzopardi asks whether he was aware of anyone who knew of a plan to eliminate Caruana Galizia. Mizzi replies that he wishes to make a statement in this regard.
11:26: Do you exclude being a silent partner in companies which perform money laundering, Azzopardi asks. No reply is forthcoming.
11:25: Mizzi is asked whether the PL’s roadmap to govern included the Electrogas project, and how much money Yorgen Fenech gave to the PL after 2012. Mizzi unsurprisingly does not answer. He is asked about certain responsibilities, and he says that he has already made a statement on this.
Do you consider yourself as a faithful emissary of Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri, Azzopardi asks. “I do not answer”, Mizzi replies.
11:22: He asks whether there was any communication with the Prime Minister when Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed, and when he got to know of the early election which was called in 2017. Mizzi does not reply once more.
11:21: Azzopardi begins another question, stating that Joseph Muscat’s last overseas visit was to the Montenegro question, but he doesn’t even manage to get the question in before Mizzi says he will not answer.
11:19: Azzopardi asks whether he knows who the Ultimate Beneficiary Owner of Egrant is. Mizzi does not answer.
11:18: Azzopardi asks why, given Mizzi’s earlier declaration that he had done everything by the book and with the approval of Cabinet, he had been fired from the PL parliamentary group. Mizzi says he will not answer. Azzopardi tries to ask a question on whether Mizzi feels that the Prime Minister used a different measure with him and with Michael Falzon – who had been forced to resign from a ministerial portfolio early on in Labour’s tenure – but that question is overruled by the board.
11:16: Azzopardi now rises to have a crack at Mizzi.
11:16: She now asks the final set of questions – about his role before becoming a minister. She asks whether it’s true that the Labour Party’s energy working group was made up of just himself, Keith Schembri, and Joseph Muscat. Mizzi does not answer, and that concludes Comodini Cachia’s questions.
11:14: Comodini Cachia asks about his political appointments and resignations throughout the years and about Joseph Muscat. Mizzi does not answer.
11:13: He is asked what Daphne Caruana Galizia’s political axe to grind was. He does not answer. Likewise, he says he will not answer a question on what Matthew Caruana Galizia’s political axe to grind was.
11:12: She reads from the Shillings letter, precisely from a paragraph about Matthew Caruana Galizia, who worked with the ICIJ, where Daphne Caruana Galizia is described as a “political activist with a clear vendetta” who is “perpetrating a smear campaign” against Mizzi with a “focused political agenda”. The letter suggests “respectfully” that the ICIJ be careful with their sources and not use those with a “political axe to grind”. Comodini Cachia asks whether it was him who gave Shillings this information. Mizzi says he will not answer.
11:09: No replies either to questions on his Panama account and to his use of the Shillings law firm to reply to the ICIJ.
11:05: Comodini Cachia asks who introduced Mizzi to Nexia BT, and now asks about 17 Black and what he expected to receive from the company. He does not answer.
11:03: Comodini Cachia continues by asking questions about the Electrogas power station and meetings he may have had in Qatar to secure the gas supply for Malta. Mizzi points out that this was already asked by the board, and that, regardless, he will not answer.
11:01: Comodini Cachia asks about an email on Electrogas between Turab Musayev and Yorgen Fenech which states that they had spoken to Konrad Mizzi and that “the minister” is working to handle an excise tax issue. Mizzi does not reply.
10:59: Asked about meetings with Yorgen Fenech, Mizzi does not answer. His answers have remained constant even in tone.
10:58: She continues to ask about his relationship with Cheng Chen, who is involved in Enemalta, the sale of the power station, and Torbridge Ltd in relation to the Panama Papers. Each time, Mizzi does not answer.
10:55: Comodini Cachia now rises to ask the questions. She asks several questions about the Montenegro deal and its negotiation. Each time, Mizzi says he will not answer.
10:54: “I never received any rewards or kickbacks. I simply worked for the best of the country, and I am sure that I will have the opportunity to testify fully once all inquiries are concluded”, Mizzi says.
10:53: The hospitals project was mentioned – he says that he was not involved in the MOU. He says that his involvement was later. Whatever I did was to deliver good things to the public, and that’s what I did. He said the some things were misattributed to him, such as decisions which were not even taken by the government but by boards which are their own legal persons.
10:51: Mizzi says that he will make a statement. He says that as a minister of cabinet, he always followed the instructions and direction of the Prime Minister. He says that he did make detailed presentations to Cabinet. He says that much of what was reported in proceedings and in the media was incorrect or inaccurate. He says that for every major decision, the Prime Minister was informed and the Cabinet gave approval for all of them too.
10:49: Mizzi walks up to Peralta, who tells him in his trademark booming voice just to say that he was “appointed by Cabinet and so on.” It’s not clear what exactly Peralta is referring to, but it may infer that we will hear Mizzi say something more than “I do not answer” on the witness stand. The judges meanwhile return to the courtroom.
