A year’s worth of data detailing Keith Schembri’s movements, phonebook contents, incoming and outgoing calls and SMSs, as well as his GPS data usage, is available to the local service provider, sources told The Malta Independent on Sunday.
This newsroom had reported that local service providers may have the data necessary to locate Schembri’s missing phone.
The former OPM chief of staff had told investigators that he had lost the phone he had used to communicate with Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, before the latter tried to flee the Maltese Islands.
Schembri was arrested for the first time on Tuesday morning, on 26 November, following Fenech’s claim that Schembri had passed on a note to him while he (Fenech) had been arrested, which was then corroborated by Fenech’s doctor, Adrian Vella. Fenech was arrested on 20 November.
Schembri’s resignation came on the same day he was arrested
The public was informed of Schembri’s resignation by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on the day Schembri was arrested. Muscat had said, “I don’t know whether he is being questioned or what he is being questioned about.”
It was later confirmed that Schembri’s mobile phone went off the network a few hours before his arrest, early on Tuesday morning. It was last pinged in Mellieha, Schembri’s hometown, at around 5am, being used for internet data. The last call was made the night before.
He was taken in for questioning at 6.30am about the claim that the doctor was covertly passing on messages from Schembri to Fenech, urging him to keep quiet. The night before his arrest, Schembri held a late-night meeting with Muscat.
Not enough concrete evidence
Schembri was, however, released and only subsequently questioned by the police concerning middleman Melvin Theuma’s phantom job. Theuma was granted immunity to reveal details of the plot to kill Caruana Galizia. Schembri still appears to be a person of interest to the police, and their investigation into his possible role in the case is still ongoing. Not enough evidence, however, has as yet been concretely formulated to lead to his re-arrest.
Service providers are required to keep information on their clients for only one year, due to data protection laws. A SIM card is generally registered to a particular person and through the SIM card, which is placed in a physical mobile phone, the service providers can know the particular phone it is in, through what is known as the IMEI number.
The police are now in possession of all the data kept by the services providers on Schembri, as well as his mobile phone IMEI number.
This same number registered to Schembri was back on the grid on Monday 13 January, around the time Robert Abela was sworn in as Prime Minister. It seems he used a new mobile phone and a new SIM card, attached to his old Vodafone number.
Before their arrest, Schembri communicated with Fenech using the secure messaging platform Signal, known for its strong encryption and the fact that it ensures that the contents of the chat remain private, and unable to be read by anyone else.
On 13 January, Signal users received a notification that Schembri’s old number had been newly registered on the secure platform. This indicates that Schembri likely unregistered or deleted his Signal account before ‘losing’ his mobile.
During testimony in court, Fenech had said that Schembri and he had been friends since younger days, going abroad together, meeting up even twice a week and going to each other’s homes to cook. “Our relationship was brotherly,” Fenech had said.
One of the last calls made by Fenech before he sailed out of Portomaso marina in a failed escape attempt, followed by his arrest, was to Schembri.
Just this week in court, snippets of recordings taken by middleman Melvin Theuma between him and Fenech were heard. Theuma was heard saying that “Keith told me this”, referring to a fact that was revealed in a previous sitting, that Theuma was informed that the Degiorgio brothers and Vincent Muscat, the three men accused of the journalist’s murder, would get bail against a deposit of one million euro each.
Having heard in the recordings that Theuma said that he got this information from Schembri, Inspector on the case, Keith Arnaud asked Theuma, who was testifying during the recordings, to explain.
Theuma testified that it was not true that Schembri had told him that bail would be granted. “Kenneth told me this, not Keith,” Theuma insisted, adding that “I just associated Kenneth with Keith. I was sure of his involvement that I didn’t even bother to ask.”
The Kenneth was later identified as Kenneth Camilleri who had worked as part of then Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat’s security detail, and as a Transport Malta official. He was later suspended by Transport Malta.