The Public Inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues. Today former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar is expected to testify.
Police Inspector Antanovic is also expected to testify today.
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Today's session will continue behind closed doors in the presence of the family of murdered journalist Caruana Galizia.
Muscat said that the Economic Crimes Unit carried the investigation. These investigations were carried by Muscat and Raymond Aquilina. If it wasn't him, the investigation would have been carried by Aquilina.
Dr Azzopardi asks Supt Muscat whether there were any investigations following the report carried by Daphne Caruana Galizia about €50,000 allegedly passed on to the former Central Bank Governor Alfred Mifsud.
The next witness for today is Supt. Antonovich Muscat, who Azzopardi explained, was being asked to be part of it in view of the fact that part of his answers were not transcribed.
He replied that he was not involved. Cutajar will be in country on September 2nd.
Cutajar is asked about former PM Muscat birthday party in Girgenti in February 2019. Azzopardi refers to the declaration by Muscat, that he invited Fenech following an advice by the Security Services. Cutajar is asked whether he was given any advice in this regards.
Cutajar said that he was not aware of any meetings between Ian Abdilla and Keith Schembri in Castille. He asked what where the issues discussed. Azzopardi said that these took place after Panama Papers.
The former Commissioner was asked whether anyone had approached him about the €1 million reward pledged by the government for those who could provide information which could lead to a solution in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.
Cutajar said that he never intervened in the pardon granted to Theuma. "I'm not the President nor the Prime Minister", he said. He added that he never went through the report, just had a quick look at it and followed the advice of the investigators in the case, after which he signed.
Cutajar was asked on how did the terms of the pardon given to Theuma were sent via a message to Fenech from Keith Schembri's phone.
Dr Azzopardi asks Cutajar why the Head of the Economic Crimes Unit didn't proceed and what was hindering him from taking action.
Former Commissioner Cutajar confirmed that Yorgen Fenech, when arrested, said that he had information which implicated Keith Schembri in corruption. He referred to Nexia BT, Macbridge etc.
Cutajar replies to Azzopardi that he never received any phone calls about the interrogations of Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech.
Cutajar said that one has to put things in context. He said that there was a person who asked for a pardon in relation to a murder, different versions given several times and the issue of the time limit related to police bails amongst other things. He said the police took note of what Fenech said, however the priority was the investigation related to the murder.
Dr Jason Azzopardi asked when was Cutajar aware that the Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta had a friendship with Yorgen Fenech. Cutajar said that he was made aware after Valletta resigned.
Cutajar stressed that investigations didn't start the day he left, but were happening before.
Cutajar said that during the search, the recordings were found. However he said that the people were biased against this, in view of the fact that he was leading the investigations.
Asked whether the police started to investigate the case once the Times of Malta and Reuters revealed that Fenech was the owner of the company, Cutajar asked 'On the basis of a newspaper report?', adding that the police never sent for Fenech.
Cutajar said that the main aim of the investigations was reached, something which had also surprised Europol.
At one point the investigators in the case said that they had agreed to proceed with Plan B. Plan B meant that in the absence of the mentioned recordings, the police would carry a search under the pretext of money-laundering related cases and not about the murder.
Dr Comodini Cachia repeated the question of when was the police aware that Yorgen Fenech was the owner of the Dubai based company 17 Black. Cutajar asked Dr Comodini Cachia not to repeat the question. The Inquiry Board said that she could proceed with her questions.
Cutajar referred to the leaks from the FIAU reports. He said that the leaks had no bearing on the investigations, given that the evidence was in the possession of the Police.
Ex Commissioner Cutajar said that he had a Plan B and not everyone agreed to it. He was sure that Plan B was going to be positive and yield the required results.
Cutajar said that at one point there was a phone call which stated about the existence of recordings. He said that the dilemma was about whether to use the recordings or proceed with parallel action.
Cutajar is asked whether there were any differences in the way he wanted to act in the arrest of Melvin Theuma and the way the Attorney General wanted to proceed.
Cutajar said that the perception that the FIAU reports were ignored hurts him. In a rather raised voice, Cutajar said that for one to start investigations, one needs to have a proof that there was transfer of money in an illegal manner. He also said that he never tried to interfere in any investigations on the matter.
The Inquiry Board asked Cutajar when was Fenech identified as the owner of 17 Black. He replied that he cannot give answers in view of the ongoing investigations.
Cutajar said that when he spoke to the investigators, they immediately did what they could do to collate the information and evidence. He emphasised that his primary interlocutor in this case was Asst. Commissioner Abdilla. Eventually the report was taken up by Insp. Raymond Aquilina and Supt. Antonvich Muscat
Cutajar testifies that the report on 17 Black was delivered to Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla on March 27th, 2018.
The board mentions that Schembri was already mentioned in relation to the Panama Papers. Cutajar says that they are discussing the murder not the Panama Papers.
Cutajar said that he became aware of Fenech's involvement in the murder of Caruana Galizia after hearing the recordings. He said that he would prefer not to provide much details on the matter in view of the ongoing proceedings in this case.
