Farrugia denies discussing order to revise high-rise policy with Fenech

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Minister Michael Farrugia insisted that he did not discuss a proposed high-rise development in Mrieħel with Yorgen Fenech on the same day he ordered the area’s inclusion in the Planning Authority’s high-rise policy as he testified in the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Farrugia was the third minister to appear before the inquiry, following Evarist Bartolo and Edward Scicluna.

He had been Parliamentary Secretary for Planning when he met Fenech, the Minister responsible for Social Solidarity when murder middleman Melvin Theuma was given a job within the ministry, and the Minister for Home Affairs when Caruana Galizia was assassinated.

But he denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing, insisting that Fenech merely discussed a proposed land reclamation project off Portomaso, and that he never met him before or since. He also said that as far as he knew, Theuma was employed through JobsPlus, in line with proper procedure.

The minister, who has continued his testimony behind closed doors, also defended former Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, describing him as an “old-school” police officer who helped reduce crime.

13:31 So with that, our live blog ends.

Thank you for following. The next sitting will take place on Friday, again starting at 9.30am.
John Paul Cordina
13:30 The minister advises that he wishes to continue his testimony in private, and the journalists are thus asked to leave the hall.
John Paul Cordina
13:29 "Not now, not ever," is the minister's reply.
John Paul Cordina
13:28 Azzopardi asks his last question.

"Since you have been made Energy Minister, were you ever informed that on March 2017, Yorgen Fenech was seeking to replicate the Electrogas project in Bangladesh?"
John Paul Cordina
13:23 The minister insists once more that he did not discuss the Mrieħel project when he met Fenech on the same day he advised to include the area in the high-rise policy.
John Paul Cordina
13:22 Azzopardi questions whether Farrugia was aware that Theuma spoke to Muscat.

But the minister insists that as far as he knows, the process followed procedure, and that the request for employment was made through Jobsplus.
John Paul Cordina
13:20 Back in April 2017, Tony Muscat headed the department in which Theuma was employed.

On 11 April, Muscat sent an email to Theuma – through his personal email account – to thank him for his application and inform him that an interview would be taking place.
John Paul Cordina
13:18 Azzopardi once more brings up Theuma's employment at the Social Solidarity Ministry.
John Paul Cordina
13:17 Azzopardi asks whether there was any link between the two, but Farrugia states that none existed.
John Paul Cordina
13:16 Azzopardi recalls that in November 2018, Farrugia was quoted as saying that he hoped those responsible would be caught on TGR. He notes that it was revealed that Fenech owned 17 Black only a few days earlier.
John Paul Cordina
13:16 Farrugia said that he did so after a press conference was held, and was informed of the decisions that had been made concerning contact with foreign investigative entities.
John Paul Cordina
13:15 Jason Azzopardi asks whether Muscat had contacted Farrugia on the day of the assassination.
John Paul Cordina
13:12 Farrugia insists that what was important was not the contacts which took place between businessmen and the government, describing this as normal practice, but the subsequent behaviour of politicians.
John Paul Cordina
13:11 Said Pullicino asks Farrugia about the influence business held over the government. He questions whether the minister was satisfied with the way things were.
John Paul Cordina
13:08 He said that his meeting with Fenech, concerning land reclamation, took place after the government had issued a call for land reclamation proposals.
John Paul Cordina
13:07 He states that he had not arranged a meeting between Fenech and technical persons to discuss his project, since it had not yet been approved.
John Paul Cordina
13:04 Farrugia had been quoted as saying that the public only knew 5% of the whole story. Asked on this assertion, he said that this resulted from Enemalta's findings.
John Paul Cordina
13:02 He states that he immediately asked Enemalta to investigate, and that he tabled all the relevant documentation in Parliament.
John Paul Cordina
13:02 Farrugia states that he was only aware of the controversy surrounding Enemalta's acquisition of Montenegrin wind farms when it made the news a few months ago. It was alleged that Fenech made millions off the deal.
John Paul Cordina
13:01 But he concedes that her reporting on the Panama Papers was based on substantial evidence.
John Paul Cordina
13:01 He laments that at times, he could not leave his home without people taking photographs which would be sent to Daphne.

He also insists that he was being put in danger as a result.
John Paul Cordina
13:00 Farrugia insists that he did not consider Caruana Galizia's work to be fake news. But he notes that he was frequently mentioned in her blog, and that a lot of the information about him was untrue.
John Paul Cordina
12:58 Comodini Cachia now refers to tweets made by Farrugia, in which he goes on about "bloggers" and "fake news."
John Paul Cordina
12:58 The minister is asked questions on Johann Buttigieg, who was appointed chief executive of the Planning Authority when he was the parliamentary secretary responsible for planning.

