The public inquiry into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Friday heard the testimony of former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered close to her home on the 16th of October 2017. At the time Joseph Muscat was Malta’s Prime Minister.
Muscat is the most high profile person to testify before the inquiry board.
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The next court sitting will be held next Monday at 9:30 am.
Joseph Muscat will answer to the questions of the board about the secret service, behind closed doors.
The press, members of the public and lawyers were asked to leave the courtroom.
Joseph Muscat will continue to give his testimony behind closed doors.
The first is that together with his family he will not leave Malta to relocate in another country.
Muscat said that he would like to make certain statements which are not relevant to the inquiry but he wishes to clarify them.
Parte Civile has no more questions.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks if Keith Schembri ever mentioned to Muscat to whom Macbridge belonged to. Muscat said No.
Regarding the birthday party in February 2019, at Girgenti Muscat confirms that there were other business people apart from Yorgen Fenech.
Muscat said that what is for sure is that certain doings were kept secret from the administration. Dr Azzopardi was referring to Muscat's last visit to Montenegro.
Joseph Muscat does not answer questions related to the direct orders to Nexia BT. Also, the board says they are irrelevant.
The board noted that Dr Azzopardi is asking questions that are not directly related to the public inquiry.
"He was informing me that he was going to give his resignation" – Muscat
"On the eve of Keith Schembri's why was Schembri as your house?" – Dr Azzopardi
Muscat: "When the Police informed me."
Dr Azzopardi asked: "When was Muscat informed that Yorgen Fenech was being investigated in relation to the murder?"
Dr Charles Mercieca has entered the courtroom.
"Muscat left this chat around a month before the arrest of Yorgen Fenech. Why didn't he leave the chat when the name Yorgen Fenech came out as the owner of 17 Black?" – Dr Azzopardi
The chat between Yorgen Fenech, Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat:
Muscat denies that he instructed Yorgen Fenech to take care of Melvin Theuma as he is losing control of the situation.
Muscat says that he was aware that there was a leak from the Electrogas e-mails when it was in the public domain.
Joseph Muscat says that he is not Keith Schembri and said no, he is not aware that he might have passed on information.
Dr Azzopardi is referring to the statement by Yorgen Fenech when he said that Keith Schembri informed him about the arrests.
The board notes that the question is irrelevant.
"Prime Ministers do not choose to prosecute, said Muscat earlier today, so can he explain the removal of former Police Chief John Rizzo?" – Dr Azzopardi
Dr Jason Azzopardi is next to ask the questions.
Regarding the presidential pardon which was not granted to Yorgen Fenech, Muscat said that this was decided during a cabinet meeting which was held late at night and the decision was not taken in his presence as he decided to leave the meeting.
"I was not ready to give any presidential pardons. I would only grant it if the information led to the mastermind behind the assassination," stated Joseph Muscat.
Regarding the presidential pardon, Muscat says that he has no problem if a review is conducted which can establish the way the presidential pardon was granted.
Muscat is referring to the threat when he was told he would be implicated in the assassination, as Dr Comodini Cachia referred to a statement Muscat gave to certain media outlets.
Dr Comodini Ccahia asks: "Were you aware that Keith Schembri had met with Melvin Thuema at Castille?"
Asked if Keith Schembri attended the secret service meetings, till the very end, Muscat said that he will answer the question behind closed doors.
"No, I never asked him about 17 Black" – Muscat
"Since Muscat had a whats app chat with Yorgen Fenech I would like to ask him if he ever questioned him about 17 Black when the name was revealed" – Dr Comodini Cachia.
"I am assuming that Muscat did not know who the owner of 17 Black despite that his chief of staff was to receive money from 17 Black and Macbridge, therefore Schembri knew who the owner of 17 black was" – said Comodini Cachia
Lawyer Comodini Cachia is asking about the Panama Papers.
Lawyer Pawlu Lia has intervened: Referring to a blog written by Daphna on the 24th November 2014, where Daphne said she refuses to have police fixed point in front of her house to spy on her.
Dr Comodini Cachia is now asking about the Prime Minister's discretion when it came to certain projects.
Muscat said that it was a political decision and because believed that Mizzi could deliver.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks why was Konrad Mizzi always responsible for Projects Malta.
I rarely spoke with Fenech about projects on a one to one basis, explained Muscat.
Dr Comodini Cachia is now asking about the advice he was given by the secret service to continue with his relationship with Fenech as per usual – when Fenech was already being investigated.
Muscat said that he was referring to the Egrant situation.
