Current Affairs
Detailed evidence which traced the accused given by Police

17.40 Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit adjourns testimony by Inspector Arnaud for tomorrow at 10.00 am

17.24: Inspector Arnaud said that five minutes later George Degiorgio received a €5 credit; the top up was not made from the same line being used by Degiorgio but from the same place he was in. The three numbers were activated together on the 19th August 2017 shortly before 2.00 am. The Inspector added that an analysis on Grand Harbour CCTV cameras showed that the Degiorgio brothers had a boat each; and through the footage they monitored whether one of the boats could be seen. Alfred Degiorgio’s boat sailed out of the Grand Harbour at 7.55 am on the 16th of October and headed towards Northwest. At 2.55 pm, at the time the bomb was activated, the boat entered the breakwater and stopped under the Lower Barrakka. He said that it entered towards Marsa at around 3.20 pm

17.20 : Journalists re-enter in courtroom. Inspector Arnaud testified that police found that whoever activated the bomb was at sea and brought CCTV footage which Transport Malta has on the Grand Harbour. He added that they were informed by the Security Service, which assisted in the investigation, that accused George Debattista was using the mobile and a telephone call was located on the 16th October at 8.58 am.

The Inspector said that the accused phoned a third person from Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq area while at sea. He was heard requesting the person “do me a favour send me €5 vodafone”. The person Degiorgio phoned could not assist him and was heard saying “how can I borrow €2?”. The Inspector said the person on the line explained to him the procedure, with Degiorgio replying “OK”. Later on he phoned a person, and on the request of the court the person’s name was not published because he is not one of the accused, to give him €5. The call lasted only 13 seconds.

17.16: Journalists requested to leave Court room.

17.15: Inspector Arnaud requested the Court that the hearing continues behind closed doors due to the sensitivity of what he was going to say.

17.10 : Arnaud testified that Europol entered in the investigation to collect the car’s remains; analyzed the evidence at the crime scene and from the car. The expert collected a card that indicates a slot where the sim card is inserted in the equipment.

17.07: The Police said that results showed that a sim card was in a Nokia mobile and that the mobile was switched on just before 2.00 am on the 16th of October at Bidnija and remained in Bidnija until at 2.58 pm an sms was received, and then activity was discontinued. Whoever sent the sms used a Nokia 105 mobile and was switched on at 6.14 am.

In its testimony, the Police said that from the localisation of the sms sender it emerged that there was movement at sea which went out of the Grand Harbour. The marking showed it was in Sliema, Pembroke, Xghajra and Rinella surroundings, and the localisation marked Northwest and South at sea. This strengthened the view that whoever used the mobile was at sea.

1700 : The Police said the numbers were used as follows:

On the 10 of January 2017, 20 minutes were used between the two numbers, they were first topped with credit and there were 4 sms’s which were sent and contact stopped.

On the 21st August 2017, one of the mobiles received 2 sms from the other and, after receiving the messages, the sim card was placed in another mobile.

On the 16th October the mobiles were used for the third time. The Police said sms were sent and then the mobiles were never used.

FBI investigation showed that one of the sim cards was not in the mobile, but in a type of equipment which takes a sim card and operates through the commands.

16.56: The Police testified that after they had indications that whoever sent the sms was at sea, they strengthened their thesis that there was a spotter at Bidnija who informed the person at sea who sent the sms. Two sim cards were bought on the 15th November 2016 and were activated on the 10th January 2017 at Żebbuġ. The communication was only between them and the numbers were only used three times.

16.50: The Inspector added that at the site they found a fresh cigarette which was collected by forensic members. Analysis on the case started as FBI experts on telephony arrived. All the data of the Bidnija area was collected to check if there was a number which switched off from all the local service providers tower. The information was handed over to the FBI.

The Police were informed that there was a particular Vodafone number which was switched off from the cell tower and contact stopped at 14.58, and the number stopped as a message was received from another number. He said this was the last activity and from there onwards there are records of this number.

16:40 The Police added they gathered footage from one and a half hours before the explosion and continued for up to three hours later – in all 25 hours of footage from places at Bidnija and the surrounding area for anything suspicious. This was done under the direction of the Magistrate.

Inspector Arnaud said that the police thought that whoever carried out the murder was in the vicinity following the steps of the victim and this was established as the victim had no routine of when to go out or enter her home. An ideal place they found where a person could follow the victim was known as it-Tarġa Battery at the Victoria Lines, the same place news cameramen chose to film. Police spoke to a person living there who said that on the day of the murder and in three weeks before he noticed a small white car, with number plate ending with QZ always at the place. He added that this person said that on the 16th of October the car, without any persons in it, was facing Mosta. After the 16th of October the man no longer saw this car.

16:33 Inspector Arnaud said that at that time the decision was taken to involve foreign investigators on the case, and Dutch police were contacted to assist at the crime scene, and the FBI to assist on telephony. They spoke with Caruana Galizia’s husband and children, who confirmed that the car had been used by Daphne Caruana Galizia for four months, and that 15 days before her son, Matthew, also used the car.

Inspector Arnaud further testified that Matthew told them that on that day, he and his mother were the only family members at home. A few minutes after the journalist drove away from home, Matthew said he heard an explosion close by, went running outside, saw a vehicle and smoke, saying he could do nothing to help.

The Inspector said that on the day of the explosion, the Police headquarters opened a crime number so that information is gathered by a crime team, who is still in operation. He added that the crime scene remained closed to people for four days, in the presence of Magistrate Anthony Vella who spent a lot of time there.

Every type of evidence was gathered following the arrival of the Dutch police officers, while on the last day the car was taken to the Depot and filmed during the investigation. Samples of the explosive were sent to The Netherlands and results showed it was organic explosives.

16.27: Continuing with this testimony, Inspector Arnaud said that on the 16th of October he was informed of the car explosion at Bidnija, a few metres away from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s residence. He presented a copy of a google earth map of Bidnija surrounding where the victim’s car was parked before the explosion; a mark showing where the explosion occurred and the place were the car stopped.

The defence lawyers objected to the presentation of documents in Court until they are provided with a copy to follow. The Inspector did not object.

Arriving on site he found a car in the middle of a field; the fire had been put off and the area was closed and preserved. It was established that the car was a leased Peugeot 108 and was used by Daphne Caruana Galizia. This was confirmed to Police by her son Matthew and that his mother had drove it a few moments before the explosion.

16.25:
Inspector Arnaud requested the Court to warn the accused not to pass comment towards police inspectors during testimony. He said that when under escort, George Degiorgio made a void comment which he should not have addressed on the case. Dr William Cuschieri requested the Court to see that mud is not thrown at anyone.

16.23: Inspector Keith Arnaud gives evidence
16.20:Following days of waiting, witnesses will now be heard in the case. Previously, Assistant Attorney General Dr Philip Galea Farrugia said that Inspector Arnaud will testify, among others, on the operation that lead to the arrests and the use of mobiles. He said that in certain circumstances, it may be needed that parts of his testimony, due to the sensitivity of the case with reference to the use and number of mobiles, he may be requested that this evidence is heard behind closed doors. He will eventually indicate this.

16.08: The three accused look straight at the Magistrate while she reads her decision. In her decree, the Magistrate declared that the Court does not know how she was selected by the Chief Justice. She added that no pressure was even exerted on her; she only knew of the decision that the case was assigned to her by the Court Registrar. She said that previously during the day the Court decided that there was no reason for her recusal of the case. The Magistrate reminded that the defence was making these objections as it knows that there are 30 days’ time in which evidence has to be presented. Therefore, she denied the defence request.

16.07: Magistrate enters into the Court’s hall>

16.05: Under escort, the three accused are back in the Court’s hall. Maġistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is expected to enter to deliver her decision.

16.00: Everyone takes his place in the hall for the resumption of the sitting.

 13.10 : The Magistrate adjourned the sitting to 4.00 p.m., at which point she will decide whether to refer the case to the First Hall of the civil Court, Constitutional Jurisdiction.

13.00: Dr William Cuschieri said he did not agree that the choice had been made by the Chief Justice, adding that they agreed with the system of drawing by lot, and the choice of the second and third Magistrate should have been made by lot. Dr Cuschieri reiterated that through its reporting the media is putting pressure on the Court, and futher stated that with his comment yesterday the Prime Minister also put pressure on the Court.

12.55: Dr Martin Fenech accused Dr Comodini Cachia of not understanding  defence arguments or of wanting to divert. He stated that the Defence argument was that the Chief Justice had chosen Magistrate Stafrace Zammit, adding that the request was not frivolous, but the Chief Justice had the discretion  to choose who he wished, and no one had the right to query why.

12.49: Dr Comodini Cachia stated that the points being raised by the Defence were frivolous.  Regarding media pressure, she stated Defence was saying the Magistrate could be prejudiced. She added that the media have a right and an obligation to inform the public. Regarding what the Prime Minister had stated, it is clear that he said he was convinced the administration of justice weighs matters and would take the necessary decisions and find a solution, and the case would not collapse because of a technicality. Dr Comodini Cachia asked where in this statement there was prejudice to the Court, again stressing that defence arguments were frivolous.

12.35: Up to this point it had only been Dr Jason Azzopardi, appearing parte civile, who had spoken up during the morning session, but he now let Dr Therese Comodini Cachia address the Court. Dr Comodini Cachia reminded Defence that they had a right to the fastest possible conclusion of proceedings. She added that Defence argument that since the Magistrate has been assigned by the Chief Justice himself, according to the Defence the Magistrate is no longer independent, does not hold water. Dr Comodini Cachia added that when the Chief  Justice had assigned the case to Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, he did not give her any instructions on how to proceed. She added that on this day the Magistrate had conducted the sitting as she saw fit and without any presure.

12.25: The Magistrate turned to the accused and put their minds at rest that they need not concern themselves that she would not be hearing the case with impartiality because of an article praising the Government of the time for retaining her husband in his MEPA appointment.

Dr Cuschieri replied that the clients have every right to question the process for the choice of Magistrates, as there could be lack of a proper hearing.

Dr Philip Farrugia Galea, assistant Attorney General, stated that one of the roles of the Chief Justice was to assign members of the Judiciary. He denied that the drawing by lot when Magistrate Frendo Dimech had been appointed had been recorded, asstated by the Defence which was quoting media reports. Dr Fenech then queried why the Chief Justice had not corrected this report.

12.20: Dr William Cuschieri on behalf of Alfred Degiorgio insisted on his request for reference to be made to a verbal he had made at the beginning of the sitting, this being constitutional. Dr Cuschieri explained that the first Magistrate had been chosen by lot, and this had been recorded. He added that in the following instances, the cases had been assigned first to Magistrate Chairmaine Galea and then to Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit by a sole decision of the Chief Justice, without any reason being given for his choices. Dr Cuschieri added that any influence that the Chief Justice could have could effect the independence of this Court. The lawyer reiterated that defence did not agree with the manner in which Magistrates Charmaine Galea and Claire Stafrace Zammit had been chosen,  even because of media pressure. The lawyer reiterated that there had been external pressure from the Prime Minister.
12.15: Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit re-enters the Courtroom. The Magistrate denies the Defence request for her not to continue hearing the case. In her decree the Magistrate stated that after hearing the request by Dr Martin Fenech on behalf of Vince Muscat, wherein according to Doctor Fenech Daphne Caruana Galizia had praised the Magistrate’s husband in her blog in April 2013, she saw no reason for recusal. The Magistrate added that she had studied the document and had not come across anything praising her husband, but rather, an article based on facts.

12.10 : An indication that the Magistrate will soon enter the Courtroom from her Chambers, as the three accused have been escorted back into the Courtroom and have taken their places. For the duration of the suspension of the sitting the accused were taken to the Court lock-up.

11.31:  The Magistrate entered her Chambers to write the decree. She suspended the sitting without giving a time when the hearing would re-convene. 

11.29: The Magistrate asked the defence whether there was just one article and the defence replied in the affirmative. 

11.25: Dr Martin Fenech said that the whole point was how the Chief Justice had chosen Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit. He said that Daphne Caruana Galizia had praised the Magistate’s family and therefore the choice of the Chief Justice might be prejudiced against his clients.

Dr Jason Azzopardi reminded the Court that the inquiring Magistrate may order an arrest, order for evidence to be lifted, and may issue search warrants, but not take decisions as this Court needs to do.

The defence submitted the article where Daphne Caruana Galizia had praised the Magistrate and pointed out that once she had praised her, justice cannot be done. 

11.20 : During these legal arguments, the three accused remained impassive. Vince Muscat bowed his head, while the Degoirgio brothers looked at the Magistrate.

11.15 : Dr Martin Fenech said that the clients were innocent until proven guilty. He said that the request for recusal was well-founded and the arguments brought by the Prosecution and the Parte Civile, that the Court does not take decisions, were not true. He said that the Court takes decisions all the time during every compilation. He said that the accused are entitled to their fundamental human rights and therefore the request for recusal should be met.

The Assistant AG said that only the Court could say whether it was comfortable to hear the case or not.  He said that the AG had agreed with the recusal of Consuelo Scerri Herrera from the murder inquiry because everyone knew that there were personal issues between the two parties. That was why the AG had agreed with the recusal. However, in the case of  Donatallo Frendo Dimech and Charmaine Galea, they had recused themselves without any legal grounds.  

Dr Jason Azzopardi said that he, together with Dr Therese Comodini Cachia, had requested the recusal of Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera because, as the AG had pointed out, there had been a personal issue.  Scerri Herrera’s case was completely different to what happened in this last week. He described the casual way in which the defence wants the Magistrate to abdicate her responsibilities without quoting a single sentence to justify it.  

11.10 : Dr Jason Azzopardi agreed with the prosecution’s arguments. This was just a fishing expedition. The defence wants the Court to abdicate the responsibilities with which it has been has entrusted by law and the oath she took when she was appointed Magistrate. The defence was not in a position to quote a single sentence from the Court of Human Rights to substantiate the request for a recusal. Dr Azzopardi said that the defence only want justice in a vague way and this does not give any affability to the request by the defence as stated by the Assistant AG. The parte civile asked the Court to continue with the hearing.

11. 05 : Dr Martin Fenech said that, in fact, in her blog, Daphne Caruana Galiz had praised Lawrence Gonzi who had retained Magistrate Dr Ian Stafrace as Chief Executive of MEPA.

Dr Philip Galea Farrugia, the Assistant AG addressed the Court. He said that over the years things had always proceeded properly, but this week the procedures have been reduced to absurdity. The defence was saying that justice needs to be done, but the public is sending the message that justice is not being done. 

The Assistant AG said that the defence is doing everything it can to lengthen the proceedings. He quoted the judicial Code of Ethics which says that no Magistrate may recuse themselves or abstain unless they are related, married, curators or heirs to one of the parties, or unless they gave them advice, or if they had already started hearing the case, or had testified or have any interest in the way the case is decided. He said that nothing of the sort applies to the Court, neither to the Magistrate herself nor to her husband. He added that Court will not be deciding the case, as it would be simply compiling the evidence. Therefore he once again reiterated that there was no need for the Magistrate to recuse herself.

11.00 : Magistrate said that she had carried out a Google search. “I know she wrote about me but she always quoted facts. I found what she wrote.”  

10.51 : The Magisrate said that if the request was that important it should have been made before the hearing.

Dr Cuchcieri began quoting a study on the Internet by foreign judges in the Commonwealth to justify his request. He said that contrary to what had happened yesterday, there was praise about the Magistrate’s husband and not criticism (in reference to the writings by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia).  

Dr Philip Galea Farrugia from the AG office asked whether he had found this study on Google.  Dr Cuschieri said that he has his doubts about Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit because he feels that pressure was placed on the Chief Justice, after the PM spoke to the media. 

10.57 : Dr Philip Galea Farrugia asked whether the defence was asking for a recusal. 

Dr Martin Fenech formally asked the Court to recuse herself – “I feel justice has to be done”

10.50 : Dr Martin Fenech and Dr Sant said their clients are associating themselves with the request by Dr Cuschieri to suspend  the procedures until a decision is taken by the Constitutional Court. 

10.39 : Dr Martin Fenech asks the Court if as a Magistrate she can declare that she has no problem with hearing this case. Jokingly the Magistrate says, yes “because it’s Christmas”. She said that we now need to hear the witnesses.

The Assistant AG Dr Philip Farrugia Galea said that the first to testify would be Inspector Keith Arnaud.

Dr William Cuschieri, speaking on behalf of Alfred Degiorgio, asked for it to be made known how the judiciary was being appointed. He said that there were doubts on how the Chief Justice was choosing the Magistrates because he feels there is pressure being placed on the independence of the court. He said that he believes there is even pressure from the media to choose one Magistrate rather than another. He said that the first Magistrate’s name was drawn by lot in the normal procedure which was recoded and that was how she was appointed. However, the next two were chosen, according to the rules, directly by the Chief Justice without any consideration as to why these choices were made. He asked whether the right of the accused to have his case heard by an independent Court in terms of Article 39 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the Convention of the European Court on Human Rights, were being respected. 

10.34 : Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit comes out of her Chambers. The Magistrate is informed that Dr Francina Abela is renouncing her role as Alfred Degiorgio’s lawyer and instead he will be defended by Dr William Cuschieri and Dr Martha Mifsud.

The Magistrate is also informed that Dr Benjamin Valencia can no longer defend George Degiorgio because of a potential conflict of interest. The Court is therefore substituting Dr Valencia with Dr Josette Sultana as his legal aid.  As Dr Sultana is abroad, Dr Mark Sant as the Chief Legal Aid Lawyer declared that he will appear for the accused George Degiorgio in today’s sitting.

10.32 : The two other accused, George Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat, now enter the court room, The security inside the room is increased with the presence of four SRT officers.  

10.29 : Escorted by three SRT police officers, Alfred Degiorgio enters the court room.

10.25 : Defence lawyers Dr Benjamin Valenzia, Martin Fenech and Francina Abela, enter the court room, as well as Dr Therese Comodini Cachia, Dr Jason Azzopardi, Dr Eve Borg Costanzi and Peter Caruana Galizia,  Daphne Caruana Galizia’s husband, who are appearing in parte civile for the Caruana Galizia family. Also present are Inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra who are leading the prosecution assisted by Dr Philip Galea Farrugia, the Assistant Attorney General.

10.20 : Magistrate Stafrace Zammit enters her Chambers after finishing her previous court case. This hearing is expected to start at 10.30am for the compilation of evidence against George Degiorgio, 55, known as ‘Iċ-Ċiniż’, his brother Alfred Degiorgio, 53, known as ‘Il-Fulu’ and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as  ‘Il-Koħħu’.

10.15 : The three accused have just arrived in Court under heavy police escort.

10.00 : Today the case is expected to be heard in court room number 7, where Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit works.  Daphne Caruana Galizia’s parents and her sister are already waiting.  Right now Magistrate Stafrace Zammit is hearing another case.

Earlier:

For the third time in less than one week, this morning another attempt will be made to start hearing the compilation of evidence against  George Degiorgio, 55, known as ‘Iċ-Ċiniż’, his brother Alfred Degiorgio, 53, known as ‘Il-Fulu’ and Vincent Muscat, 55, known as  ‘Il-Koħħu’, who are being charged with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Apart from the murder charges, they are also accused of associating with people in Malta and abroad, to carry out the murder.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is the third Magistrate who has been appointed to hear the compilation. As in the case of Magistrate Charmaine Galea, Magistrate Stafrace Zammit was appointed directly by the Chief Justice, Silvio Camilleri.

The first two Magistrates, Donatella Frendo Dimech and Charmaine Galea recused themselves from the case because of a possible conflict of interest.

In two weeks time – by 4 January – the three accused men have to be formally charged. Because of the recusal of the two Magistrates, 14 days from the 30 day timeframe from the date of arraignment, which the law gives for the compilation of evidence to be closed, have already passed. Within this one month period, the Court has to decide if there is enough evidence for the accused to be formally charged, unless a request is made by the Court to the President of Malta to extend the time allowed for the compilation of evidence.

The law says that if the accused are not formally charged, they have to be released and cannot be arraigned in Court in connection with the same charges, unless new evidence is found for them to be arraigned in Court once again.

See also:

Magistrate Stafrace Zammit appointed on Caruana Galizia case, will start hearing compilation of evidence tomorrow