‘Schembri refused to give his passwords to the Police’; Bail request turned down

FILE PHOTO

13:46 The court adjourned to 30 January at 10am and possibly a sitting on 7 February.

13:42 Magistrate Rachel Montebello entered the courtroom. The decree was delivered in the courtroom.

The application was made on 18 December.

After taking note of objections by police commissioner and attorney general she took note of the particular circumstances of this case, including possible but not solely tampering with evidence and possible civil unrest, the court turned down the request for bail.

The court also decreed on the prima facie evidence and said that there was sufficient ground for Fenech to be placed under a bill of indictment.

13:15 The Magistrate went to deliberate on the bail request by Fenech.

13:12 Dr Caruana Curran clarified that Fenech’s wife and children did leave indeed for two weeks until ‘things calmed down’.

He added that Fenech was ready to pay for police watch.

‘As for companies, he had no active companies abroad – if you know about a company, please let us know,’ Caruana Curran said.

Galea-Farrugia replied that on the tampering evidence, ‘as we have seen others tried to tamper with evidence, a doctor’.

‘It is not true that Fenech tried tampering with evidence, it was others that tried to,’ Galea Farrugia told the court.

13:02 Dr Camilleri made submissions on the bail request. She noted that as for witnesses still to testify, the most crucial were the three hitmen who were in jail, and Theuma who was granted presidential pardon and he had already partly testified. ‘His evidence has been preserved and if he decided to change his version there was his presidential pardon,’ Camilleri told the court.

‘The protests were not against Fenech, but against the government and the corruption in this country. The lack of rule of law in this country, that is why people are protesting. Let’s not put all the blame Fenech,’ Caruana Curran stressed. He further argued that others remained at large while his client was in jail.

Dr Galea Farrugia said that the moment Fenech was arrested, his wife and children left to the UK. Fenech interjected that they were back in Malta. On the day Fenech was arrested, his brother had left the island on the Catamaran.

Galea Farrugia said that with regards to companies, Fenech had various companies around the world which were being looked into. Fenech could be seen interjecting saying ‘no it’s not true’. Earlier, Caruana Curran said that the companies abroad were closed.

Dr Galea Farrugia said that Fenech had requested a police fixed point since he feared for his life. ‘He had a police officer practically living with him,’ he noted. He said that there was no question that Fenech behaved well while under police bail. ‘He was also waiting for pardon at the time,’ Galea Farrugia said. ‘As for the ‘escape’ Captain had made it clear that Fenech was not to return with him,’ the lawyer pointed out.

‘There were extensive chats between Fenech, his uncle Ray and the Captain which still need to be investigated. There is still some information to be verified.’ Dr Galea Farrugia said.

12:53 After a short break, Dr Marion Camilleri started submissions on bail. ‘All crimes are serious. But the presumption of innocence applies, even in Fenech’s case,’ Camilleri said.

The AG objected to Fenech’s bail request ‘because of the circumstances of the case’. Camilleri asked what were these circumstances. She added as we have seen while there was an urge to arraign Fenech, in the defence opinion there were other persons of interest who have not been arraigned.

Camilleri referred to earlier sworn testimonies by police officers who said that Fenech cooperated all along while under police bail, several times. ‘Even when not arrested, he obeyed and fully abides by all instructions. His attitude showed this,’ Camilleri told the court.

Speaking about the fear of absconding, Dr Camilleri noted that Pulis did not confirm the navigational equipment was switched on. She asked why was this not investigated. ‘The impression sought to be given by the media, is that Fenech tried absconding. She asked why would a person seeking to flee only take €7,000 in cash.

Dr Camilleri spoke about Fenech’s mobile phone. He pointed out that this was a shortcoming of the police. ‘We’re constantly told that the mobile was handed to Europol and his lawyers could not verify that,’ Dr Camilleri said.

12:32 Dr Azzopardi took over the cross-examination. He asked about when Dr Vella was arrested.

