LIVE Blog: Keith Schembri to testify tomorrow

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

  • Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff issued an arrest warrant when disgraced OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri failed to turn up in court.
  • Schembri said that he was not notified by the Court and only got to know from the media. He will be testifying in court on Wednesday morning.
  • Sometimes, when Fenech and Schembri were together, Schembri would tell Fenech that he received a message from Police Inspector Keith Arnaud. This was disclosed in court by Fenech.
  • Police Inspector Keith Arnaud told the court that he met Schembri for the first time during the first briefing at Castille before a date was set for the raid on the potato shed to take place.
  • Arnaud told the court that it was only when the Court ordered AC Silvio Valletta’s removal from the investigation that he spoke directly to Schembri.

12:26 Case adjourned. Keith Schembri to testify tomorrow.

12:24 An Inspector takes the witness stand where he explains that he is presenting video evidence of Yorgen Fenech’s movements while he was kept in the lock-up.

12:15 Dr Gatt came in and spoke on behalf of Keith Schembri. He explained that Schembri could not attend today and that he is ready to go to court whenever court requires him to. The compilation of evidence continues tomorrow, 18th December at 10.30am.

12:13 The lawyers are now in discussion with the Judge following the end to Arnaud’s examination.

12:11 Arnaud was asked who had access to Theuma while he was in hospital. Arnaud explained he made a mistake of not telling the hospital who’s allowed to visit the person under arrest or not. He said he’s not sure if it was Theuma or Fenech Arnaud said, that while he’s not completely sure, he doesn’t think that Theuma met up with a specific doctor. Arnaud said he’s ready to get this verified if this is important for the case.

12:08 Arnaud explained that lawyer Caruana Curran had shown him the agreement for the presidential pardon. Arnaud said he has no idea yet as to how this agreement ended up in the hands of the lawyer. He explained that Theuma’s phone is still being looked at cause there’s a lot of data on it.

12:05 Arnaud was asked whether the investigations resulted that Theuma was actually employed by the government. Arnaud said that Melvin Theuma confirmed with them he was employed by the government but never showed up for work. He told them that Fenech had sent him to Castille. Arnaud said they asked him whether the job was given to him as payment for being the middleman. Theuma said that he had no idea why he was given this job but it wasn’t payment for his task as middleman.

12:02 Arnaud insisted that during the past two years, the team has remained persistent.

The judge asked whether anyone has been investigated in relation to leaks. Arnaud explained that in October this year, a local journal released some important information. He was made aware before the leak was published. He got permission to stop the journal from publishing, he explained that the journal cooperated and took action to collaborate with the police. The leak was going to unveil Melvin Theuma’s name and other important details about him.

12:00 Arnaud explained that when the doctor’s house, he didn’t open the door immediately. He explained that he could have as easily left a warning for arrest there and left but he kept on persisting and he was ready to break the door to the house had the doctor not opened the door.

11:57 Arnaud explained that Theuma told them that had he had conversations with Schembri himself, he would have recorded them as well. Just like he did with the calls with Fenech.

Camilleri asks how the police chose Melvin’s testimony over the text in the letter.

Arnaud explained that in two years of investigations, Schembri’s name never cropped up. He explained that when the police asked Yorgen on the same letter he corroborated Theuma’s information.

He explained that during the investigations when there was a tip off of someone’s involvement, like that of Dr Vella, they immediately went to arrest him, even though it was late at night.

11:50 Dr Camilleri asks about Yorgen Fenech’s phone’s tapping which started in 2018. She asked how is it possible that no one informed him about the friendship between Fenech and Schembri.

Arnaud insisted that no one has done so.

“During the investigations of the assassination did anyone’s names crop up who was employed or has some kind of relation to MSS?” Camilleri asked. The question was denied.

“Did Melvin give you a reason why he wrote the letter?” Dr Camilleri asked. Arnaud said yes, Melvin explained that Yorgen and Keith are friends and Schembri was quite powerful. He said that he was scared for his life.

Camilleri explained that Arnaud is saying that Melvin Theuma gave an explanation to his letter. She explained that the letter contradicts what Melvin Theuma said to the police in the investigations.

Arnaud said that Melvin Theuma was spoken to 6 times before the pardon. With him they used to play the recordings bit by bit, where Theuma explained what the conversations meant. Arnaud said that the letter and what Theuma said in the investigations are one and the same and there’s no discrepancy.

11.48 Arnaud exclaims that the phrase ‘feeding information’ in relation to the meetings where Keith Schembri was involved, is incorrect.

For the meetings in the Hague and other countries, Arnaud explained that there were various people that accompanied him, including the Attorney General himself.