The lawyer is quoting from the EU Observer – an article published in June 2017; Where Muscat referred to fake news published in articles and blogs which MEPs refer to in their interventions.
Dr Comodini Cachia said that the way politicians referred to Daphne makes a great difference.
Joseph Muscat seems quite nervous answering the questions.
"Daphne became the Opposition," said Muscat.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks why did the Labour Party put up billboards with Daphne's face on them.
Muscat says that it was not under his responsibility to invite the media.
Dr Comodini Cachia asks why not all media houses were not invited for the press conference on the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Dr Comodini Cachia asked why did Muscat refuse to attend interviews with various media houses. The board says that the question is not relevant.
Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia objects and instructs Dr Comodini Cachia to continue with the questions.
Lawyer Pawlu Lia is objecting to the questions saying that if the board did not feel the need to ask the questions that the parte civile is now asking then it means that the questions were not important in the first place and accused Dr Comodini Cachia and Dr Azzopardi of politicising the inquiry.
The board suggests that Muscat has already answered the question.
Joseph Muscat said that he has replied to the question and has nothing to add.
Muscat said he was not giving permission but he was not objecting.
Muscat said that Henley and Partners were defending the country's interests.
Lawyers Pawlu Lia and Charlon Gouder who are representing Muscat are objecting to Dr Comodini Cachia's questions.
The e-mail is about legal action against journalists.
Dr Comodini Cachia is now asking questions about emails from Henley and Partners in which Schembri and Muscat were included.
Dr Comodini Cachia is now asking questions.
Muscat said that after Keith Schembri resigned he was given the advice to go for a general election but he refused.
The board continues to ask about Muscat's resignation and his letter of resignation.
The board re-enters the courtroom.
The board suspends the sitting for 10 minutes.
Dr Therese Comodini Cachia and Dr Jason Azzopardi are up next to ask the questions.
He said he was told that there was an explosion in Burmarrad and as soon as he arrived at Castille he was told that the explosion happened in Bidnija and after a while, Keith Schembri entered his office and told him that if they do not involve the Americans the murder would never be solved.
Muscat said that he told Schembri that they should also involve the EU and the British for assistance.
Muscat is now explaining where he was when Daphne was murdered.
"If I say what they are then no one would buy a book" – says Muscat.
"And I have many more of them," says Muscat while smiling.
The board asks what about the famous "zrara fiz-zarbun?"
"I will not come here and accuse others of my "mistakes" or decisions" – Muscat
"Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were doers," said former PM Muscat.
Muscat said that with his chief of staff being arrested because Yorgen Fenech mentioned Keith Schembri during investigations related to Daphne's murder "I could not remain Prime Minister when my right hand was arrested" said Muscat.
Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino asked about Muscat's resignation.
Regarding Keith Schembri and his offshore company, because he had problems with BOV, Joseph Muscat said that Schembri made a mistake to open it.
Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino agrees with that statement.
"The point is not because one has a relationship with a businessman but if with those relationship things that should not be done are done," said Muscat
"During your administration were you aware of the level of affinity between the alleged mastermind of the murder and certain politicians?" asks the board.
"If certain people thought that they could do something because they felt they had a certain sense of impunity and were unreachable, well they were wrong," said Joseph Muscat.
The only "mistake" that I might be accused of is that I did not sack Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, said Muscat.
Said Pullicino said that regarding 17 Black no one said that they were linked at the time that the Panama Papers were revealed.
Muscat said that the overriding point is that I was being accused that I was receiving money from the Dubai company and now we know that they are separate.
Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino wants answers about 17 Black.
"I have already did and will shoulder the political responsibility that I might have given a better political judgement," said Muscat
"The Panama Papers were a tsunami. I made a political judgement – the people judged me in 2017, you will judge me and history will judge me" said Muscat.
He now refers to Swiss Leaks.
"I might have made a wrong political judgement," said Muscat.
The board says that it has nothing to do with Mizzi and Schembri who were involved in politics.
Muscat is being evasive in his reply by saying that other Maltese nationals were mentioned.
Said Pullicino says: But all the Ministers that gave their testimony said that when you met them individually on Panama Papers, they all said they told you to get rid of them.
Muscat confirms that the information on Panama Papers was not dumped but admits that he could have dealt better with the situation.
Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino is now asking questions.
Muscat says he was not aware or informed about police patrols around Daphne's house after the 2017 election.
He is now explaining what he thinks will be the future of the media, saying that print media will soon be out of business and that those who operate by getting money from printed adverts to finance the online platforms are not looking at a long term plan.
