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Fenech told police Keith Schembri hatched the plan for Daphne’s murder

Yorgen Fenech told police Schembri wanted to “get rid of Daphne” because she “caused a lot of trouble”.

Melvin Theuma
Meelvin Theuma with Joseph Muscat's former chief of staff Keith Schembri.

Yorgen Fenech, the accused mastermind in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, told the police that former chief of staff Keith Schembri had asked him to “find someone to kill Daphne”.

The claim was made by police inspector Keith Zahra, who was called to testify in the case of the murdered journalist.

Zahra testified that Fenech gave four statements to police. In one of these statements, he claimed it was not him who came up with the plan to kill Caruana Galizia. It was Keith Schembri.

The inspector told the court that Fenech never denied his involvement in the murder plan, a claim which was received with audible objections from the businessman’s lawyers.

Fenech claimed that three other individuals who knew of the murder after it happened, and one of them was former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The other two were Fenech’s doctor Adrian Vella and a friend, Johann Cremona.

Fenech said he had spoken to Muscat twice about the killing. Once at Castille, where the former prime minister asked him if he could trust Melvin Theuma, and again at Muscat’s private birthday party at Girgenti. Fenech told Muscat he did not trust Theuma because he was being recorded.

It also emerged, according to the testimony, that Muscat had told Fenech there was to be a raid on Theuma in the summer of 2019.

Zahra testified that Fenech said Schembri used to visit him “almost every day” and ask him to find a way to get rid of Daphne Caruana Galizia. He told police that he had never personally sought hitmen for the job.

Fenech later informed Schembri that he had found hitmen to do the job for €30,000, but this plan was scrapped.

Then, during a meal at Fenech’s farmhouse in 2016, the accused spoke to Schembri about a plan mentioned by Theuma which would cost €120,000.

The former chief of staff replied, “Carry on” (mexxi).

During his interrogation, Fenech told police that Schembri had passed him a lot of information about the investigation, including that his phone was tapped. Fenech was also tipped off about the upcoming raid on Theuma.

Fenech insisted to the police that Schembri wanted to “get rid of Daphne” because she “caused a lot of trouble”. He said Schembri told him this more than once, allegedly as far back as 2014.

Zahra told the court that Fenech felt threatened by Theuma, referring to the interrogation where Fenech said the middleman showed up for a meeting with a weapon in his sock. On another occasion, he pulled a gun and put it on Fenech’s desk.

Fenech also told police that Schembri had paid the sum of €85,000 to Theuma.

Fenech was arrested on 20 November while leaving the island in his yacht, but he insisted he was not trying to escape. However, Zahra explained that chats revealed Fenech intended to go to Tunis or France. These chats are yet to be exhibited.

Zahra told the courts that these interrogations of Fenech were not recorded audio-visually at the request of the accused’s lawyers.

Parte Civile lawyer Jason Azzopardi stood to ask questions about Fenech, but was stopped by defence lawyer Charles Mercieca, who claimed the parte civile was asking direct questions because the prosecution was precluded from doing so at law. Mercieca chuckled and said, “This defeats the purpose of the law.”

The clash continued as Mercieca invited Azzopardi to withdraw a comment he overheard. Azzoprardi confirmed he had said that the defence was wasting time and trying to confuse proceedings.

Azzopardi was found in contempt of court, with the court arguing that it had allowed the questions and this should never be taken as wasting time.

Following questions by Azzopardi, Zahra said Fenech became a suspect at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019. He also confirmed that Schembri communicated with Fenech the night before the latter’s arrest.

Referring to transcripts of the interrogation, Zahra cites a line in which Fenech states, “They wanted me to escape two days ago”. “Them”, the court was told, referred to Schembri and his doctor Adrian Vella.

The case resumes on 31 August.

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