‘My mother was harassed by police’ – Matthew Caruana Galizia

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

11:50 Sitting adjourned to December 10 at 2pm.

11:49 They are deliberating when the other children will be in Malta for them to testify.

11:45 Peter Caruana Galizia said that had the necessary measures been taken against corruption mentioning Electrogas, 17 Black, Panama Papers and it was all linked together.

He mentioned Owen Bonnici as one of those who had called her hate blogger.

‘She was turned into an object making it easier to get rid of her,’ Peter Caruana Galizia.

It could be others wanted her dead, apart from Yorgen Fenech. If the Electrogas contract did not happen, there would not be all this corruption, Peter Caruana Galizia told the Board.

‘It appears that the Electrogas contract was what led to her death, although it appears that other people were involved,’ Peter Caruana Galizia said.

11:40 Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia asked if there were threats after she published the Egrant story, to which he replied there were threats on social media. Adding, that she was constantly vilified, however, she had thick skin. She expected such a reaction and handled it.

Peter Caruana Galizia stressed there was a build up to hating her, adding that people who were not capable of reading or writing in English were pushed to hate her.

The FIAU was the institution which failed the most to a certain extent as they did the reports which were passed to the police. The police had a representative on the FIAU board who was Ian Abdilla. The police had all FIAU reports but no one has been charged.

Asked by Comodini Cachia asked if ministers took steps to stop the hate and insults against his wife. He said no, and explained that apart from being called is-Sahhara tal-Bidnija, she was called a hate blogger and some ministers even called her that. It would hurt me and my children, Peter Caruana Galizia told the Board. It was as though they were trying to say that it was her fault that she was killed and the government had nothing to do with it.

No statements were ever issued to stop such targeting against Daphne Caruana Galizia.

11:35 Judge Emeritus Said Pullicino said that they are here to establish whether the institutions failed. Adding that they would like from the widower is to go through the institutions as we know them, and identify failures by the institutions.

Peter Caruana Galizia added that had the FIAU, the police and those involved took the necessary action on the reports that were drawn up and taken action against the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers, Electrogas, the corruption involving 17 Black, the Acapulco visit, she was left completely alone fighting this fight as no one took action, Peter Caruana Galizia told the Board.

The widower also mentioned Taste and Flair which was important for her. She used to love doing it, and it was a source of revenue for her, while he described the problems she faced once her accounts were frozen.

11:33 When Daphne Caruana Galizia had written about then magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, she began receiving anonymous letter and he had found handcuffs in the letter box. Scerri Herrera had filed libel case against Caruana Galizia, however, she later ceded the case.

‘Life was not a normal one… but for us it was normal,’ Peter Caruana Galizia said. ‘We would take it in our stride,’ he added, saying that they would never have imagined it would lead to her murder.

‘We could deal with the burnt doors, it came with the job, but to kill her…’ Peter Caruana Galizia said.

11:29 The police commissioners installed after Rizzo, never communicated with Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Peter Caruana Galizia mentioned the day they went to St Joseph’s feast in Rabat. They were with a group of friends, and he was walking ahead with his friend. When they went back, they saw her friends, and informed him that Ignatius Farrugia who was accompanied by some people from a Rabat Band Club, they started shouting and insulting her, and the friars had brought her inside the convent. Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a police report against Farrugia and others.

Then there was some error and they ended up being pardoned.

11:24 During the time John Rizzo was police commissioner he would send police protection behind their door – this was done when there were certain issues and election time. She then began to notice that some police would pass information on to Glen Bedingfield. She refused police protection, however, Rizzo would insist that the fix point remained to prevent crimes. Rizzo felt she needed protection, he added.

Two days of police protection during the hunting referendum.

Madam Justice asked whether they had police protection during the 2017 election, Peter Caruana Galizia said he would need to check, adding that it could be.

During Rizzo’s tenure, the police would patrol the area around 15 times a day, but it would stop after John Rizzo no longer Commissioner.

11:20 Peter Caruana Galizia said that then the family had discovered that Pilatus Bank had filed a libel case in the US, about which Daphne Caruana Galizia had not been notified. The libel case was ceded after she was killed.

There was a period when the VAT and income tax department were sending her an incredible amount of assessments. It seems they had asked HSBC about their statements, Peter Caruana Galizia told the board of inquiry, adding that this was around ten years ago. The ex-ufficio assessment were asking her to justify every item she had in the account.