"Daphne was stronger than all the newsrooms together," said Muscat
The board says that Daphne was an investigative journalist who was acting on her own without any institution protecting her.
"I am all for freedom of speech and if I am the victim of that but people who are not in the public domain should not be a target," said Muscat.
Muscat refers to what people wrote on social media when their children turned 13. "I do not care if they call me corrupt because I know what I am and am sure of myself but my kids should be left out as their only fault is that they are my children," said Muscat.
"I do not care what people say about me but what do my children have to do with all this?" – Muscat
Freedom of information act – The govt spends a lot of money on it, says Muscat.
The removal of the criminal libel
"Journalists in our country nowadays have important tools at their disposal :
"Should social media be regulated as banks are regulated?" said Muscat as he was referring to what is being debated on an international level.
Muscat is referring to the term of a journalist and how it has changed throughout the years, referring to social media platforms.
"Politicians without the media and vice-versa, would not exist," said Muscat.
The board asks for an explanation.
"A love-hate relationship" it is how Joseph Muscat described his relationship with journalists.
Muscat said that the Panama Papers did leave an impact on our country, saying that they led to a general election in June 2017.
"The Attorney General had given the advice to the Police that if they were to seize the servers of Nexia BT it would have been invasive" – the board notes.
"Were you aware of the conclusions by FIAU on 17 Black and Panama Papers? And were you aware of the advice the attorney general gave when it came to the investigations on Nexia BT?" – the inquiry board
I never involved myself in the investigations carried out by the unit, says Muscat
He mentions how the Maltese Police informed him that they are not in agreement with Europol on the way the investigations are being conducted and Muscat said that he advised them to follow the instructions of Europol.
"The Police only informed me about the investigations when they felt the need to do so.
"I never told the Police what or what not to do" – Muscat
He also says that there are other businessmen with whom he was in contact with.
He confirms that in his chat with Fenech they exchanged photos of food, wine and whiskies but denies that they exchanged photos of women.
He confirms he had a chat with Yorgen Fenech.
"Yes, we were friends, we used to message each other. I knew he was a friend of Keith Schembri. I am not going to say I do not know him because now it is a trend to say one does not know Yorgen Fenech." – Muscat
Regarding Yorgen Fenech:
"This young lady told me 'What are we going to do about Vince Muscat?' I immediately stopped receiving people for greetings and immediately informed the secret service," – Muscat.
Muscat said that he was informed by the Secret Service that a certain Melvin Thuema- who was already being investigated- was coming to meet him for the Christmas greetings
Muscat also said that after Thuema and his family came and took the photo a young lady was next – the daughter of Vince Muscat "il-Kohhu"
Muscat said that he met him in December 2018 when as Prime Miniter he was giving Christmas greetings at Castille – an event which takes place every year.
"I met with Yorgen Fenech during events and launches" – Muscat
"The only person I met him once was Melvin Theuma," said Muscat
"I never met Yorgen Fenech privately at Castille" – Muscat
"When the name of the owner was 17 Black the pressure decreased and did not increase. That is interesting" said Muscat.
"He did not contact him by Whats app because at that time it did not exist, but he called his wife to contact him to send him a private jet." – Muscat.
Muscat referred to the affinity that the then Opposition leader had with the business and said that it does not make it wrong.
Referring to the event when John Dalli was in Libya and Dr Fenech Adami contacted his wife who did not know his location and Fenech Adami informed her that he is ready to send him a private aeroplane by Tumas Group to bring him back as soon as possible because the Parliament was going to vote against the government of former PM Alfred Sant.
He is now quoting from the autobiography.
He said that he read the autobiography of former PM and President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami.
"The jobs and the common good was our first interest," said Muscat.
Muscat said that for a government to be successful it needs to be close to the business community. "This is a fact," said Muscat.
Reference is being made to 17 Black.
The board notes how the businessman became too close to politics and politicians.
He is now referring to Keith Schembri as someone who was motivated and had a certain drive.
Muscat said that Scicluna might have been fed the phrase and made it his.
Joseph Muscat is now referring to the phrase "kitchen cabinet" stated by Prof. Edward Scicluna during his testimony before the inquiry board.
"I always was super accessible but I never contributed to giving people the sense of impunity," said Muscat.
The board asks if he thinks that the result of the 2017 general election might have triggered a sense of impunity amongst the people – referring to people like Neville Gafá.
He also said that he wants the final report by the inquiry board to be uncontested and that is why he is explaining that the said line of thought is dangerous.
