Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
The compilation of evidence against the three alleged hitmen in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continues before Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit.
Brothers George (iċ-Ċiniż) and Alfred Degiorgio (il-Fulu) and Vince Muscat (il-Koħħu) were arrested in December 2017 and have been since formally indicted. They remain in prison awaiting trial. Theuma has already testified in these proceedings when recordings of phone calls between him and the Degiorgio’s were played out in court.
'Did you get any call to help Degiorgio get licence for medical cannabis?' Dr Azzopardi asked.
'Mario had told me that Alfred Degiorgio wants me to speak to his sister's husband. He sent me to a shop at San Gwann. I had no idea who I was to speak too. I was told to go to Mario "who works with Cardona (Chris Cardona)" but I didn't know the guy,' Theuma replied.
'Did you know that the daughter of Degiorgio was employed at Cardona's ministry in summer 2017?' Dr Azzopardi asked.
Azzopardi asked Theuma about the alleged acid threat which was mentioned in separate proceedings in the compilation against Yorgen Fenech.
Arthur Azzopardi "Turu" had urged Muscat to reveal to the police all he knew about the murder plot. Muscat had replied that "they would still throw acid at my wife". This was said to him by Fenech.
Dr Cuschieri asked how Theuma knew Azzopardi. He replied that he was his lawyer. Asked when he spoke to him last, Theuma said that he had said 'hi' to him in court this week.
The Magistrate remarked that the question was different.
'I believe I had asked him to draft a contract agreement some six months ago,' Theuma replied.
Theuma replied that Fenech said that Keith Schembri sent Kenneth to Melvin Theuma. "It automatically arrives at that" Theuma replied.
Theuma was asked about ic-Coqcoq, denying knowing him.
He was asked whether he recorded anyone else on the case. Theuma said that he might have without excluding having done so. He added that he has passed all the recordings to the Magistrate and has never listened to the recordings.
'All the recordings are at the magistrate,' he insisted.
'Did you give the recordings to anyone else? Perhaps il-Goia?' Dr Azzopardi asked.
'No,' he replied. He added only three excerpts to Fenech.
Theuma said no.
Dr Azzopardi asked him about the Rolex watch and the gold he was given to sell.
A limited edition football watch which he sold for €13,500.
Dr Azzopardi asked him at how much was the gold valued, and whether it was valued at €1 million.
He replied with a definite no saying that it perhaps it amounted to €100,000.
'Ahjar minn daqqa ta' karozza,' Dr Azzopardi remarked.
'Middleman, I got it off the news,' Theuma replied.
'My life ended on the day of the arrests. During those days, I went to draw up my will as I started to worry that I was next,' Theuma told the court.
Dr Sant asked whether he had spilled the beans because he was arrested.
Theuma replied that he told the police inspectors many times he was going to go to the Police to spill the beans, and would turn round. Theuma said that he told them after his arrest.
'I've said this before the other court. I repeated what Fenech had said.' Theuma said.
Theuma was asked whether the food symbolized something else. He said that no, he would take chicken, gbejniet, meat etc.
Theuma said that he bought two apartments from Marju tad-Deheb who had bought them through Ninu ta' Tumas but Ninu ta' Tumas was separate from Yorgen Fenech in a reply to whether he got property from Yorgen Fenech.
He denied receiving any property from Fenech which was placed on relatives or partners.
Dr Sant said that he had testified that Fenech sent him to tal-Maksar. 'Did Yorgen Fenech tell you how he knew about tal-Maksar?'
'No. He didn't tell me. I knew there were some people referred to as tal-Maksar but I didn't know them,' Theuma replied.
Asked whether he sought advice about recording Fenech, Theuma said that he got the advice from Fenech himself because once he was with him and someone had recorded him.
Dr Jason Azzopardi suggested that they should approach the Magistrate and speak out of earshot to inform the magistrate about the question since no one knew what he would be asking on.
Theuma said that he did not why he had rented out an apartment to Alfred Degiorgio. He said that he got to know who was involved in the contract killing before the murder when Degiorgio had told him not to tell anything to it-Topo.
Theuma got to know about the raid on a Thursday during a meal. He said that he did not know at that time who told Fenech about the 'big raid'.
Theuma said that he never got to know who was the person that Alfred Degiorgio had to meet to ask about the raid.
Theuma said that Kenneth Camilleri had confronted him with a number which belonged to Theuma. The self-confessed middleman said that he had told Kenneth on that day that Yorgen Fenech was the mastermind.
He added that it was during the period when Vince Muscat was spilling the beans.
