Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma had been told that an individual involved in freemasonry had to pay Vince Muscat €100,000 for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Theuma was testifying on Tuesday in the compilation of evidence against alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech.
The court continued hearing recordings of conversations Theuma had with Fenech’s business associate Johann Cremona.
Expanding on the recordings, Theuma testified that an individual, who cannot be identified on court order, had to hand over €100,000 to Muscat, known as il-Koħħu. The money purportedly came from freemasons and was payment for Caruana Galizia’s murder.
However, the money was never delivered because Muscat was eventually arrested and charged with Caruana Galizia’s murder along with brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio.
Earlier this year, Muscat admitted to the murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a plea bargain agreement.
Theuma insisted in court he had no first-hand knowledge of this transaction and only got to know about it through Cremona.
The implication is that there may have been other people who paid to have Caruana Galizia murdered, apart from Fenech, who Theuma has always identified as the sole mastermind known to him.
“Johann told me that [Omissis] was appointed by the freemasons to take €100,000 to Koħħu,” Theuma told the court.
Theuma added that Cremona had claimed that [Omissis] caused him a lot of damage by identifying Theuma and speaking to Europol and the Caruana Galizia family.
In another recording heard in court, Theuma claimed that [Omissis] was with Cardona, understood to be former economy minister Chris Cardona.
Theuma specified in court that [Omississ] was close to Cardona and il-Koħħu had spilt the beans to “protect those who had commissioned him”.
The witness also said that Cremona had told him to pin the murder on Cardona, even though he [Theuma] did not know the former minister and people close to him.
Theuma also testified how Fenech was “worse off than him” after the murder and turned to cocaine for solace.
In one of the recorded conversations, Theuma told Cremona that Fenech would not bring Caruana Galizia back by resorting to “coke”.
Theuma said that a reference in the recording to a “Fredu”, was Fenech telling him to get Alfred Degiorgio to get on with the murder.
Towards the end of the sitting, Theuma was admonished by the magistrate for the confusing testimony he was giving at times. Magistrate Rachel Montebello warned him that perjury was a crime.
Earlier, an expert from Europol testified on the procedure used to extract the data from Fenech’s mobile phones confiscated by the police.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist, died in a car bomb explosion outside her home in Bidnija in October 2017.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello is presiding.
Superintendent Keith Arnaud and Inspector Kurt Zahra are prosecuting, aided by Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia.
Fenech’s defence lawyers are Marion Camilleri, Charles Mercieca and Gianluca Caruana Curran.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family. Lawyers Kathleen Calleja Grima and Matthew Brincat are assisting Theuma.
15:28 The court puts the case off for 31 May at 10:00am.
15:28 AG lawyer George Camilleri for the prosecution dictates a note of his own. Had the accused not made the recordings his testimony would have been far less detailed, he says.
15:27 The court says that if the parties want to make observations of facts, they are free to do so at any juncture, but “ultimately it is a waste of time for this court”.
15:27 Arnaud argues that at the end of the day the inconsistencies being raised do not affect the important factors of the incidents he spoke about. “Now we are adding meat to the principal story,” he says.
15:16 Mercieca points out that there were at least four inconsistencies in Theuma’s testimony today.
15:13 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca raises a point. He says there are certain inaccuracies in transcriptions.
15:10 The court suspends Theuma’s testimony. He will continue another time.
15:01 The witness says that Fenech was snorting cocaine because of his troubles. Theuma says he was referring to Daphne Caruana Galizia in a recording in which he is heard saying: ‘What is he [Yorgen] going to do? Bring her back?’
14:59 Theuma says that had Yorgen Fenech, Keith Schembri and others not worked on solving the issues, he would long have been arrested.
14:51 Theuma says that Johann Cremona would tell him that he’d be arrested and then that he wouldn’t. “He’d change his version. At the end of the day, I was still arrested,” Theuma testifies.
14:49 Theuma: “Never. Today I wish I had asked some questions.”
14:49 Arnaud: “Had you never discussed your arrest? Ever asked questions?”
14:43 Theuma: “I had the recordings.”
14:43 Arnaud: “You said [in the recording] that you had ‘the keys in hand’. What were you referring to?”
14:42 Theuma: “It was from what Johann had told me before. It was from what Johann had said. I know nothing more about the €100,000.”
14:42 Arnaud: “Then Johann tells you that the agreement was €100,000 and you seem to be in disbelief, remarking they’d pin it on [Omississ]. Why such a reaction?”
14:41 Theuma: “Because Johann Cremona had told me about it before.”
