Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla told the Board of Inquiry that when the police were on their way to speak to Yorgen Fenech who at the time was a person of interest, he had received a call from Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta in which he was informed that the meeting with Fenech was off since ‘he was unwell’.
Abdilla confirmed this information in open court, after Dr Jason Azzopardi asked him who did he got the call from when he was on his way to meet Fenech at his Portomaso office. This happened around the same week that the Reuters and Times of Malta revealed the story that 17 Black was owned by Fenech.
In his reply to Azzopardi, Abdilla says he did not know how Valletta knew about Fenech being unwell.
During Friday’s morning sitting it also emerged, that disgraced OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri had sent for Abdilla twice to ask him about the investigation. This information emerged following a question by Dr Azzopardi. Two meetings had happened after “those reports” were leaked. Abdilla told the Board that he had told Schembri to seek legal advice.
Highlights from Friday’s sitting:
- Valletta had told Abdilla to meet Yorgen Fenech at his office rather than calling him for questioning at the Police Headquarters after it was revealed that he owns 17 Black
- The meeting was cancelled after Valletta called Abdilla as he was making his way there and told him that Fenech was sick
- Following leaked reports, disgraced OPM Chief of Staff had sent for Abdilla twice
- Abdilla had told Schembri to seek legal advice after Schembri had called him after reports about him [Schembri] were leaked
- Abdilla was liaison officer to the FIAU when Valletta who was his superior sat on the FIAU board
- There are no sittings next week due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus
The Board of Inquiry is composed Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, who is chairing the inquiry board, and two other board members, Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia, Andrew Borg Cardona and Peter Caruana Galizia are assisting the family of journalist Caruana Galizia.
There will be no sittings held next week due to the current situation with the coronavirus.
When did this happen, Dr Azzopardi asked referring to the car incident.
'During the week, the Times of Malta published the story,' Abdilla replies.
Dr Azzopardi asks whether he had asked Valletta how did he know that Fenech was unwell.
Abdilla replies no.
Abdilla confirms the phone call and says that Valletta told him that Fenech was unwell.
Madam Justice Lofaro asks the witness, 'so the judges were hauled to the police headquarters, and with Fenech you go to him? What did you discuss? Coffee and biscuits?'
'La legge e ugale per tutti. You should have asked him to come to the Police Headquarters,' Lofaro says.
'If am not mistaken, it was Valletta who had suggested this,' Abdilla replies.
'I'd like to testify behind closed doors,' Abdilla replies.
'Did you send for those involved?' the Board asks.
'No,' Abdilla replies. Adding that he would like to testify behind closed doors on 17 Black. Abdilla was involved as an investigator in this.
'I don't issue those orders. The Investigating Officers would issue such orders,' he replies.
'But aren't you their superior?' Madam Justice Lofaro asks.
'I don't interfere with the Police Inspector's work,' Abdilla replies.
Abdilla says that he agrees with Dr Azzopardi's observation that it was low. He says that if one had to look at the new statistics, the previous ones are "dwarfed".
The law allows for an order investigation, an investigation and an attachment, and monitoring.
Dr Azzopardi reads out the statistics from the PQ. In 2017, only 1 order was issued.
'I don't think so,' Abdilla replies.
Abdilla: It should have been May or June. Not sure if it was before or after the election.
Dr Azzopardi: How much time had passed during the two meetings?
Abdilla: After the documents were leaked, maybe it was during a period of fourteen days.
Dr Azzopardi: Was he speaking to you in his name or on behalf of third parties?
Abdilla: in his name.
Dr Azzopardi: After 2015, were you ever in communication with Keith Schembri, including using WhatsApp?
Abdilla: I met him twice. After Egrant. After the two reports were leaked. He had sent for me when I was Assistant Commissioner.
Dr Azzopardi: So Schembri sent for you, offered you a coffee, and what did he ask you?
Abdilla: He asked me what I thought about it. It was a ten-minute meeting. I had told him seek legal advice.
