“Theuma’s and Fenech’s names never cropped up during brief meetings at Castille” – Inspector Arnaud

Protesters hold pictures of Daphne Caruana Galizia during a demonstration to demand justice over the journalist's murder, outside the Office of the Prime Minister at Auberge de Castle, in Valletta, Malta, November 29, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The director of the Department of Information (DOI) Paul Azzopardi and Police Inspector Keith Arnaud testified this afternoon in the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Highlights from today’s court sitting;

  • DOI Director Paul Azzopardi says that PRs and Press Coverages are sent to all registered media houses
  • Azzopardi also said that PRs and the Press Coverages are also available online
  • “Under my watch, PRs are sent concurrently – by email and uploaded online,” said Paul Azzopardi.
  • The board of inquiry noticed that although the Police arrested 3 men there was no link between them and the assassinated journalist. Arnaud confirms.
  • Keith Arnaud confirms that the Police investigated the possibility that Daphne was assassinated due to her investigations on fuel smuggling
  • Arnaud was not comfortable answering questions related to the main possible suspects who could have ordered Daphne’s assassination.
15:52 Thank you for following.
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15:51 This blog ends here. We will soon update you with the highlights from today's court sitting.
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15:50 The next court sitting will be held this Friday at 9:30 am.
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15:49 Keith Arnaud will continue his testimony behind closed doors.
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15:47 He said that the Police did not invest much time investigating Daphne's assassination as linked to fuel smuggling since such investigations were resulting negative.
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15:45 Arnaud said that the reason the Police decided to also investigate the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia as linked to fuel smuggling as other car bomb cases might have had a connection.
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15:44 He also said that investigations showed her assassination was not related to fuel smuggling.
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15:43 Keith Arnaud confirms that the Police investigated the possibility that Daphne was assassinated due to her investigations on fuel smuggling.
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15:41 Arnaud is not comfortable answering questions related to the main possible suspects who could have ordered Daphne's assassination.
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15:39 Arnaud said that no car bomb case has been solved apart from the case in Fgura where the same technology in the investigation was used in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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15:37 Arnaud said yes there was an increase in manpower however he could not confirm if the instructions were ordered from Castille.
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15:34 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asked Arnaud to specify if there were instructions from Castille to the Police Force to increase the number of officers to investigate the car bomb cases – prior to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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15:33 Arnaud said that certain details he would like to explain them behind closed doors.
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15:32 The board of inquiry noticed that although the Police arrested the 3 men there was no link between them and the assassinated journalist. Arnaud confirms.
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15:28 Arnaud is explaining that during the meetings at Castille the Police gave brief information on the investigations.

He also said that at that stage the names of Melvin Theuma and Yorgen Fenech never cropped up in the investigations.
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15:22 He then said the Police Force decided that on the 4th of December 2017 they were to arrest the three who are being accused of the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Only the Police Force, Europol, AFM and Secret Service were informed of these arrests.
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15:20 When these meetings were held at Castille, Melvin Theuma, the pardoned middleman, was never mentioned in the investigations.
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15:18 Arnaud said that during these meetings the former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and MSS officials, Assistant Police Commissioner Valletta, were present.
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15:14 He said that he never attended meetings at Castille and that he was never faced by such a case, such an assassination. But says that after the assassination he attended two brief meetings prior to the arrests.

The inquiry board tells Arnaud that all Malta never experienced such assassination.
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15:11 Arnaud said that as from the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia the Europol was always present in Malta to assist in the investigations.
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15:08 It was then decided that all databases are merged into one database. This was coordinated with the assistance of Europol, said Keith Arnaud.
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15:07 Arnaud said that every police department has its database which needs to be updated with the investigations underway.
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15:06 The inspector is saying that investigations were carried out both by himself and inspector Kurt Zahra and the investigations were used to be discussed with their superiors to brief them.
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15:04 Arnaud said that is role was more focused on dealing with foreign investigators.
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15:00 Inspector Arnaud is explaining how he and inspector Kurt Zahra used to deal with the workload after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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14:59 Arnaud confirmed that on the day of Daphne's assassination, inspector Kurt Zahra from the homicide squad was on duty.
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14:56 The board of inquiry has asked Arnaud how many Police Officers form part of the homicide squad.

Arnaud said that when he was appointed to the homicide department he was the only Police officer.

In 2017 another officer was appointed to the homicide squad, Inspector Kurt Zahra and after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Inspector James Grech was appointed to the squad.
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14:51 Parts of Arnaud's testimony is likely to be held behind closed doors.
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14:50 Next to take the witness stand is Police Inspector Keith Arnaud.
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14:49 DOI director Paul Azzopardi ends his testimony. He was accompanied by Lawyer Veronique Dalli.
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14:44 The board of inquiry asked Paul Azzopardi if the department of information ever received an application from Daphne Caruana Galizia for a press card.

Azzopardi said that in the past 4 years, he never received any.

Paul Azzopardi said that Ms Diane Oswald was the DOI director prior to his appointment.
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14:40 Azzopardi said when there was the change from the press card into an access card, DOI received complaints from a number of journalists as they could not be given access, any more, to football matches.
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14:39 Azzopardi confirms that for an access card to be approved, certain information is requested and an application needs to be signed by the editor responsible for the respective newsroom.
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14:37 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asked Azzopardi if the access card is obligatory for journalists to attend government events, Azzopardi said yes it is.
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14:33 Azzopardi is explaining that journalists with an international press card still need to apply with DOI for an access card in order to attend government events as DOI need to create a database, especially for high profile events.

A protocol needs to be followed and this applies to all local and international media houses, said Azzopardi.
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14:31 Regarding press calls, Paul Azzopardi reiterated that they are always sent to all registered journalists.
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14:28 He is explaining that all journalists who apply for an access card are provided with one.

He also said this can be done online as well.

Asked by the board of inquiry if a press card or access card application was ever refused, Azzopardi said yes. Under his watch, there was an application for a press card refused. He said that he received the application the day before the general election of 2017.
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14:25 Azzopardi also said that he decided to change the press card into an access card. He explained that in his opinion it is unacceptable that anyone could apply for a press card that says he or she is a journalist when not necessarily everyone is.
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14:23 DOI Director said that the next step to be adopted by the department will be for PRs to be accessed online through credentials given to media houses. Azzopardi said that ideally PR s are not going to be sent by e-mail anymore.
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14:21 "Under my watch, PRs are sent concurrently – by email and uploaded online," said Paul Azzopardi.

He also said that this has come into place in the past year.
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14:18 For all those media houses who are not registered with DOI are not informed about press coverages by e-mail but they need to access the DOI website.

The same applies to press releases.
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14:17 Regarding press coverages, Paul Azzopardi said that notifications are sent through email to all registered media houses.

He also said that the list of coverages is available also to the general public not just to the media.
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14:16 DOI Director is also explaining that PRs are sent via e-mail and issued online at the same time.
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14:12 Azzopardi says he has occupied the role for the last 4 years.

The board of inquiry asks Azzopardi was stance does the DOI take when PRs are issued by the government.

He said that press releases are published online and are sent to all media houses.

Azzopardi also said that PRs need to be vetted by DOI before published.
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14:11 DOI Director Paul Azzopardi is asked to take the witness stand.
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14:10 Journalist Caroline Muscat presents a dossier to the board of inquiry. The dossier includes correspondence with the government's department of information.
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14:10 Newsbook.com.mt is live from courtroom number 20.
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14:09 Good afternoon and welcome to this live blog.
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