14:41 Arnaud asks about the €100,000 allegedly not passed on by [Omississ]. “How did you reach this conclusion?”
14:38 Theuma is brought back into the courtroom.
14:38 The magistrate, after hearing the defence and prosecution about the alleged gestures, warns all the parties that this behaviour is prohibited and disrespectful. She makes it clear that the court will not tolerate another gesture or comment of this nature, especially not during the testimony of the witness.
14:37 Defence lawyer Marion Camilleri: “It is clear that the witness is confusing his testimony. It is not easy for the defence to come here and have the witness, who has a pardon, change his version once, twice, three times.”
14:35 Arnaud says the defence were acting up in the presence of the witness. Mercieca responds that the witness wasn’t confused because of the defence.
14:35 Magistrate: “That comment was out of place. You were already told that you will be allowed to reply. Basic manners.”
14:34 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca makes another observation but adds cheekily: “If we can reply, if we have a right to do so…”
14:32 Magistrate: “The court doesn’t have eyes at the back of its head and can’t tell off the defence if it hasn’t seen it happen, but if it does…”
14:32 Arnaud: “That you have the defence either laughing or whispering whilst the witness is testifying is unacceptable.”
14:31 The prosecution and defence trade barbs loudly and the court sends the witness out to dress down the lawyers. “Basic courtesy,” says the magistrate.
14:31 Theuma: “I know, I’m testifying under oath. I didn’t know about it. I just kept the conversation going…”
14:30 Magistrate: “The court will not remind you repeatedly of your duty to testify about the case, here you finished his sentence. Why did you say those words?”
14:30 Theuma: “No, I didn’t know.”
14:30 Magistrate: “You seem to have been aware, try and remember.”
14:29 Theuma: “But I just continued with the conversation.”
14:29 Arnaud: “You finished off his sentence…”
14:29 Theuma: “No.”
14:29 Magistrate: “Were you aware that [Omississ] had not paid il-Koħħu?”
14:25 The court says “Mr Theuma, you are mixing things up (Sur Theuma, qed tħawwad).”
14:23 “I played along with him,” he protests.
14:22 The recording shows it is not a question. “I continued with him [Johann]… not because I knew… I didn’t know,” Theuma says. The court warns him again about his oath.
14:20 There is a disagreement between the parties in court on whether Theuma was asking a question or making a statement. The recording is played again.
14:20 Theuma: “Johann had told me that two people had gone to threaten [Omississ]. [Omississ] had not managed to pass them on [the money from freemasonry for the murder] before the arrests.”
14:13 Theuma says he is tired. The court asks to finish this section of the recording.
14:13 Arnaud continues asking about the transcript. “You said ‘I will not accept’. What were you going to do?”
14:11 Theuma: “Yes… We had gone for dinner together.”
14:11 Magistrate: “Did you know [Omississ]?”
14:11 He asks since Theuma could be heard in the recordings replying with the word ‘exactly’.
14:10 Arnaud: “Why are you agreeing with him? Did you get the information from somewhere else?”
14:10 Theuma: “[Omississ].”
14:09 Arnaud: “When you spoke about freemasonry, and Cremona tells you ‘they took it against the government and the Opposition’, who is he referring to?”
14:09 Theuma says he told him what everybody knew at that point. However, he denies any inside knowledge of the Europol angle. “I told him I got the information from the commissioner. But it wasn’t true. I bluffed but all of Malta knew that Europol were assisting the police. Cremona had told me that Europol allegedly wanted to take Fenech’s phone from this place in the UK…” Theuma says.
14:07 The magistrate interjects, reading out from the transcript: ‘There was also the Europol team involved.’
14:07 The court queries him on this odd procedure. After going back and forth, Theuma resorts to pity: “I was going through a lot, drinking, pills, everyday gambling… At the last meeting (at Level 21), Yorgen Fenech told me this was coming from the commissioner and I told him I never spoke to the commissioner. I said: ‘mhux tgħid lil Keith Schembri?’. It was a Monday… Yorgen Fenech gave me 20k and he said that he had 6k left to give to the police. He told me that I would be picked up by the police and I said ‘why don’t you speak to the commissioner’ and he said ‘I never spoke to the commissioner’ but Kenneth Camilleri had more power than the police commissioner.”
14:00 Theuma explains that he told Johann that he [Theuma] was told by the police commissioner that he was being investigated for five different crimes. Theuma says he did this to see if Cremona was telling the truth about the money laundering charge being the only one Theuma was wanted for.
13:57 Arnaud asks about a part in the transcripts in which Theuma is heard speaking of ‘5 sections’ in relation to the police case against him. It seems like Theuma was telling Cremona that police were after him on various counts, including money laundering and murder.