Arnaud: I think, the doctor was not arrested at his residence. He was arrested at the police headquarters.

Arnaud confirmed that Dr Vella had a mobile on him. During the interrogation, the police asked for his phone and he told them that he swiped everything off his phone. WhatsApp was reinstalled on his phone.

Arnaud replying to a question by Dr Azzopardi, said that Dr Vella had told the police that he had called Keith Schembri while the police were waiting outside his door. Recalling from Dr Vella’s interrogation, Arnaud quoted the doctor as saying: ‘At one point the police stopped knocking, and seemed to have left. When they came again, I called Keith Schembri.’

The doctor told the police that Schembri told him ‘keep calm and open the door for them’.

Arnaud said that there were two notes handed over to Fenech. Dr Vella only confirmed one note, adding that he knew nothing about the second one.

Asked whether the police is trying to confirm the details contained in the note, Arnaud confirmed that investigations are still ongoing. He added that he they have been investigating however, “zelqulna hafna affarijiet”.

Azzopardi: Did you ask Schembri for his passwords?

Arnaud: Yes, I forgot about that. We asked him about the passwords to his cloud and his email, but he refused to give it to us, saying that he did not want to do so since “there were sensitive things related to his work.” The court expert had wanted the password because he could not access full information related Schembri.

12:24 Dr Caruana Curran is now asking Arnaud if Theuma went to Fenech or vice-versa. Arnaud replied that it depends – since there different circumstances.

Caruana Curran: What about the tapes? There was a reference to “Kenneth” later identified Camilleri. Where does he work? And Craus? Am I right in saying that Keith Schembri, Kenneth and Craus, all three work in Castille? And there is a reference to ‘ix-xih’?

Arnaud: Yes they work at Castille. Even am mentioned in the recording. Fenech was telling Theuma about a brief at Castille when Vincent Muscat started spilling the beans.

Quoting the recording, Arnaud said: ‘Dak ghandu lil Valletta u lil Arnaud icemplulu ghax-xih’. He explained how he understood that ‘ix-xih’ was a reference to the Prime Minister, he added ‘I was at he meetings.’

Caruana Curran asked who was present at the cabinet meeting when Fenech’s request for presidential pardon. The Magistrate said that this was not relevant to the compilation of evidence.

12:14 Dr Caruana Curran asked about the chain of command. There was AC Silvio Valletta, AC Kevin Farrugia, AC Michael Mallia, and Kurt Zahra.

Valletta was not replaced when ordered off the investigation. Arnaud said that he would then liaise would the police commissioner.

Caruana Curran: Is it normal that assistant commissioner Valletta was removed and not replaced by an assistant commissioner? And instead you stepped into his shoes?

Arnaud: No this was my first experience. This was my first visit to Castille.

Caruana Curran: Was it because you were on close terms with Schembri?

Arnaud: I met him at Castille for the first time.

Caruana Curran: today we saw that Fenech’s premises were searched and a police fixed point was set. Did you do the same with Schembri’s OPM’s office? Did the searches happen on the same day as his arrest?

Arnaud: People working at OPM sealed Schembri’s office. I don’t know who sealed the office physically. The keys were held by the new chief of staff. The decision to seal Schembri’s office was taken by Castille. I got to know that after Cabinet meeting on November 28. The police search took place on 5 December.

Arnaud explained that he had spoken to the new chief of staff Mario Farrugia. He added that Farrugia had told him he sealed the place when the news of Schembri’s arrest came out. After Schembri’s arrest no police was sent over to the office Schembri held at Castille to guard the office, Arnaud told the court.

The police search eventually took place on 5 December. Europol experts were not present for the search at OPM used by Schembri.

12:07 Dr Caruana Curran referred to Arnaud’s cross-examination which was suspended last week. He requested that it continues today.

The first question is in relation to Schembri’s phone.

