Daphne murder inquiry presses reluctant PM’s communications chief

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Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Monday afternoon, OPM officials Matthew Carbone and Josef Caruana testified in the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Matthew Caruana Galiza, son of murdered journalist and Corinne Vella, sister of Daphne Caruana Galizia also testified in court.

  • Matthew Carbone was refusing to answer questions by the inquiry board
  • Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona suggests Carbone gets arrested for refusing to answer questions by the court
  • Matthew Carbone says he cannot remember or does not know the names of people who locked journalists inside Castille in November 2019
  • Matthew Caruana Galizia says it took him 100hrs to collect information from Glenn Bedingfield’s blog
  • Neville Gafa is asked to testify on Wednesday 19th February
17:37 This blog ends here. thank you for following.
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17:36 The public inquiry will continue on Wednesday. Nigel Vella and Neville Gafa are expected to testify on Wednesday afternoon.
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17:35 Andrew Borg Cardona asks the board to review its decision. Josef Caruana exits the courtroom.
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17:35 The board refuses Azzopardi's request.
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17:34 Azzopardi says there might be relevant e-mails in the server josephmuscat.com
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17:33 Lawyer Charlon Gouder says this is an irrelevant question. Azzopardi replies that Gouder has no right to object to his question.
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17:33 Jason Azzopardi wants Joseph Caruana to say if he ever recieved or sent an e-mail from server; josephmuscat.com
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17:25 Josef Caruana says that employees at NSO, MFSA and Central Bank used to feed information to journalist Ivan Camilleri. He says that in June 2017 he received a report from FIAU. He says that back then we was still a journalist.
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17:23 Comodini Cachia asks Caruana how was it possible for him to write certain comments. Caruana replies that he was not a government official. Then says he was a person of trust, paid by the government of Malta. He mentions that the former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had warned him that it is not acceptable that OPM staff write such comments.
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17:19 He says that he does not know who manages 'Taste Your Own Medicine.'
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17:18 He says that he took over Glenn Bedingfield's work in co-ordinating PQ's.
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17:17 Therese Comodini Cachia starts questioning Josef Caruana.
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17:16 Josef Caruana says he was not aware of Neville Gafa's job. He says Gafa worked for some time at OPM.
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17:14 He says he did not communicate with journalists.
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17:13 The board asks him if he knows about 'Truth Project'. Caruana says he knew it existed but does not know anything about it.
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17:12 Caruana says he was a member of the Facebook group " Laburisti Maghqudin"
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17:12 He then referred to Saviour Balzan saying he has his own sources.
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17:10 Caruana says he did not know of rumours linking Daphne's murder to fuel smuggling until he saw it being reported. Then says he might have shared the rumour that Daphne's murder is linked to fuel smuggling.
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17:05 The board says that Josef Caruana had insinuated that it was the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia who murdered her. Caruana replied that this was not a conclusion but an analysis.
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17:03 Therese Comodini Cachia asks Caruana if he can recognise the handle on his Twitter account as shown on a screenshot. Caruana asks what is the handle.
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16:58 The board asks Caruana if he ever used contemptuous words towards journalists. He said once he wrote that it would be better if they just disappear. He admitted he used those words. Then says that Daphne Caruana Galizia never filed a libel suit against him and also says he always felt he acted according to law.
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16:56 He says there were many times he wrote about Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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16:54 Josef Caruana says he works at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). he was employed in July 2017. Before he used to work as editor of Union Press. He says that at the OPM he co-ordinates parliamentary questions.
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16:53 Next to take the stand is Josef Caruana.
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16:52 Gafa is asked to testify on Wednesday 19th February at 2 pm.
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16:51 Neville Gafa enters the courtroom.
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16:50 He then says he is not aware of who manages the blog ' Taste your own medicine'.
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16:48 Matthew Caruana Galizia says the amount of information he managed to collect is 'enormous'. He says it took him months to gather all the information.
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16:44 Referring to Bedingfield's blog, Caruana Galizia says the word 'Bidnija' features more than 150 times. He says that Glenn Bedingfield used to mention the ' Truth Project'.