13:51 Theuma says that he told Cremona that Fenech was worse off because he had turned to cocaine [for solace]. “Yorgen and Johann told me that I would be picked up by the police, not over the murder, but over money laundering,” Theuma adds.
13:49 Theuma: “That was Yorgen Fenech telling me to instruct Alfred Degiorgio to get on with the murder.”
13:49 Arnaud: “Who is Fredu?”
13:48 Arnaud quotes from the transcript: ‘If he is not worse off than me he would not have started taking coke. He would tell me: Go and tell Fredu, go and tell Fredu, to kill her, to kill her…’
13:46 Theuma: “Because I knew. It was after the murder and sometime after they were saying Koħħu was talking.”
13:45 Arnaud: “On page 2, you say ‘Yorgen qiegħed agħar minni (Yorgen is worse off than me)’. How did you know?”
13:44 Theuma: “I don’t know, I didn’t ask.”
13:44 Arnaud: “How do you know about this?”
13:44 Theuma: “Because [Omississ] paid il-Koħħu for Caruana Galizia’s murder.”
13:44 Arnaud: “You say: ‘You leave, he enters’. What does this mean?”
13:43 Theuma: “I don’t know.”
13:43 Arnaud: “[Omississ] was supposed to ‘send a letter of resignation from the case’ in that period. You’re talking about [Omississ] and you are in disbelief. Why?”
13:39 The recording stops. Arnaud asks where the recording was taken and when. “Qormi in 2019,” Theuma replies.
13:38 Our court reporter tells us that the court is listening to a long recording. A dog suddenly scream-barks in the recording and everyone in the courtroom jumps.
13:22 A recording is played. Theuma, confirms it is him and Cremona.
13:16 Fenech is escorted back into the courtroom. The magistrate also enters and the sitting begins.
12:54 The sitting is temporarily suspended until 1pm.
12:53 Arnaud asks why the recording stops suddenly. Theuma says that he was about to get caught recording the conversation. The phone was not inside his sock at the time, he says.
12:53 Theuma: “Yes.”
12:52 Magistrate: “What does Johann have to do with the tapping? How did he know. Where you aware your phone was being tapped when you mentioned Fenech’s name?”
12:52 Theuma: “Both Johann and Fenech told me that my phone was tapped.”
12:52 Magistrate: “Johann had mentioned your phone being tapped. How is he telling you this?”
12:51 Theuma says that had he not mentioned Yorgen Fenech there would not be a presidential pardon.
12:44 “I don’t know,” replies the witness, raising his arms.
12:44 “Johann told me that he had not yet mentioned me with Raymond Aquilina,” Theuma says. Arnaud asks: “So, where did the information come from?”
12:37 The court is telling him off. “You must say everything, not hold on to things just in case you are pressed. You are not following your oath, you know the consequences of this. Next time the court will order your arrest and you will be held for 24 hours to help you remember.
“If the court finds out that it is not true that you did ask, when you said you didn’t, that is a crime and you will be charged with perjury and that has a punishment as harsh as that of the crime you are trying to cover for.”
12:36 Theuma: “No.”
12:36 Magistrate: “Are there any others?”
12:35 Theuma says former inspector Raymond Aquilina and former OPM security detail Kenneth Camilleri, would get the information from Keith Schembri.
12:34 Theuma: “I don’t know [from where Johann would get the information]. There were many people.”
12:33 Theuma asks for time to remember. The court says he had plenty of time to remember.
12:32 The court asks Theuma who would provide him with information.
12:31 Arnaud asks about money laundering and how it fitted in with Koħħu and the murder. “I was told I’d be brought in [arrested] on the excuse of money laundering and they would then ask about the murder,” Theuma says.
12:30 Theuma says he would bluff about the [police] commissioner.
12:28 Theuma says that Cremona had told him that there was a video camera outside Mario Degiorgio’s house and it had the power to capture the words from inside.
12:27 Arnaud reads out another excerpt from the transcripts. “Cremona was telling you ‘hasn’t the commissioner spoken to Edwin?’ There is even Johann telling you, ‘how did you obtain this information?'”
12:20 Theuma says Johann Cremona had spoken about these two before and he was even shown a photo of one of them.
12:18 The magistrate asks if this was the first time he had been told about the other two people by Johann Cremona. It was not, he says. “Cardona was sometimes mentioned and others too,” Theuma replies.
12:16 In the recording, Theuma said: ‘[Omississ] is with Cardona’. In court, Theuma specifies that [Omississ] was close to Cardona and il-Koħħu had spilt the beans to “protect those who had commissioned him”.