He describes Buttigieg as a pragmatic individual, and one who could provide useful advice.
John Paul Cordina
12:56 In his response, Farrugia insists that Mizzi outperformed his predecessors.

"I believe that minister Mizzi delivered far more results than had been delivered by others in previous governments," he states.
John Paul Cordina
12:55 Lofaro and Comodini both highlight that while Mizzi's portfolio was removed, he still remained politically responsible for major public projects.
John Paul Cordina
12:55 But Lofaro questions this assertion, noting that Schembri stayed on as Muscat's chief of staff.
John Paul Cordina
12:54 He insists that Mizzi and Schembri have both assumed political responsibility for their actions.
John Paul Cordina
12:52 Farrugia states that the removal of Konrad Mizzi from the post of Labour deputy leader, and the removal of his ministerial portfolio, shows how politically naive his former colleague had been when he opened a secret company in Panama.
John Paul Cordina
12:52 He adds that when Muscat decided not to act against them, he understood that Muscat would also assume responsibility. He said that he also understood that Mizzi and Schembri explained themselves, and that Muscat was ready to act against them should it be revealed that the reality was different.
John Paul Cordina
12:50 The minister states that when he met Muscat on Mizzi and Schembri, he argued that they should assume political responsibility.
John Paul Cordina
12:50 Farrugia is asked whether he knew Neville Gafà, and said that he knew him a little, primarily because he lived in St Paul's Bay.

He states that he never entered into Gafà's role in Castille.
John Paul Cordina
12:48 He insists that he did not express any interest to be appointed Minister for Home Affairs.
John Paul Cordina
12:48 The minister insists that he came to know about that an early election would be called on 2017 only on 1 May of that year, when it was publicly announced by Muscat.
John Paul Cordina
12:47 He states that he asked ministry officials to verify, stating that he sought to avoid contact with people whose names were being mentioned.
John Paul Cordina
12:47 He said that when he sought to verify what had happened, he found that Theuma was employed through JobsPlus.
John Paul Cordina
12:46 Farrugia was Social Solidarity Minister when the ministry employed Melvin Theuma in 2017. The minister is asked whether he received any recommendations to provide employment to particular individuals.

He insists that Schembri only provided advice on loans.
John Paul Cordina
12:44 Comodini Cachia asks about his ties to Schembri at the time, when both were working from Castille.

Farrugia states that they rarely met, and that he doubts they ever discussed any particular project.
John Paul Cordina
12:39 Though Farrugia was Parliamentary Secretary for Lands at the time, he insists that he was not involved, and that he did not know who was involved.

Comodini Cachia and the board both press him for an answer, but the minister continues to claim ignorance.
John Paul Cordina
12:39 Farrugia is asked on the controversial Cafe Premier deal, which saw the owners of the closed-down cafeteria receive what was perceived to be a generous bailout in return for ending the lease on the site.
John Paul Cordina
12:38 Farrugia replies that the matter came up during the public consultation, and that he discussed this with Muscat.
John Paul Cordina
12:37 Comodini Cachia asks whether Muscat's approval was required for the controversial inclusion of Mrieħel in the high-rise policy.
John Paul Cordina
12:36 "I never met Melvin Theuma, I never even saw him; I never received a recommendation to employ him and I never offered him employment," he adds.
John Paul Cordina
12:36 Comodini Cachia brings up Farrugia's term as Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, within the Office of the Prime Minister.

Asked whether he discussed matters with Muscat, he states that he would speak to the Planning Authority on planning. However, the Prime Minister's signature was required to approve Lands Authority decisions.
John Paul Cordina
12:33 On the Vitals and Electrogas deals, Farrugia states that Cabinet received some information on the request for proposals and on potential bidders. He notes that the National Audit Office had looked into the matter.
John Paul Cordina
12:29 He adds that certain details and contracts would not be presented in Cabinet. Cabinet would approve of the concept in principle, and the project would then become the responsibility of the minister concerned.
John Paul Cordina
12:28 Farrugia confirms that the reward for information was the Prime Minister's idea. He states that he was not involved in discussions on the reward, and that consequently he could not confirm whether Schembri was involved.
John Paul Cordina
12:27 But he adds that he was not aware of any close ties between Muscat and Yorgen Fenech.
John Paul Cordina
12:27 Asked to elaborate on the friendship between Muscat and Schembri, Farrugia highlights that they had been in school together at a young age.