The judge asked whether the Europol was present at the meetings held in Castille. Arnaud said that they were never present but he made them aware of the meetings and also briefed them on what had been discussed.

11.41 The lawyer representing the AG intervened and said that Arnaud has been made to answer the same questions over and over again for an hour and a half.

Arnaud explained that there were different stages to the investigations. He explained there were members from the Security Services present to certain meetings. However he was never involved in the meetings directly related to the operations of the Security Services.

Arnaud was asked whether Keith Schembri ever made the police aware he provided a job to Melvin Theuma. Arnaud answered ‘no’.

“Has Schembri ever told you just how close he was to Fenech?” Arnaud answers, “no”.

11.37 Arnaud takes the stand and explains that Yorgen’s phone was being tapped in 2018. Arnaud said he never heard any of the tapped calls fro Yorgen Fenech. He said that the friendship between Fenech and Schembri came to light following the investigations.

He explained that there were people that were tasked to listen to the calls and highlight parts of the conversations. Dr Camilleri said so that there could have been parts of the conversations that indicated the friendship between Schembri and Fenech but the people in charge could have simply not made him aware of that.

The Judge said that there’s no room for speculations.

11:35 There’s a chance that Keith Schembri is currently on his way to the court. The Judge explains that the court would need to see at what time he would be able to testify if he shows up. MaltaToday journalists spotted Schembri leaving his villa in Mellieħa.

Posted by MaltaToday on Tuesday, December 17, 2019

11:18 Break

11:15 The lawyers have approached the Judge’s bench on request by Dr Buttigieg and spoke out of earshot.

11:10 Dr Camilleri asked whether he was updated on the Theuma’s phantom job. The Chief Investigator said that he was not involved and that he passed on the relevant recordings.

Dr Camilleri asked Arnaud whether he had discussed his personal life with Schembri while waiting before going into a briefing. ‘Yes, while waiting, we would talk about football, children and so on. There was no mention of jobs for people,’ Arnaud said.

11:05 Arnaud said that there was a search on Schembri’s house. The letter was passed to Fenech when he was referred to hospital. The note was passed on to Fenech on 24 November.

‘There was a search on Schembri’s office in Castille, but we did not do this immediately,’ Arnaud told the court when pressed further if a search in Castille took place.

‘A laptop was seized from Schembri’s house which is being analysed,’ Arnaud told the court.

Dr Camilleri asked him about the police statement about the arrest of Schembri. ‘The statement said that there was no need for Schembri to remain under arrest,’ Arnaud replied.

However, police investigations are still into Schembri’s alleged involvement in Theuma’s phantom job, the leak of sensitive information and his alleged involvement in Caruana Galizia’s murder, Arnaud told the court.

10:55 ‘There was no need to arrest him,’ the police inspector said with reference to Schembri. ‘Once Theuma was granted presidential pardon, Fenech had changed his version saying that he was pressured and manipulated by Schembri. Fenech had told us that Schembri had promised him presidential pardon,’ Arnaud explained.

During this interrogation, Fenech then produced two pieces of papers. ‘Fenech explained that he had given a false version of events because Schembri promised him pardon. He had told us that it was Dr Adrian Vella who allegedly gave it to him,’ Arnaud explained.

‘Did you speak to Schembri? What was Dr Vella’s involvement?’ asked Dr Camilleri.

Speaking about Keith Schembri, Arnaud said that once they managed to track down Dr Vella, he explained that he had passed on notes between Fenech and Schembri. Arnaud said that Dr Vella was asked whether he had looked at the notes. Vella had told the police that ‘Yorgen was panicked and started scribbling over them.’ Arnaud said that Dr Vella did not open the door immediately and he only started speaking to the police when he was under arrest.

‘No we did not send for him but went to arrest Schembri,’ Arnaud told the court. He explained that they could not find Schembri’s residence and had to ask the neighbours.

10:44 The leak was investigated, Arnaud told the court.

‘Were the people involved in the meeting investigated?’ Dr Camilleri asked.

‘Did you consider the leak a priority?’ Dr Camilleri further pressed.

Yorgen Fenech laughed when Arnaud used part of an informal statement.

‘We’ve investigated both the leak and Schembri’s role,’ Arnaud told the court.

Fenech who is seated across the courtroom from us, could be gesticulating and smiling when Arnaud spoke about the investigation on Schembri.

Fenech spoke to the police for about an hour and a half on 25 November about Schembri’s involvement.

‘When Yorgen Fenech mentioned Keith Schembri, did you inform Schembri that you will be questioning him?’ Dr Camilleri asked. At this point Dr Buttigieg objected to the direct question by Camilleri. Mr Justice Mintoff said that while he allowed a number of direct questions.

