State Advocate can be present as an observer, Board of Inquiry says

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

In a decree issued by the Board of Inquiry presiding over the inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and whether it she could have been protected, reminded the Office of the Attorney General and the State Advocate that part of its remit was to determine whether an act by commission or omission by any state entity facilitated the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia or led to a situation where the murder was not prevented when it could have been prevented. The Board explained that this meant that the Office of the Attorney General was also subject to scrutiny as part of the ongoing inquiry.

According to point six of its terms of reference, the Board can regulate its procedure including access to participation of the victim’s family and the public in the ongoing procedures.

The board noted that the terms of reference indicate that it was the public and not the government that could have allegedly suffered from some prejudice due to shortcomings by the state. This is because state entities are there to serve the public, and when these fail, they would harm the public and therefore be held answerable for their actions, the board said.

The board pointed out that the inquisitorial nature of the public hearing, the terms of reference do not give any locus standi to state entities, since one cannot equate what the victims have suffered with those entities which could have caused the suffering.

“The submission to equate the state with the victims by the state advocate was fundamentally wrong,” the board said.

In its decree, the Board said that it was giving the opportunity to the family of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to indicate elements which could be relevant to the ongoing inquiry and to submit questions to the board which can be posed to the witnesses either through the board or by its authorisation.

Further, the Board said that the state entities were not being investigated in vacuum and that the behaviour and actions of state officials were being scrutinized in accordance to the terms of reference laid out. “The witnesses summoned to testify before the board are expected to testify out of their own personal experience and do not require the assistance of the state advocate,” the board said.

Finally the Board said that it was in agreement with the state advocate that the inquiry is impartial and leads to the complete and full truth.

“The government can assume the role of an observer during public hearings, however, the board cannot allow the state to be represented side by side with the victim’s family,” the decree reads.

In its decree, the board said that while during public hearings the State Advocate can be present to observe ongoing proceedings, it remains at the discretion of the Board whether to allow the state advocate into hearings which happen behind closed doors. This is done to ensure the integrity of the public inquiry as well as the protection and safeguarding of the witness and the information that one was ready to provide without having undue influence.

Highlights from Wednesday’s sitting

  • The Board of Inquiry issued a decree in relation to a request made by the State Advocate to be part of the inquiry proceedings
  • In its decree the Board said that the State Advocate can be present during to public hearings
  • It will be up to the Board of Inquiry to decide whether the State Advocate will be allowed to stay during hearings behind closed doors
  • The Board of Inquiry is scrutinizing the shortcomings and failings of state entities and whether the death of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia could have been prevented, the Board reminds in its decree
  • “There appears to be a problem with misogyny in Malta, when women journalists hold public officials to account,” Corinne Vella told the Board of Inquiry when she presented further documents
  • Around 2016, the attacks on Caruana Galizia became more personal
  • “The saddest thing is that besides her journalism there was so much more to her. She loved travelling, talking about food, music. There was her journalism, but she had a life besides that. If you needed a gift, she was the perfect person to call,” a witness told the Board

Columnist and environmental activist Petra Caruana Dingli and Glorya Beacom both testified during Wednesday’s sitting. Both witnesses were personal and close friends of the late journalist. Beacom referred to the altercation involving former Zurrieq mayor in 2013.

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 and Andrew Borg Cardona are appearing for the family.

15:40 Thank you for following this live blog.
Monique Agius
15:34 Next Friday, Ray Barbara and Kenneth Camilleri are set to testify at 11am.

On Monday, former OPM communications chief Kurt Farrugia will be summoned.
Monique Agius
15:32 Dr Camilleri is the last person to testify for today.
Monique Agius
15:31 Dr Camilleri says that there are three lawsuits filed in Malta by Pilatus Bank against the authority, and another three lawsuits filed against ECB before the CJEU.
Monique Agius
15:29 Dr Azzopardi asks whether the Board has access to the documents mentioned by Dr Camilleri.

Dr Camilleri explains that this was the file concerning the Pilatus Bank from before the bank was licensed until the day the bank lost its licence.
Monique Agius
15:26 "A bank, in its early days can have deficiencies," Dr Camilleri says.

Madam Justice Lofaro asked whether these visits are a "surprise visit".

Dr Camilleri says that if a client makes a complaint or alleges something serious, the authority can resort to making surprise visits to the entity, otherwise they would inform the entity about supervisory visit.
Monique Agius
15:23 Asked about the alleged double accounting system at Pilatus Bank.

"Whoever wants to deceive will find a way to deceive and this may not necessarily be picked up by the supervisor. This becomes the responsibility of the auditor of the bank. If shortcomings are found he risks losing his licence to audit. I don't know if this was KPMG," he tells the Board.

