“So many bullies have died, this one won’t be the exception” – Theuma about what iċ-Ċiniż had told him
Melvin Theuma appears before Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit
The compilation of evidence relating to siblings George and Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat, charged with murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia in a car bomb explosion on 16 October 2017, continued today before Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit.
At the start of the sitting, Inspector Keith Arnaud stated that Melvin Theuma had been granted a presidential pardon on 25 November, and for this reason, no criminal action will be taken in his regard as long as he adheres to the terms of the pardon.
Lawyer William Cuschieri stated that legal proceedings had been set in motion, initially through a judicial protest and subsequently through a Court case attacking the pardon granted to Theuma for reasons outlined in the judicial protest. The outcome of the judicial process is not as yet known.
He was a friend of Yorgen and used to travel abroad with him
In his evidence, Mr Theuma recognised the accused in the Courtroom, stating he knew them. He added that he first got to know Alfred, followed by the others. Theuma further stated that on one occasion Darren Debono and Alfred Degiorgio had gone to him as they needed a flat for rental.
Theuma stated that he was a friend of Yorgen, and used to travel abroad with him, with Theuma doing the driving. On one occasion they were in France watch some horse races, and he had tendered advice, telling him someone had recorded him, and he had been advised in turn to record him.
At the time his three-year-old son, now aged five, had been operated on, and Yorgen had paid for everything. Initially, Theuma was acquainted with Yorgen’s uncle, Ray Fenech, after which Yorgen became acquainted with him through illegal gambling.
Theuma stated that he had rented a shop in Qormi to Yorgen, and Yorgen had allowed him to work as a taxi driver at the Hilton some five years ago.
Yorgen Fenech asked him whether he knew George Degiorgio as he needed to kill Caruana Galizia
One day Yorgen called him and asked him to go to Portomaso, as he wanted to speak to him. It was in 2017, about two to three weeks before the Prime Minister announced the election. Yorgen asked him whether he was acquainted with George Degiorgio, as he needed him in order to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia because she was about to publish information about his uncle, Ray Fenech. Theuma said he knew Alfred, and he called the latter and agreed to meet with him the next day near the Marsa potato sheds.
There he met with Alfred and told him someone wanted to kill Caruana Galizia. Degiorgio asked him whether this person was prepared to pay. They met again two days later at a well-known cafeteria in Imsida. Degiorgio told Theuma he had discussed the request with his colleagues, adding that to carry out the work they wanted 150,000 euro, with 30,000 euro upfront, and the rest to be paid later. Theuma relayed all this to Yorgen. Two days later Yorgen called him and told him he would be contacted by a certain Sandro Kraus from Castille. Kraus called and told him he had an appointment at Castille on the following day with Keith Schembri. Theuma turned up at Castille, and Keith Schembri met him halfway up the main staircase, shook his hand, took him on a tour of Castille, took a photograph of them together and told him Kraus would talk to him as he had work.
He had met with Keith Schembri at some lunch organised by Yorgen, to which Keith had been invited. Theuma added that he had only met Keith Schembri twice in his whole life – at this lunch and at Castille. The next day Theuma went to the Ministry and asked for Tony Sammut/Muscat. They asked him whether he could write an email, he replied in the affirmative and was told he would be paid by cheque, but this payment was stopped after the election. Theuma stated he had never reported for duty, he did not even know where he worked. After the election results were announced, Yorgen told him to pass on the message “Stop everything. Nothing for the moment.”
Melvin met with Alfred Degiorgio at the cafeteria to pass on the message. Yorgen had not forked out any money, and in order not to look foolish, Theuma paid Alfred 1,500 euro and was told by Alfred he hoped that whoever was prepared to pay was not going to give the work to someone else.
Theuma used to bet Yorgen’s money that Labour would be re-elected with a 20,000 vote majority. When Labour was elected on the Sunday, Yorgen called him and told him to start the ball rolling again on Daphne Caruana Galizia. Two weeks later Yorgen called Theuma to pick him up and take him to the airport, as he was going abroad. He opened his case and took out a brown envelope containing the cash for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
He was always telling him to hurry up and kill her as she was about to publish the information
The next day Theuma met with Alfred Degiorgio at the same cafeteria and told him to go ahead with the murder. When they exited the cafeteria Theuma handed over 30,000 euro. Theuma said he had counted the money, Yorgen had given him 150,000 euro. Regarding the remainder, 120,000 euro, he could not recall whether he had placed them in the BOV Marsa safe deposit box, or whether he had withdrawn the sum later. Since that day, Yorgen called him regularly, telling him to hurry up with the job as she was about to publish the information. He caught him out saying that the information was not about Mr Ray Fenech, but about Yorgen himself. Theuma stated he had never told Alfred Degiorgio who had sent him. He added that Yorgen had told him to ensure this would not be a repetition of the Romeo Bone incident because if they did not kill her, things would be worse. Alfred Degiorgio told him to put his mind at rest.
Theuma continued that he had spoken with George Degiorgio, who had told him “she is worrying us, but so many bullies have died, she will not be the exception.”
Theuma also recounted that Alfred Degiorgio had asked which places Daphne Caruana Galizia frequented. Theuma had asked Yorgen and was told of two places, up Naxxar hill in a cafeteria opposite the swings, and in a Rabat restaurant. Until that point in time, Theuma was not aware of how the murder was to be carried out. Theuma had a mobile which he kept for contacting Alfred only.
Theuma described how on one occasion Alfred Degiorgio had taken him to Bidnija to show him how the plan was evolving and had pointed out Daphne Caruana Galizia’s home so that a reply could be sent to the person who had commissioned the murder. Alfred Degiorgio pointed out the place from where he kept watching through binoculars. Degiorgio added he spent days there and used to observe everything. He also told him that everything would have been sorted out earlier, but they had encountered a Police roadblock near a roundabout and had had to turn back.
