The three hitmen charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia had purchased the sim cards for their burner phones at the end of 2016, round about the same time when murder suspect Yorgen Fenech was informed of an early election.
Police Inspector Kurt Zahra told a board of public inquiry that brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vince Muscat had purchased the sim cards for the burner phones used for Caruana Galizia’s murder in late 2016 and stopped using them in October 2017.
At that same time, Fenech told the police that he knew the Labour government was going to call an early election back in December 2016, Zahra said. Former prime minister Joseph Muscat had announced the election on 1 May to be held on 3 June 2017.
Zahra was testifying before a board of public inquiry, presided over by a former chief justice and two judges, that is looking into whether Caruana Galizia’s assassination could have been prevented. Fenech is being charged with acting as the mastermind behind her murder and was arrested in November 2019.
The inspector explained that Fenech told the police that he knew of the early election at least five months before during a police interrogation. Zahra is one of the investigators involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder.
During the same session, Caruana Galizia’s husband Peter requested to testify in reply to a statement made by former chief of staff Keith Schembri earlier this week in court where he stated under oath that he only found out about the murder when he was with Muscat.
Caruana Galizia took the stand and explained that on 16 October 2017 at 3.15 pm Muscat was filmed giving a comment at a press conference in Sliema. In the footage, there was also former minister Chris Cardona, Economy Minister Silvio Schembri, Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli, Muscat’s personal assistant Ray Barbara and former head of communications Kurt Farrugia.
A timestamp of the footage, which was presented to the board, showed that Muscat was not with Schembri at the time of Caruana Galizia’s murder, which happened just after 3 pm, her husband explained.
The list of press coverages issued by the Department of Information listed Muscat’s engagement in Sliema at 2.30 pm in Sliema.
This contradicted Schembri’s statement during Fenech’s compilation of evidence on Monday where he stated that he was at Castille with Muscat and Farrugia. Former Mater Dei CEO Ivan Falzon had called to inform them that there was an explosion in Burmarrad.
Muscat stood by Schembri’s statement in a comment given to The Times on Wednesday and said he was with Schembri when he received the phone call about Caruana Galizia’s car bomb.
He explained that he immediately called his father – who owns a fireworks factory – and his wife who used that route to pick up their children after school. When he reached Castille and joined Schembri and Farrugia, they received the news that the likely target was Caruana Galizia.
Before testifying, Schembri made a declaration on social media that he would reveal all he knew in court but ended up shifting the blame onto others and contradicting the testimonies and statements of others.
He did, however, admit that he knew that Fenech was the owner of 17 Black.