"Their friendship is self-explanatory," he adds.
John Paul Cordina
12:26 Comodini Cachia asks whether there were cases where Muscat's approval was sought since he was indisposed. Farrugia confirms that this has happened.

He adds that on occasions, even Muscat was overseas, and that it was then up to Deputy PM Chris Fearne to take decisions.
John Paul Cordina
12:22 Asked whether he was given advance warning about the arrest of the Degiorgio brothers, the minister states that he was only willing to reply privately.
John Paul Cordina
12:21 Asked whether he questioned why he was not being invited to the briefings Muscat held in Castille, which Schembri would attend, he said that he did not ask. Ultimately, he points out, he would receive the relevant information elsewhere.
John Paul Cordina
12:20 Farrugia states that he would receive briefings from Commissioner Cutajar, denying that Silvio Valletta was ever involved. He states that his first contact with Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra was made when a murder took place in Ħal Far.
John Paul Cordina
12:20 "I can count the number of times the police spoke to me about the case on one hand," the minister insists.
John Paul Cordina
12:19 "I think he had an interest in closing the case," Farrugia adds.
John Paul Cordina
12:18 Farrugia confirms that Muscat had to take a number of decisions concerning the case when he had to undergo surgery or go abroad, since the PM would be responsible for home affairs in his absence.
John Paul Cordina
12:17 "I did not speak to the PM about this case much," he maintains.
John Paul Cordina
12:16 The minister states that he does not know whether Muscat received similar briefings, from either the police or the security services.

But he adds that he assumed that Muscat received some briefings, since he would be aware of certain information.
John Paul Cordina
12:16 He adds that he would insist that no one else should be present at the briefings, even those concerning other investigations.
John Paul Cordina
12:15 Farrugia confirms that he would be briefed by the security services, with the briefings started immediately after the assassination and continuing for as long as he was the minister responsible for home affairs.
John Paul Cordina
12:14 He adds that he has no idea whether the police had spoken to Muscat before making contact with the FBI.
John Paul Cordina
12:14 He reiterates that he did not need to speak to the FBI as the police took care of it, and did not require clearance from him. Such clearance would only have been required had it been sought by the bureau itself.
John Paul Cordina
12:12 It is now Comodini Cachia's turn to ask questions, and she starts by asking on Farrugia's involvement in the murder investigation.
John Paul Cordina
12:12 He also repeats his belief that no one should be spared consequences if there was concrete proof of misconduct, even his closest friends.
John Paul Cordina
12:11 The board asks whether he feels Schembri betrays Cabinet, prompting a somewhat generic reply from the minister.

"Everything that is not done in the interest of the government is unacceptable," he states.
John Paul Cordina
12:10 Farrugia reiterates that Schembri's involvement in Cabinet was minimal, and adds that in light of his role, he felt comfortable seeking his advice.
John Paul Cordina
12:09 The minister is asked on the close ties between Schembri and Fenech, but notes that as a leading contractor, Fenech had extensive contacts.

"I was not aware of their friendship, and of the extent it could reach," he says.
John Paul Cordina
12:08 "I had never met Fenech before or since," Farrugia adds.
John Paul Cordina
12:06 Farrugia insists that the previous policy was more accommodating to development..

"Had Fenech sought to speak to me about the policy, he would ask me to leave things as is because it would have suited him more," he said.
John Paul Cordina
12:02 The minister is pressed further on the policy which controversially paved the way for the Mrieħel project.

He states that a floor-area policy had existed since 2013, permitting high-rise buildings in the country.
John Paul Cordina
12:02 He denies that Fenech spoke to him on the Mrieħel project, despite advising the PA to revise its high-rise policy to include Mrieħel that same day.
John Paul Cordina
12:02 He states that Fenech spoke of plans to reclaim land off Portomaso to build a 6-star hotel, and that the Planning Authority's chief executive Johan Buttigieg was present.
John Paul Cordina
12:01 Farrugia states that he met Yorgen Fenech once, stating that he did the same with other investors when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Planning.
John Paul Cordina
12:00 Farrugia states that he was never invited to the offices of Nexia BT, and was not aware of any desk the company had in Castille.
John Paul Cordina
11:59 Farrugia states that an administrative process was launched.
John Paul Cordina
11:58 The board highlights the police's inaction in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations.
John Paul Cordina
11:57 Every member of Cabinet met Muscat to discuss whether Mizzi and Schembri should have resigned, Farrugia reveals.
John Paul Cordina
11:54 But he ultimately insists that proof was required for them to resign.
John Paul Cordina
11:53 Farrugia's reply to a question on whether Mizzi and Schembri should have resigned in the wake of the revelations is somewhat evasive. He states that various opinions were held, within and outside Parliament.
John Paul Cordina
11:53 "He should not have done it," the minister states, twice for emphasis.
John Paul Cordina
11:53 But within hours, after verifying the information, he deemed Mizzi's decision to open a secretive overseas financial structure to be "politically naive."
John Paul Cordina
11:51 Farrugia states that he was initially sceptical about the Panama Papers because Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported on the revelations.
John Paul Cordina
11:51 In reply to another question, Farrugia states that he was not invited to Joseph Muscat's birthday party at the Girgenti Palace last year.

