“I met with the Chief of Staff not with Keith Schembri” – Silvio Debono

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia will hear the evidence of  Silvio Debono, chairman of the db Group. This group was involved in several controversies related to development planning.

14:36 Thank you for following Newsbook.com.mt
Sylvana Debono
14:35 Farrugia ends his testimony. The next sitting will be held on Wednesday and the judges will hear the testimony of Mr Saviour Attard.
Sylvana Debono
14:32 Farrugia said that as Chief Comms OPM he had not been given any contract. He said that he had occasionally met Nick Wright and spoken to him about political communication. He said that after 2013 he had not spoken to Wright and that the latter had nothing to do with the murder of the journalist
Sylvana Debono
14:30 Dr Commodini Cacia said that the question is pertinent to whether the dead journalist could have been afforded protection. The Judges asked the lawyer to re-phrase the question to a more specific element, referring to the late journalist.
Sylvana Debono
14:27 Dr Comodini Cachia asked Farrugia whether he could confirm being in contact with Nick Wright when he was Chief Comms at the OPM. Mr Wright provided communications services. Dr Commodini Cachia asked if the request for assistance from Wright was made in relation to the 2013 and the 2017 electoral campaigns.

Farrugia's lawyer asked if this was relevant.

The Judges said that the line of questioning was admissible and that the court's terms of reference were interpreted by the judges.
Sylvana Debono
14:22 Farrugia said that he had been asked to present documentation relating to the EUR 1 million reward relating to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He said that he had brought along the government statement as well as media references at the time the statement was made and also some six months to a year later. He said that there were also references made in parliament but he had no access to those. He said that an email he had been asked to present, which had been sent to him by Daphne Caruana Galizia could not be traced in any of his email addresses.
Sylvana Debono
14:22 The judges are back and Kurt Farrugia takes the stand.
Sylvana Debono
14:14 Meanwhile, the judges take a few minutes recess.
Sylvana Debono
14:13 Enterprise Malta CEO and former OPM Communications Chief Kurt Farrugia too is expected to present some documentation to the Inquiry.
Sylvana Debono
14:11 Dr Commodini Cachia asked for the email which signalled the resignation of Yorgen Fenech and his substitution by Mark Gasan. She asked for this to be submitted as well. Apap Bologna said that he was going to pass the information to the Secretary to the Inquiry.
Sylvana Debono
14:09 Paul Apap Bologna now enters the courtroom with a sheaf od documents for the court's considerations. He described these as contracts, transactions and a timeline of insurance policies.
Sylvana Debono
14:08 And we're back in
Sylvana Debono
13:59 The journalists are asked to leave the courtroom as the sitting will continue behind closed doors.
Sylvana Debono
13:57 Debono said that he passed on to the PL somewhere between Eur5,00 and Eur 7,00wile he gave the PN Eur 6,000. However, he did not remember the exact figure. He said that he had nothing against Caruana Galizia and had even been in his employ as a consultant for some months in 2002.
Sylvana Debono
13:55 Debono said that while the sums to the parties were not substantial, he could present the Inquiry with receipts. Mr Justice Said Pullicino brushed away Debon's value judgement and said that the court would decide what was substantial or not.
Sylvana Debono
13:55 Debono said that he gave donations to both parties.
Sylvana Debono
13:52 In answer to Comodini Cachia's questions, Debono said that the work on the project started after the issue of the tender. He said that the plans which had been laid with the President of the Hard Rock Group had to ben changed since the lie of the land was different. Debono said that he learnt about the tender when this was issued but it had long been heard in the grapevine that the ITS was moving. This, he said, does not mean that he had started to work on the project before the issue of the tender.
Sylvana Debono
13:51 He said that the phonecall may have happened in March 2016 and the libel suits had been presented after that.
Sylvana Debono
13:51 Debono said that that was the only time she had called him.
Sylvana Debono
13:48 Debono added that he had wanted to defend himself against the journalist. When asked if he had tried to talk to her, Debono said that she had spoken to him before publishing one of her posts and she had said several things. She had asked him questions which he described as 'personal'. He said that Daphne had told him that she had several pieces of information about him and he said he had replied that he would answer at the correct juncture.
Sylvana Debono
13:44 Dr Therese Comodini Cachia representing the Caruana Galizia Family asked if it was as correct to say that for the libel suits to be dropped, the posts containing his name from the Running Commentary had to be taken down. Debono replied that he genuinely wanted to find a solution. When asked about his trip with a public officer, Debono said that he had given Ivan Portelli nothing and that he had been accompanied by Vince Micallef. Comodini Cachia asked if it was also correct to say that on the same day 19 libel suits had been presented in court. Debono replied that he did not recall the day but recalled that he had wanted to make a point.
