Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Police Inspector Kurt Zahra told the court that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech knew that the general election would happen earlier back in December 2016. The SIM cards used by the three suspected hitmen on their burner phones were activated in December 2016, the witness told the court.
Zahra, former Acting Police Commissioner Carmelo Magri and Manoel Theater chairman Dr Michael Grech testified before the board of inquiry on Wednesday morning.
- Police Inspector Kurt Zahra told the Board of Inquiry that the murder probe “has widened”
- The Police Economic Crimes Unit only joined the murder probe after Melvin Theuma’s involvement was flagged
- Zahra told the Board that murder suspect Yorgen Fenech knew by December 2016 about that the general election would be held next year
- Footage from 16 October 2017 contradicts claims made by disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri under oath who said that he was with then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat when they were informed about Caruana Galizia’s assassination
- Before Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed, Mario Philip Azzopardi had submitted a script of a drama play titled Min qatel lil Daphne? to be considered by the Manoel Theatre board which was refused
The public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with determining whether the state did all it could to prevent the assassination.
The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.
Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia, Jason Azzopardi, Eve Borg Costanzi, and Peter Caruana Galizia, assisted the Caruana Galizia family.
The next sitting is on Friday at 9.30am.
"Yes. From December 2016," Zahra says.
The three sim cards used in the burner phones by the three hitmen, were bought at the end of 2016, Zahra says, in reply to a question by Dr Azzopardi on the sim cards used.
"A lot of the information wouldn't be just the police. There would be AFM, court experts, police. But the circle was very small. We would know on a "need to know basis"."
He explains that the need to know approach was adopted because of the various interests in the investigation.
"It was very ugly to find out about the leaks. For example at the potato shed raid. I remember on the boat, thinking that we need to get to ashore as quickly as possible because of the risk of explosives and then seeing this… fear of leaks, materialise," the witness says.
The investigation is being conducted by the Economic Crimes Unit. The investigative team at present were not involved until the arraignment of the three suspected hitmen, Zahra says.
The task forces meetings are attended by Europol, Chief Investigator Keith Arnaud, Zahra, Ian Abdilla, members of the Security Services, and members of the actual task forces tasked with operational aspect.
Comodini Cachia points out that Latvia is an EU member state which carried out a raid on a bank in Latvia.
Zahra says that this would be dealt with by the ECU. These questions should be directed to Ian Abdilla, Zahra says.
"It could be that an investigative team is set up in this regard but I wouldn't be informed," Zahra says.
Zahra says that Europol's involvement is not as a Joint Investigation Team. A Joint Investigation Team is an international cooperation tool based on an agreement between competent authorities – both judicial and law enforcement – of two or more States, established for a limited duration and for a specific purpose, to carry out criminal investigations in one or more of the involved States.
Zahra was asked whether it was true that Yorgen Fenech, two days before his arraignment had asked to speak to Ian Abdilla about corruption and it was alleged that ECU did not speak to him.
Zahra had first interrogated Fenech under caution on 29 November 2019.
During the 11 days after the arrest of Melvin Theuma, the Commissioner was always present with the investigators, the witness says.
The Commissioner (Lawrence Cutajar) had also been updated about the raid on the potato shed, he confirmed.
The investigations, interrogations would be done by the police inspectors, the commissioner would be more for direction, Zahra explains.
He notes that the spate of car bombs at the time were gang related. Zahra joined the homicide squad following a car bomb in February 2017.
Part of Caruana Galizia's life was her blog, he says. Experts were appointed to work on it. Cybercrime and the Economic Crimes Unit were tasked with investigating the stories she reported about, he says.
In 2017, at the beginning of the investigation, until the three alleged hitmen were arraigned in court, the ECU was not directly involved in the investigation as part of the task force.
He says that after Caruana Galizia's assassination an analysis unit was set up. This unit is headed by Police Inspector Malcolm Bondin. The unit would have a holistic picture of all the investigations.
He gives an overview of his career. He dealt with transnational organised crime and property crime originally. It was in February 2017, that Zahra was instructed to join the homicide squad.
"Would Mr Abdilla Know? It's in his remit," says Madam Justice Lofaro.
He replies he'd imagine Abdilla to know or Mr Antonvich.
He says that the request was sent on 19 April 2018 to the Interpol office in Malta. The request was filed by Antonvich Muscat.
Dr Comodini Cachia asked about which companies did they request more information about. He mentions MacBridge, Mayortrans, 17 Black, etc.
The witness says that the UAE authorities were not cooperating with the Maltese authorities. Magri says that Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla had told him that Maltese officers would plan to go to UAE to meet their counterparts, however, the latter would cancel on them at the last minute.
"It wasn't my responsibility," the witness replies.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks the witness to explain the document he is exhibiting in court.
Peter Caruana Galizia explains that at 57 seconds one can see the date and time stamp of the video camera filming Muscat. He was in Sliema at 15:13 on 16 October 2017. Silvio Schembri and Chris Cardona were there too.
He confirms that the theater had received an FOI request from the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.
"I'm almost certain that this script (Who killed Daphne?) was not circulated among board members," Dr Grech says.
The witness says that he read the script, and there was a character who was a blogger made in the likeness of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Dr Grech says that he did not read the script until the end.
The script was refused.
The board asks about Azzopardi's reaction. The witness says he does not know, he did not speak to him.
The theater had told the playwright to propose a different script.
Dr Grech: I was astonished [zbalordit]. In the socio-political context of the Maltese society, I felt it should be refused. I didn't even want to have a look at the script.
The witness refused it out right however he instructed the other person to put it on the agenda of the board to discuss it. It was refused there and then.
The theater entered an agreement with a company run by Azzopardi.
€20,000 per year were allocated to these plays
Manoel Theatre receives three original scripts every year. These are then presented to Manoel Theater and the theater has the right of first refusal on the script.
Grech has been a chairman at the Manoel Theatre since 2010.
During the last sitting, a representative of an internet security company handling the security of Caruana Galizia’s blog testified that unknown individual/s to gain access to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog by impersonating her and sent emails to a company handling the security of her blog.
Testifying on Friday morning, a witness told the board of inquiry that once an unusual hacking attempt took place when an unknown individual tried to gain access to vital details. Had they succeeded, those behind the attack could have sent emails on behalf of Daphne Caruana Galizia, received emails sent to her and cloned her website. The hacking attempt was described as an atypical attack since it was a case of social engineering.