‘Investigations into Schembri are still open, including the search for the mobile phone,’ Arnaud explained.

Magistrate: Was Schembri asked to turn up at the Police Station and hand in his phone if found?

Arnaud: No, because we are preparing other things on Schembri.

Caruana Curran: Was there a police report on the missing mobile?

Arnaud: Am not informed.

Caruana Curran: What have you done to find the phone? Did you ask the Security Service? Did you try find my iPhone?

Arnaud went into some details, treading cautiously in order not to jeopardize ongoing investigations. Dr Caruana Curran asked Arnaud whether he asked Schembri where, when and how he lost his phone. ‘I don’t recall his answer,’ Arnaud said.

Magistrate Montebello joined in the questioning, ‘did you investigate to see whether it’s truly lost?’

Arnaud explained that they were still investigating. He added that Dr Vella had spoken to Schembri the same night of the arrest, some hours before Schembri’s arrest.

12:01 Dr Jason Azzopardi asked Vella who knew about the chosen date of 16 November – he replied that Arnaud, the police commissioner, Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, Europol, the Maltese Security Service and Superintendent Raymond Aquilina.

Caruana Curran: Was Keith Schembri mentioned by Theuma upon his arrest?

Vella: When the box opened there was a photo. Schembri was mentioned. Theuma had been asked: ‘who is this person?’

Arnaud sought further clarification – at which point and in which context was Schembri mentioned?

Vella: Theuma was arrested 10:45am. Later in the presence of inquiring magistrate, Schembri was mentioned. But said nothing much.

Magistrate: He did not tell you what was in the box, hux hekk?

Vella: He didn’t say what there was inside the box. I did not ask him what was inside. I just sealed the box immediately.

11:56 Police Inspector Vella recalled that Theuma immediately told them about an ice-cream plastic box. Vella said that Theuma did not want to let go of the box but then decided to leave it in the inspector’s hands and he kept an on the box for the rest of the day.

Theuma told the police that he wanted to open the box before police commissioner, the magistrate and his lawyers, Vella recalled.

In the CID interrogation room, there was the police commissioners, inquiring magistrate Gabriella Vella, police and experts were also called in.

The box was then opened in the presence of these officials, which contained three mobiles, voice recorder, USB, photos.

The items were sealed and the electronic equipment was handed over to the Europol experts.

The police inspector said that police investigations were still ongoing.

11:46 Police Inspector Nicholas Vella from the anti-money laundering squad took the witness stand. He testified on the police investigation on Melvin Theuma.

Vella received a confidential report on Theuma which kicked off the investigation. He recalled being informed that Theuma was a person of interest in the murder investigation however, he had limited information.

Vella investigated Theuma for possible money laundering, illegal betting and tax evasion. He explained that Europol had shown interest in the investigation.

The police inspector said that he had anticipated that his investigation will be ready by end of November.

He explained that the day chosen was 16 November which fell on a Saturday, ‘it was chosen since on Wednesday and Saturday were the days in which illegal gambling generates most.’

He informed inquiring magistrate Gabriella Vella, Vella recalled.

The inspector recalled that on Wednesday, Theuma had not operated from his usual premises and had made arrangements to transfer certain items.

Upon noticing this, the Inspector decided to act fearing tampering of evidence. He set out for a search of Theuma in H’Attard and Birkirkara. The police inspector got frequent updates on Theuma’s movement before arriving to the locality of interest.

He spotted Theuma in his car once the inspector was at the place. Police Inspector Vella stopped him and informed him he was being investigated on suspicion of money laundering, tax evasion and illegal gambling.

11:42 Another police constable took the witness stand who recognised the accused. The police officer was present on site for Fenech’s arrest on 20 November. He retraced the subsequent searches.

The police officer listed the electronic equipment seized in Fenech’s study which included a black iPod, HP laptop, WiFi camera, purple iPod, a Blackberry phone, a gold iPhone, an Asus laptop, an Apple mouse, an iMac, among other electronic equipment.