Sylvana Debono
13:42 Debono said that with Keith Schembri he had no ties of friendship but used to discuss projects in general.
Sylvana Debono
13:39 Debono was asked if he had discussed anything with Keith Schembri. "I met with the Chief of Staff, not with Keith Schembri" replied the corporate chairman.
Sylvana Debono
13:38 Debono said that on these libels he would like to discuss a way forward with the family of the murdered journalist.
Sylvana Debono
13:36 When asked on the pending libel suits Debono had against the late Caruana Galizia, he said that he had 16 such pending cases. He insisted that the late journalist used to attack him on matters which were untrue such as that he was 'mafioso'.
Sylvana Debono
13:35 Mr Justice Said Pullicino asked if it had been government's decision to place the land for this type of development. Debono said that he could not answer for government or for cabinet decisions.
Sylvana Debono
13:31 Debono said that he had never spoken to the then minister Konrad Mizzi neither prior to the issue of the tender nor subsequently since the matter was then handled by management staff. Debono said that in 2006 a mixed-use policy for the area had been issued. He said that he had always been interested in a project of this nature and was on the alert for such an opportunity. He said that when he saw the opening, he homed in on it.
Sylvana Debono
13:31 Debono is asked to moderate his voice
Sylvana Debono
13:29 Debono said that the db Group had been asked to choose one of the Big Four audit firms in Malta. He said that the Prime Minister had called him in and said that since the matter was being politicised, the land acquisition had to go through a tendering process. Debono added that because he had been the sole tenderer, he ended up paying more than the Eur17 million.
Sylvana Debono
13:25 Following a quote by Mr Jutice Mallia, Debono said that it was reported in the media that the EU found nothing further to investigate. He said that 90% of the 26 tumuli of land are under emphyteusis and said that that land had to contain a hotel. he said that it was not true that the land was going to be used for real estate. Mr Justice Said Pullicino said that the court was not interested in the project only the process.
Sylvana Debono
13:24 Debono insists that the NAO report shows the truth and that he had paid the government the highest price ever. He further tables a media article which says just that.
Sylvana Debono
13:22 Debono tables the NAO report and refers the judges to paragraph 10.3. Never, he said, in the history of MAlta had anyone ever paid such a high price, insisting that he had paid the government the greats sums of money by a developer ever.
Sylvana Debono
13:20 Debono said that the tender had been issued by Projects MAlta and five companies had paid the Eur10,000 to obtain a tender. Ultimately he had been the only one to actually submit the tender, said Debono. He added that he is pleased that the report (the NAO report, presumably) said that the price at which the land had been obtained was fair.
Sylvana Debono
13:18 The judges ask Debono if he is under investigation for something at the present moment. Debono replies he is not. Debono then explains how the group approaches public tenders. The ITS development had been subject to a public tender.
Sylvana Debono
13:16 dbGroup Chairman Silvio Deono takes the witness stand and swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Sylvana Debono
13:14 And the judges are in, the sitting has started with a minor delay.
Sylvana Debono
13:13 As usual, the family of the slain journalist, son Paul and sister Corinne are present in the hall.
Sylvana Debono
13:11 The previous sitting had been marked by the presence of former minister Konrad Mizzi who appeared on a court order after he had tried to avoid appearing. He then refused to answer almost all the questions including when asked how his political career began
Sylvana Debono
13:08 Newsbook.com.mt is also informed that Paul Apap Bologna who has already testified and similarly former Communications Chief at OPM Kurt Farrugia will also appear briefly to present some documents.
Sylvana Debono
13:06 The Judges, former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino, former Justice Michael Mallia and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro will be conducting the sitting in Hall 20.
Sylvana Debono
13:05 Welcome to this live blog from the Public Inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Sylvana Debono
Related story
Jetset voting

This testimony will follow that made in the last sitting by former deputy Prime Minister, former minister and former star PL candidate Konrad Mizzi. When he took the witness stand, the vast majority of his answers were a refusal to give a reply. Mizi had also tried to shun the Inquiry altogether.

The Inquiry is being heard by three judges: Former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino, former Justice Michael Mallia and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro.