Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar insisted on the need to gather evidence before questioning a person of interest.
Appearing for the second time before the board of inquiry, Cutajar maintained that he could not question anyone before evidence was collected.
During Wednesday’s sitting it also transpired that Deputy Commissioner Silvio Valletta was advised by the Attorney General not to raid Pilatus Bank because all the Police had at hand at the time was a blog and this would not justify a raid. Cutajar said that on the night when Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was filmed outside the bank, he had immediately called Valletta who informed him on the AG’s advice.
- The Operation Green file can be read in under an hour;
- Cutajar only found out that Silvio Valletta and murder suspect Yorgen Fenech were friends after the recordings were found;
- The investigation into Pilatus Bank only started after then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat filed a criminal complaint through his lawyers;
- The police acted on the AG’s advice in the case of Pilatus Bank;
- Karl Cini was questioned after the Egrant report concluded that he should be investigated for perjury. There were no updates on that investigation until Cutajar was still Commissioner;
- Keith Schembri was not interrogated in connection to 17 Black;
- Ramon Mifsud, a police sergeant who had celebrated Caruana Galizia’s murder on Facebook, was suspended immediately. He filed medical certificates before the inquiry board and has never appeared for a sitting.
In August, Cutajar had told the board of inquiry that the reluctance to press charges in cases of suspected corruption concerning top political figures was based on legal advice provided by the attorney general. Cutajar insisted investigators required evidence before pressing charges.
The Prime Minister was notified in person and via email.
"I don't remember. What I know is that evening the inquiry started," he says.
It was only after the criminal complaint was investigated that they started investigated, Cutajar maintains, adding that now it was not a question of intelligence but there was a criminal complaint and a magisterial inquiry.
"You know Mr Cutajar that one of the police's primary duties is the preservation of evidence. Another one is to prevent the commission of the crime. When Valletta told you that the AG had spoken to him. Was there any communication between you and the AG in those 24 hours? Did it surprise you? Were you taken aback?" Dr Azzopardi asks.
"I thought of any consequences applicable if you do not follow the advice of the AG," Cutajar replies. "If you take action, what happens if it results to be ultra vires?"
Cutajar: I think that press release was issued before we received the FIAU reports. I have a note on May 2016.
Dr Azzopardi: Let's recap. May 2016 is the AG's advice on Nexia BT servers. This is March 2017.
Cutajar: I don't wake up in the morning and decide to issue a statement, but had done it after speaking to the investigators. The most likely scenario is that the FIAU reports had not arrived yet. In such cases I would consult with the investigators.
Cutajar says he does not know why the press release is no longer available online.
Dr Azzopardi says that Cutajar has a good memory and can recall when Inter scored. He continues, you had not replied to the Times of Malta.
Cutajar denies receiving such information a year before.
No charges were pressed against Cini until January 2019, he says confirms.
Cutajar says that Cini was interrogated in 2018.
Cutajar: We were part of a task force, involving the Attorney General, Security Service, Europol, Magistrate. The PM had some information on the issue of the pardon for Melvin Theuma. Briefing were given by the investigators in my presence and that of the AG.
Cutajar: I was not asked to brief the press. Of course not. We would send press releases.
Said Pullicino: I would imagine you addressed one of them.
Cutajar: No, no.
Cutajar: No, no.
Cutajar: I can never understand how he [Calleja] reached this conclusion. At the beginning of the investigation you start looking at the sources, the intelligence. What I can say here is that our investigation was 99% based on forensic evidence.
Cutajar: At the time I was an officer in immigration, but even later as a commissioner, nobody gave me any information on it
"As soon as I got to know about the case, an investigation was launched. A board of inquiry (PSC) was set up. He was suspended on the spot, as that was possible. Each time that there was a hearing, Mifsud would exhibit a medical certificate. He eventually started receiving half pay. Until this year he was receiving half pay. I couldn't do more than that," he says.
Cutajar: I confirm.
Dr Azzopardi: Until a year later he was still in the police force…
Cutajar: I confirm.
Dr Azzopardi: Until the end of your term, what action was taken?
Cutajar: Yes it was brought to my attention and that of the Magistrate. No steps were taken against particular people. Nobody was identified.
Cutajar: Last I've explained
"Sur Cutajar, Sur Imhallef," the former police commissioner repeats some three times.
If it is the Security Services, they would have shared it with the relevant investigator, he says.
Cutajar says that the commissioner would not know anything.
Cutajar: They were investigated over other things.
Cutajar: Yes I can confirm. In each case we have investigated.
Cutajar says that car bombs happened under different commissioners, but it was when he was police chief that the case was solved.
He remarks that he was no longer a police commissioner. He says that Abdilla always gave "plausible" briefings.
Cutajar says that he is not aware that such a police report was filed.
It concerned the documents Caruana Galizia had received.
Cutajar does not recall the press release issued by Pilatus Bank stating that a police report was filed.
Cutajar insists that theory that first you question the person then you continue gathering evidence does not hold.
"You need evidence not intelligence. If a person does not want to cooperate with the police, you would have the evidence," he says.
"You had the servers to seize…" Madam Justice Lofaro says.
"Skuzani Sur Imhallef, ma tifhimx," he replies.
Cutajar: It was a form of intelligence.
He says that based on the writings in the Running Commentary they could not go and seal the bank and arrest Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.
Valletta told me that he had just hung up with the AG. I'm sorry I have to testify this. So Valletta had spoken to Peter Grech. Grech's advice to Valletta that what we had in hand was just a blog and no disclosure. There was not enough t justify a raid on the bank.
I left the place and on my way to the office I got a call from Kurt Farrugia, head of OPM communications, and he informed me that Pawlu Lia and Edward Gatt are to come to my office to file a criminal complaint by Muscat," he recalls.
Cutajar: Because the investigation took a different turn.
Cutajar: Evidence was still being collected.
Cutajar: With all due respect to question someone you need evidence in hand.
Cutajar: We started investigating immediately.
Cutajar: Leee (Noo)
He says that it was because they were still at a stage where evidence was still being gathered.
Cutajar insists that evidence was needed for the disclosure and this does not depend on the information in the public domain.
Dr Victoria Buttigieg had advised on keeping Valletta on the investigation despite concerns of conflict of interest.
Dr Comodini Cachia fires a series of questions, among which Was it Valletta or FBI and Europol that investigated the cell tower data?
He confirms. He confirms that Abdilla did not hold the meeting after all, after Valletta had called Abdilla informing him that Fenech was "unwell". He recalls the day as being as a Sunday in 2019.
"I'm testifying on 17 Black…you need the evidence in your hand. You need the disclosure…as far as I'm aware the 17 Black investigations are still ongoing, let alone at the early stage you mentioned," he says.
Two investigators Ray Aquilina and Antonvich Muscat were investigating. Banks in Holland, Switzerland, UAE, China and Singapore were contacted.
A local bank did not cooperate.
"I don't think it was a lack of human resources," Madam Justice Lofaro remarks.
Why didn't you go for Nexia BT's servers? Madam Justice Lofaro asks repeatedly.
"We were gathering evidence," Cutajar sheepishly replies.
Cutajar says that it might prejudice the case.
He insists that evidence was still being gathered. The police were awaiting for documentation from the banks.
He insists that this documentation is the evidence required.
Before questioning a person, you need the evidence in hand for the disclosure, he insists.
The board of the inquiry is already losing its patience with the witness.
Cutajar insists that evidence was needed for the disclosure.
Chief Justice remarks that his successor called in Muscat for questioning.
"We're seeing this as an excuse. A delaying tactic. For you not to investigate. Everywhere else in the world there have been investigations, people have resigned. And here?' Mr Justice Mallia says.
"I can only speak for myself. I was not the lead investigator in the case. I didn't speak to the PM," he says.
The investigators sought more information overseas.
Cutajar says that the police had to receive three reports before proceeding further.
"I've explained last time," he says.
He refers to the Attorney General's advice.
The court official has informed us that an electric cable connector extension has been added in the courtroom for the press to make use of. (Thank you!)
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, and Peter Caruana Galizia, assisted the family.