On that occasion, Yorgen Fenech was one of the guests, even though the police had already flagged him as a suspect, and he gave Muscat expensive bottles of wine as a birthday gift.
John Paul Cordina
11:51 He confirms that he was aware that Schembri and Mizzi were friends.
John Paul Cordina
11:51 Said Pullicino asks Farrugia on Keith Schembri's involvement in Cabinet.

"His involvement was minimal, apart from when his advice was sought. He never provided advice on particular projects," the minister replies.
John Paul Cordina
11:49 Farrugia once more states that Enemalta was on the brink of bankruptcy before 2013, and that certain decisions were needed.

Said Pullicino is unimpressed, , but Judge Lofaro allows the minister to continue making his argument.
John Paul Cordina
11:46 The board asks Farrugia whether the same people would be involved in taking a number of decisions. The minister starts by recalling that the power station plans had been presented to a Nationalist government before 2013.

But he is stopped by former Chief Justice Said Pullicino, who emphasises that he was asking him on other decisions, including the Vitals concession.
John Paul Cordina
11:45 Farrugia states that he was not aware of any "kitchen cabinet," which his colleague Edward Scicluna argued had effectively seized control, and that in any case, he would not have been part of it.

"I cannot exclude what I do not know about," the minister maintains.
John Paul Cordina
11:44 The minister insists that he is not aware of any investigations into Electrogas.
John Paul Cordina
11:43 "I will not stop an investigation just because names are made," he insists, reiterating that everyone knew what should be done in hindsight.
John Paul Cordina
11:41 The minister appears to dismiss concerns about the project, stating that he was worried that Enemalta was on the brink of bankruptcy. He said that the circumstances at the time – and the need to take steps quickly – needed to be taken into account.
John Paul Cordina
11:40 The Electrogas contract was never presented in Cabinet, Farrugia confirms.
John Paul Cordina
11:39 The minister now elaborates on the Electrogas project.

"If there was any corruption behind the Electrogas agreement, this would be wrong. If any proof emerges, I will be the first to call for action to be taken," he insists.
John Paul Cordina
11:35 Farrugia concedes that he had close ties to Schembri.

"I cannot deny being friends with Keith Schembri, I cannot deny that he helped me when I faced problems concerning certain projects," he states.

He specifically mentions a housing project which Schembri got involved in.
John Paul Cordina
11:34 On the Panama Papers, Farrugia states that he discussed the matter personally with Mizzi and Muscat. He adds that he did not meet Schembri, deeming this unnecessary since he kept in correspondence with Muscat.
John Paul Cordina
11:33 But Farrugia insists that Cabinet did not act in the face of unfounded allegations.

"Cabinet is not the place for criminal investigations," he adds.
John Paul Cordina
11:33 The board now asks on 17 Black, the Emirati company revealed to be owned by Yorgen Fenech, which emails have suggested would provide funds to the secretive offshore structures set up by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

It questions whether Cabinet discussed the serious allegations concerning the company, since it involved two of its members.
John Paul Cordina
11:32 "I passed any information on any case to the Police Force, and I will keep doing so," he maintains.
John Paul Cordina
11:30 Farrugia states that whenever he had information of leaks or abuses, these were passed on to the relevant authorities. He never followed the matter up because he would not interfere with their efforts, he adds.
John Paul Cordina
11:26 "The Commissioner is old-school," the minister states. He said that this was contrasted with the fresher mindset of Angelo Gafà, who was then the police force's CEO.
John Paul Cordina
11:24 The board questions whether Farrugia was satisfied with Commissioner Cutajar's record.

