The AG left the investigations on Nexia BT in Abdilla’s hands, Board of Inquiry notes

The public inquiry to determine whether the state and authorities could have done more to save Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life continued on Wednesday morning.

The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.

Artistic director Mario Philip Azzopardi and former Economic Crimes Unit Ian Abdilla took the witness stand.

Highlights from today’s court sitting:

  • Ian Abdilla says he does not believe Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed following revelations on Panama Papers and 17 Black
  • Dr Jason Azzopardi told Abdilla that identifying bribery is all he had to do. He did not need to prove it
  • Ian Abdilla is saying that until last week – until he occupied the post of ECU chief – the Police had no information on Mac Bridge
  • Ian Abdilla explained that the first report by the FIAU included little information on Hearnville and Tillgate
  • The AG left investigations on Nexia BT in Abdilla’s hands
  • The police took over a year to investigate Nexia BT’s servers
12:09 Thank you for following us.
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12:08 The blog ends here.
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12:05 The next court sitting will be held on Friday at 9:30 am.
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12:04 Ian Abdilla's testimony ends here.
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12:02 Upon a request from the Caruana Galizia family, Dr Jason Azzopardi is asking Ian Abdilla if he ever thought or felt that the investigations he was working upon were linked to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Abdilla said that in his opinion he said no.
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12:00 Abdilla is saying that the board is making a difference between investigating PEPs and ordinary people. He said that the Police does not make this distinction.

Madame Justice said that the banks do make it.
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11:58 Madame Justice Lofaro said that she has been trying to explain why the Police had to investigate, since January of this year.
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11:58 Abdilla did not agree.
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11:55 "To identify bribery is all you had to do. You did not need to prove it" – emphasised Dr Jason Azzopardi.
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11:53 "The Police did not want to opt for tentative investigations – on money from 17 Black and Mac Bridge there were never transferred to the Panama companies of Schembri and Mizzi."- said Abdilla.
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11:45 Abdilla is again explaining why they did not investigate certain individuals.

He also said that he always kept former Police Chief Lawrence Cutajar informed on the course of the investigations.
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11:43 Abdilla said that he does not agree with Dr Azzopardi.

Azzopardi says he has every right not to agree with him but cannot contradict what the law says.

Madame Justice Lofaro agrees with Dr Azzopardi.
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11:42 Dr Azzopardi is explaining to the court part of the criminal law to explain how and why Abdilla failed to investigate.
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11:38 "It was the decision taken by the Police also based on the advice by the AG" continued saying Abdilla.

The board notes that the AG left the investigations on Nexia BT in his hands.
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11:37 "You might not agree with the course of action taken by the Police but was taken in good faith" – said Abdilla.
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11:36 "How is it possible that you did not realise that a crime was being committed, was committed or was to be committed?" again asked Dr Azzopardi.
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11:35 "Yet you still did not investigate?" – asked Dr Azzopardi
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11:34 Ian Abdilla is saying that he never said that the Panama Papers should not be investigated and agreed with Dr Azzopardi that there were basis for investigations.
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11:33 Dr Azzopardi continues reading from the report.
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11:32 In the report, Abdilla had written that there were suspicions on the trusts opened by Mizzi and Schembri.
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11:29 Jason Azzopardi is reading from the document and mentioned how Tillgate – which belongs to Keith Schembri – was expected to make €300,000 of income per year.

Dr Azzopardi notes how the company belonging to Schembri Kasco had registered a loss for two consecutive years at that time so questions how is it possible for him to make the €300,000 of profits.
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11:27 It is the same document Dr Comodini Cachia was referring to.
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11:27 Azzopardi will ask questions on 'Operation Green'.
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11:26 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking questions to Ian Abdilla.
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11:21 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is referring to the minutes of a report written by Abdilla in March 2017.

Comodini Cachia is explaining that he wrote that the advice of the AG should be sought on the investigations.
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11:19 To be able to know to whom 17 Black belonged to it took the FIAU two years, said Abdilla.
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11:15 "Voluntarily with your decision to wait before investigating the servers of Nexia BT, the proof might have been compromised in the meantime." – said Judge Emeritus, Michael Mallia.
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11:12 Lawyer Comodini Cachia is asking the witness why did he wait for at least a year for information, as he described in his report (on the servers of Nexia BT), that might have been deleted or encrypted.

Abdilla said that the decision was taken together with Silvio Valletta and the Police Commissioner on the basis of the advice of the AG.
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11:08 Regarding the servers of Nexia BT Ian Abdilla is saying they were investigated more than once. For sure during the Egrant inquiry.
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11:07 "Thinking a little bit more now, when we met with the AG we had asked him to give us what has been discussed with him in writing" – said Ian Abdilla.
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11:05 Regarding the meetings with the AG, Abdilla is saying that there might have been more.
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11:04 The request to the banks was sent in January 2017.
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11:03 She hands the report to the witness. He confirms what Comodini Cachia said.
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11:02 Comodini Cachia said that all banks replied back including Pilatus Bank but not Bank of Valletta.
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11:02 Abdilla looks even more confused.
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11:01 Comodini Cachia said if he is sure if all banks replied.
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11:01 Abdilla said yes but then looked confused.
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10:59 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is asking Abdilla if all the banks they communicated with during the course of the investigations replied to their requests.
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10:57 Abdilla said that he does not recall someone instructed him on how to compile the report.
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10:56 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is asking the witness on a particular report the filed on the 10th of May 2016.
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10:54 Madame Justice Lofaro told Abdilla that he just said that he did not investigate the Panama Papers also for fear of criticism.
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10:50 Ian Abdilla said that soon after there was the inquiry on Egrant which changed the way they proceeded on other investigations.
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10:47 The board is explaining that in the file presented to the court Ian Abdilla had written that "There might not be proof."

