Former Deputy Police Commissioner travelled with Caruana Galizia murder suspect – Report

Updated 06:48 PM
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta travelled abroad with Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect, Yorgen Fenech when the latter had been identified as a person of interest in the case, the Sunday Times of Malta reported.

Valletta has denied being aware that Fenech was a person of interest to the murder investigation in a statement on Sunday morning, saying that he would have never travelled with someone knowing that the person was under investigation.

Valletta and Fenech travelled to London to watch a football match at Chelsea FC Stamford Bridge stadium on 29 September 2018. By then, Valletta “suspended himself” from the murder investigation after a decision by the constitutional court in June 2018.

Fenech was identified as a person of interest by May 2018.

A witness told the Sunday Times of Malta that Caruana Galizia’s murder suspect was overheard telling his children to “hold uncle Silvio’s hand”.

Valletta confirmed that he had travelled with Fenech, however, said that he had paid for his flights and was not working on the case since June 2018.

Valletta who had been involved in the murder investigation, was ordered off the case after a ruling by judge Silvio Meli who had ordered Valletta to desist from taking part in the investigation. The court case was filed by the Caruana Galizia family that accused Valletta of a conflict of interest because of his marriage to a cabinet minister, Justyne Caruana, and role as a board member of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Valletta had then suspended himself.

He was then definitely ordered off the case when the Court of Appeal ruled that his presence was breached the fundamental rights of the journalist’s family given that he was married to a cabinet minister.

In July 2018, MEP David Casa published the full version of a draft FIAU report showing how €1.3 million was wired to Dubai-based company 17 Black. In November 2018, Fenech was identified as the owner of 17 Black. He was also one of the directors in Electrogas.

The former deputy police commissioner retired from the police force last August. Fenech was arrested two months later, in November.

During constitutional court proceedings by Yorgen Fenech in a bid to remove lead investigator Keith Arnaud from the case, Arnaud testified under oath that the recordings made by self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma mention disgraced OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri several times. Arnaud had told the court that in one of Theuma’s recordings, Fenech had said that ‘Schembri has Valletta and Arnaud informing him’.

Silvio Valletta reacts; Denies being aware Fenech was a person of interest

Former Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta has denied any knowledge of Fenech’s involvement in Caruana Galizia’s murder case. In a statement sent on Sunday morning, Valletta said “I never knew of Fenech’s involvement in this case”. He explained that after the ruling by the Constitutional Court on 13 June 2018 he had informed the police force that he would “not continue being part of the investigation with immediate effect”.

On the FIAU report, he denied knowledge of the details saying that during his time on the board “he was never privy to the reports or details about who they concerned”.

Valletta said that he decided to leave the police force due to the criticism which was leveled at his wife, Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana.

“We’ve always had a professional relationship between us, and we do not discuss work,” Valletta said.

Valletta concluded by saying that “there was never any wrongdoing on his part” and he would have never travelled abroad with someone had he known or thought the person was under investigation.

Robert Abela’s first test as a Prime Minister

Partit Nazzjonalista MEP David Casa said that Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana’s position is no longer tenable.

Writing on Facebook, Casa said: “As a cabinet member, she knew her husband the Police Deputy Commissioner was holidaying with the prime suspect in Daphne’s murder, and she did and said nothing.‬”

‪Minister Justyne Caruana’s position is no longer tenable. As a cabinet member, she knew her husband the Police Deputy…

Posted by David Casa on Saturday, January 18, 2020

Opposition MP Beppe Fenech Adami noted that this was Robert Abela’s first test after being sworn in as Prime Minister. He added that Caruana’s position is no longer tenable.

“Justyne Caruana has a lot of explanations to give,” Fenech Adami wrote. “Abela should proceed to sack her immediately.”

Dan huwa l ewwel test ghal Robert Abela. Il posizzzjoni tal ministru ta Justine Caruana mhix tenibbli.Justine Caruana…

Posted by Beppe Fenech Adami on Saturday, January 18, 2020

PN MP Karol Aquilina pointed out that as a matter of fact Valletta had travelled with Fenech when it was already known to the police that Fenech was one of the masterminds in the assassination of the investigative journalist.

Aquilina pointed out that newly appointed Prime Minister Robert Abela had reconfirmed Justyne Caruana’s (Valletta’s wife) appointment as Minister for Gozo.

“What will the Prime Minister do now?” Aquilina asked.

FATT: Id-Deputat Kummissarju tal-Pulizija Silvio Valletta (li jiġi r-raġel tal-Ministru Justyne Caruana) siefer ma'…

Posted by Karol Aquilina on Saturday, January 18, 2020

“Valletta should not have traveled with Fenech” – Repubblika

In a reaction to the Sunday Times of Malta article, Rule of Law NGO Repubblika said that Silvio Valletta should not have traveled with Fenech. This since at the time that they traveled together, the allegations of corruption regarding Fenech and Electrogas had already been made.

Repubblika pointed out that a few days before Silvio Valletta traveled with the suspected mastermind behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, Robert Abela, today Prime Minister of our country, accused the journalist’s children of having undertaken a mission to obstruct the investigation regarding their mother’s murder. 

They went on to say that a few days after Silvio Valletta’s trip with Yorgen Fenech, civil society had written to Minister Edward Scicluna to request him to remove Silvio Valletta from his membership on the FIAU Board of Governors, to which Scicluna himself had appointed him following the 2013 elections. The NGO said that Minister Scicluna did not even acknowledge this request, nor did he take any action to halt the conflict of interest that he himself had created. 

The NGO insisted that now that Robert Abela is at the helm of Government, it is his duty to remove Justyne Caruana from her position as minister because of her husband’s close ties with Yorgen Fenech. “The fact that she did not inform the public of this fact aggravates Minister Caruana’s position even further,” Repubblika said. The NGO also asked Abela to remove Edward Scicluna from his Cabinet. It highlighted this incident as the first important test of the new Prime Minister and that it hopes that he won’t fail it.