During a search in the bar, the police seized a WiFi camera, an iPhone 11, an Apple PC among other electronic equipment.

11:35 Police Sargent from the drugs squad took the witness stand who recognized the accused in the courtroom. He recalled that while at Fenech’s apartment, the accused had an anxiety attack and called Dr Vella who gave him some medicine.

An HP laptop was found at Fenech’s office.

A black laptop was retrieved from the secretary’s office.

Two pen drives and an SD card were found in the conference room.

A small camera was seized from the chairman’s desk when the police returned on 22 November with Europol experts who scanned the office.

The police officer recalled that he accompanied Fenech to Mater Dei Hospital.

The police recalled Schembri’s arrest and that he had escorted Schembri to the police headquarters.

Arnaud asked the witness about the visit to Mater Dei. The police officer said that he first waited inside but then waited outside the operating theater while a brief intervention took place. He said that he could see through the glass door.

Dr Marion Camilleri asked whether Fenech cooperated with the police. He replied in the affirmative.

11:32 Dr Gianluca Caruana Curran asked the police constable whether Fenech cooperated while on police bail and also during the searches. The police constable replied that Fenech always obeyed police instructions.

‘If we told to stay in one place, when sensing danger, he would obey,’ the police constable recalled.

11:28 On 23 November, the police constable accompanied Fenech to hospital after he complained of chest pains at around 1pm. He was discharged on the same day.

The police constable was also present when the police went for Dr Vella at his residence.

Later on that day, the witness recalled, he was called to Mellieha for Schembri’s arrest where he found Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra.

The witness was asked whether he was inside when Fenech was admitted in hospital. He said that he remained outside inside the van.

11:21 The witness was shown the documents and he confirmed that these were the documents seized from the offices.

Fenech is seated between three heavily armed prison guards. He spent most of the sitting staring at the floor.

The Nexia BT document related to a feasibility study for a deposit scheme for one-way beverages.

11:09 A police constable from the drug squad took the witness stand. The police constable received orders from Pulis to go to the Portomaso marina. He recalled the arrest on 20 November. He arrived on site at 6.30am. The blue and white yacht was berthed at pontoon number 58.

On board Gio there were AFM officers, Fenech and the captain.

Magistrate Neville Camilleri signed the arrest warrant which was shown to Fenech by Pulis, the police constable said.

The officer explained the subsequent searches on the yacht, penthouse, and offices.

The police constable retrieved Captain Wood’s wallet containing €150 and ID documents.

An Apple laptop wrapped in cling film was found and an internet key in the cabin downstairs. The €7,000 was found divided in three batches, the police constable recalled. Banking cards seized and sealed in evidence bags.

In the main bathroom, a number of business cards were found which were sealed.

‘He had informed me that he had resigned from the company two days earlier and he was not needed for the search,’ the police constable recalled.

The police searched the office with the financial controller.

The witness listed the documents presented earlier in court by Pulis.

11:05 Cross-examination by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran underway. Pulis was asked whether the VHF and other electronic equipment was switched on. The police inspector said that he was not a technical person but the dashboard was switched on.

Caruana Curran: ‘Were you shown an yemails by Captain Wood regarding booking for repairs?’

Pulis: He wanted to, but the phone was with the European experts.

Caruana Curran: ‘How much money in cash did you find onboard the yacht? Millions as the media were implying?

Pulis: Millions?!?! €7,000 in cash were found.

Caruana Curran: You’ve presented documentation in relation to Wings Investment Ltd and Wings Development Ltd, did it result that these documents were no longer operative?

Pulis: It was not my duty to check.

10:58 Arnaud asked Pulis to detail the security at Fenech’s house. His lawyers were present at Fenech’s residence. As well as his doctor who called once.

‘Arnaud had informed me, that Fenech had some medical condition since he had undergone surgery when he was younger,’ Pulis told the court. Pulis explained that he had called Vella as Fenech was arrested on board to ensure whether he needed any assistance.