The board, visibly frustrated by Abdilla's testimony, said that if he wrote that there might not be proof then he should have investigated to conclude it there was or if there wasn't and not just leave the investigation on the Panama Papers as is.
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10:45 Regarding Mac Bridge, Ian Abdilla is saying that until last week – until he occupied the post of ECU chief – the Police had no information on this Dubai company.
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10:43 The board is saying that Abdilla is not answering the board's questions.
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10:41 The board is continuing to press Abdilla with questions.

The witness looks confused and said that as the ECU chief his priority was not to investigate people who are specifically PEPs.
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10:39 The board is asking Ian Abdilla to what extent did the AG's advice to "go slow" on the Panama Papers investigations influenced him.
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10:34 Certain things Ian Abdilla is saying did not make sense to him and to the ECU to investigate make sense to the board of inquiry.
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10:33 The board of inquiry said they believe he has information on Mac Bridge.
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10:31 Abdilla is saying that there were no money transactions from 17 Black and Mac Bridge – that is where the ECU focused its investigations, said Abdilla.
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10:31 He also said he cannot confirm this.
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10:28 Ian Abdilla said that he thinks that, yes, administratively the investigations on Hearnville and Tillgate have been concluded.
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10:27 "Yes sure we know he opened the Panama company for when he retires from politics he said" – commented Madame Justice.
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10:26 "The former chief of staff Keith Schembri, for example, is a businessman" continued saying Abdilla.
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10:25 The board of inquiry does not agree with such a statement.
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10:24 "Panama is not = money laundering" stated Ian Abdilla.
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10:24 Abdilla is saying that it is legal for a PEP to open a financial structure in other countries including Panama.
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10:23 Madame Justice does not look convinced by Abdilla's testimony and told Abdilla that he is repeating details they already know.
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10:22 The board of inquiry is surprised by Abdilla's explanation.
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10:20 Abdilla is saying that since the FIAU had started investigating the Panama Papers it should have continued doing so because as the ECU cannot interfere since investigations had already commenced.
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10:19 The board is saying but how is it possible that the Police did not make sure they were investigated – Tillgate and Hearnville
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10:18 Ian Abdilla is explaining that the first report by the FIAU included little information on Hearnville and Tillgate.
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10:15 The board notes that it still is of great concern as it involves politically exposed persons.
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10:13 The report compiled by Abdilla on the Panama Papers was discussed with the AG.

He does not recall well if Silvio Valletta was present for this meeting.

Abdilla confirms the file was of great concern to the Police.
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10:12 Abdilla confirms he held meetings with the Attorney General.
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10:11 The board noticed how Abdilla is mentioning the report only now after what has emerged over the past week.
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10:10 The file on which the Attorney General allegedly left a note on the Panama Papers investigations has been presented to the court.
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10:09 The board of inquiry has expressed its anger and frustration that during the last sitting under oath Abdilla did not say the whole truth.
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10:07 The board of inquiry is asking Abdilla on his last testimony on the "advice" given by the General Attorney to "go-slow" on the Panama Papers investigations.
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10:06 Next to take the witness stand former ECU chief Ian Abdilla
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10:06 Azzopardi's testimony ends here.
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10:03 Azzopardi also said that Joseph Muscat was a friend of his and that he once invited him to go see one of his plays.
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10:02 He is comparing one of his plays to the play "The assassination of Margaret Thatcher."
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10:00 Azzopardi said that the play "Ix-Xiha" was about how politicians were corrupt and how people became so blind to see it.
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10:00 The board tells him to go ahead and read it.
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09:59 Azzopardi said he has a statement he wishes to read.
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09:58 He also mentioned that he did not have a good relationship with her on a professional level. Azzopardi said that she used to criticise him a lot in her blogs.
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09:58 Mario Philip Azzopardi said that he was once interviewed by Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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09:56 The board said that in no way they are trying to judge his writing but they need to understand.
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09:55 The board is asking why he compared Daphne to Magaret Thatcher in his play.

Mario Philip Azzopardi said that the board cannot judge him on his writings because a writer has the right to write anything.
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09:53 "Ix-Xiha" includes the character of the blogger – Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Ix-Xiha means the old lady. Azzopardi is saying that the play does not focus on Daphne but is based on another character but the play includes Daphne.
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09:52 He also said that he has just finished writing the play "Ix-Xiha"
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09:52 Azzopardi is saying that his contract stipulates he has to produce 3 plays per year.
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09:48 Mario Philip Azzopardi is saying that his intentions to produce this kind of plays were purely artistic.
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09:46 Azzopardi said that the scrips were actually never written but he had the titles.

He also said that the script included satire.
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09:46 The name of the plays are; "Who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia" and Ix-Xiha".
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09:45 The board is asking Azzopardi on two scripts he wrote in relation to Daphne's murder.
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09:43 Lawyer Comodini Cachia says that the report was published yesterday at 4 pm and was tabled in parliament yesterday but they will make sure a copy is presented to the court.
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09:43 Mario Philip Azzopardi takes the witness stand.
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09:42 Mario Philip Azzopardi is expected to testify today.
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09:41 The board of inquiry has ordered for the latest NAO report published on Tuesday on the VGH tender process for the concession agreement of 3 hospitals, to be presented to the court.
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09:40 The board of inquiry is chaired by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia and composed of Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro.
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09:40 The board of inquiry has entered the courtroom.
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09:38 Family members of murdered journalist are also present.
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09:37 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is present in courtroom 20.
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09:37 The sitting was expected to start at 9:30 am.
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09:32 Today former Economic Crimes Unit Chief Ian Abdilla is expected to continue testifying.
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09:29 Good morning and welcome to this live blog.
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