Theuma said that Fenech had access to the corridors of power which is why he went to him [kien jaf lil kbarat].
Dr Cuschieri suggested that Theuma was given €2 million by Fenech. Theuma invited him to make searches and said that it was not true.
However Fenech gave him a Rolex watch for his son and he also tried to get him to trade gold bought from abroad. On the latter, Theuma said he gave him everything back and said he did not want to do it.
He complained that he had to go back and forth asking Yorgen Fenech for money, and acting as a messenger between Mario Degiorgio and Fenech.
Dr Cuschieri also suggested that Theuma blackmailed Fenech for money for himself.
'Did Fenech inform you that you were being tapped?' Cuschieri asked.
'Yes.' Theuma asked.
He referred to a phone call when he had mentioned a betrayal, and Fenech had told him to correct it through a normal phone call and say that the betrayal was about having a second taxi in Portomaso .
He could not say whether he asked Fenech if he had asked Fenech over what he was under police investigation.
Theuma stressed that Fenech had insisted that he would not shoulder responsibility for the bail promises and the money.
'Keith had sent Kenneth to help Fenech since Keith would go through fire for Fenech,' Fenech had told Theuma.
He was pressed about his contact with Schembri.
'I didn't have direct contact with Schembri,' Theuma said. He smiled as he told that he went to Castille, met Schembri and had coffee there. 'Mela jien xi ministru he asked?' when pressed further if he asked or had his number.
Theuma said that as far as he was aware he only recorded Yorgen Fenech and never recorded Kenneth Camilleri or Johann Cremona.
Meanwhile the prosecution and the magistrate are discussing the date on the first time he met Mario Degiorgio and made a phone call to prison. There seems to be a conflict in the year, whether it was 2018 or 2019, since the call transcript was showing 2019.
A brief argument ensues after Cuschieri asked where the self-confessed middle-man lives who refused to disclose in court.
He was asked about the €1 million promised to each of the accused.
Theuma asked that he did not ask any questions on who sent him or what he was asking about. He said that this was in 2018.
Cuschieri pointed out that there was no decree for bail in 2018.
He said that he met Kenneth Camilleri twice but did not speak about the case.
'But you could have always contacted him through Johann Cremona since you knew each other, no?' Cuschieri asked.
Theuma said that he pressed Fenech about their bail asking him to speak to Schembri. He then threatened Fenech with taking Mario Degiorgio outside Schembri's house. Theuma explained that this was his personal initiative.
'So you were not telling the truth to Fenech?' Cuschieri asked.
'You can say that,' Theuma replied.
'You should have never done this to me. You should have never made me to do this.' Theuma said he had told Fenech.
'He had drawn me so close to him. We were friends. I only got to know later about the mistake I made,' Theuma said.
'Did you feel that you were betraying Fenech by recording him?' Cuschieri asked.
'Me? Am the one betraying Fenech?' Theuma said.
He reiterated that he felt he was going to be betrayed by Fenech. He added that Fenech always gave him the money, 'let's be clear on this'.
Until the Monday before Theuma's arrest, Fenech had given Theuma €20,000 out of which he gave them €12,000 the Degiorgios.
Theuma replied that while he did find it strange to be instructed to buy pizza using a credit card, he never asked Fenech why he gave him these instructions. He said that he paid by cash.
He recalled about being asked about €30,000 for legal fees. Theuma went to Fenech and Fenech had told him that he knew they would need the money for their lawyers.
He asked about when Muscat's wife had asked about where the €100 was coming from. He said that he could not recall if it was il-Lolly or Mario Degiorgio had informed him about Muscat's wife asking about the source of the money. He added that he did not know if any of these had told Vince Muscat's wife about his involvement.
Theuma explained that whenever he went abroad he'd calculate how much money the accused would need and leave the money with Lolly.
He said that he could not recall exactly but had spent some ten days in London.
Theuma said that one can check with the recorded prison phone calls when he spoke to the Degiorgios through a phone call made by Mario Degiorgio.
Until then the money was passed through Lolly.
'I don't know. I had told them that it was happening on the 5th,' Theuma replied.
Theuma was asked about the procedure of giving the accused money when they were arrested. He mentioned that he knew Lolly who knew one of Muscat's children but could not elaborate on the time frame.
It was only when he got to know Mario Degiorgio some time at the beginning of the year, that he would send money with him.
'Did it cross your mind there might have been others involved?' Cuschieri asked.
Theuma said that he did not ask Alfred Degiorgio with whom he cross-checked the information about the raid.
Theuma said that he did not know why the question was asked.