Farrugia argues that he was, stating that record amounts of drugs had been intercepted, crime went down, and the Economic Crimes Unit was strengthened under his watch.
John Paul Cordina
11:23 He said that he would always be alone in his office when information was relayed to him. Even his chief of staff would be asked to leave the room.
John Paul Cordina
11:22 Farrugia insists that the revelation of any information to suspects should be investigated.
John Paul Cordina
11:22 "In hindsight everything could be done better. But what is important is the result achieved, and this was unprecedented," he states.
John Paul Cordina
11:19 Asked whether he was happy with the way the investigation into the assassination of Caruana Galizia was carried out, Farrugia states that there had been two car bomb attacks during his term as Home Affairs Minister – the other was a car bomb which failed to go off in Fgura. Both were solved, he adds.
John Paul Cordina
11:19 Farrugia expresses his willigness to divulge the individuals he had no faith in, but only behind closed doors, since investigations were still ongoing.
John Paul Cordina
11:18 The board now quotes remarks Farrugia made to MaltaToday, in which he insisted that he did not have faith in certain members of the police force.

The minister insists that he was speaking in general, and not about any particular case. He said that he would receive information which he passed on to the relevant authorities.
John Paul Cordina
11:17 The minister states that the Office of the Prime Minister was responsible for the €1 million reward. But ultimately, no reward was paid out since any revelations that occurred were the result of the efforts of the police force and their international allies.
John Paul Cordina
11:15 Farrugia states that the ministry's help was not required when the police sought assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.

He adds that whenever he met Europol leadership, he emphasised his willingness to continue collaborating.
John Paul Cordina
11:14 Farrugia is asked to comment on a press conference he held with Muscat in 2017, concerning the arrest of a number of people suspected to be involved in the murder.

He states that he does not recall who attended that particular conference. But he adds that he did not prepare any remarks for the occasion, though he answered a number of journalists' questions.
John Paul Cordina
11:13 Muscat, Farrugia states, was receiving information from his own sources, reiterating that the ministry's role was not an investigative one.
John Paul Cordina
11:12 "I never stopped an investigation from happening as was the case before 2013," the minister insists. "I never interfered in the police's decision to arraign or not to arraign someone."
John Paul Cordina
11:11 Asked to elaborate on his role during investigations, Farrugia insists that he did not and should not involve himself and possibly hinder police work. This was particularly the case after then-PM Muscat announced that a reward would be given for information on the case.
John Paul Cordina
11:09 The Minister states that he is willing to elaborate on the advice he had given, but since this included sensitive information, he would only do so behind closed doors.
John Paul Cordina
11:08 Farrugia states that Cabinet did not discuss the assassination until it was time to decide on a presidential pardon for Melvin Theuma last November.
John Paul Cordina
11:07 Farrugia states that his role in the investigations was minimal at best, and that he rarely asked the police for information. However, the police would keep him updated about any developments.
John Paul Cordina
11:06 The Dutch authorities approved the request immediately. A member of the Dutch team which would assist the local authorities arrived in Malta that very night, with the rest of the team arriving the following day.
John Paul Cordina
11:05 At this point, he presents a copy of a message he had sent to his Dutch counterpart, asking for the assistance of the Dutch police. The message was sent on the evening of the assassination, at 6.49pm on 16 October, 2017.
John Paul Cordina
11:04 Farrugia states that he offered Cutajar all the necessary resources to investigate the case, and also mentioned the possibility of bringing over police and experts from overseas to assist in the investigations.
John Paul Cordina
11:03 Farrugia is asked how he came to know of Daphne's assassination, stating that Cutajar informed him within minutes.

He said that at the time, there were suspicions that Caruana Galizia had been killed in a car bomb attack.
John Paul Cordina
11:03 The board asks whether Farrugia was kept informed about serious crimes.

He states that on crimes of a certain significance, he was being kept constantly informed. He adds that his task was to facilitate the police's efforts, to ensure that they had all the necessary tools at hand.
John Paul Cordina
11:02 He observes that Cutajar was Police Commissioner when he was made Home Affairs Minister, and remained so throughout his term.
John Paul Cordina
11:02 Farrugia is asked on the appointment of Police Commissioners, but emphasises that this was the Prime Minister's responsibility.
John Paul Cordina
11:01 Farrugia's testimony starts with a quick summary of his political responsibilities over the years. He was Parliamentary Secretary for Planning between 2013 and 2014, and was then made Social Solidarity Minister.

