Intermediary tells Malta courtroom of plot to kill reporter

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VALLETTA (Information) – The self-confessed intermediary within the homicide of a journalist advised a courtroom on Wednesday a rich Maltese businessman was the brains behind the killing but additionally implicated individuals tied to authorities within the rising scandal.

Melvin Theuma, who allegedly acted as a center man in a plot to homicide of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, is seen in a police automobile as he leaves the Courts of Justice in Valletta, Malta, December four, 2019. Information/Vincent Kessler

Melvin Theuma acquired immunity from prosecution final week for data that may result in the conviction of alleged plot chief and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech.

Nevertheless, his detailed courtroom deposition raised recent questions over the internal circle of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, with Theuma linking obvious makes an attempt at a cover-up of the 2017 homicide to figures inside authorities headquarters.

Fenech has been charged with complicity over the killing of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia by a automobile bomb. He has denied the accusations and blamed former authorities chief of employees Keith Schembri and different senior officers.

Schembri was arrested final month however later launched. He has denied involvement within the homicide which has highlighted allegations of rampant corruption in Malta’s overlapping worlds of politics and enterprise.

Theuma gave an in depth account of how the 38-year-old Fenech contacted him in 2017 to prepare the hit, offering 150,000 euros ($165,000) for the contract.

The plot was placed on maintain earlier than elections in June 2017 however reactivated the night time the ruling Labour social gathering was returned to energy, Theuma advised a packed courtroom.

“I can guarantee you, Yorgen Fenech was the one mastermind. Solely he spoke to me,” mentioned Theuma, a taxi driver with hyperlinks to the legal underworld.

Fenech wished Caruana Galizia useless as a result of he thought she was going to publish an incriminating story about his uncle, Theuma mentioned.

He mentioned he was referred to as to authorities headquarters after agreeing to rearrange the assassination and that Schembri gave him a tour of the constructing, the place Muscat’s places of work are housed.

Muscat has denied any wrongdoing however has acknowledged he may have dealt with the aftermath higher and mentioned he’ll step down subsequent month.

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Theuma was subsequently advised he had been placed on the federal government payroll and acquired a paycheck for 3 or 4 months. “If you happen to requested me, I wouldn’t know what my job was on the ministry, as I by no means went,” he mentioned.

He mentioned he paid three native males to hold out the killing. Thanks partly to assist offered by the U.S. FBI, the trio had been later arrested, and are awaiting trial, having pleaded not responsible. They sat in courtroom on Wednesday stony-faced.

Theuma recounted his panic after the alleged triggermen had been seized and information emerged that one was cooperating with police.

He mentioned he was then contacted once more by an worker from authorities headquarters whom he named as Kenneth. In an obvious try to purchase their silence, Kenneth mentioned the three suspects can be launched on bail and given 1 million euros, although the bail didn’t arrive, Theuma mentioned.

Theuma mentioned he requested Fenech whether or not Schembri had despatched Kenneth to him, however obtained no reply. Scared for his security, he began making secret recordings of his conversations with the businessman, which he has given police.

“I began to suppose they might both lock me up or kill me,” he mentioned. He additionally acknowledged writing a notice the place he mentioned each Schembri and Fenech ordered the hit. In courtroom, he distanced himself from the accusation in opposition to Schembri, making clear he had no proof.

A police supply later recognized Kenneth as Kenneth Camilleri, who used to work in Muscat’s safety element. He was just lately transferred to Transport Malta, a authorities physique. The corporate mentioned on Wednesday it had suspended certainly one of its workers following Theuma’s deposition, with out giving particulars.

Camilleri didn’t reply to a message from Information requesting remark.

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With Malta below scrutiny, the brand new head of the EU govt, Ursula von der Leyen, urged a radical investigation with out political interference. “It’s essential that each one these accountable are put to justice as quickly as doable,” she mentioned.

A European Parliament delegation, which has spent two days in Malta to evaluation rule of regulation inside the EU’s smallest member, really helpful that Muscat go instantly.

“There must be absolute confidence within the (investigation) and I believe when he’s in workplace, that confidence is just not there,” mentioned Sophie In’t Veld, a Dutch member of parliament who led the mission.

Reporting by Gabriele Pileri and Crispian Balmer in Valletta, Marine Strauss and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Enhancing by Timothy Heritage, Andrew Cawthorne and William Maclean