Among the things they would receive in their letter box were handcuffs, anonymous letters.

11:15 She then began her blog and was amazed at the readership, since she was a woman alone running the blog. Peter Caruana Galizia mentioned two blogs, Taste Your Own Medicine and a blog in MP Glenn Bedingfield’s name.

The widower said that he said that when Bedingfield launched the blog he used it to attack her and there were thousands of blog posts on my wife’s private life, our marriage, etc. He added that while Bedingfield was employed at the Office of the Prime Minister and during work hours would specifically blog against her.

She ended up giving up going to the beach since they would take pictures of her and use it to insult her.

Then the practice of opening libel suits against her started, at that time both criminal and civil cases were opened against her.

It looked as though there was a plan for everyone to open a case just to annoy her, even if they do not have a case, Caruana Galizia said.

Caruana Galizia said that when using UK solicitors, Henley and Partners wrote letters to her to stop her writing. For ablog written in Malta, they threatened to file a case in the UK. This was done through the blessing of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Jonathan Attard, Peter Caruana Galizia said – adding that someone had leaked the email to his wife. The emails were sent using private emails.

11:14 A certain Lino Cassar in article which appeared on Torca had labelled her as ‘is-Sahhara tal-Bidnija’. This would hurt her.

11:12 Issues started to happen after she appeared on the billboard. For example someone claimed that she crashed into them. The police ordered her to go to the station and after refusing to go, the police went to get her. They found no damage on the car. There were fake reports being made about her. The situation was bad.

He mentioned an instance when she was parked at the St Julian’s police station and it went to court. It was clear that the police were lying. She was let off as there was no evidence. Then magistrate Silvio Meli had thrown out the case and warned the police.

Her number plate eventually got known and she would find her car damaged. She eventually started using a different car.

11:07 Another turning point, Peter Caruana Galizia explained, was when Daphne Caruana Galizia was placed on a Partit Laburista billboard in the 2013 election campaign. The billboard included Nationalists officials. He said that he had seen the billboard in Msida and was shocked. Adding that his wife was not a party person and this was absolutely not true.

‘We never received anything for PN,’ Peter Caruana Galizia said. He spoke about the fake news at the time, targeting Daphne Caruana Galizia and setting off a dehumanising process.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was insulted, harassed, and did as much as possible to stop her from writing. He added that his wife did not like appearing on TV and she deserved a private life since she was not paid by public funds.

The billboard made Daphne Caruana Galizia identifiable and everyone started recognizing her with people beginning to insult her and spitting at her.

The Board was shown a photo of the billboard.

11:05 Another incident was when there house was set on fire. One of their sons had just returned from Paceville when he saw the fire. Again, Peter Caruana Galizia had managed to put out the fire using a hosepipe. In this case again, no one was charged, he said. He explained that both Vodafone and GO refused to pass information regarding the phone numbers in the area at the time of the incident.

11:00 Peter Caruana Galizia spoke about the Meinrad Calleja saga. He said that she felt it was not right that the Brigadier, who was his father, had a kilo of cocaine at home and had written an article about that.

He explained that their home door was set on fire, however, it was put out using a bucket of water. Adding, that at the time they assumed was a payback by Meinrad Calleja due to his father resigning due to what Daphne Caruana Galizia had written in The Sunday Times. No one was charged in relation to this incident. He said that eventually, when Meinrad Calleja was charged with attempted murder of Richard Cachia Curran.

He explained how Daphne Caruana Galizia had moved from The Times to the Malta Independent.

10:53 Peter Caruana Galizia took the witness stand. He told the Board that he would speak about how his life was with his wife, the milestones, the problems which arose when she was being harassed. He met his wife in 1984 while she was facing proceedings in court when she was arrested in connection to a protest she took part in, in the 80s. He said that inspector Anglu Farrugia kept her under arrest for 36 charges and trumped up the charges.

He said that they got married a year later, and started writing after their first son was born. She was editor of the Circle, and also wroth for a monthly newspaper called the Exporter based on industry.

After their youngest child was born, she had asked Michael Falzon to interview him for the Times of Malta. It was in connection to outflow of sewage in Sliema when the then minister went to swim in Sliema to show that the water was clean. The minister had not seen the article before publishing, and was offended by it.

She was asked to write a weekly column called the good, the bad and the ugly and over time she gained popularity.