He became Home Affairs Minister after the 2017 election, before being made Energy Minister last January.
John Paul Cordina
10:58 Break over, with the inquiry board returning to the hall, followed by Minister Michael Farrugia.
John Paul Cordina
10:48 It is now Minister Michael Farrugia's turn to testify, but he has not yet arrived. The sitting is thus suspended.
John Paul Cordina
10:46 Camenzuli was also part of the evaluation committee. This committee, he said, kept in communication with the permanent secretaries of the tourism and finance ministries.
John Paul Cordina
10:43 Camenzuli notes that he chaired negotiation committee, and that the committee also included lawyer Alex Sciberras and Peter Zammit.
John Paul Cordina
10:42 The board asks whether the valuation of the site took place before or after db's bid was chosen.

Camenzuli states that the bid was chosen first. Then audit firm Deloitte was appointed to evaluate the site, and negotiations started.
John Paul Cordina
10:41 He states that he does not know how Projects Malta came to be involved in the project.
John Paul Cordina
10:41 Camenzuli had been appointed to chair Projects Malta at the time. He states that he had been given a handover, and that at that stage, the value of the land was being determined.
John Paul Cordina
10:39 The lawyer now asks questions concerning the controversial project undertaken by the db Group in the former ITS site in St George's Bay.
John Paul Cordina
10:37 Comodini Cachia now asks Camenzuli whether he was aware that Castagna was a partner with Nexia BT, and that Borg was linked to the General Workers' Union.

Camenzuli replies with what has become his standard response: that he did not know.
John Paul Cordina
10:37 Perhaps predictably, Camenzuli answers that he did not know.
John Paul Cordina
10:36 At this point, Comodini Cachia highlights that what has emerged in the public domain is that Muscat held meetings with Shaukat Ali before the request for proposals was issued. She asks Camenzuli whether he was aware of this once more.
John Paul Cordina
10:36 "Be fair, he is answering everything. There is no need to ask questions about things that are already in the public domain," he argues.
John Paul Cordina
10:36 The board asks Lia to quiet down. The lawyer insists that there were people with ulterior aims who sought to further them through the inquiry.
John Paul Cordina
10:35 Lawyer Pawlu Lia objects to the questions being made, insisting that they were not related to the inquiry, but instead related to the lawyers' roles as PN MPs.
John Paul Cordina
10:33 Comodini Cachia asks whether the committee had verified whether Vitals had already met then-PM Joseph Muscat at the time.

But Camenzuli replies that he has no idea if that was the case.
John Paul Cordina
10:31 It is now up former Chief Justice Said Pullicino's turn to express scepticism about Camenzuli's testimony, describing it as "strange."
John Paul Cordina
10:31 Camenzuli once more notes that the committee's reports were passed on to Projects Malta, and refers to John Valenzia as the one who took care of communications with the entity. He also brings up William Wait, who has already testified in the inquiry.
John Paul Cordina
10:31 Judge Lofaro appears unimpressed by Camenzuli, stating that he did not appear to do his homework ahead of today's sitting, and was thus not providing much information.

She questions whether he even expected to be asked on such matters.
John Paul Cordina
10:31 Camenzuli states that the financial report was submitted during one of the board meetings. Comodini Cachia asks whether email correspondence that took place back then had been deleted, but the witness insists no email correspondence took place.
John Paul Cordina
10:30 Camenzuli states that it was not up to him to submit the report, but Projects Plus.

But Comodini Cachia recalls that he had submitted the report in other Court proceedings.
John Paul Cordina
10:29 Comodini Cachia questions his assertion, but Camenzuli reiterates that he has no copy of the report, and that all committee members signed non-disclosure agreements.
John Paul Cordina
10:28 Comodini Cachia then asks whether they had verified the ultimate beneficiary owner of the Oxley Group, but Camenzuli is evasive, stating that he does not remember.

Unimpressed, the lawyer presses him further, questioning whether the committee had sought to verify who ultimately owned the group, but Camenzuli reiterates that he does not recall, and that he has no access to the report the committee he formed part of had drafted.
John Paul Cordina
10:27 Camenzuli states that verifications were made by the committee members responsible.
John Paul Cordina
10:24 Camenzuli insists that the guarantees from Bank of India and Bank of Singapore meant that the committee had no reason to shed doubt on Vitals' financial credentials.