When these briefing s used to be held at the time Schembri was never a person that the police suspected of. "He was never mentioned by the secret service."
He used to be present for briefing on Melvin Theuma's presidential pardon.
Cutajar says he was never present at the briefing s at Castille which concerned the Degiorgio brothers.
Asked if the government was informed, Cutajar said yes.
He also says he is not sure why the dates of their arrest was changed.
Cutajar watched their arrest from the control room. Asked if the Prime Minister was in the Control Room, Cutajar said: "no, no, no."
Three days before their arrest Silvio Valletta informed him the Degiogio's and Muscat were to be arrested.
He says that he never met Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat.
Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia is asking questions about those who investigated Daphne's murder.
Cutajar says that there should be a board that evaluates the risk as the Police do not have the resources to protect 200 journalists.
Cutajar says that he agrees with the fact that journalists should be given protection but they have to keep in mind the Police personnel which is limited.
The board says that this was not like any other case.
Cutajar insists that Daphne should have asked for protection.
The board is referring to the fact that a few months before her assassination Daphne Caruana Galizia issued details on the secret company 17-black which belongs to Yorgen Fenech but at that time his name was not revealed.
Didn't the Police feel that Daphne needed protection when in her own blog she wrote that the situation became very dangerous? – asked the board.
Cutajar says yes.
Comodini Cachia then asks if after reading the blogs the Police did feel that Daphne Caruana Galizia's life was in danger.
Cutajar says that the procedure is that if a person does not ask for protection if he or she feels his or her life is in danger, then the protection cannot be provided.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks Cutajar if the CMRU used to provide cuttings from blogs written by Daphne.
"Two days after the murder in 2017, Peter Caruana Galizia told the police he was feeling threatened and in danger so I took the decision to provide security. Two officers were stationed in front of his residence. Until my time as Police Commissioner, this security was still being provided.
Cutajar says that if Daphne Caruana Galizia was feeling her life was in danger she could have spoken to the Police despite the fact that she might not have liked him.
The board asks Cutajar if he felt the need to upgrade the system of providing a police fixed point in front of residences.
Between the 8th and 10th of March 2008
Between 6th September and 3rd October 2010
Between the 9th and 11th of March 2013
Between the 4th of June and 6th June of 2017
He mentions the following dates:
Cutajar says that he used to review this file and he took notes when it came to Daphne Caruana Galizia.
"According to this file Police security in front of Daphne's home was allocated four times since 2008" – said Cutajar.
Regarding Police Security in front of a residence, there is a file at the depot which is updated every one to two months and it is then passed on to the Police Commissioner.
He says that there are different procedures to be followed when a person asks for protection.
The questions to be asked now will be related to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
"To solve murders you need to meet with the people and talk to them. You do not solve murders by staying behind your desk" – said Cutajar.
He mentioned how during his time as a Police Chief criminality in Malta decreased by 10%.
He admits that he always kept a step back especially during the press conferences as he was afraid that something might be said that might influence the proceedings.
Peter Caruana Galizia exists the courtroom.
Cutajar says that he does not think that a holistic investigation on the Panama Papers was ever conducted.
Cutajar says that Nexia BT documents were not collected.
He adds that the final Panama Papers file was presented on the 6th of June 2020.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks Cutajar if the Police investigated as the magisterial inquiries were on-going.
"I never spoke to the Prime Minister on Panama Papers," says Cutajar who looks quite irked.
The witness mentions another perception; that people think he had a close relationship with Muscat. "This is not true" – says Cutajar.
The Caruana Galizia family is irritated by this comment.
Cutajar insists he trusted his team. "How could I not trust Silvio Valletta? He was doing a great job in solving crimes."
Madame Justice asks Cutajar if he believes he should have investigated the case more and if maybe he could have had a more active role.
Cutajar says he never saw these emails.
Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia says that for sure the Police had emails Nexia BT sent to Panama in hand.
Cutajar confirms that no one had sent for him.
Madame Justice says that it had to be the Minister who should have asked the Police Commissioner for updates on the matter.
Asked if he has discussed this with the Home Affairs Minister, Cutajar said no.
Cutajar confirms that he knew about the allegation that Nexia BT had an office at Castille from the news.
The board asks Cutajart to confirm if it is true that if the Police did not act immediately and gather information on the Nexia BT servers then the information could have ended up corrupted or encrypted.
"Two years later" – says Madame Justice.
"Karl Cini was questioned by the Police in August 2018" – said Cutajar
"The fact that an inquiry is on-going does not exonerate the Police from investigating," said Lofaro.
"How is it possible that you do not know?" insists Madame Justice Lofaro who is also irritated by Cutajar's reply.
Judge Lofaro asks how is it possible that such a scandal created chaos around the world but not in Malta.
"If I am not mistaken, information was collected from Nexia BT's servers" – says Cutajar but is unsure.
Cutajar says he cannot confirm why.
Comodini Cachia asks if Cutajar could explain why the Police did not collect information from Nexia BT.
Silvio Valletta formed part of that board.
