A Rolex watch, paid trips abroad and a prized parking slot for his taxi outside the Hilton were among the gifts and favours given to middleman Melvin Theuma by Yorgen Fenech, who is being accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The relationship between Fenech and Theuma, who was granted a presidential pardon for collaborating with the police, started off as a friendship but one with lavish gifts being passed on – and received – but then turned sour as Theuma felt “betrayed”.
Testifying in the compilation of evidence against the three men charged with killing Caruana Galizia on Friday, Theuma revealed how he felt he was “reeled in” by gifts and favours showed by Fenech.
These included a prestigious taxi spot outside the Hilton, which is owned by the Fenech family, five paid trips – including one to the famous Grand Prix D’Amerique horse races in France and a 10-day holiday in London, and a Rolex watch for Theuma’s son.
“Fenech had reeled me in so close to him that I couldn’t see,” Theuma told the Court. “I only got to learn about the mistake that I had made later on”.
However, the honeymoon period was over when Vince Muscat – one of the three men on trial for Caruana Galizia’s murder – started speaking to the police.
Theuma told the court that he felt betrayed by Muscat and Fenech as he was worried that the murder would be pinned on him and he would end up dead or in jail.
“I had told him (Fenech) that I didn’t deserve this treatment. I was always a good friend,” he had told the Court in a previous testimony.
Theuma had gotten to a point where he did not accept around €100,000 in gold that Fenech wanted to give him. “He was doing it to try and calm me down,” Theuma said.
Theuma is not the only person who was at the receiving end of Fenech’s lavish gifts. Last year, it was revealed that he gave then prime minister Joseph Muscat a limited edition Bvlgari watch worth around €20,000, three bottles of Petrus wine worth around €5,000 in total and another watch that cost €2,000.
The anti-corruption watchdog, the Permanent Commission Against Corruption is currently investigating the gifts which Muscat received from Fenech.
The relationship between the two men reached a point where Theuma did not question Fenech about the murder because he felt he had “an obligation” towards him, he told the court. He did not even question why he should help Fenech kill Caruana Galizia.
Theuma even failed to question Fenech about why he was given a government job by former chief of staff Keith Schembri and OPM head of customer care Sandro Craus despite making it clear that he could not work with them.
“Fenech told me (that through this job) I’d just be getting more money at the end of the month and wished me good luck”, he said.
Theuma also ended up giving the Degiorgios brothers, who are also charged with Caruana Galizia’s murder, large amounts of money out of his own pocket because he knew that had he directed their requests to Fenech, Fenech would have not met paid up.
He did not want to “make a fool” of himself with Alfred Degiorgio, who was his direct contact, and gave them whatever they wanted.
Theuma was also aware that he was the only point of contact with the Degiorgios and that they were in the dark about Fenech. “The Degiorgio’s only knew me, so I had to do everything they told me,” he said.
Fenech started paying Theuma only when he knew that he had been recorded. He told the court that he drove to the police station many times to spill the beans “but then I turned back, because of the betrayal of Yorgen Fenech,” he said.