Cuschieri noted that Dr Matthew Brincat was mumbling something and asked whether the witness or his lawyer was going to speak.
'No.' Theuma said. He added that it was only when he started recording his conversations with Fenech that he started asking more to have more information preserved.
'Xejn ma tlabt,' Theuma said. He added that until the last minute he kept giving money to the Degiorgios, 'saħansitra sa €5,000 kelba lil Mario Degiorgio'.
Cuschieri asked how he could have bought a €5,000 dog to Mario Degiorgio when it was a "loss of profit" for him.
'Can you explain why you took the initiative to buy such an expensive dog as a gift? When he did not threaten you? When you're complaining that Fenech was not giving you the money, when you're complaining that you're losing money" Cuschieri said.
He replied that the Degiorgio's knew only about his involvement.
Theuma referred to a time when he was fearing for his life and sent a message to George Degiorgio through Mario Degiorgio to be careful with his money since he began fearing that he would kill him.
Pressed on the subject, Theuma said that George Degiorgio had warned him to beware of those inside rather than those outside.
About the dog, Theuma replied: 'Biex inżomm sew magħhom'.
Theuma said that on his part he only knew about Fenech since he had given him the €150,000.
He added he was not aware if there were others involved with Fenech.
'How do you reconcile him informing you and instructing you to inform Mario Degiorgio with your feelings of betrayal? Could it not have been a warning?' Cuschieri asked.
'That's why I felt betrayed because I told Yorgen Fenech that Vince Muscat did not know about me. I started to think they he'd get me thrown in prison,' Theuma said.
'From that time on I started to suspect and fear Fenech and Fenech alone,' Theuma reiterated.
Theuma insisted that he never spoke about the murder with Muscat.
Cuschieri referred Theuma to the letter Muscat sent to the President where he asked for presidential pardon since he was the one that led the police to Theuma.
'What letter?' Theuma replied startled.
Dr Galea Farrugia intervened, saying that cross-examination is about the examination and Muscat's presidential pardon was not brought up during the examination of the witness.
'Biex jitfawni ġewwa u jiffranka l-flus,' Theuma said.
He reiterated that the accused only know about him, they did not know about Fenech.
The Degiorgio brothers could be seen sniggering.
'I imagined Fenech sitting crossed legs, and smoking a cigar after my arrest. I felt I was being betrayed,' Theuma said,
He said that about the case, he only spoke to George Degiorgio once.
Theuma said that Fenech only started insisting on the murder when he gave him €150,000 in cash.
From the winnings, Fenech did not even tell him to keep the deposit. Theuma said that he expected some of the money would be used to fund the murder.
'Lanqas qalli min dawk isma, żomm €30,000,' an agitated Theuma told the court.
Theuma said that few days before giving him the money he won from betting, Fenech had confirmed the murder.
The self-confessed middleman said that he never asked what was the information that Caruana Galizia was meant to be published on Fenech.
Theuma said that he never asked Fenech about the information to be published by Caruana Galizia ever was.
When he next met Fenech to give him the €300,000 he won from betting on the election, Theuma said that Fenech did not even ask him to keep €30,000 deposit or the €150,000 for the murder.
He stressed that he did not inform Fenech about the €2,000.
Pressed further it transpired that Theuma lied to Degiorgio about getting €2,000 from Fenech, but did so to save face. Asked why he asked to keep €500, Theuma replied that it was save money.
Theuma repeated that he told Fenech but never confronted him again on the subject.
Yorgen Fenech had told him to 'throw these men away' (referring to the three alleged hitmen) and said that he would do such a thing.
Pressed about his appointment with Keith Schembri at Castille. Theuma was pressed on why he did not ask about why he was given an appointment.
'No, I didn't ask.' Theuma replied.
Pressed on whether he thought it was strange that he was being given special treatment, he said that he just went and told them that he didn't need a job which was still given to him.
'Thank heavens, I'm going to get an extra bit of money'.
He said that he did not know why he was given a job without actually requiring him to turn up.
"They stopped me after four months," Theuma said.
Fenech told him, 'mhux aħjar paga żejda? Good luck'.
He never asked why he was given the job.
When they stopped his pay, Tony Muscat who had told him that he needed to show up for work or the money would be stopped. Theuma said he informed Fenech about it.
Theuma said that he used to meet Vince Muscat at the shop where the two would bet illegally. He also used to see him at the Casino. 'So yes, you can say I knew him a bit better,' Theuma said.
He asked him again about if he told them that Fenech had sent him.
'No, I swear on oath,' Theuma replied.
