“I got to know Yorgen Fenech in 2016” – Valletta

Daphne-Caruana-Galizia-3-Years-Bidnija
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Former Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta got to know Yorgen Fenech in 2016 at a dinner organized by their common friend family doctor Adrian Vella. At the dinner, Fenech’s siblings were also present.

The former deputy police commissioner had been to Fenech’s ranch some six times.

Valletta testified before the board of inquiry on Monday afternoon where he insisted that he had never spoken to murder suspect Yorgen Fenech about the assassination of the investigative journalist or 17 Black.

“That’s how our friendship started but I swear on my two kids that I never spoke to Yorgen Fenech about the crime. Never, never. Not even about 17 Black,” Valletta insisted before the board of inquiry.

Taking the witness stand on Monday afternoon, Valletta said that disgraced then OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri would occasionally call him about work. In a reply to questions by lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, the witness said that it was unlikely for Schembri to have had informed him that Fenech was unwell. Further Valletta added that he did not ask Schembri how he knew that Fenech was under investigation.

Valletta revealed that Schembri would ocassionally call him about work but he never asked about disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi or disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

The deputy police commissioner remarked that he felt that he had to answer to Schembri since he was the right hand of the prime minister.

When questioned about his trips abroad with Fenech in 2018, Valletta told the board that he could not say no to Fenech because that would “reveal my hand”.

Valletta went with Fenech to watch the Champion’s League final in Kiev, as he insisted that at the time he was unaware of Fenech’s links to the murder. The board of inquiry pointed out several times that no does anything for free, with Valletta insisting that he did not feel comfortable saying no to the invite.

Questioning now turns to Valletta’s trips abroad with Fenech in 2018. One of them to Kiev, for the Champion’s League final, is raised.

The expenses were paid for by Fenech, Valletta told the board, adding that he had wanted to pay. He also noted that it was only with hindsight that he realised that it would compromise him. At the time, it did not occur to him.

The board of inquiry pointed out that a similar excuse was used when Fenech was invited to Muscat’s birthday party at the prime minister’s summer residence. Asked whether his friendship with the suspect was mentioned to the police commissioner, investigating officers or the security services, Valletta insisted that they were not aware and he did not inform them.

Valletta insisted that the murder suspect never sought information about his work.

“I didn’t know who Melvin Theuma is”

Valletta told the board that he got to know who Melvin Theuma was from the papers and did not know him before. This prompted Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro to exclaim: “When I was still a magistrate, Theuma had a case before me and you were at CID. How could you not know who Theuma is?” To which Valletta replies: “God forbid I knew every criminal on this island.”

He insisted that he did not see Theuma at Fenech’s ranch even though the go between the hitmen and Fenech had said that he met Valletta at the farmhouse in Zebbug.

Pilatus Bank, FIAU

The former deputy police commissioner said that then Attorney General Peter Grech had told him he cannot open a magisterial inquiry based on a blog posted by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. He was replying to a question based on the police inaction on Pilatus Bank on the night in April 2017 that allegations were made that documents were held there showing secret offshore company Egrant was linked to prime minster Joseph Muscat.

He added that he relayed that advice to the police commissioner. The former deputy police commissioner told the board that the AG had advised him twice against acting.

About his role on the FIAU board, Valletta says that the board was not told about investigations. The board would only get to know about an investigation against someone if his lawyer writes to the board registering some objection. The director would now about investigations but this information is not shared with the board.

17 Black

Asked about the secret offshore company, 17 Black, Valletta said that then head of the Economic Crimes Unit had told him that the company belonged to Yorgen Fenech. He said that there were no meetings with the commissioner or disgraced then OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri on the matter.

Valletta explained that Abdilla had insisted that concrete evidence was needed, as he explained that the FIAU reports could not be used as evidence.

Replying to a question on claims that he had told Abdilla not to question Fenech about 17 Black, Valletta told the board that he got a call from Schembri asking him “Is that what you do? Investigate people on the basis of a simple news report?”

Valletta had then asked Abdilla if he was investigating Fenech in connection to 17 Black, as he insisted that he did not tell him not to because he was ill. In court, Valletta vehemently denied speaking to Fenech on the day. The board pointed out to the witness that either Valletta or Abdilla were lying because they made different claims in court.

Background

Valletta worked 20 years at the Criminal Investigation Department. He was also at the Economic Crimes Unit where he relied mostly on Ian Abdilla who was better experienced in financial crime. On 15 June 2018, Valletta was forcibly moved from the murder investigation following a court ruling after the family instituted proceedings. He then stepped down from the police force in November 2018.

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the state did all it could to prevent the murder from happening.