Fenech was escorted back to the lockup on 24 November.

The doctor had called to see him at home on 22 November.

Dr Vella assisted Fenech on 20 November and stayed with Fenech from 4-6pm. The doctor was called again on 24 November around noon to check on Fenech. The police would move away and allow for a private check up. On that occasion, lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran was always present.

10:44 Documents had been found at office number 4 in an envelope addressed to Fenech (Wings Investment Ltd) bearing a memorandum of association and articles for an offshore company in Ajman, UAE. The documents had been found in the presence of Ray Sladden.

Pulis presented documents of Wings Development Ltd and Wings Investment Ltd.

Searches at level 21 Portomaso, the police retrieved six documents addressed to Melvin Theuma. Pulis said that these were documents relating to some horse racing gambling and were found in Fenech’s office.

A lease agreement with Fenech originally as tenant was presented in court, his name was crossed out and replaced with names of two foreign nationals – holding a US passport.

An invoice issued to GEM holding from New Energy supply ltd was presented.

At no point in time was Fneech questioned about the documents retrieved, Pulis explained

A memorandum of association and articles with New Energy Supply Ltd. dated 2 May 2014, in which Fenech appears as sole shareholder was presented in court.

A certificate by GEM Holdings Ltd with Dr Michael Grech as company secretary dated 2014.

A project service agreement between GEM and New Energy was presented in court.

An Enemalta fact sheet and agreement, a report by estate management coordination and notarial documents were presented in court.

Emails sent to Charles Mangion in relation to fuel prices were presented in court.

Another document by Nexia BT dated 2015 – a 22-page report was presented. Along with these documents an empty envelope addressed to Yorgen Fenech was found. The envelope was seized to prove that Fenech had possession of that office.

Pulis explained that in agreement with the defence counsel, he and his officers handled Fenech’s security while on police bail.

10:40 Police Inspector presented a set of receipts for all the electronic equipment seized during the police search. He then presented a receipt showing that the €7,000 found in cash on the yacht were handed back to Yorgen Fenech while in lock up.

A receipt of Vella’s mobile was presented. The mobile was not passed on to Europol’s expert but to Police Inspector Kurt Zahra.

Pulis presented a receipt of the seized items which belong to the captain. However, these were given back to Wood on the same day.

A set of receipts relating to the items handed over to Europol experts on site was also presented in court.

10:30 There was a police fixed point at Fenech’s office on level 3 and level 21, along with the company security.

On 22 November Pulis and Inspector Vella from the anti-money laundering squad went to the office.

At 4.15pm on 22 November, Fenech was taken back to the lock up.

On 26 November around 11:30pm Pulis was called by Inspector Arnaud to escort Dr Adrian Vella for police questioning. The police were outside Vella’s house at around 12:30pm. He explained that they stood outside their door for half an hour. Dr Vella’s car was parked outside. Pulis recalled that he spoke to Arnaud who told him that Vella had to taken to the Police Headquarters.

The police moved away slightly. Knocking at several doors of his residence and clinic, the police had no luck. It was only after the police managed to call his daughter’s number. Dr Vella was instructed to open the door and he was taken to police headquarters. At around 2pm Dr Vella was told he was being kept under arrest.

At around 10 am the next day, Pulis was instructed to go to Mellieha to escort disgraced OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri to the police headquarters for investigation.

The police inspector presented some documents in court.

A copy of the medical certificate issued by Vella at Fenech’s penthouse on 20 November.

10:25 Fenech was feeling anxious during the search at his residence and was not feeling very well. His doctor Adrian Vella was called and administered medicine. This was around 4pm. Vella stayed for some two hours. His wife was also present.

After the searches, Pulis directed the officers at Portomaso tower. The police inspector explained that he was informed that Fenech had resigned from the Tumas Group. Ray Sladden directed them to the office.