Dr Camilleri rephrased her question, asking him what was seized from Fenech’s home. Electronic equipment was seized from Fenech’s house. ‘A handwritten letter signed by Theuma was found,’ Arnaud explained not recalling if it was 20 and 21 November.

According to Arnaud, both Theuma and Fenech corroborated on Theuma’s letter.

10:34 Arnaud said while Theuma’s phone was tapped. He did not listen to all the phone tapping recordings, and from the ones he heard, Schembri was mentioned only one. ‘Melvin had been very angry at Yorgen and he had cursed about him and said “his friend Keith Schembri”,’ Arnaud recalled.

Theuma and other people had their phones tapped or were under physical surveillance.

‘What happened after the 14 November I was shocked that everyone knew,’ Arnaud told the court, he remarked that they took care not to make anyone aware.

End of October – beginning of November

‘Did it result through the course of the investigation, that there was some information that was leaked?’

‘Yes’ Arnaud replied, ‘Until 14 November we were only after Theuma and Fenech,’ he added.

He explained that Theuma’s lawyers wanted a signed agreement by the Prime Minister guaranteeing his pardon on 16 November. In the meantime the police started listening to the recordings.

‘First of all, Schembri was mentioned a lot in Theuma’s recordings,’ Arnaud explained. The chief investigator said that it was then that he then realised the extent of the leak. In one of Theuma’s recordings, Fenech said that ‘Schembri has Valletta and Arnaud informing him,’ and then they would speak to ‘ix-Xiħ’.

‘With the leak that there was, the person most in danger was me,’ said the Chief Investigator.

‘I felt in danger because there were people involved in the murder who knew what I was doing,’ Arnaud told the court. He added that when the raid at Marsa took place, he was the first to enter the potato shed.

10:21 Camilleri asked if Theuma’s phone was tapped during this period. Arnaud said that Theuma had two phones, a personal one and one used for ‘illegal stuff’. He explained that he was not involved in the intercepts. In mid-2018, the investigating team understood that Theuma was recording his conversations with Fenech. ‘The case was dominated by these recordings,’ Arnaud told the court.

Dr Camilleri asked this was discussed with Schembri. He replied ‘no’. ‘I would call him to arrange a meeting to update the Prime Minister with developments. I am not going to call the Prime Minister myself,’ Arnaud said.

Arnaud explained that during the briefings they would not go into the plans for the investigation.

The existence of the recordings emerged in September 2018.

‘I was never present for meetings held by the Malta Security Service,’ Arnaud told the court.

Dr Camilleri asked whether from the police investigation it had emerged that Fenech and Schembri were friends.

‘Melvin Theuma would mention Yorgen Fenech,’ Arnaud told the court. Keith Schembri’s name had cropped up the first time after he had started investigating Fenech, Arnaud told the court.

‘Since there was a case for money laundering, they decided to go for Theuma,’ Arnaud explained that while they were aware of the recordings they did not know whether they would find such recordings. He added that the Economic Crimes Unit was brought in and they carried out Theuma’s arrest.

10:14 AC Silvio Valletta had given Arnaud Schembri’s mobile number. Dr Camilleri asked how he would communicate with Schembri, Arnaud said there were normal few phonecalls but they later started to use WhatsApp. ‘I never used Signal,’ Arnaud told the court. Asked whether he kept the messages, Arnaud replied that he deletes his messages and that he had changed his phone. Arnaud stressed that he used WhatsApp on a daily basis.

‘Up till May 2018, I never ever called him and neither was I organizing meetings with him. I would ask my superiors to do so,’ Arnaud told the court.

A number of meetings in the Hague, Malta and elsewhere were held to decide the way forward.

Arnaud explained that from Theuma’s role we had understood that Fenech could be involved but we could not be 100% sure. ‘Theuma was always mentioning Yorgen and Yorgen alone,’ Arnaud told the court. He said that this information was from intelligence gathering and phone taps. Arnaud said that Theuma would open up to two other people.

10:04 Another briefing took place at the Malta Security Service, Arnaud explained when pressed to reply how was the date decided. Asked about who was present, Arnaud said that it was quite a team consisting of members of the police and the Armed Forces of Malta. When the decision of the raid was taken both the Prime Minister and Keith Schembri were absent.

Dr Camilleri asked Arnaud whether he had passed on information to Keith Schembri.

‘I did not. I went to Castille for the first time in my life for the first meeting. Keith Schembri was there but I did not speak to him. These meetings were not organised by myself, but by AC Silvio Valletta,’ Arnaud told the court.

Arnaud explained that he started speaking to Schembri when the court ordered Valletta’s removal.

‘When Vincent Muscat started spilling the beans, it was Valletta himself who organised the meeting,’ Arnaud said.

The court has ordered a ban on the publication of details of Muscat’s request for a presidential pardon.