12:13 The names of these people were not revealed to him, he says.
12:12 Theuma continues testifying. “The threats were about family. Even [Omississ] was threatened. Johann appointed two people to do this, so they would not reveal my name.”
12:10 Arnaud refers to the transcript where Theuma says ‘he is under threat at the moment’. However, there appears to be a problem with the transcript since the defence does not have this page, it seems.
12:09 Theuma says that Johann Cremona had told him that [Omississ] had done a lot of damage to him, by “going to the family, Europol and others, divulging my identity and number”. Theuma tells the court that Cremona told him that Times of Malta had his [Theuma’s] name. “But the story was about a businessman not me,” he says.
12:05 Theuma: “I remember that the Times had not got it like that, that day but that the middleman was someone involved in gaming. Johann told me that Omississ was appointed by the freemasons to take €100,000 to Koħħu.”
12:02 Theuma: “Cremona had told me: ‘Try and remember, that Degiorgios told you to pin the murder on Cardona’. I had told him it was not true. Yorgen [Fenech] and Mario Degiorgio (a brother to Alfred and George Degiorgio), had mentioned Cardona a couple of times, but I didn’t know Cardona or anyone close to him. Apart from what’s in the recordings, Cremona always said Cardona was involved.”
12:00 Theuma: “Johann told me to say that Cardona put me up to testify when it was absolutely not true… under oath, I don’t know Cardona or his friends.”
11:58 The court explains to Theuma that he is to give the context and explain the conversation using the knowledge he had at the time as well as any relevant information he acquired later.
11:57 Mercieca pipes up and he is found in contempt of court. He is warned that he will be expelled from the hall if he does it again. Mercieca is fined €150. He was arguing that he hoped the witness wasn’t doing the same thing in his previous testimony.
11:56 The court irritably points out to the witness that he had previously said that he didn’t know who ‘they’ were.
11:55 Theuma: “I’m referring to [unclear], but later he said the two others are Cardona’s…”
11:55 Arnaud: “Johann tells you there are two others and you said ‘mela (of course)’.”
11:54 Theuma: “I was told that the police would pick me up on money laundering using the murder as an excuse. However, if il-Koħħu had to drop the allegations against me, I wouldn’t be arrested.”
11:53 Arnaud goes on with the questioning.
11:52 Mercieca is instructed to make his observations after the witness finishes testifying. “Read the law,” the magistrate says.
11:51 The court admonishes defence lawyer Charles Mercieca for commenting. “Sit down and don’t interrupt again,” the magistrate tells him. The court says the comments are contemptuous and would take steps against him for contempt of court if he persists.
11:50 Theuma: “No, no, no!”
11:50 Magistrate: “So, there was someone else feeding you the same information?”
11:50 Theuma: “I was agreeing with Cremona.”
11:49 Magistrate: “Are you saying you gave the impression that you knew what he was saying?”
11:49 Theuma says he didn’t know what Cremona was referring to when he said Koħħu would not be able to testify but had pretended to go along with him.
11:47 Theuma says that he was assured he would not be arrested and would open up with Cremona as he was going through a difficult time.
11:46 Theuma explains if Vince Muscat had to retract the information he had given to the police, the Maltese police would have to inform their foreign counterparts that Muscat was wrong.
11:45 Arnaud reads from the transcript: ‘The inspector has to write overseas and tell them that the police were mistaken.’ Arnaud paraphrases and asks about this statement.
11:44 Theuma adds that Cremona had said one of the names is ‘Cardona’. However, he insists that he doesn’t know who Cremona was referring to.
11:43 Theuma: “I didn’t. He said he ‘d tell me one day.”
11:43 The court interjects: “Cremona had told you ‘there are two others like you’. Had you asked who they were?”
11:42 Theuma: “I wouldn’t believe that he is talking. I never spoke to him [Vince Muscat] but only to Alfred Degiorgio. But after being told it many times you have to get it in your head. I would always say that Vince il-Koħħu could not reveal [me]… but so I was told so many times, one time even his brother told me.”
11:41 “Ċensu is the problem,” Arnaud reads from the transcript. “Ċensu is Koħħu,” clarifies Theuma.
11:39 “It was a paper with typed out words… He told me that Koħħu had not accepted 30 years and that he had agreed to take 20 years and reveal me. The paper was signed by the AG and Arnaud,” the witness says. He adds that Johann [Cremona] got someone to threaten him.
11:38 Theuma is speaking about a typed-out document he had been shown. “J’alla ma kienetx ġiet mill-uffiċċju ta’ Omississ,” he says. The witness is not sure about this though.
