in

Court orders investigation into leaked recordings of Melvin Theuma tapes

Suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech (left) and middleman turned State witness Melvin Theuma.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello on Thursday ordered an investigation into the leaked recordings of middleman turned State witness Melvin Theuma, published online earlier this week by means of an anonymous account.

The magistrate said the leaks constituted a criminal offence and were considered to be in contempt of court. She also pointed out that the court had issued orders that this should not happen and stressed that the recordings had been heard behind closed doors.

At the start of the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech, the suspected mastermind of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, the lawyers acting parte civile for her family as well as the Deputy Attorney General (prosecution) filed a submission to court on the matter.

The application asked the court to investigate University of Malta lecturer Simon Mercieca after he republished the audio clips on his Facebook page.

The recordings posted on Sunday, which were selective 30-second clips, were announced through a post from an account on social media using a false name. Prior to their anonymous release, the recordings had been held back from the public, with journalists even having to exit the room as they were heard behind closed doors in July.

The magistrate stressed that the Court had repeatedly said that they must not be published or given to third parties due to concerns of obstruction of justice. The publication of the leaked recordings by news sites was also a breach of a court order, she said.

The magistrate then ordered her minute to be sent to Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa asking him to investigate, asking for criminal action to be taken against those concerned.

Charles Mercieca, a defence lawyer for Fenech, argued this was the first time the Attorney General was requesting an investigation into an alleged contempt of court when there was clear evidence on far more serious cases, such as requests related to the ‘lost’ mobile phone of former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, as well as an alleged monetary exchange involving Theuma for the pardon.

Fenech told captain to take his yacht to Sicily earlier than planned

Fenech had suggested taking the family yacht Gio for servicing in Sicily earlier than planned, Tumas Group yacht captain Logan Wood told the court on Thursday.

Wood, who has been working with Tumas Group as captain of their boats Gio and Gio II for the past 11 years, was being questioned by Chief Inspector Keith Arnaud about the night of Fenech’s arrest on the boat that occurred between the 19 and 20 November.

Analysing an email which confirmed the booking of the service with the yacht servicing yard in Pozzallo, Arnaud pointed out to Wood that the servicing was set to start in December, not November. Wood replied that the correspondence to move it to an earlier date had taken place by telephone.

Wood said Fenech had approached him to carry out the service forward to that week a few days before their planned departure. “We decided on it together, because we needed to check the weather and availability of the yard,” he said.

Wood told the court that taking the boat to Sicily for service was a procedure done annually. A member of the Fenech family accompanying him was also a normal occurrence, and Yorgen Fenech had often accompanied him on similar trips, he said. 

They would leave the boat at the service station in Pozzallo for about one month, and usually either stay on in Sicily for a few days or get the next ferry back to Malta. Wood said that for that specific trip in November 2019, his plans were to return to Malta immediately but was not aware of Fenech’s plans upon arrival in Sicily as he “did not ask him”.

That night, the two planned to depart by 5am. Fenech had decided to sleep on the boat, which was “usual” for members of the family accompanying him, Wood said.

However, at about 11pm, journalists and photographers were next to the boat. Wood said one journalist had informed him that they were tipped off about the planned escape. Wood said he then contacted Fenech and informed him about the presence of the journalists and “paparazzi”, and told him that he would inform him when they left.

“I had heard of rumours that Fenech was involved in the Caruana Galizia case from social media,” Wood told the court, saying he was aware of the context of why the media was present.

“When they left, I went and informed Fenech that the coast is clear,” he said. Fenech went inside the boat at about 1am. Wood recalled that at about 3am, he received a message from Portomaso security had the CID were looking for Fenech. Fenech had played down the concern, saying they were “making a scene” that he was going to escape.

“They are saying that we are going to make a grand escape,” Wood recalled Fenech telling him.

Questioned by Fenech’s defence team, Wood explained that he had advised the Valletta authority of the boat’s departure “to be safe”, even though the vessels are not obliged to do so. He had also kept on the AIS broadcast, the boat’s automatic traffic device, from which the boat’s movements can be tracked.

Questioning the journalist’s presence, the defence also asked Wood whether the marina is closed to the public after a certain time, to which Wood replied in the affirmative.

In the session, Montebello also ordered a medical expert to examine the mental state of Theuma to see if he can continue the court proceedings.

The Shift and Justice for Journalists Foundation launch weekly roundup of Caruana Galizia case

€99,000 tender set to be awarded to architect for own clients’ project