Magistrate Monica Vella has rejected a request to expunge testimony given last week by Melvin Theuma in the criminal case over his phantom government job.
Charges have been brought against several government officials, including former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and Daphne Caruana Galizia, a suspect in the mastermind of the murder, Yorgen Fenech.
During today’s session, police also denied allegations made in court by lawyers for Keith Schembri, who claimed that Melvin Theuma had recently been arrested in connection with the bogus job investigation. .
Theuma, the confessed middleman in the plot to assassinate Daphne Caruana Galizia, had been pardoned for a number of crimes in return for testifying against the alleged perpetrators.
The criminal proceedings against Keith Schembri, former chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, Yorgen Fenech, former chief of OPM customer service Sandro Craus, former private secretary in the Ministry of Family Anthony Ellul and the Former CEO of Housing Maintenance and Embellishment Co Ltd Anthony Muscat, sued before Magistrate Monica Vella on Tuesday afternoon.
At the start of the session, the magistrate issued an executive order confirming that the testimony of Melvin Theuma before her last week should not be erased from evidence in these proceedings.
The magistrate noted that the proceedings before her were aimed at collecting and preserving evidence, not making decisions on the evidence, explaining that this would amount to usurping the functions of the criminal court.
The purpose of the procedure was to collect the evidence indicated by the attorney general, she said. The criminal court will then use this evidence to decide guilt or innocence.
The previous session had been an absolute disaster for the prosecution, which had called Melvin Theuma to the stand, only for him to back down from testifying after the defense raised the possibility that his presidential pardon would not extend to granting him immunity prosecution in this case.
In light of the court’s rejection of the request, one of Keith Schembri’s lawyers, Edward Gatt, informed the court that he would be filing for a constitutional remand, acknowledging the tight deadline the court faced at this stage. , but claiming that the decision raised an issue of equality of arms and that his client’s fair trial rights would be infringed.
“What equality of arms do I have at the prima facie level if I have not been able to cross-examine a witness? »
The formal petition for constitutional dismissal will be filed within two days, he said.
Police Inspector Nicholas Vella denied the defense claim that the prosecution obstructed Theuma’s cross-examination. Asked by Gatt if he knew if Theuma had been arrested earlier that day, he replied that he was unaware.
Anthony Muscat’s lawyer, Stefano Filletti, also addressed the court, accusing the prosecution of subpoenaing a witness who should actually be the co-defendant. “The circumstances are unique: we have a witness who has admitted the crime of which my client is accused and who is called to testify. Therefore, the rule preventing the testimony of a co-accused should be triggered. But instead of indicting him, they called him as a witness.
“Anyone who plays this game knows the court’s hands are tied. Instead of seeking the truth, the prosecution is taking advantage of this legal vacuum to induce a person who should be a co-accused to refuse to testify in order to prevent cross-examination,” Filletti claimed, alleging a violation of the principle of equality. Rights. arms.
Attorney Edward Gatt asked the inspector to do the necessary research and then confirm under oath whether or not Theuma had been re-arrested. “The court must respect the law, if he is confirmed as a co-accused, the Criminal Code applies.”
Gatt and Mark Vassallo for Schembri also asked the inspector to check whether Theuma had been arrested as part of this procedure. The lawyers repeatedly insisted that the prosecution immediately follow up on this request and verify whether it was true or not.
Detectives Nicholas Vella and Brian Camilleri both told the court they did not know if Theuma was under arrest and were later ordered to check. Vella asked the court to allow him to inform the court in camera, if it turns out he was. The request was denied.
Craus’ lawyer Michael Sciriha said he had reviewed the findings of the ghost work investigation, telling the court the investigating judge had told his client he was being treated as a witness before to testify. “Therefore, Mr. Craus should be a witness, not an accused. I can’t let this pass. I can’t fail to dispute At first glanceBecause there is no At first glance. His involvement has been described as marginal…Even the elements of the alleged crimes are not present.
Anthony Ellul’s lawyer, Vince Micallef, supported Gatt’s arguments and reserved the right to initiate constitutional proceedings in this regard. Yorgen Fenech’s lawyer, Charles Merceica, pointed out that Theuma’s situation could also change in light of what has emerged.
After leaving the courtroom to inquire with his superiors, Inspector Vella returned and informed the magistrate that Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa and Deputy Commissioner Alexandra Mamo had confirmed to him over the phone that Melvin Theuma did not was not currently under arrest.
The court stressed that this was not the question it was ordered to ask, whether Theuma was arrested in connection with this case after he refused to testify or not.
The inspector confirmed that Theuma had not been arrested since his refusal to testify. Gatt requested that the confirmation be made under oath, implying that he did not trust the sources of Inspector Vella’s information, but the court denied this request.
Gatt accused the prosecution of playing with words and warned he was not going to let the case slide. “Let’s be clear, if I find out that’s not true, I’ll do what I have to do,” he said.
The matter was adjourned to October 18 for submissions.