10:47: Comodini Cachia is deep in conversation with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne Vella. Azzopardi meanwhile returns to the courtroom with a coffee in hand and stops for a chat with blogger Manuel Delia, who is in the audience. Mizzi meanwhile is pacing awkwardly around the witness stand with his hands in front of him.
10:44: Sure enough, Mizzi returns to the courtroom after a couple of minutes. The board have however vacated the room in the meantime. We’re waiting for them to get back to continue.
10:42: Said Pullicino now tells Mizzi that he has the right not to answer and that the board respects this. He says that the board’s job is to unearth the truth. He says that many ministers had given the impression that they do not know anything. He says that they are not there to judge him but rather to judge the administration. He tells Mizzi that they want both sides, and so if he wants to make a statement – this is the opportunity to do so. Said Pullicino says that this is not a criminal court, and that what interests him is the public administration.
Mizzi says that with respect to the board, there are a number of magisterial inquiries and investigations ongoing. Had these been concluded, he would have had no problem to testify and offers to come back and testify when these inquiries are concluded, he says. He now wonders whether a short statement would prejudice his rights, with Madam Justice Lofaro here saying that he can consult his lawyers in this regard. Mizzi takes the board up on this offer and leaves the courtroom with his lawyers, promising that he will only be two minutes.
10:40: Questions now turn the National Audit Office report into the land transfer of ITS, and why he refused to meet the NAO. Little to no surprise here that he chooses not to answer these too.
10:34: He is asked whether Projects Malta remained under his ministerial portfolio, even after that portfolio changed. Again, he does not answer.
10:33: He is now asked whether he knows Chang Chen or Ram Tumuluri and is asked about the Mozura Wind Farm in Montenegro, and when he gave the go ahead to Kevin Chircop re this project. Each time, he refuses to answer.
10:31: He is asked whether he reported irregularities to the Cabinet. He says he will not answer. However, he peeks round the Perspex booth on the stand and asks his lawyers whether he should clarify questions where there are inaccuracies in them such as his ministerial portfolio at the time. Both Peralta and Sammut shake their heads, and normal service resumes.
10:28: He is asked whether he knew Yorgen Fenech or any of the other Electrogas shareholders – Paul Apap Bologna and Mark Gasan. He refuses to answer.
10:27: Meanwhile, another glass of water has arrived for Mizzi, who must be veritably parched at this stage.
10:26: He is asked about his ties with Keith Schembri, and whether he has any business ties to him. He is asked about an email about 17 Black which Karl Cini had sent. Each time he does not answer. Meanwhile, the copy of the letter has arrived – Mizzi is now leafing through it and is asked by the board whether he has any comments on it, to which he replies that he will not answer.
10:23: Comodini Cachia presents a copy of a letter issued by a UK law firm which Mizzi was just asked about (a question he of course did not answer). Mizzi asks for a copy, and someone goes off to make a copy. The courtroom spends a couple of minute waiting in awkward silence before Mizzi says that the questions can continue and that he can see the letter when it comes back. Mizzi seems looking forward to getting the session over with.
10:19: He is asked whether he declared his New Zealand trust with the taxman. He is asked whether he ever had a Pilatus Bank account and whether he met the Bank’s owner Ali Sadr. He is asked whether the Cabinet asked him about his structure, and whether he had taken action against Daphne Caruana Galizia and other journalists on the Panama Paper. Each time, he does not answer.
10:17: He does not answer whether he has ever been to Dubai, and he does not answer on whether he has a bank account in Dubai.
10:15: He is asked whether he knows Mario Pullicino, whether he has any ties to 17 Black, whether he knows who owns and who the beneficiary of Macbridge is, whether he has any ties to the company, how he can expect to rake in €150,000 per month from Macbridge without knowing who the owner is. To each one, Mizzi simply replies “Ma’ nwegibx” – I do not answer.
10:12: Mizzi is so eager to reply “I do not answer” that he actually interrupts Mallia on one of his questions to say it. His eyes are darting around the room. A court attendant takes his empty glass of water and goes for a refill. It’s a wonder how he is thirsty given that he is only saying two words in response to each question.
10:10: This will be the pattern of the day – Mizzi refuses to answer multiple questions about the idea of a power station as part of Labour’s 2013 manifesto, whether he knew Joseph Muscat before politics, what his reaction to the Panama Papers was, what his explanation is for the Panama Papers.
10:09: It is pointed out by Azzopardi that Mizzi can only choose not to answer questions where he risks incriminating himself, but he is overruled by the board.
10:08: Questioning begins. Mallia asks how he was to become a Labour candidate in the election and who had approached. “I choose not to answer”, is the reply. He is asked how he involved himself in the energy sector. “I choose not to answer”, he states.
