Posted on: May 31, 2021, 09:20h.
Last updated on: May 31, 2021, 09:36h.
The man who arranged the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, allegedly on behalf of the country’s biggest casino owner, Yorgen Fenech, has been implicated in a daring casino robbery a decade ago.
Melvin Theuma was granted immunity from prosecution for his role in the Galizia murder in return for testifying against his coconspirators. He implicated Fenech as the “mastermind” of the October 2017 assassination.
The killing may have been carried out because Galizia was digging into a multimillion-dollar energy contract she alleged was corruptly awarded by the Maltese government to Fenech’s company.
But according to Malta Today, Theuma’s immunity also relates to his involvement in the dramatic 2010 raid on the Casino di Venezia in Birgu, Malta, an unsolved case.
Theuma Aided Casino di Venezia Heist
In February 2010, four armed, masked men stormed the casino on Birgu seafront, threatening to kill cashiers and customers unless they filled a bag with cash and valuables.
Three minutes later, they fled the casino to a waiting Mitsubishi Pajero. The thieves drove a short distance before dumping the car in the sea and escaping in a speedboat.
The amount taken has never been disclosed, but it is believed to have been around €500,000 ($610,000) in cash.
According to Malta Today, Theuma is not thought to have taken part in the actual raid, but he may have sheltered those who did in a series of safe houses.
He is also suspected of involvement in two more heists, one of which netted thieves €1 million.
In November 2017, an armed gang broke into the HSBC bank in Balzan, central Malta. It made off with €1 million in cash, which was being transferred to the branch ahead of Malta’s adoption of the euro on January 1, 2018.
Theuma told authorities he arranged for two brothers, Alfred and George Degiorgio, and a local crime figure named Vince Muscat to carry out the car-bomb killing of Galizia.
Muscat took a plea deal, and earlier this year, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the murder. He is also awaiting trial for his alleged direct involvement in another 2010 robbery at the HSBC central office.
Muscat has sensationally claimed that two members of former Prime Minster Joseph Muscat’s (no relation) cabinet were also involved in that heist.
Theuma’s testimony and Fenech’s subsequent arrest as he attempted to flee the country on his yacht ultimately brought down the Muscat administration.
Journalists who continued Galizia’s unfinished research discovered that a shadowy company Fenech controlled had been preparing to make large payments into shell accounts owned by Malta’s former energy minister and the prime minister’s chief.
The revelation triggered resignations, including that of then-Prime Minister Muscat.
Fenech is awaiting trial for conspiracy to murder. The Degiorgio brothers are awaiting sentencing for murder and several charges related to explosives.
In July last year, Theuma was found in critical condition with stab wounds to the neck and abdomen. Authorities determined he had turned a knife on himself in an apparent suicide attempt.
No member of the Muscat Cabinet has been charged with a crime.