Fenech left the penthouse and went to the office. From the office electronic equipment was seized in the presence of Europol officials. The items that were taken away were also photographed.

On 20 November at around 10:30pm Fenech was escorted to the lock up at Floriana. Pulis explained that Fenech was subsequently released on police bail. On 22 November there was a Europol expert who asked for the scanning of the yacht, inside and out, for possible explosives. The search resulted in the negative. During the search, several old foreign sim cards were found.

10:18 A list of items to be presented including IMe numbers of electronic equipment. Pulis told the court that all things were photographed and handed over to Europol who were present throughout the search.

The search then proceeded to his home at Portomaso. Fenech’s wife was present at their penthouse in Portomaso.

The captain of the yacht was present assisting the police in their search.

The police found some keys during the search.

The captain was taken to the Police Headquarters where he released a statement in the presence of his lawyer. He gave a six-page statement. The captain, Logan Wood, told the police that during this time of the year it was normal for them to take the yacht to Sicily for maintenance.

The captain told the police that the night before he and Fenech had spoken about the maintenance. Fenech expressed his wish to accompany the captain in Sicily for repairs. The captain wanted to return to Malta on the same evening. However, Fenech had told him he wanted to come up and spend two days with him in Sicily. Wood could not tell what Fenech was to do after they arrived in Sicily.

Wood explained to the police that they requested the port authorities permission to leave. Vella told the court that the captain invited them to double check with the authorities in Pozzallo which gave them clearance.

‘Did you actually verify?’ Magistrate Montebello asked.

‘I only took care of the statement. But he provided all the names at the Pozzallo marina,’ Pulis replied.

10:13 Police Inspector Kevin Pulis from the Drug Squad took the witness stand. On 19 November he was requested to assist the investigation. Pulis explained that the investigation required assistance in surveillance.

He explained that several police officials were asked to carry out surveillance in some strategic locations.

Pulis told the court that on 20 November that he was informed that Fenech was on board Gio at around 6.15am. The yacht was intercepted by the AFM. The police arrived on site at around 6.30am and took over from the AFM. The yacht was berthed at berth 52 in the Portomaso marina. On board Gio there was Fenech and the captain.

The police immediately started searching the yacht after Fenech was informed that he was under arrest. Scene of crime officers were informed and two Europol officials arrived on site.

The police seized some mobiles and a laptop during a preliminary search on the yacht.

€7,000 in cash were found on board the yacht.

10:11 Magistrate Rachel Montebello entered the courtroom.

10:10 The prosecution entered the courtroom. Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra are leading the prosecution. Lawyer Philip Galea Farrugia is appearing for the Attorney General’s Office. Lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi are appearing as parte civile.

Lawyers Gianluca Caruana Curran and Marion Camilleri were already present in the courtroom.

10:08 Good morning, Newsbook.com.mt is live blogging from inside courtroom 9. Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech just entered the courtroom. Despite the nationwide power outage, thanks to a couple of generators there is electricity in the courtroom.

The compilation of evidence against Caruana Galizia’s murder suspect Yorgen Fenech continued on Monday before a court presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello.

During the last sitting it emerged that disgraced chief of staff Keith Schembri is officially under investigation in connection to the murder, tampering of evidence and the phantom job given to self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma. It also transpired that Schembri’s phone was not found by the police.

Over the past days, Fenech filed a constitutional application in which he described chief investigator Keith Arnaud’s investigation into Keith Schembri’s possible role in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination as ‘careless, approximative, if not amateurish’.

On Monday morning, Prison Officials waiting outside the courtroom was a sniffer dog named Blade, used by prison officials for explosive detection.

Police Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra led the prosecution.

Lawyers Marion Camilleri and Gianluca Caruana Curran appeared as defence counsel.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Therese Comodini Cachia and Andrew Borg Cardona appeared as parte civile.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello presided over the case.