Stated that only Fenech had told him about the matter, no one else had pressured him to kill the journalist
Theuma stated he was not aware of the date of the planned murder, and neither about the bomb.
Five or six days before, Theuma stated, he could not get in touch with Alfred. When Yorgen called him, he had called Alfred. Yorgen was pressing him to hurry up and speak with Degiorgio, as the information was about to be released.
On the day of the murder, he had just got home from work. He was afraid of being caught and had called Yorgen, and had gone near Portomaso and told him. Yorgen told him not to worry, as the Malta Police would be investigating. Theuma said only Fenech had told him about this matter, no one else had pressured him into killing Daphne Caruana Galizia.
About a fortnight after the murder he had gone to Germany, and just when he returned to Malta Yorgen called and they met up in front of the Toyota showroom in Zebbug. Yorgen told him there were problems, as they were picking up a number of mobiles. Theuma informed Alfred, who told him not to worry.
Between seven and ten days after the murder, Vince sent him a message to speak with Alfred, who had not turned up. Theuma suggested they meet at Marsascala, where he had a garage. He was told to pick up 5,000 euro, as he had spent a lot on car rentals, and Theuma had forked out the 5,000 euro in order not to look foolish.
Alfred had gone to Marsascala in a small white rental car, and he had handed over 125 euro. At the beginning Yorgen had asked him whether he had got in touch with George iċ-Ċiniż.
Fenech told him the Degiorgio brothers had problems and they were going to be raided
The previous Thursday Yorgen had told him Alfred and George Degiorgio had problems, and a major raid was to be carried out on 5 December. Theuma indicated to Alfred to meet at the cafeteria, and he told him about the raid and said he would keep him updated.
A week after they had been apprehended, he started paying them 300 euro a week out of his own pocket. This to both Degiorgio and Kohhu when they were in prison in order to have something in hand, as he was scared they would implicate him. He would hand this sum over through Lolly. They used to give him a prison receipt for the money he used to give them. Theuma said he had shown the receipts to Yorgen in order to recoup the money. but the latter had ignored him.
Theuma added that he started getting very frightened, had a bad fall and at the start of the year 2018 Yorgen had given him 5,000 euro and he had gone abroad with his partner, her mother and his son. After the Degiorgio brothers were apprehended, days later he had made a will as he feared for his life.
Prior to the murder, he had not known Mario Degiorgio was a brother to the others. When he returned from London, Mario Degiorgio, brother to Alfred and George, said they needed 30,000 euro to pay the lawyer. Theuma had told Yorgen about this and had been given 30,000 for the Degiorgios.
Shortly afterwards, Mario Degiorgio asked for another 30,000 euro. Yorgen told him they would be making a habit of this, and gave him 25,000 euro. Theuma said he thought Yorgen had deducted the 5,000 euro he had been given for his trip and had forked out the 5,000 euro himself. He would maintain contact with Mario every day through WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, Theuma stated he did not continue paying out 300 euro but had gone down to 200 euro as il-Kohhu’s wife wanted to know the provenance of the 100 euro, so he stopped paying Kohhu. Mario Degiorgio continued to ask for between 2,000 and 3,000 euro every week.
Theuma stated that Yorgen used to go to the UK for rehabilitation regularly, because of his cocaine habit.
Theuma added that George Degiorgio wanted 60,000 euro because of the pledge, in order to send it abroad. He got to know this through Mario, the brother. He gave Mario a total of 120,000 euro, 2,000 or 3,000 euro every week and 200 euro every week.
Theuma added that Yorgen had recently given him 20,000 to pay Mario, after which the whole issue came to a head.
He never recorded him before the murder. Yorgen often used to mention Keith Schembri
Theuma stated he had not taken even one cent for himself for this work. He later realised his mistake and had even considered suicide.
Theuma recounted that he was having lunch at home when Yorgen called him and told him to go to the Zebbug farmhouse. He told him they had a problem as il-Kohhu was telling all, and he had been mentioned. He told him to pass on a message to Mario that il-Kollu was telling all. Theuma met with Mario and told him. He ended up drinking and had an argument with Yorgen.
That same evening he got a telephone call from Yohann Cremona who told him they were coming to speak to him, and he had turned up with a certain Kenneth, who had been with the traffic department and had worked at Castille. Theuma added that these two had either been sent by Yorgen Fenech or by Keith Schembri, as Kenneth worked at Castille. Theuma testified they told him to tell them that on the 22nd of the month they would be given a pardon and would receive one million euro. They told him to go straight away to pass on a message to Mario. Neither the Degiorgio brothers nor il-Kohhu had been pardoned, nor did they receive one million euro.
Mario used to tell him to see who he could speak with, as the others could not remain in prison. Theuma said he had been frightened.
Before the murder, Theuma had been with Yorgen and had been upset and angry because he had recorded him. Theuma added that before the murder he had never recorded him. Yorgen, Theuma said, often used to mention his friend Keith Schembri. Theuma added he started thinking they wanted to get rid of him, and the recordings are now held by the Magistrate.
The recordings were made in the car, at Portomaso in the level 21 office, and at Zebbug. Theuma said they were sometimes on their own, and on occasions, his wife entered. Theuma added that he had two mobiles, and used to record on one of them.
Theuma said that on one occasion he made three pieces of recordings, perhaps a photo of himself and Keith Schembri at Castille, and a letter which he gave to Yorgen in an envelope. He stated in the message that if they came to kill him, the information would go to the headquarters, and if he ended up in prison, he would disclose everything.
The promise of a pardon had been made by Kenneth, Theuma added, and he assumed that he had been told by Keith Schembri as Yorgen had not been the one, and he had therefore involved Keith Schembri in the whole matter.