Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri is expected to take the witness stand on Monday morning. Schembri will be testifying in criminal proceedings against his long time friend and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech. Fenech stands accused of being an accomplice in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Schembri took to social media ahead of Monday’s sitting saying that “it’s time for the truth to come out”. The last time Schembri was in court, he was hauled in the courtroom after Judge Lawrence Mintoff issued an arrest warrant when he failed to appear in court.
While testifying on 18 December 2019, before Judge Lawrence Mintoff in a constitutional case instituted by Fenech to remove Chief Inspector Keith Arnaud from the murder investigation, Schembri had said that he had help with the case by bringing in the FBI. Lovin Malta reported that the police refused to divulge whether Schembri was under investigation for these claims made under oath after former Police Chief Lawrence Cutajar had said that the FBI were brought in by the inspectors who were on the crime site. The same online news portal had revealed that the request was made by Superintendent George Cremona, who is the Head of the Counter-Terrorism Unit and Criminal Intelligence Unit.
The disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff’s name surfaced many times during the compilation of evidence. State witness Melvin Theuma who was granted immunity from prosecution in return of the truth testified under oath that he had met Schembri at Castille where he was offered a tour and an espresso before being told to go to the Social Solidarity Ministry for a job. Theuma never turned up at his job despite being paid. The phantom job is now also subject of an investigation.
The story so far…
Fenech was arrested and subsequently arraigned in court on 30 November. The compilation of evidence against Fenech is being heard before Magistrate Rachel Montebello after Magistrate Nadine Lia recused herself from the criminal proceedings.
The tycoon and former Electrogas director had a conversation over the phone which last some 24 minutes with Schembri before he tried to flee Malta on his private yacht. In a previous court sitting, Schembri had testified that Fenech had messaged him asking whether someone was after him. He had told the court, that he replied in the negative and then got a call from Fenech.
Fenech has claimed that he was fed information on the investigation from Schembri himself and former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta. The details included the arrest of the three suspected hitmen, a potential pardon to murder suspect Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu), and that Chris Cardona’s phone number was allegedly saved on a burner phone retrieve from the seabed close to the potato shed in Marsa.
While testifying in court, Police Inspector and chief prosecutor Keith Arnaud had told the court of the photo Theuma took with Schembri at Castille. In the secret recordings made by Theuma, Schembri’s name can be heard a number of times.
Arnaud had told the court that both Schembri and disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat were made aware of the secret recordings and Fenech’s potential involvement. Schembri however, did not inform any of the investigators of his close friendship with Fenech.
Doctor turned ‘postman’
Yorgen Fenech had allegedly received two letters from Schembri while under arrest through their mutual doctor Adrian Vella. Fenech had received instructions to pin the murder on former Economy Minister Chris Cardona.
Vella had told the police that Schembri had given him the letter and instructed him to pass it on to Fenech. Schembri denied that this was the case in court.
Schembri’s lost mobile phone
During the constitutional proceedings instituted by Fenech in a bid to remove Arnaud from the investigation, the Chief Police Inspector had told the court that Schembri’s phone was not found. Schembri had told the police that he had lost. The police had gathered all electronic equipment including his children’s laptops.
Schembri had refused to handover his passwords when requested by the police investigating the case. Arnaud had said that Schembri cited sensitive work information.
Theuma’s phantom job
Schembri resigned as Chief of Staff on 26 November 2019. Theuma had testified in court saying that he was given a phantom job shortly after he arranged the price to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Theuma was given a government job. Government records show that Theuma was employed as a driver at the Housing Maintenance Embellishment Co. Ltd, which falls under the responsibility of the Family Minister, which Michael Farrugia was responsible for at the time.
Theuma told the court that he never showed up for the job and did not even know what it entailed.