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16:41 He mentions a particular photo of his mother entering a car which was then published. He says that this photo was taken by the persons who allegedly killed her.
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16:35 He says how on One TV there were programmes which specifically targeted his mother and to try and personify her as a witch.
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16:33 Matthew Caruana Galizia says that Glenn Bedingfield's blog was disabled after his mother's murder. He said he managed to retrieve some of the blogs published by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield. Matthew Caruana Galizia says it took hin around 100hrs to searched through Bedingfield's blog.
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16:26 The board re-enters the courtroom. Next to testify is Matthew Caruana Galizia.
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16:20 The inquiry board orders a 5-minute break.
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16:19 Corinne Vella mentions that from then on the Truth Project was launched in a tentative attempt to destroy The Daphne Project.
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16:19 Victoria Buttigieg exits the courtroom.
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16:17 Vella mentions that Neville Gafa had posted a photo of Daphne Caruana Galizia a day before her murder. She says Gafa was following Daphne and alleged that Gafa has connections to the criminal world.
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16:16 Corinne Vella says that #GaliziaBarra was being used. She mentions Robert Musumeci saying he used to use this hashtag aswell.
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16:06 Next to take the stand is Corinne Vella. She presents the board with screenshots from Josef Caruana's and Neville Gafa's social media.
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16:05 Azzopardi tells Carbone why is he laughing at his question. The inquiry board warns Lawyer Azzopardi that he should address the board. His his reply to a previous question Carbone says that they did not instruct journalists not to ask questions on Daphne's murder if they wanted to interview government officials.
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16:03 Jason Azzopardi asks Matthew Carbone about Joseph Muscat's visit to Azerbaijan. Kurt Farrugia was present at this meeting.
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16:00 Azzopardi asks Carbone if minutes of meetings are taken. Carbone says he takes notes to include them in press releases.
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15:55 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia shows Carbone a photo of him outside Castille during a protest. Carbone replies that he was taking a photo of the protest and that he was yelled at by a journalist.
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15:52 He mentions Kenneth Azzopardi as Schembri's personal assistant.
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15:51 Matthew Carbone says the last time he spoke to Keith Schembri was in October 2019.
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15:50 Carbone continues looking at the photo and identifies Paul Caruana Galizia. He then puts a smile on his face.
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15:47 Matthew Carbone is identifying people in a photo taken on the night journalists were kept locked inside Castille. The incident happened in November 2019. The journalists had filed a report. The Institute of Maltese Journalists had condemned the incident. This afternoon in Court Matthew Carbone is saying that during that night no one was locked. Journalists present in the courtroom are seen not being convinced by Carbone's testimony.
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15:45 Matthew Carbone identifies another person in the photo – Nigel Vella who was responsible for technical matters for the press conference.
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15:43 He identifies Jason Bonnici who works as a messenger at OPM. He then identifies himself in the photo.
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15:41 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is indicating a particular person who is a canvasser of a particular Minister. Carbone says he does not know his name. Azzopardi says he is not believing Carbone's reply and reminds him he is testifying under oath.
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15:39 He says that there were other people present who worked with different Ministers. He says he can identify several people in the photo but does not know their name.
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15:35 Carbone is looking at the photo. He identifies Nigel Vella who is currently the Deputy Head of Government Communications. He says that Nigel Vella was helping in co-ordinating the press conference.
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15:34 Carbone's lawyer is insisting with the board of inquiry that his client will not answer.
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15:33 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is asking Carbone to identify the people in the photo and reminds him that if he wants he can choose to testify behind closed doors if he is afraid of mentioning names.
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15:32 Lawyer Borg Cardona suggests that at this stage it wouldn't be a bad idea if Matthew Carbone is put under arrest.
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15:31 The board says Mr Carbone knows who the people in the photo are. He is still refusing to answer the questions by the board.
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15:31 Carbone is shown a photo of when journalists were locked at Castille. He is not looking at the photo.
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15:29 Carbone is refusing to answer questions by the board of inquiry. The board warns Carbone about the possible consequences if he does not collaborate and answer the questions.