"Audits are a public document," Dr Camilleri says.
Monique Agius
15:21 Dr Camilleri says that supervisory visits would take place regularly and could last up to two weeks. He explains that whenever there was such a visit, employees at the bank would have to disclose the information they had to the authorities.
Monique Agius
15:19 Asked about Sai Mizzi or Brian Tonna, he said that they had not registered with him during his time.
Monique Agius
15:18 The witness confirms that Sadr Hasheminejad was introduced to the authority by one of the big audit firms (KPMG).

He reiterates that from the file one should find the relevant minutes.
Monique Agius
15:16 He adds that such banks would want a pied a terre in the eurozone.

The witness says that he could not recall whether the bank had told them about their Azeri clients. He highlights that if there had been anything wrong at the time, Pilatus Bank would have not been given licence.
Monique Agius
15:15 "We knew that it was not going to be a retail bank. We knew they would manage the wealth of their biggest clients," Dr Camilleri says.

In Malta, there are only six banks that offer services to the local public from the 26 registered, the witness explained.
Monique Agius
15:13 Dr Camilleri says that Sadr despite not being a banker, had two asset management licenses from Switzerland, which is not an easy jurisdiction to get it from.

"There was no reason to deny Ali Sadr Hasheminejad from getting a bank license. But that's only step one. Every day a bank must be in compliance with various regulations," Dr Camilleri says.
Monique Agius
15:09 The witness says that Pilatus Bank was licensed during the time he was at the Authority.

"I assume that the Board has a copy of the dossier concerning the Pilatus Bank," Dr Camilleri says.

He explained that up to 2002, the Central Bank was in charge of licensing entities. It was only after this time that the MFSA would license entities. He adds that however, the MFSA still was in contact with the Central Bank.

Dr Camilleri explains that after 2014, the ECB would take care of the licensing process. He says that the license of Pilatus Bank was withdrawn by the ECB following a recommendation by the MFSA.
Monique Agius
15:08 Dr Camilleri says that he had already retired by the time the Panama Papers were published.

He explains that the FIAU would inform MFSA in case the Authority would need to suspend the licence of one of its entities pending procedures.
Monique Agius
15:06 Compliance and money laundering fell under the responsibility of the FIAU, Dr Camilleri explains.

Dr Camilleri that during his time there was strict segregation between the council and the board of governors (consisting of political appointees). He explains that the board of governors would not interfere with who got a licence.
Monique Agius
15:04 Dr Camilleri worked at the MFSA between 1994 and 1996, and then 2002 to 2014, at which point he retired. He was initially the Chief Executive and later Director General of the Financial Services Authority.
Monique Agius
15:02 Lawyer Andre Camilleri who used to work at the MFSA takes the witness stand.
Monique Agius
15:01 Asked if Caruana Galizia ever told her that she was threatened, Beacom replies, "no".

"She was not the type to gossip about it. If she did get threatened, she would write about it," the witness says before stepping off the witness stand.
Monique Agius
15:00 "The saddest thing is that besides her journalism there was so much more to her. She loved travelling, talking about food, music. There was her journalism, but she had a life besides that. If you needed a gift, she was the perfect person to call," the witness tells the board.
Monique Agius
14:57 "She didn't have to say anything. It was visible," Beacom says.

She mentions the billboard bearing Daphne Caruana Galizia's face. The witness says that her friends were targeted and subject of blogs with the only aim being to isolate her and making them feel uncomfortable.

Beacom recalls that once they called her to join in an activity
and she said she wouldn't because she did not want them to feel uncomfortable and get photographed.
Monique Agius
14:57 On another occasion, Daphne Caruana Galizia had told her she had gone to a beach club and had come out of the sea to find a person photographing her on a mobile phone she recalls.
Monique Agius
14:56 Beacom says that the police never found the woman who she had been screaming outside.
Monique Agius
14:54 Following the incident, the group of friends ended up at the police station were they did a statement and the police eventually prosecuted.

Beacom says that behind the door were some people Daphne knew and which was why she had stepped inside.

Copies of the statement would be obtained, Borg Cardona told the board.
Monique Agius
14:52 The witness says that there were two priests standing before the door, while the woman was screaming "ohroguha minn hemm. Igbduha minn xagharha dik mara hazina".

"Drag her out of there. She is a bad woman," the woman was screaming at the door.

The priests had told me to call the police, the witness recalls.
Monique Agius
14:49 Beacom was also a close friend of Daphne Caruana Galizia. She says that on 7 March 2013, she and her husband had gone to Mdina and they bumped into Peter and Daphne Caruana Galizia. They decided to go to the feast in Rabat but before they headed to a cake shop.

They had weaved through the crowd and then realised they had lost a part of the group, including Daphne Caruana Galizia.

They walked back towards Mdina and found the people moved to the side and found a woman standing in the middle and facing a doorway screaming obscenities.
Monique Agius
14:47 Glorya Beacom takes the stand.
Monique Agius
14:45 The board asks whether Daphne Caruana Galizia had spoken to her about her fear.