10:07: Comodini Cachia and Azzopardi officially refuse the allegations put by Mizzi. Mizzi makes an attempt to verbalise something – although he is told by Magistrate Peralta that what he is saying, that Azzopardi and Comodini Cachia wear multiple hats and attack him consistently in Parliament, has already been verbalised.
10:04: In the meantime, the board gives Mizzi – who has been silently watching on at the witness stand this whole time – the caution, warning that he may choose not to answer any questions which he feels may incriminate him.
10:03: Sammut seems to have been afflicted by the courtroom’s poor internet service. Madam Justice Lofaro tells him to use his mobile data much like she is doing.
10:02: The parte-civile has noted that Mizzi uploaded another Facebook post – 5 minutes before the sitting was set to start no less – which names Comodini Cachia and Azzopardi and which makes the same implications as last night’s application. Both Comodini Cachia and Azzopardi object to the allegations from the witness, with Azzopardi saying that this is a character assassination of a lawyer doing his job and that it is not acceptable.
10:00: The board is now stating that Mizzi can choose not to answer questions which may incriminate him, but not all questions. “There is no right to disclosure”, he says. Madam Justice Lofaro demands that Mizzi’s legal team cite the exact law which states that he has a right to disclosure. Mizzi’s other defence lawyer Jean Paul Sammut is going through his laptop – presumably looking for the article in the law to back up their arguments.
09:58: The board notes that this has been the whole inquiry, with witnesses answering only “I don’t know, I learned from the media”.
09:57: Mizzi is asked whether he is on police bail. The former minister replies that he doesn’t know whether he is on police bail or not – a reply which elicits shakes of the hand and light giggles from those present and following the inquiry. Magistrate Peralta clarifies that Mizzi is under police bail at the moment.
09:55: Judge Mallia asks how many inquiries he is the subject of, to which Mizzi replies that he doesn’t know and that he generally learns of these from the media. He is asked about the subject of these inquiries, and replies that they are about “several aspects of the operations of his ministry.”
09:54: The arguments continue. Magistrate Peralta once again states that Mizzi has a right not to testify. The board reminds that Brian Tonna and Karl Cini (Nexia BT partners) had chosen not to answer, but had not made any applications. Judge Mallia is far from pleased: “Can I have some quiet to address the witness”, he shouts across the courtroom.
09:52: Mizzi does get his word in edgeways – he notes that the board’s reply to his application had gone straight to the Times of Malta and not to him.
09:51: Magistrate Peralta now verbalises that his client has expressed his “total respect to the board and their integrity” and that he “withdraws any offensive words” which he may have said. Mizzi tries to get a word in edgeways, but Chief Justice Said Pullicino shuts him down.
09:49: Mizzi says he has no doubt on the integrity of the board, but that he cannot say the same of Azzopardi and Comodini Cachia. Madam Justice Lofaro once again goes back to the remark in the statement that the board was being used politically, saying that nobody is using them. Mizzi now refers to certain remarks passed by Madam Justice Lofaro. He clarifies that he meant that his political colleagues – Azzopardi and Comodini Cachia – are trying to use the public inquiry for their own ends.
09:47: The Board is not pleased at all with the application – and its wording – that Mizzi filed yesterday, with Madam Justice Lofaro saying that the implication that the board is being used by the Nationalist Party is “very clearly disrespect to the courts”. Mizzi is now pleading his case with the board – “Out there everyone knows that Azzopardi and Comodini Cachia’s agenda is to politically attack me”, he says.
09:44: Magistrate Peralta explains to the board that they had given Mizzi advice not because he will incriminate himself, but because he has a right to disclosure on other inquiries.
09:43: Judge Michael Mallia starts by asking whether he knows what he wrote in his application yesterday. Mizzi says that he prefers that his lawyers – Magistrate Carol Peralta and Jean Paul Sammut – answers. It is being indicated that the statement is disrespectful to the courts.
09:42: “I swear to tell the truth”, Mizzi says.
09:41: Konrad Mizzi takes the witness stand. He is administered the oath.
09:39: The judges are in the courtroom and we are all set to get underway.
09:37: However, in a statement this morning, the public inquiry’s board – made up of retired Judge Michael Mallia, Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro – said that Mizzi has to testify, although he can choose not to answer any questions which he feels may incriminate himself, or to ask for his testimony to be heard behind closed doors.
09:35 Mizzi – one of the most controversial ministers of the Labour Party’s seven year tenure in government – is currently outside the courtroom. This is a session which may not take too long: Mizzi yesterday said that he will not be testifying before the inquiry because it had been ‘politicised’ by the presence of two PN MPs in the courtroom – those MPs being the Caruana Galizia family lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia.
09:33: Good morning. We are live from the courts as Konrad Mizzi awaits his summon from the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death.