But the board asks whether the banks' existence had even been verified.
John Paul Cordina
10:24 In reply to another question, he confirms that the committee members who oversaw financial matters were Robert Borg and Manuel Castagna, a partner with Nexia BT.
John Paul Cordina
10:23 Camenzuli responds that it was up to the notary to evaluate them, and that the notary had flagged shortcomings concerning both.
John Paul Cordina
10:23 Comodini Cachia questions whether these bidders were front operations.
John Paul Cordina
10:22 Camenzuli confirms that the two other bidders were Image Hospitals and BSB Investments.
John Paul Cordina
10:19 The evaulation committee did not speak to the Projects Malta board They would refer to Projects Malta employee John Valenzia for assistance.
John Paul Cordina
10:19 Camenzuli reiterates that he found no documentation on the Electrogas project.
John Paul Cordina
10:18 Comodini Cachia asks whether Camenzuli had other work with Projects Malta between 2015 and 2017. He replies that he was made chairman after his predecessor resigned.
John Paul Cordina
10:18 She starts by asking when the evaluation committee had been appointed, and the duration of its work. Camenzuli is uncertain, stating that he believes it had been appointed on March 2015.
John Paul Cordina
10:17 It is now Comodini Cachia's turn to ask Camenzuli questions.
John Paul Cordina
10:15 Camenzuli confirms that no other bidder filed an appeal or an objection.
John Paul Cordina
10:14 He adds that the board's job was done once the preferred bidder was selected, and that it was then up to the government to negotiate with Vitals. What the board took care of was the evaluation report submitted to Projects Malta.
John Paul Cordina
10:13 Asked to comment on Vitals' shareholders, Camenzuli mentions Ram Tumuluri. He states that the company's bids named everyone involved, including their CVs.
John Paul Cordina
10:13 Once more, Camenzuli insists on Oxley's credentials. However, he is unable to recall where the group was registered when asked.
John Paul Cordina
10:13 Camenzuli insists that the board carried out its duties diligently, and that they were cautious in making their decision,
John Paul Cordina
10:11 But the board questions whether in hindsight, Camenzuli feels that he made the right decision.
John Paul Cordina
10:11 Camenzuli declares himself satisfied with the paperwork submitted by Vitals.
John Paul Cordina
10:11 Vitals also presented a declaration from the Medical Association of North Virginia concerning the medical aspects of the deal.
John Paul Cordina
10:09 Vitals declared that its ultimate beneficiary owner was the Oxley Group, which Camenzuli described as a reputable company which invested in various hospitals overseas. They also presented confirmations from a number of banks, including the Bank of India and the Bank of Singapore, that they were willing to provide financing.
John Paul Cordina
10:07 He adds that Vitals was affiliated to a number of companies, mentioning a US firm which helped them design their hospital plans.
John Paul Cordina
10:06 But Camenzuli vouches for the professionalism behind Vitals' bid.
John Paul Cordina
10:05 Camenzuli insists that Vitals Global Healthcare provided clear and concrete proof that they could handle the financing of the project, as well as the medical and technical aspects of the deal.

His assessment seems to contrast with that of the Auditor-General, who issued a damning report on the circumstances leading to the concession.
John Paul Cordina
10:05 They were referred to Charles Grixti. Judge Lofaro questions what experience Grixti had, but Camenzuli states that he did not know, as he was assigned to them.
John Paul Cordina
10:03 The board continued to meet after Vitals were chosen, and determined the roles each of its members would carry out, with two tasked to focus on the financial aspect of the controversial deal.

But the board lacked any experts who could address technical or medical concerns, and thus assistance was sought.
John Paul Cordina
10:02 Asked to elaborate on the notary's report, Camenzuli states that the notary had found that two of the bids were not compliant, constraining the committee to choose the only remaining bid: that presented by Vitals.
John Paul Cordina
10:01 The board, Camenzuli reveals, met around 10 times to discuss the 3 bids that had been presented.
John Paul Cordina
10:00 Camenzuli notes that a notary opened the sealed bids in the presence of the evaulation committee. The notary drew up a report which was included in the committee's own report.
John Paul Cordina
09:59 Camenzuli was part of the board that evaluated the tenders related to the deal, which was reached when Konrad Mizzi was Health Minister.