When he became a Police Commissioner in 2016, the FIAU board was already appointed, said Cutajar as it is appointed every three years.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asks Cutajar about the FIAU board.
"The reports used to straight to Ian Abdilla and Silvio Valletta who were responsible for the Economic Crimes Unit.
Cutajar says he became aware of the FIAU report when he was appointed as Police Commissioner.
Cutajar says he is not sure and he does not wish to mention a date he is not sure of.
Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, asks Cutajar when the Police became aware of Panama Papers.
The board insists that the Panama Papers was a huge scandal and they would expect a Police Commissioner to intervene.
"There is the perception that I was protecting someone but the investigations are still ongoing even after my resignation," said Cutajar
Lawrence Cutajar says that the Fraud Section within the Police Force was in Ian Abdilla and Silvio Valletta's hands.
Cutajar mentions how the Police Force has a procedure where the CMRU, the Police Communications Office, forwards articles related to the Police so that if someone does not follow the media would surely be aware of news related to the Police Force.
He does not know the exact date when the Panama Papers were revealed.
"I took a step back" said Cutajar.
The Police gathered also information from the Europol, from Montenegro, from the UK, Latvija and Holland and all authorities have co operated.
Cutajar says that it was hard for the Police to gather information from Dubai.
The investigations started by collecting information from banks. The Police had also gathered information from Dubai.
"The perception is that the Police did nothing but it is not true" – continued saying Cutajar.
"Even though we had received 3 reports and after we advised the Attorney General, the feedback from the investigators was to wait for more information from the FIAU before they proceed with the investigations" – said Lawrence Cutajar.
The third report which Cutajar does not have the date when it was received was about the relation between Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
In November 2016; the 2nd report was on the relation between Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman.
The report indicated that payments were deposited in the bank account of Willerby; payments of €50,000 as part of the loan Tonna had with Schembri.
The Police had to receive 3 reports on this matter from the FIAU; on the relation between Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, the report was received on the 12th of July 2016.
On the 23rd of May, he had a meeting with Silvio Valletta and Ian Abdilla on the case.
He said that the Attorney General's advice was to be cautious on the investigations as there is reasonable suspicion.
Cutajar said that he is referring to the Panama Papers as at that time Pilatus Bank was not even mentioned.
"In this file certain people, not the usual names, were mentioned" – said Cutajar.
According to the file, Abdilla had spoken to Galdes. For this meeting, Cutajar was not present but advised them that for every meeting they should consult the Attorney General and his advice should be in writing.
The FIAU had already spoken to several people and Valletta had given instructions for investigations to commence.
On the 18th of April, Assistant Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta had said that the file was not the usual kind of report.
"7th April 2016, the Police Commissioner at the time was Michael Cassar, received a report from Manfred Galdes and Alfred Zammit from the FIAU. The report had brief information on Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna."
That file was Operation Green – said Lawrence Cutajar.
He starts reading from his personal notes:
The former Police Chief takes out notes he wrote. Notes he wrote because he presumed one day they would come in handy.
He said that the FIAU file used to go straight to Ian Abdilla or Silvio Valletta.
Cutajar said that during his time as a Police Chief there were some who tried to give the impression that he used to receive FIAU files and does not act upon them.
He mentions the work he carried out as an Assistant Police Commissioner.
He said that he used to leave the majority of the investigations in the hands of investigators.
Cutajar says that every Police Commissioner has his own way on how to proceed with investigations.
Cutajar said that no had drawn his attention.
The board says that Daphne Caruana Galizia had said that a person in the Police Force especially as an Assistant Commissioner he should have never written such a comment.
He said that he had compared Muscat to a football team he supports.
The board asks Cutajar if he ever wrote something on Joseph Muscat on Facebook.
He said he never involved himself in politics.
Asked if he had a close relationship with former Prime Minister Muscat, Cutajar said that the first time he talked to him was when he met him at Castille.
He says he never thought of becoming a Police Commissioner.
The board is asking questions about journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Cutajar said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had requested a meeting with him to inform him that he was to be appointed as acting Police Commissioner in May 2016.
In 2014 he was appointed as Assistant Police Commissioner. In August of 2016, he was appointed as Police Commissioner.
In the year 2000, he became a Superintendent and spent 14 years out of which 4 years he served them at the Bormla Police Station and 8 years at the Qormi Police Station.
Cutajar says he had been serving within the Police Force since 1979 until 2019.
The board informs Cutajar that can choose to not answer certain questions in order not to incriminate himself.
Cutajar says that his lawyer, Ezekiel Psaila, has not arrived yet.
Former Police Commissioner takes the witness stand.
Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia presents a list with names of people connected to the Panama Papers.
The board of inquiry enters the courtroom.
We are live from courtroom 20.
Today Former Police Chief Lawrence Cutajar is expected to testify.
On Wednesday Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty and former Planning Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg gave their testimony.
The board of inquiry is led by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, accompanied by former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and judge Abigail Lofaro.
The court session is expected to start at 9: 30 am.
Welcome to this live blog.