Sadr went home with the suitcase, he says. "We searched the suitcase", he expains.
"That same night?", Madam Justice Lofaro asks.
"The day after", Abdilla replies. He states that there were no legal grounds at the time to arrest Ali Sadr.
'What was the legal basis to do a search?' Abdilla asks likening it to if a police man had to stop a magistrate or a judge taking the acts of a case home to draw up a judgement.
'I wouldn't have any problem showing the police what I have,' Madam Justice Lofaro replies.
Abdilla says that he can't testify on this in open court.
The Board says that Farrugia has already been exempted.
Abdilla: I don't know what you got from the media. But am bound by professional secrecy. I want to testify behind close doors.
The Board of Inquiry exempts the witness from professional secrecy.
'Yes there were. But am bound by secrecy,' Abdilla says.
'We will exempt you from that,' the Board says.
Madam Justice Lofaro tells the witness to be concise and not to waste time.
'I was the police's liaison officer to the FIAU,' Abdilla says.
'Valletta was my direct superior and he was on the board. What was discussed at board level was not discussed with me. Unless he needed some advice,' Abdilla replies.
Dr Comodini Cachia: when you were liaison officer to the FIAU and Valletta was your direct superior, if you opened a file, he would be aware, right?
Abdilla: technically yes.
Profs. Refalo intervenes that such information would prejudice any pending investigations.
"Let's make this clear, the Board is empowered to ask for information and obtain it. Professional secrecy exists for lawyers and for a priest who listens to confession. Otherwise it does not exist here. If anything he will testify behind closed doors,' Judge Mallia replies.
Abdilla is asked whether when Silvio Valletta was his direct superior officer, Valletta was also a member of the FIAU board.
'I think so, yes,' he says.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks Abdilla to clarify the chain of command.
Abdilla explains that Cassar increased the complement.
He adds that Magri understood it better and has increased the human resources at the ECU.
'Was the unit functioning in 2013-2016 with the people employed,' Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino asks.
'We've always suffered due to lack of staff. We used to have these political tinted cases. We were under a lot of pressure,' Abdilla tells the court.
Abdilla says “it was once this trouble [inkwiet] started”.
Asked to specify what trouble he is referring to, Abilla says “the Panama Papers and so on”.
Dr Comodini Cachia keeps asking the witness on how many police inspectors he was in charge of in 2015.
Abdilla says 'I was roughly in charge of nine or ten police inspectors'.
'At one point, we fell under the responsibility of the Assistant Commissioner from the Homicide Squad,' Abdilla continues.
During this period, Abdilla was a police superintendent and would report to Silvio Valletta who was in charge of CID.
He says but this is not the full complement, 'may be we were 25 and 26, I don't know.'
The witness is trying to remember how many police inspectors were stationed to economic crimes and money laundering. He says that in 2016 he was still a police inspector.
'In 2016, there were a lot of changes,' Abdilla replies.
'20 people received diploma training in AML/CFT last year,' Abdilla explains.
Superintendent Ray Aquilina has recently finished his service.
Currently there are two civilians who do analysis. Later this year an analyst will be joining focusing on blockchain.
He was promoted to assistant commissioner in 2018.
Ms Vella takes the witness stand.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi says that he can testify in open court about general information.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia says that they were not aware.
Highlights from the previous court sitting:
- DOI Director Paul Azzopardi says that PRs and Press Coverages are sent to all registered media houses
- Azzopardi also said that PRs and the Press Coverages are also available online
- “Under my watch, PRs are sent concurrently – by email and uploaded online,” said Paul Azzopardi.
- The board of inquiry noticed that although the Police arrested 3 men there was no link between them and the assassinated journalist. Arnaud confirms.
- Keith Arnaud confirms that the Police investigated the possibility that Daphne was assassinated due to her investigations on fuel smuggling
- Arnaud was not comfortable answering questions related to the main possible suspects who could have ordered Daphne’s assassination.