Mizzi, of course, was also the minister responsible for the Electrogas deal, having been Energy Minister at the time.
John Paul Cordina
09:59 Comodini Cachia appears unimpressed by the witness' testimony, rolling her eyes as Camenzuli appears to struggle to understand the questions made by the board. They are asking him to clarify his involvement in the Vitals deal.
John Paul Cordina
09:58 When asked, Camenzuli confirms that he had attended Cabinet meetings related to the hospitals concession.
John Paul Cordina
09:57 But Camenzuli emphasises that the decision to grant the concession to Vitals had already been made when he joined Projects Malta.
John Paul Cordina
09:57 He is now asked about another controversial contract, the concession on three public hospitals granted to Vitals Global Healthcare. The files linked to this are in Projects Malta's possession.
John Paul Cordina
09:56 Camenzuli also insists that he had never seen any files linked to the project.
John Paul Cordina
09:56 The power station project was launched before he took up the role.
John Paul Cordina
09:55 But Camenzuli disassociates himself from the controversial project, stating that neither Projects Malta nor Projects Plus was involved.
John Paul Cordina
09:55 The board asks Camenzuli to elaborate on the Electrogas project.
John Paul Cordina
09:54 Camenzuli had also been chief executive of the Foundation for Medical Services, and also serves as chairman of the Regulator for Energy and Water Services.
John Paul Cordina
09:53 He notes that Projects Plus works on capital projects, and that Projects Malta oversees public and private ones.
John Paul Cordina
09:51 In his introduction, he explains that he was appointed chief executive of Projects Plus on 28 January, 2019, and that he occupies this role to this day.

He was previously chairman of Projects Malta.
John Paul Cordina
09:50 Ing. James Camenzuli is the day's first witness.
John Paul Cordina
09:49 The board recognises the objections of the lawyer, and reserves the right to answer at a later stage.
John Paul Cordina
09:49 Judge Lofaro appears to concur with the lawyer's arguments, reiterating that more than two months have been lost due to the pandemic. She emphasises that as a sitting judge, she has other duties to attend to.
John Paul Cordina
09:48 While the Prime Minister appears to expect the final report by mid-December, Comodini Cachia insists that the board must be given the necessary time to draft it after all witnesses are heard.
John Paul Cordina
09:48 Meanwhile, Comodini Cachia points out that not only more witnesses are set to testify, but that it appeared that the inquiry had reached a new stage.
John Paul Cordina
09:47 Judge Mallia states that in correspondence with the government, the board had asked for an extension until the end of December because they did not know how much more time they would need.
John Paul Cordina
09:46 "This all requires adequate time, and the government should not hinder the board from working serenely and carrying out its duties properly."
John Paul Cordina
09:44 The lawyer adds that a number of witnesses still need to testify, and that both the inquiry board and the family needed adequate time to prepare for this. The family also needed time to present its written conclusions, and the inquiry board needed time to write its final report.
John Paul Cordina
09:43 She highlights that the family had to hold various meetings, including with the Office of the Prime Ministers, for the inquiry to come about. It was the state's duty to hold this inquiry, she adds.
John Paul Cordina
09:41 Comodini Cachia, however, argues that this was not the way to go about things. She recalls that the Caruana Galizia family faced two years' worth of obstacles in its quest for a proper public inquiry.
John Paul Cordina
09:41 Judge Abigail Lofaro recalls that there had been no sittings for two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
John Paul Cordina
09:39 The board's chairman, retired Judge Michael Mallia, reads correspondence from Prime Minister Robert Abela, extending the duration of the inquiry until 15 December, 2020.
John Paul Cordina
09:39 The board of inquiry has arrived.
John Paul Cordina
09:36 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who also represents the Caruana Galizia family, has now entered the hall.
John Paul Cordina
09:28 Lia is presumably here to assist Michael Farrugia or Malta Resources Authority chief James Camenzuli, who are set to testify today.
John Paul Cordina
09:28 The hall is mostly empty at this point. Apart from a number of journalists, there is one of Daphne Caruana Galizia's sisters, Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia – one of the family's lawyers – and lawyer Pawlu Lia.
John Paul Cordina
09:27 Good morning from Hall 20 of the Law Courts, where the inquiry is being held.
John Paul Cordina

However, it had also been revealed that when Farrugia had been responsible for planning, he had asked the Planning Authority to revise its high-rise policy on the same day he had met Yorgen Fenech, the businessman who stands accused of ordering the murder. The revision saw Mrieħel being considered for high-rise buildings, a policy which benefited the Tumas Group – of which Fenech was CEO – and the Gasan Group, who have planned the construction of four high-rise towers.

Malta Resources Authority chairman James Camenzuli also testified in today’s sitting.

The last sitting saw the testimony of Alfred Camilleri, the long-serving permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry.

The inquiry seeks to determine whether the state could have prevented the assassination from taking place. Its board is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, who is flanked by former Chief Justice – and Ombudsman – Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.