09:53 Police Inspector Keith Arnaud took the witness stand. Arnaud told the court that he was appointed to the case on the day Caruana Galizia was assassinated. He explained the composition of the investigating team, the involvement of Europol and the taskforce appointed to investigate the murder.

Lawyer Marion Camilleri asked Arnaud how many individuals were effectively arraigned in relation to Caruana Galizia’s murder. He replied three men apart from Yorgen Fenech.

Arnaud explained that there were times when he would be investigating other murders and attempted murders, saying that he shifted to investigating murders and attempted murders in January 2018. The murder of Lassana Cisse in April 2019 which took three months. The double murder in Għaxaq and Għargħur. He would then return to Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Arnaud explained that he would be updated upon his return.

Briefings at Castille were not so frequent, Arnaud said. The first briefing Arnaud attend was at around the end of November 2017 just before the arrests took place. Arnaud remarked that this was the first time he entered Castille and met the Prime Minister.

Arnaud said that for the first briefing, they had no date for when the arrests would take place. For the first briefing, ‘Myself, Mr Valletta… not sure if the AG was present, the Prime Minister, … Keith Schembri – I think that was the first time I saw him in my life… there was some minister although not sure,’ Arnaud said when asked who was present for the first briefing.

Two briefings took place before the first arrests, Arnaud told the court.

09:49 Fenech was asked about what was the information passed onto him between 2018 and the beginning of this year, he replied that ‘it was not much’. Dr Buttigieg said ‘what if I tell you that this came from the briefings?’ Fenech said ‘I was never present for the meetings between Schembri and Arnaud, so if Schembri was lying, I don’t know now’.

He was asked about his friendship with Schembri and asked if when the two were together Schembri received any messages from Arnaud. Fenech replied in the affirmative, he would say ‘Look, I’ve received a message from Arnaud’. Asked about the content of such messages, Fenech said that he wouldn’t know, with Dr Buttigieg suggested that Arnaud had messaged Schembri to organise a briefing.

09:43 Dr Buttigieg asked about the incident when he was given police bail. ‘You told us that at time Mr Arnaud had mentioned Keith Schembri,’ Buttigieg said. Fenech replied that he said that he mentioned Schembri and Arnaud said ‘yes’. Fenech invited them to watch the recordings.

Asked about what details were given by Schembri, Fenech said that he was kept informed about the progress of the investigation. ‘For example what Vincent Muscat was telling Arnaud,’ Fenech replied.

‘He had told me that after Muscat spoke to Arnaud, the police would start following Melvin Theuma more closely, and would look into his finance. He told me that there would be a raid on Theuma in relation to financial crime,’ Fenech told the court.

09:39 Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech testified under cross-examination. Lawyer Victoria Buttigieg referred him to his sworn testimony and asked Fenech a number of questions.

‘He would tell me that he got from Arnaud but he would not tell me how he got to know,’ Fenech said.

‘If I told you that he got to know from Castille briefings,’ Buttigieg said, as Fenech conceded that it might have been the case.

Fenech said that he would imagine that a warrant was needed for phone tapping allegations. He was also asked about the allegation concerning Arnaud’s wife. Fenech said that he could not recall the exact words and said I know he said ‘irranġajtlu job għall-mara’.

09:37 A representative from JobsPlus took the witness stand. Lawyer Marion Camilleri asked the witness if he would like to exhibit documents in court. The representative was asked to present an employment history of a person whose name is banned by court order.

09:33 Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff entered the courtroom. Mr Justice Mintoff has ordered an arrest warrant for disgraced OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri since he did not turn up in court.

09:29 Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech entered the courtroom under heavy security. Fenech’s lawyers and lawyers appearing for the AG’s office were already at their benches.

09:25 is reporting live from Hall 19

Chief investigator Police Inspector Keith Arnaud is expected to testify on Tuesday morning. Self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma and someone from JobsPlus will also testify.

17 Black owner and Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder suspect Yorgen Fenech filed constitutional proceedings against Arnaud contesting his role in the murder investigation. Fenech is seeking Arnaud’s removal from the case over a potential conflict of interest.

The employment history of a person was exhibited in the last sitting. The person’s name was banned by court order.

In separate proceedings, the gathering of evidence against Fenech in relation to Caruana Galizia’s murder has started in a Magistrate’s court presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello, after Magistrate Nadine Lia’s recusal was requested.

Fenech was arraigned on 30 November.

Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff presided over the case.

Lawyers Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran are appearing for Fenech.

Lawyers Maurizio Cordina and soon to be State Advocate Victoria Buttigieg are appearing for the Attorney General’s office.

Lawyers Matthew Brincat and Kathleen Grima assisted self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma.