Friday, 28 August 2020, 14:26
Last update: about 1 hour ago
Keith Schembri has not been called in by the police to speak to the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation team, his lawyer Edward Gatt told The Malta Independent on Friday, with the last time Schembri being questioned having been last November.
This newsroom contacted Gatt both on Thursday, prior to Inspector Kurt Zahra’s testimony, and on Friday.
Last Sunday it was reported that Schembri, who was former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s Chief of Staff, had written (through his lawyers) to Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa asking to speak to the investigation team, saying that he wanted to answer any questions they may have and clarify any pending issues.
The Malta Independent contacted Edward Gatt on Thursday morning, prior to Zahra’s testimony, to ask whether Schembri had been called in for questioning, to which Gatt said that Schembri has not been questioned since last November. He said that after the November arrest the police told him they had some minor issues they wanted to clear, to which he understands dealt with some it work that Europol had to send back to Malta. He said that these included chats between Schembri and Fenech, which he says were “minimal.”
Gatt stressed however, that he is not blaming the police, adding that the request was only sent recently.
“We think it is very unfair that Keith Schembri is still considered a person of interest in the investigation, so if there is anything he can contribute to, we are insisting that the police send for him. However, everyone knows that, unfortunately, a lot of things are happening on a quasi-weekly basis and many a time the officials on the homicide squad are busy with something else,” he said, highlighting the recent double murder in Sliema and the attempted murder in Ta’ Qali.
Following this, Inspector Kurt Zahra on Thursday testified in court during the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. Zahra, among other things, testified that when the police asked Yorgen Fenech (the man accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia) how the plan to assassinate the journalist had started, he had told them that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had wanted to get rid of the journalist. “Fenech said that Schembri had also paid up to €80,000 to [middleman Melvin] Theuma to fund the murder,” Zahra testified.
Contacted again on Friday, after inspector Zahra’s testimony, Gatt confirmed that Schembri had not been called in. Asked about Zahra’s testimony in court yesterday, Gatt said: “We had heard about that version way back in November, when Fenech released his statement to the police. When inspector Arnaud had testified this version was already made public. Inspector Zahra testified yesterday and basically repeated what was already said by Fenech. As Schembri’s lawyers we are not very perplexed as we have been hearing this since November.”
Asked whether he believes Zahra’s testimony made it more urgent for Schembri to be questioned by the police, he said that it is “not an issue of urgency as we know what other people alleged against our client. We are contesting it. We strongly believe that Schembri should not be kept as a person of interest and if there is anything that the police want to iron out then they should send for him,” he said.
Keith Schembri was arrested twice in November of last year and was interrogated at the police headquarters but was later released without charge. His name cropped up several times during the court proceedings, including when he was linked to the phantom government job given to pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma, when the same Theuma said he believed Schembri and Fenech were plotting to kill him, and when he famously lost the mobile phone Fenech had called him on before trying to flee. Schembri has also testified in the case, admitting that he was close with Fenech but denying that he was leaking information from the investigation. Schembri has also testified in court during the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, making a number of denials.