Caruana Galizia assassination: Middleman feared that Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri would pin murder on him

In recorded conversations between Yorgen Fenech and Melvin Theuma, the former spoke of soliciting Keith Schembri’s help to secure bail for three men accused with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder

Businessman Yorgen Fenech
Businessman Yorgen Fenech

Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, had feared being blamed for the assassination in a plan hatched by Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri.

Testifying in the first session of the compilation of evidence against Fenech, the middleman spoke of a visit he had received from a “Kenneth from Castille”, a man he believed was sent by the prime minister’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Theuma told the court that Kenneth had asked him to inform the three men who were accused of the murder that they would be granted bail and receive €1 million each.

But this Kenneth also accused Theuma of being the mastermind behind the assassination. The Kenneth being mentioned here is a certain Kenneth Camilleri, who at one point worked as a security detail with the Prime Minister and was then employed with Transport Malta.

Camilleri is also close to Schembri. Theuma has been given a presidential pardon to tell all about the murder. Appearing in front of Magistrate Rachel Montebello, Theuma said that Kenneth had showed him three mobile phone numbers, one of which was his old number.

“Kenneth accused me of being the masterming. I told him that Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind… I mentioned Yorgen Fenech by name because I felt the betrayal had begun and they were trying to pin the murder on me,” Theuma said.

The middleman said that it was Fenech who mentioned Keith Schembri and no one else. “Yorgen had told me that ‘Keith sent Kenneth because of me... the million-euro bail deal should never have been mentioned to you’,” Theuma told the court. Schembri had been mentioned in a letter Theuma had penned as an insurance of sorts, should he be eliminated.

In court, Theuma said that he put Schembri’s name on the paper because he was worried that he would arrange for him to be jailed. “I cannot say under oath that Keith ever paid me for the murder... for the rest of it he has nothing to do with anything,” Theuma said, implying that Schembri’s involvement may have come after the murder as a favour to his close friend Yorgen Fenech.

In one of the recorded conversation between Fenech and Theuma, the former is understood to have said that Keith Schembri went cold when he informed him of what happened. When asked why he had gone to Yorgen Fenech with recordings of conversations and photos, Theuma said that he was scared that Fenech and Schembri were planning to kill him. “Like he murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia he could murder me,” Theuma said, adding the recordings were intended to give Fenech a signal that even if he was eliminated the information would still come out.

Theuma testified how the three men accused of the murder did not know that Fenech was the mastermind and feared they would take it out on him. Fenech stands accused of being the mastermind behind Caruana Galizia’s murder. He had asked Theuma to get in touch with the Degiorgio brothers sometime in the first months of 2017 because he wanted to kill Caruana Galizia.

Theuma told the court that initially Yorgen said the journalist was going to publish information about his uncle, Ray Fenech and that is why he wanted to eliminate her. But Theuma later understood that Yorgen was worried because the information would concern him and not his uncle. The assassination plan was briefly interrupted when the election was called but on the Sunday when the election result was out, Fenech asked Theuma to continue with the plans.

Two weeks later, Fenech handed Theuma a brown envelope with €150,000 inside, which was the price asked by the executors. Theuma testified that Fenech was being kept abreast of progress in the murder investigation. The businessman had been tipped off about the massive police raid on the potato shed in Marsa in December 2017 and also knew that Vince Muscat, one of the accused, was talking to the police. Earlier in the sitting, Inspector Keith Arnaud testified at how the police painstakingly arrived at the mastermind.

Arnaud said the police had continued monitoring the behaviour of the three accused in prison and managed to trace a link with Melvin Theuma, who provided them with money for their legal expenses and bail attempts. Arnaud said Theuma was arrested last month after a raid to clamp down on clandestine lotteries and money laundering. The police found a sealed plastic box in Theuma’s possession, which contained pen drives with voice recordings, a colour photo of him standing next to Keith Schembri and a letter.

It was after this arrest that Theuma decided to spill the beans on condition he was given a presidential pardon. Caruana Galizia was murdered on 16 October 2017 in a powerful car bomb explosion just after she left her house in Bidnija. What is a compilation of evidence? The compilation of evidence is a pre-trial evidence gathering exercise which often spans months, if not years.

Every witness and piece of evidence presented before the court during this stage of proceedings can be disclosed to jurors in an eventual trial. But before that, the compiling magistrate must decree that there is sufficient prima facie evidence for a bill of indictment to be issued.

Fenech stands accused of promoting, organising or financing a group with the intention of carrying out a criminal offence, actively participating in this criminal organisation by giving information, material means or the recruitment of new members whilst aware of the purpose of this organisation, complicity in the wilful homicide of Daphne Caruana Galizia, conspiracy to commit a crime in Malta punishable by imprisonment and complicity in causing an explosion which caused Caruana Galizia’s death.

If convicted by a jury on the complicity in homicide charge, he faces a possible life sentence. Who are the courtroom players? Yorgen Fenech is being represented by lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri. The prosecution is being led by police inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra. They are being assisted by deputy attorney general Philip Galea Farrugia. Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Andrew Borg Cardona have appeared for the Caruana Galizia family as an interested party in the case. The case is presided by Magistrate Rachel Montebello.

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