Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Malta orders probe of ex-police chief in murdered journalist case

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A Maltese court on Monday ordered an investigation of former police chief Lawrence Cutajar after allegations that he had leaked information to a middleman in the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

Three men are awaiting trial for having set off the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia while prominent businessman Yorgen Fenech, suspected of masterminding the killing, has been charged with complicity to murder. All have pleaded ‘not guilty’.

Fenech was arrested after a middleman in the murder plot, Melvin Theuma, turned state witness and was granted a pardon. Police had been investigating him on suspicion of involvement in the murder and of money laundering.

The request for Cutajar to be investigated was made by lawyers for the journalist’s family during the compilation of evidence against Fenech, after Theuma and an associate said Cutajar had given them information.

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Cutajar did not respond to phone calls seeking a comment but he told the Times of Malta that he had never spoken to Theuma.

Among the submissions the court heard were secret recordings of phone conversations between Theuma and Fenech or Fenech’s associates in which Cutajar was mentioned.

Cutajar was police commissioner when Caruana Galizia was murdered. He resigned last January, when he was appointed government adviser on public safety.

He was suspended after the Sunday Times of Malta reported that investigators thought Cutajar might have leaked information that Theuma was about to be arrested.

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The ministry of home affairs issued a statement saying that Cutajar had always denied the allegations made against him.

But it said it had terminated Cutajar’s contract as an adviser after Monday’s court hearing and the decision to order a formal investigation.

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