Middleman Melvin Theuma was concerned that his role in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia would be exposed when the local police would examine her laptops.
In a set of recordings made by Theuma, which were played in court, the middleman asked murder suspect Yorgen Fenech whether there was a problem with Caruana Galizia’s laptops.
Fenech told Theuma that it was better if the laptops were brought over to Malta, as they would be able to influence the procedure of these being included in the police investigation.
The laptop she was working on was handed over to the German authorities. This was a major factor in the disinformation campaign that followed the journalist’s assassination with calls of “where is the laptop?”
The significance of the decision not to hand over the laptop to the Maltese authorities emerged in Thursday’s sitting, which showed that those accused of her murder were after its content.
The Truth Project was a professional and highly coordinated campaign aimed at discrediting the work of The Daphne Project on the one-year anniversary of her death. Government officials had shared a number of these posts online even though they told a Board of Inquiry that they were unaware of its existence.
Theuma was testifying in the compilation of evidence of Fenech who is charged with being the mastermind of Caruana Galizia’s assassination by a car bomb on 16 October 2017 just metres away from her home.
The laptops were examined by the German federal police and are the crux of a legal battle after one of the suspected killers, Alfred Degiorgio, filed a constitutional application contesting the family’s refusal to grant local investigators access to the equipment.
Theuma told the court that he was worried that he would be exposed by Fenech if the police examined the laptops and realised that Caruana Galizia was working on a story about him.
In the recordings, Theuma was heard telling Fenech to “go to the prime minister”, referring to Joseph Muscat, to sort things out because they were close friends (int biċċa waħda ma’ l-ieħor).
Magistrate Rachel Montebello asked whether Fenech had spoken to Muscat about the murder. Theuma replied: “That is what I assumed”. Fenech replied that asking Muscat for help was the worst thing Fenech could do.
Theuma started crying on the stand, saying that he had been dragged into the murder plan and, when Caruana Galizia was murdered, his life was over. “I was fed up of being asked for money and going to Yorgen and asking for money,” he said.
While being questioned by lawyer Jason Azzopardi, who is representing the Caruana Galizia family, Theuma confirmed that the conversation took place in mid-April after the media had reported that the German police had the laptops.
As Theuma was being questioned in court on Thursday, he turned towards Fenech and looked at him every time he answered.
In the recording, Theuma told Fenech “don’t remain calm” as he was expecting him to take action.
“But wasn’t Fenech giving you all the money?” Azzopardi asked him.
“Yes – but money isn’t everything,” Theuma said.