11:27 The recording stops. Arnaud asks Theuma about it. Theuma’s microphone is off or too far away to pick up his reply. The microphone is moved closer. Theuma says the conversation we just heard was not long before his arrest. “99% it was summer 2019,” he says.
11:26 Our court reporter tells us that the best way he can describe the sound of the recordings is like “hearing a conversation in a kitchen from inside the metal sink”. As soon as they start talking over each other or raising their voices it becomes just noise. The recordings were made by Melvin Theuma using a mobile phone, which means that all background noise was picked up along with the muffled conversations.
11:20 The recording plays on and the only clearly discernible parts of it are the swearwords. The voices are speaking about Koħħu (Vince Muscat). ‘Ostja m’aċċettax mill-ewwel…,’ can be heard in the recording.
11:11 The parties have written transcripts to follow the recordings from, while the press has none. This makes it harder to understand and report what is being said.
11:08 There is a problem with the sound. The defence protests because it’s hearing nothing.
11:03 Theuma recognises the voices in the recording. One is himself, the other is Johann Cremona. Cremona was a business associate of Yorgen Fenech.
11:02 The magistrate indicates several names of individuals that cannot be reported by the media.
10:58 A recording is played.
10:56 Theuma sits down on a chair in front of the witness box.
10:55 The court is thrashing out what will happen next for today with the parties. Pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma takes the stand. It seems that we will be hearing more recordings.
10:51 “Donatas Mazenga,” says the witness. The defence informs the court that it will suspend her cross examination for another day.
10:48 Defence lawyer Charles Mercieca asks the witness to identify her line manager – the person who gave the instruction to stop the process.
10:48 Arnaud says that while it is true that he had only informed the defence a short while ago that Toma would be testifying today he says that the name of the witness had been known to the defence since November 2020. The court upholds the request and reserves the defence’s right for cross-examination.
10:46 Lawyer Charles Mercieca says he had been informed that the Europol representative would testify less than 24 hours ago. As a consequence, the defence could not prepare a cross-examination, he tells the court. The defence reserves the cross-examination for a future sitting.
10:44 Toma says she had started work on extracting data from the SIM card, but was later instructed to stop. “It was between 23 and 26 October 2020,” she says.
10:43 She explains that she did the same with a second device, an Iphone XS with a SIM card. “I started with the partial extractions and was trying to launch the cracking process but this model was not supported by our forensic tool at the time. It was kept alive. Later we received the new version of the forensic tool,” Toma says.
10:34 Toma says she then handed the device over to her colleague Giuseppe Totaro. Arnaud asks where the items were kept during that time. “They were always in the Faraday room,” she says.
10:32 She says her line manager ordered her to do this.
10:32 Toma: “When we find the password, we might not be able to extract all the data. The exhibit was examined in a Faraday room, a room where no radio or mobile signals enter. It was placed on charge to keep it alive. I found the password on 9 January 2020. I was trying to make the full extraction and then I was told to stop and hand over to another colleague.”
10:28 Partial extraction is what is recoverable before the device is unlocked.
10:28 Toma: “Firstly I did partial extractions, then the unlocking process, found the passcode of one of the exhibits, then I started to do the full extractions but at one point they told me to stop and hand over the process to another colleague.”
10:27 Arnaud asks her about the signatures on the documents. They are hers and Sami’s. Sami is the other Europol expert who testified a while back. “I was instructed by my line manager to receive the exhibits and immediately start the forensic examination,” she says.
10:25 She is now giving the court the exhibit numbers. This is to confirm that they are talking about the same devices.
10:23 She says she was instructed to examine some exhibits in 2019 received at the Hague, Europol HQ. The items were handed over to her by a Europol expert. She received two phones with SIM cards.
10:23 Yulia Toma takes the stand. She is a digital forensic expert with 25 years’ experience working at Europol.
10:22 Magistrate: “This is not acceptable. If you want to present a note, the Police Commissioner should write one and it should be exhibited accordingly.”
10:22 The defence want to see the note but the court is refusing the request.
10:20 Magistrate Montebello emerges and the sitting begins. Superintendent Arnaud says he was directed to present a note from Europol before a Europol witness takes the stand. The court says it should have been presented in the registry, but takes a look at it. She says the document is not a note but a letter. “So, Europol is dictating to the court what it can and cannot ask the witness,” she observes after reading it.
10:12 Security is tight, as always.
10:12 Magistrate Rachel Montebello is in her chambers. Yorgen Fenech is in the dock and chatting with his lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Charles Mercieca.
10:09 Good morning.