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Head of Security Services testifies in public inquiry

A man holds a picture of Daphne Caruana Galizia at the vigil held on the 16th of every month. This was the first time in 29 months that the vigil organised by Occupy Justice was not held due to health concerns.

Updated to include the government’s reply.

Head of Malta Security Services Joe Bugeja today told the public inquiry board that Civil Service Head Mario Cutajar would be present at the Security Committee meetings, although he “should not be,” according to the lawyer representing the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Joe Bugeja, the Head of Malta Security Services (MSS), was testifying today in the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. He has occupied the post since December 2014. 

Asked about the security committee and the reports handed to them, Bugeja said that the committee was made up of the prime minister, leader of the opposition, chief justice, the minister of home affairs and the minister of foreign affairs. Bugeja told the Board that the committee met at least once a year.

Asked by the Caruana Galizia family lawyers about who else would be present at the security committee meetings, Bugeja says that Civil Service Head Mario Cutajar would be present. Azzopardi then said on social media that Cutajar “should not be attending such meetings”, saying it was “against the law”. This has been contested by the government (see reply below).

After a few questions, journalists were then asked to leave the room, with the rest of the testimony happening behind closed doors.

Bugeja told the Board that the security service’s relationship with the police force was a good one, and that the police commissioner was not necessarily informed on each and every case. Bugeja said the MSS did not necessarily always work with the Malta Police Force, but they sometimes collaborated.

Today, was the eighth sitting of the public inquiry tasked with investigating whether her death could have been prevented and assess measures in place to ensure such an attack could never happen again.

In previous sittings, former police commissioner Michael Cassar had told the Board that he had not received any information from the MSS about any danger with regards to the safety of Caruana Galizia, so a risk assessment never took place.

On Monday, former FIAU director Manfred Galdes and current FIAU director Kenneth Farrugia testified in the inquiry. In the sitting, Galdes revealed that he had passed on documents about Politically Exposed Persons, including information on former chief of staff Keith Schembri, directly to former police commissioner Michael Cassar weeks before the Panama Papers scandal broke in 2016.

The government replies to lawyer’s claim

The Head of the Civil Service was nominated to be the Secretary to the Security Committee back in 2001 with the approval of the then Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.

For correctness’ sake, JR Grima was the Security Committee’s secretary between 2001 and 2004 while his successor Godwin Grima took up this role between 2004 and 2013.

Mario Cutajar took up the role of Secretary of the Security Committee in 2013. In each and every Security Committee meeting attended by Cutajar, the Leader of the Opposition was always present.

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