There was a period when investors wanted to run a newspaper and the Malta Independent was set up. She worked there full time but while she was promised an editorial post, she was not given the post.

10:48 Comodini Cachia said that for the board to have access to consider what is in the TAP3 files can give an indication to the board of the importance of that story for the reaction that person might have had against the journalist and give an idea of the seriousness of the risk, and how it rose or reduced. Comodini Cachia further explained that they want to ask whether the police took serious consideration of the risk the journalist was under. She added that one needs to see the level of risk that existed.

Comodini Cachia explained that because the case was closed, the TAP3 files are not part of the acts but in possession of Judge Depasquale, hence the request was made.

10:43 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asked the board to acquire a copy of the files that were presented in the Chris Cardona case which were in front of then magistrate Francesco Depasquale, as the TAP3 files might give an indication if that was a turning that increased the risk to the journalist’s life.

Cardona had ceded the libel case against the journalist.

Comodini Cachia said that the files could be in the acts of the case or in possession of then magistrate Depasquale. Lawyer Jason Azzopardi stressed that the content of those files, which show where Cardona was at the time, adding if they confirm the Caruana Galizia story, it would mean that a government minister gave a false testimony. He asked the Board to ask now Judge Depasquale for the original TAP3 files to pass them to the board, highlighting that is a very urgent matter, in case they are misplaced or destroyed.

The request was made in context Matthew Caruana Galizia testimony.

Comodini Cachia asked to explain further, she said that in this inquiry, one needs to establish which investigation put the journalist’s life in imminent danger. Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro noted that according to Matthew Caruana Galizia’s testimony, the turning point was when Daphne Caruana Galizia published the story about Schembri receiving cancer treatment.

10:24 The board of inquiry gave a break.

10:20 He added that the authorities were aware of 17 Black in 2016. There was a compliance visit on Nexia BT and as a result some form of documentation mentioning 17 Black and Macbridge came into the authorities’ hands, he explained.

Matthew Caruana Galizia said that one of the things discovered recently was that many of the requests were directed to Malta’s diplomatic representation at the United Arab Emirates. But at the same time Malta’s representative there, a certain Tabone, owns a company, Beat Ltd, which in itself is business with Electrogas.

10:19 Caruana Galizia said that since his mother’s murder, they have uncovered other aspects of the money laundering scheme such as the 17 Black owner.

He said that 17 Black is Fenech’s vehicle which features in the Panama Papers. He said that Fenech would have had his own financial facilitators that would have set up his own vehicles. Both Schembri and Mizzi used Nexia BT who used Mossack Fonesca. However, Fenech used yet unknown corporate service providers to set up his vehicles.

10:15 He said that at the time of her death she was looking into the companies regarding Mizzi and Schembri, as well as companies owned by Azeri nationals.

In 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia started receiving documents leaked from Electrogas. The leak would continue until 2018 when the Daphne Project announced the publication. Matthew Caruana Galizia said that then presumably internal action was taken to stop the leak.

He added that if that what was Yorgen Fenech was worried about, he would have to have the ability to stop it by rooting out the whistleblower.

10:10 Matthew Caruana Galizia said that there was no such relationship with Rizzo’s successors, saying that she was investigating them.

The son of the slain journalist, said that when she had broken the story regarding Keith Schembri undergoing cancer treatment, after the Panama Papers were released, she was shocked how vindictively Schembri reacted, when at the time she thought it was a minor story that would elicit public sympathy for him. He explained that after this it got worse and worse. ‘It was as though everyone my mother investigated, Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona, Silvio Debono, Keith Schembri, formed a constellation of interests directed towards shutting my mother up,’ Caruana Galizia said.

‘I feel like they are frying me alive,’ Daphne told one of her sons.

10:07 Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro asked about the removal of the police presence. Matthew Caruana Galizia said that he was not sure how long it took for the removal of the police, but with the removal of former Police Commissioner John Rizzo changed. He explained that Rizzo would speak to his mother, not a friendship but would maintain in communication to ensure that nothing would happen to her.

He added that there was some police protection around the hunting referendum.

Asked whether there was protection after the snap election in 2017, Matthew Caruana Galizia said there was such high stress at the time and he did not recall, but said that his father would.

10:04 Speaking about the incident with Farrugia, Matthew said that his mother filed a complaint which led to a court case, describing it as travesty of justice, as the magistrate made an error in the judgement, this led to Farrugia not serving an effective sentence.

10:00 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia said that they are trying to prepare a dossier for the board identifying the state entities and how these state entities have reacted to her work.

Lawyer Comodini Cachia asked whether his mother was faced with physical aggression.

Matthew Caruana Galizia said that one of the last time, he was walking with her through Valletta when a woman tried to assault his mother in May 2017. They were so shocked and kept walking. He also mentioned the incident when former Zurrieq Mayor Ignatius Farrugia led a mob after his mother, taunting and shouting at her. Adding, that she feared for her safety.

09:58 Matthew Caruana Galizia told the board of inquiry that while he was not aware of suspicious activity outside their house, he now knew from the police that he was also being followed.

Judge Emeritus John Said Pullicino asked whether his mother had asked for police protection. Matthew Caruana Galizia reiterated that he does not know as his mother approach was to not worry her children.

09:55 Asked whether he observed suspicious activity outside their house, Matthew Caruana Galizia said that looking back, in the month leading up to the murder, one of their dogs got very ill and was going to die. The vet conducted a number of toxicology tests ad was unable to identify the reasons for it. The dog seemed to get better but then died shortly after his mother’s murder. It was perhaps, a measure the hit men had taken, Matthew Caruana Galizia told the court. ‘Perhaps it was a piece of poisoned meat.’

09:52 Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia asked whether there were any worrying threats.

‘I think the worst one was when Chris Cardona froze her bank accounts’ Matthew Caruana Galizia told the court, saying that he felt as ‘the full power of the state came down on my mother. She and I felt helpless. I thought that this was it.’ He added that he then thought it would get worse and worse. ‘I felt like the ground collapsed under my feet.’

On the day of the murder, Daphne Caruana Galizia was on her way to the bank, adding that the reason she came back was because she forgot her husband’s cheque book. He further explained that her husband would sign blank cheques for his mother to use while her funds were frozen.

09:45 Mr Justice Emeritus asked what kind of protection was offered before. Matthew replies that up to 2013, there were frequent police patrols and there was a fixed point outside her house. He recalls the killing of the dogs and the time when the house was set on fire.

Matthew Caruana Galizia says that the threats against his mother intensified, including Bedingfield’s blog, as well as harassment by the police. Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia asked what he meant by police harassment. Matthew said that his father would be available to go into greater detail. He mentioned a case when someone accused her of crashing into him, with the police made a huge fuss of investigating the case. There was another case when a police officer perjured herself by lying about giving a ticket to his mother, Matthew Caruana Galizia explained.

Asked if his mother requested police protection after 2013, he said that he was not aware adding that his mother did not like talking about these things with him. The times he was aware of threats was when he was in the room when she would receive a letter and throw it away or wrote about in her blog.

Speaking about the incident about the police officer perjuring herself, Matthew Caruana Galizia says that the officer took the witness stand and when getting off, she turned round and said ‘that’s what you told me to say, no?’ in Maltese. Matthew Caruana Galizia recalled the magistrate throwing out the case.

09:40 Matthew Caruana Galizia said that the inquiry should investigate if the state took preventive measures to protect individuals whose life are at risk. Adding, that it will find that no measure were granted for his mother.

He highlighted that the board of inquiry should insist on obtaining a full unredacted copy of Egrant report, all FIAU reports, all police reports of people in his mother assassination.

He added that Ian Abdilla, all police commissioners from John Rizzo to Lawrence Cutajar, among other names to be summoned to testify before the board.

09:37 The chain of command reveals our complete failure in our justice system, Caruana Galizia said.

The police never charged Fenech, Mizzi and Schembri despite the evidence, Matthew Caruana Galizia told the court. As well as Robert Agius (tal-Maksar) was never charged.

He said that the common factors were Ian Abdilla who was presiding over the Economic Crimes Unit and AG Peter Grech who had prioritize his loyalty to certain people over investigations.

The police force is the most state entity that failed to take action within the scope of its more, more specifically the police commissioner, Matthew told the board of inquiry.

09:33 He said that there is a possibility that Yorgen Fenech was motivated by the desire to prevent his mother from publishing an investigation into one of his illicit endeavors. Fenech knew she was working the link between Mizzi and Schembri’s Panama companies, 17 Black and SOCAR.

