Chris Cardona and Carmelo Abela were present when Alfred Degiorgio was given robbery plans and a set of false keys a few days before the botched HSBC heist in 2010, PN MP Jason Azzopardi has claimed.
He was testifying in a libel suit filed against him by Carmelo Abela over a Facebook post in which the MP claimed the minister was linked to the failed heist.
Azzopardi said the meeting had taken place at a Fleur-de-Lys apartment.
He said the information had been supplied by Vince Muscat – who has admitted his part in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia – in his request for a presidential pardon. The information had been gleaned through “professional and police sources,” Azzopardi said.
Muscat had claimed he had driven Alfred Degiorgio to the Fleur-de-Lys apartment belonging to lawyer David Gatt.
He said Degiorgio, who was wearing a balaclava mask, was given plans footage and false keys to the bank. Azzopardi said Muscat had told investigators that Abela and Cardona were both present for the meeting.
Abela reacted to this allegation, with the court, presided by Magistrate Rachel Montebello remarking, “don’t laugh, minister.”
Azzopardi then claimed that Cardona had been arrested by then police commissioner John Rizzo a few hours after the attempted hold-up.
“In a normal country, it wouldn’t happen and things wouldn’t remain the same,” Azzopardi charged. Having a cabinet member involved in such affairs is unacceptable, he told Abela’s lawyer, Pawlu Lia.
He said he had posted his Facebook comment after Abela had taken a dig at his personal affairs.
Lia pressed Azzopardi to say more. “You said that Abela was an accomplice. So who was the mastermind?”
The PN MP replied that word inside criminal circles was that there was more than one mastermind in the case, but the main one was Cardona. Gatt served as the middleman.
It is said, Azzopardi continued, that Cardona was the mastermind in two other crimes.
The PN MP noted that Abela had not issued a statement to deny the claims made by Muscat and the Degiorgio brothers.
“So you based your opinion on the fact that he did not make a public denial of the allegations,” Lia asked.
“Until he files a libel against the Degiorgios…., ” Azzopardi said, before being cut off by the lawyer’s next question.
“So you confirm what you wrote, that you said that Abela was accomplice by handing footage and false keys to the mastermind?” Lia asked.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Azzopardi replied.
He said it was persistently claimed within criminal circles that Cardona and a sitting minister were involved in the HSBC case. Abela was the only minister working at the bank premises at the time.
The rest of the MPs testimony was heard behind closed doors to safeguard the witness’ sources. The case continues in September.
Azzopardi was assisted by lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel. Pawlu Lia and Luciano Busuttil appeared for Minister Abela.