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15:27 Matthew Carbone says that the Police never questioned him about this incident.
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15:26 Carbone mentions Mr Ronnie Vella as the man who kept the door closed. He says Vella used to work at the Communications Office.
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15:25 He then mentions that he was worried about the Prime Minister's security and once e confirmed Joseph Muscat was saf.e he let journalists out.
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15:19 Carbone says there were people who were protesting outside Castille who tried entering into the building – Castille. This happened when they let journalists in for a press conference.
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15:18 The inquiry board is demanding Matthew Carbone to answer the question.
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15:17 Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona says that a witness never has a lawyer replying on his or her behalf.
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15:16 Lawyer Charlon Gouder intervenes again. He does not want Carbone to answer to the board of inquiry.
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15:14 The board tells Carbone that all Malta saw what happened when journalists were kept locked. Then the board asks if the men blocking the door were the Prime Minister's securities and if they had the authority to stand there and lock the journalists.
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15:13 The inquiry board want Matthew Carbone to answer their question.
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15:11 He is then asked about the incident when journalists were locked in a room at Castille. Carbone says he does not want to answer this question as the case is being investigated by the Police. Lawyer Charlon Gouder intervenes and says his client does not need to answer to the question.
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15:09 Matthew Carbone says that AFM officers are always present at ground floor level at Castille.
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15:09 Lawyer Charlon Gouder says it would be best if that question is directed to someone of better competence on the matter.
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15:08 The board asks Carbone questions on the security set-up at Castille.
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15:05 Matthew Carbone says there were times when he used to be involved in discussions concerning the Panama Papers, eg when certain allegations had to be denied.
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15:03 He is asked if they ever discussed reports on the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). Matthew Carbone replied no. Says he used to be consulted whenever a press statement needed to be issued.
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15:02 He reiterates he never saw Yorgen Fenech at Castille.
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15:01 At this point, Carbone is reminded that he is under oath.
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15:00 Carbone is seen shaking his head and then said no. He then says he never saw Yorgen Fenech at Castille.
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14:59 The board asks Matthew Carbone if they ever discussed Yorgen Fenech and 17 Black.
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14:57 He is asked why The Shift News does not receive information on the government's events. Carbone replies that he is not aware of events where the Shift News were not allowed at a government's event.
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14:52 Matthew Carbone explains that press calls are issued by the Department of Information (DOI). He then mentions of instances where according to hearsay certain press calls were not sent to particular media houses. The reply of Matthew Carbone is in reference to when former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was found guilty of going against the ministers' code of ethics.
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14:50 Regarding FOIs Carbone says there were instances when he was consulted but he never was responsible for their final decision. He also says that sometimes they used to consult the AG re FOIs.
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14:49 The board asks Carbone if he is aware of 'Truth Project'. He replies yes, but is not aware of what it is about.
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14:48 He then says that there were foreign journalists who had approached him to discuss with him the current political situation but says these meetings were always informal.
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14:46 Matthew Carbone says no journalist ever asked him about this rumour and that his office issues only statements approved by the Prime Minister.
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14:43 The board of inquiry asks Carbone about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and how it was being linked to fuel smuggling. The board asks him if he had any role regarding this rumour. Carbone replies that all he knows about Daphne's assassination is what is available to the public domain.
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14:42 Matthew Carbone says he has been employed as the government Head of Communications since August 2019.
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14:41 Matthew Carbone is summoned to the witness stand. He is assisted by lawyer Charlon Gouder.
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14:41 The dossier on Josef Caruana is present to the board of inquiry.
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14:39 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia says she has prepared a dossier on Josef Caruana which includes screenshots from Facebook and Twitter and his editorials published in newspaper l-Orizzont.
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14:36 The inquiry board enters the courtroom. OPM officials Matthew Carbone ad Josef Caruana are also present.
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14:29 Husband of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia enters the courtroom.
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14:22 Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia enter the courtroom.
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14:08 Welcome, Newsbook.com.mt is reporting live from Court.
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