Matthew Caruana Galizia said that ICIJ had not yet obtained second portion of the leak at the time that specified 17 Black and Macbridge as target clients of Mizzi’s and Schembri’s companies at the time, thus the only way my mother knew of the would have been through a source with access to emails on Nexia BT’s users. At that time, Caruana Galizia said, Nexia BT was under watch by the financial watchdog, FIAU.

09:26 Caruana Galizia said that Schembri and Sandro Craus arranged for state funds to be embezzled to give middleman Melvin Theuma a salary while he helped to kill my mother. Speaking about Craus, Caruana Galizia said that he may have done so for two reasons – his pathological vindictive hatred towards Daphne Caruana Galizia and his role as ‘head of customer care’ which would do vote buying among others.

Caruana Galizia highlighted that over the past two years, government officials and fanatics radicalised by the government propaganda machine, ‘have stated that I have conspired to kill my own mother in order to topple the government. My family is also accused of trying to derail the investigation, to imply that I murdered my mother’. He mentioned that the lack of progress in the investigation. Matthew Caruana Galizia noted that both Keith Schembri and Kenneth Camilleri were leaking as they were possibly present in meetings with the police and the secret service.

The family had provided the name of Keith Schembri to the police. Matthew Caruana Galizia also mentioned Glenn Bedingfield’s blog on which he said that that his mother is ‘death robes’ and that ‘departure … will usher in an era of cleanliness’.

09:22 ‘The inquiry should start by attacking the means corruption,’ Matthew said before proceeding to mention – positions of trust, planning permits, passport sales, etc. He continued by saying that all perpetrators should be removed from public life and ideally have their liberty taken away from them.

Matthew Caruana Galizia mentions a number of investigations by his mother, like Pilatus Bank, the phantom job given to Sai Mizzi, as well as passport sales and land transfers.

He mentioned that considering the evidence in court, the court should consider the government’s position to block the inquiry for so long as suspicious. Caruana Galizia asked why were former chief of staff to the prime minister Keith Schembri and his doctor Adrian Vella were willing to take risks to sabotage the investigation.

09:20 The Minister of Justice thought all along that the inquiry is a process of arbitration between our right to justice and the needs that we see as a captured political party, we believe him to be wrong, Matthew told the court.

‘We expect full disclosure by the government,’ Caruana Galizia said, adding that they expect the government to use the means to help discover if there has been a cover up or evidence destroyed.

09:17 Matthew Caruana Galizia took the witness stand. He said that there is opinion in here, based on his experience of the direction he thinks should be taken. One thing I did not insert into the statement I am presenting is that prior to the murder of my mother’s assassination, he worked abroad working on investigation into globalised corruption. It was what was done to my mother which got me involved in everything going on in Malta. Before this I was a netural person focused on my job in anti-corruption investigations.

He said that this is an opening statement rather than a complete collection of evidence and is based on evidence he would like to have the opportunity to give later.

09:14 Matthew Caruana Galizia is the first to take the witness stand. Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia informed the court that he will be testifying in English. She also asked the board whether family members should remain in court while Matthew Caruana Galizia is testifying.

Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia said that relatives can come back in the courtroom once relatives testify. Peter Caruana Galizia left the courtroom.

09:08 Judge Emertius Michael Mallia is reading the out the terms of reference. The board of public inquiry is to investigate independently and to report to the Prime Minister, following the Resolution of the House of Representatives of the 12 December 2018 and the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of the 26 June 2019 on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia on the 16 October 2017.

09:06 The board of inquiry has just walked in. Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia tells the lawyer that they may find the terms of reference on the table, a copy is available in both languages. The board will follow COCP procedure. Proceedings will be in Maltese, however, if a witness feels more comfortable to testify in English, one may do so.

The first sitting of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is underway. During Friday’s sitting, the widower and son of slain journalist will be taking the witness stand. Newsbook.com.mt will be live blogging from courtroom 20.

The government only set up the public inquiry after the Council of Europe set a three month deadline.

The public inquiry was set up a few days before the deadline set by the Council of Europe in its recommendations to Malta. The public inquiry board is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, and is composed of Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro and Judge Emeritus John Said Pullicino. The board’s composition was subsequently changed after the family of the slain journalist and rule of law NGO, Repubblika, voiced their concerns about the impartiality of government nominated members – Anthony Abela Medici and Professor Ian Refalo.

Among those present is Sarah Clarke from press freedom NGO Article 19 who is monitoring the proceedings on behalf of the international press freedom NGOs who issued a statement on Thursday ahead of the hearing.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing for the family.