He told Cuschieri that 'you're meant to know Alfred Degiorgio, he's your client'. He added that Alfred Degiorgio was an 'honourable man'.
He then rephrased his answer and said that if he was dealing with Alfred Degiorgio then the latter did not need to know about the 'mastermind'.
Theuma was asked about his recordings of Fenech, and why he did not do so with Alfred Degiorgio.
Theuma replied he did not feel the need to record Alfred Degiorgio since he thought of him as an honourable man and had heard as much about him.
'Jien naf xi rġulija għandu Alfred Degiorgio,' Theuma told the court.
Cuschieri asked how did he know this.
Theuma said he was only speaking about what he had told them, and 'I don't know what they knew from elsewhere'.
Cuschieri: Have you ever asked Yorgen why he asked you to ask George Degiorgio?
Cuschieri: Am I correct to say that when you called Darren Debono (it-Topo) you asked for Alfred Degiorgio?
He called Debono through a normal phone call. Asked to give the mobile number he used to contact Debono, Theuma said he couldn't recall it because it was one of the lines he used for illegal betting and which he would frequently changed. He could not even recall Debono's number.
He then referred to a recent episode where he tasked Debono to move his furniture, saying that he had to go and physically look for him.
'What was the reason that you got Alfred Degiorgio's number when you were instructed to get George Degiorgio's number?' Cuschieri asked.
'I felt comfortable. I was more comfortable speaking to Alfred Degiorgio. I had rented out an apartment to him. I used to visit him at the Zabbar Garden.' Theuma replied.
'So you felt more comfortable speaking about a homicide with A rather than B?' Cuschieri asked.
'Exactly,' Theuma replied.
Theuma said that he did not tell him.
Theuma did not even ask Fenech what the information about Ray Fenech was.
Theuma said that since the 'betrayal' was that big. He explained that Fenech draw him close to him since Fenech took him on five free trips.
'Is it so easy to buy you, five trips…?' Cuschieri asked.
Chaos ensues, with Police Inspector Arnaud intervening.
'He is not a credible witness,' Cuschieri said.
He directed Dr Cuschieri to Yorgen Fenech saying that Fenech would call him via WhatsApp or Signal and he would do the same.
Theuma said he only got to know later that they used WhatsApp and Signal not to be traced.
whether 'bookmaker' was his role in illegal betting.
Theuma said: 'yes, I was involved in illegal betting. I've been doing this since as long as I can remember.'
He denied being a loan shark.
Dr Cuschieri suggested that his principal activity was illegal betting with Theuma snapping at the lawyer asking if he suggested that he did not make any money from being a taxi driver.
'I can't say that I've earned more from illegal betting than working as a taxi driver, there were weeks where I would earn €3,000 and weeks were I would lose €10,000,' Theuma said about his 'job' in illegal betting.
Theuma said that it was like Fenech had given him an advice, which he had used to start recording Fenech later on when he felt that he was being 'betrayed' by Fenech. Fenech had once told him about someone who had recorded him.
'I don't think so,' Theuma said. Cuschieri replied 'this is not a question of thinking or not. It's either a question of knowing or not knowing.'
Theuma said that when he used to give €300 to the accused (when they were already in prison), he did so out of his own pocket and was never refunded by Fenech.
Theuma's cross-examination started, the first question by Dr Cuschieri was on how he knew the three accused.
Theuma explained that he had rented out an apartment to Darren Debono (it-Topo) and Alfred Degiorgio some ten years ago. He elaborated that he knew George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat by sight.
Pressed further, he said that he knew Muscat at the shop while he knew George Degiorgio at the potato shed.
'Am I correct to say that you've never spoken to George Degiorgio before the murder?' Cuschieri asked. 'Yes,' he replied.
He asked about his friendship with Alfred Degiorgio, with Cuschieri suggesting that they were just acquaintances highlighting that Theuma did not have Degiorgio's number.
Theuma said he knew Alfred. He recalled time when Alfred Degiorgio was sentenced to three years imprisonment and he got leave from prison to work in a garden in Zabbar. He said that he used to go and visit him while he was working in the garden and that they would smoke a cigarette together.
Lawyer Philip Galea Farrugia from the Attorney General's Office entered the courtroom, as well as lawyers Matthew Brincat and Kathleen Grima who are assisting the self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma.
Lawyers Mark Sant and William Cuschieri who are appearing for the accused, were already in the courtroom.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi who is appearing as parte civile was also in the courtroom.
Lawyers William Cuschieri and Mark Sant are appearing for the accused.
Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are appearing as parte civile.
Police Inspector Keith Arnaud is leading the prosecution.
Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit presided over the sitting.