"I think that this line of thought is very dangerous," says Joseph Muscat
Muscat is referring to other Police leads in the investigation of Daphne's murder and said that it is being reported that there is more than one mastermind behind the assassination and that this should not be excluded by the inquiry board, said Muscat.
"Let us assume that the line of thought is that Daphne was murdered for what she published in relation to the Panama Papers, Electrogas and what was she about to publish. Then the person who is being accused is already guilty." – Muscat
"I believe that this inquiry should rely on facts and not hearsay," said Muscat.
Regarding Konrad Mizzi, Muscat said that following the Panama Papers news "I asked Mizzi to resign from the deputy leader of the labour party and I changed his portfolio as Minister. So one cannot say that no political action was taken." – Muscat.
The former Prime Minister is looking quite confident answering the questions of the inquiry board.
€2 million were spent for the Egrant inquiry, noted Muscat who again referred to it as a lie.
"When I first heard the news that it belongs to my wife, honestly, I laughed but you end up in a situation where I had to ask my wife if she opened an offshore company and then she ends up asking me or our family asking us if it really belongs to us," said Muscat
He is now referring to the secret Panama company Egrant which was being reported that it belongs to him and then it was said it belongs to his wife.
Joseph Muscat explained how he never had an account in other countries. The only one he had was when he was an MEP in Brussels.
"I believed what Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri gave me as an explanation for their offshore companies." – Muscat
Regarding the secret offshore company which belongs to Keith Schembri, Muscat said that Schembri informed him that he had issues with the bank and he was given the advice to settle an offshore company.
"I do not agree that the people mentioned in Panama Papers or the Swiss leaks had criminal intentions" – Muscat
Muscat agrees that the revelations led to a series of events.
Questions on Panama Papers;
I never said or acted in a way to instigate hate or violence against Daphne Caruana Galizia, said Muscat.
"Finger-pointing does no good and I never contributed or reacted to that" – Muscat
He also said that he never reacted to her posts when she posted gossip and not news about him or members of his family.
"I never reacted and people who used to talk to me about what she used to publish I always gave them the advice to ignore," said Muscat.
Joseph Muscat said that there is no doubt that Daphne was the most followed journalist/blogger in Malta and that she was able to publish world-class articles.
The board asks Muscat that he was aware of what Daphne Caruana Galizia was publishing and that Officials within his office as Prime Minister, referring to the blog by Glenn Bedingfield and then Neville Gafá's posts, were writing posts and blogs to discredit her.
The board will start asking the questions.
The board asks for a copy of Muscat's statement.
"I am here ready to answer all of your questions but I felt I had to make this statement," said Muscat
He is accusing the board of failing to represent the State but followed the guidance and asked questions prior discussed with the lawyers of the Caruana Galizia family.
"There s no justification for the murder and I knew from the very first second of the news that Daphne was murdered that my political career will be marked by this assassination," – Joseph Muscat.
Muscat mentions how during his political career he filed only 3 libel cases.
"During my time in politics, I answered many questions and let go of many libellous articles or opinion pieces," said Muscat
He refers to the time when he was a journalist and was described as "a piece of journalist"
He again reiterated that during his time as Prime Minister he never had or received any information that the life of Daphne Caruana Galizia was in danger.
He said that along the years there were many car explosions but only one has been solved, "the one we are here for today."
Muscat said that he came to this conclusion from what he followed on the media.
"The level of this inquiry is shallow", stated Joseph Muscat.
Joseph Muscat said that Daphne Caruana Galizia was also critical of the Opposition party during his time as Prime Minister, he mentions how the journalist has also made certain allegations regarding the Opposition but have not been scrutinized by the inquiry board.
The State is not only the government but includes also the judiciary which has not been scrutinized, said Muscat.
"It has become a political exercise" – Muscat
"The inquiry is failing miserably," said former PM Muscat.
Muscat said that the terms of reference were also discussed with members of the family of the assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Muscat said that he is disappointed that certain people were summoned to testify as they had nothing to do with the inquiry. It was more an exercise of curiosity, said Muscat.
He is mentioning the terms of reference for this inquiry.
Muscat said that his statement is about what has been said and done during the course of the inquiry. Muscat also would like to remind the board the aim why the board was appointed by him during his time as Prime Minister of Malta.
Muscat said he would like to make a declaration before he starts giving his testimony.
Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has just entered the courtroom.
The board of inquiry has entered the courtroom.
We are live from courtroom 20.
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