The witness says that there was the arson attack at her house. She adds that Caruana Galizia had not expressed a fear of being physically harmed.
Monique Agius
14:44 The column is titled "That is Muscat’s blog, not Bedingfield’s".
Monique Agius
14:41 Caruana Dingli reads out a column penned by Caruana Galizia and published in the Malta Independent in 2016.

Some of the excerpts read out in court are being republished below:

"Glenn Bedingfield, 41, is not a journalist or anybody who makes his living in the media."

"When he set up a website which he uses to harass, insult, denigrate, smear and intimidate critics of the government he serves, and other such ‘enemies of the state and the people’, you should have been left in no doubt that he did it in consultation and conspiracy with the Prime Minister himself."

"Bedingfield criticised a judge the other day. He was ill-advised to do it, because the judge in question is a respectable woman with no black marks anywhere in her private, professional or public life. His idiotic remarks went down very badly, and provoked an angry statement by the Chamber of Advocates and another one by the Opposition leader."
Monique Agius
14:40 Answering a question from the board she says that she noticed that the atmosphere had changed and there was more pressure around 2016 when the stories became riskier and heavier.

Caruana Dingli says that the attacks became more personal and it was clear where they were originating from.
Monique Agius
14:39 "Being something which is originating from the Office of the Prime Minister there is the whole machinery of government and you can no longer gauge the strength of your adversary," Caruana Dingli tells the board.
Monique Agius
14:38 Replying to a question by Borg Cardona, the witness says that what upset Caruana Galizia the most was the way in the open and was based at the OPM.

"The Prime Minister was implicity endorsing it by allowing it to remain online," the witness says.
Monique Agius
14:36 The witness refers to Glenn Beddingfield's blog when in May 2016, Caruana Dingli and the late journalist had gone to lunch in Valletta and there were two men who were clearly photographing and filming them. This ended up on the blog, Caruana Dingli says. She adds that this was repeatedly published on the blog making it impossible to go out unobserved.
Monique Agius
14:34 "By 2016, the attacks had changed. She felt this herself," Caruana Dingli says.

She explained that when the adversary was a fellow journalist the pressure was different to when she faced the government.

"You can no longer gauge the size and power of your adversary. It is quite intimidating," Caruana Dingli says.
Monique Agius
14:32 The witness explains they would eat out regularly or go for a coffee. She said that while in the past the two would be out and about completely unobserved.

"We were photographed. I was also drawn into that as well just by virtue of being her friend," Caruana Dingli tells the board.
Monique Agius
14:31 Caruana Dingli was a close friend of Daphne Caruana Galizia for the last 25-30 years. She says that in the last few years up to the time she was killed, the public reaction to her work became much more tense, she explains.
Monique Agius
14:28 Petra Caruana Dingli takes the stand.
Monique Agius
14:26 "There appears to be a problem with misogyny in Malta. Of women journalists holding public officials to account," Vella says.
Monique Agius
14:23 Vella says that as time passed, the term sorceress was transformed into a witch associated with a person being old, ugly and using black magic. Vella explains that she found an obituary by then PL Deputy leader Tony Abela where the term was changed into a "witch".
Monique Agius
14:20 Vella takes the stand. She presents the research she has done. A doctored image from an artwork with Daphne's face was found on Neville Gafa's Facebook.

"I couldn't find any earlier instances," Vella tells the Board when asked if it was Gafà used it first.

On the "witch of Bidnija" label, she says that it was used by Lino Cassar on a column which appeared in it-Torca. She explains that Cassar used the term in the meaning of a
sorceress which has a positive connotation to it.
Monique Agius
14:16 The Board of Inquiry said that while did not object to the presence of the Attorney General during public testimony, it reserved the right that when a witness is testifying behind closed doors. This is to safeguard the integrity of the inquiry. It remained within the discretion of the board to allow the Attorney General to be present, Judge Emeritus Mallia read.

The Board clarifies that the lawyer from the AG's office is only present in the courtroom as an observer.

Dr Azzopardi informs the Board that Corinne Vella would like to present a dossier to supplement the documents she had presented in previous sittings.
Monique Agius
14:16 The Board of Inquiry has entered the courtroom.
Monique Agius
14:05 Welcome to this live blog. We're live from Hall 20. Lawyers, journalists and members of the public are already inside the courtroom.
Monique Agius

Highlights from the last court sitting

  • Glenn Bedingfield asked to give his testimony
  • Bedingfield said that his writings on the blog were a counter-attack to Daphne’s writings
  • He says he had received bomb threats and that his car was vandalised
  • Bedingfield said that Daphne’s memorial in Valletta does not bother him
  • Asked about Yorgen Fenech, Bedingfield said he never saw him at Castille
  • He mentioned how he has a very good relationship with Chris Cardona and that he does not believe Daphne’s allegations on Cardona
  • The MP says that he will launch a new blog in the coming weeks, before Easter.