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2 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 10 MARCH 2021 NEWS MATTHEW VELLA POLICE have long suspected that Birkirkara lawyer Carmel Chircop had been murdered over monies he was owed on a credit he extended to More Su- permarkets: their chief suspect had been Adrian Agius 'tal-Mak- sar', whose brother Robert is al- so charged with having supplied the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. Suspect Adrian Agius appeared in court today charged with co-conspirator Jamie Vella and Caruana Galizia murder suspect George Degiorgio of the mur- der of lawyer Carmel Chircop in Birkirkara in 2015. Agius's brother Robert Agius and Jamie Vella are charged with supplying the bomb that killed journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Oc- tober 2017. The Agius brothers, known by their family nickname 'tal-Mak- sar', pleaded not guilty to the amended charges, which now al- so implicate Robert Agius as part of the Chircop murder. Jamie Vella, unemployed, pleaded not guilty. George Degiorgio's law- yer informed the court that his client will not reply to any ques- tions. Police had already investigated and questioned Adrian Agius as a chief suspect on the murder of Chircop, after the lawyer's wid- ow confirmed an outstanding matter of business between the two men on the defunct More Supermarkets chain. Prosecuting inspector Keith Arnaud said Agius had con- firmed meeting Chircop at a Naxxar café to discuss outstand- ing money issues, after Chircop loaned the supermarket chain €750,000 interest-free. "Chircop would persistently chase him for money but that there were no arguments… The intention was to develop the warehouse into offices. But it was on a promise of sale which Chir- cop was due to earn €700,000 from. The sale was for €3 mil- lion. Adrian Agius complained that he had made it appear as a loan to avoid tax and insisted he had no reason to kill the lawyer. Agius had told police that he was going to challenge the validity of the agreement which was made before a notary," Arnaud told the court. Agius had denied any involve- ment in the murder of Chircop and had given details on the business he had with Chircop to the police. The Qormi warehouse had to be transferred to Chircop and then sold to More Supermar- kets, but the promise of sale was never signed. Chircop had en- gaged Agius to gather €600,000 he was due from Ryan Schembri, who was the owner of More Su- permarket. Chircop's widow had also told police that she would hear her husband complain to Agi- us about the money. "The wid- ow explained to the police that there was a particular problem with Adrian Agius. She said that there were some payments due to Chircop from Agius and to pay this, he had taken her with him to Agius' villa in Baħar iċ- Ċagħaq, which was supposed to be given as payment. They end- ed up not taking the villa and the amount remained pending." A garnishee over his business was mentioned and the villa was put up as collateral. The lawyer had not accepted to be paid by instalments. Agius had not ex- plained to the police why he sud- denly started hanging out with George Degiorgio. €20,000 for Vince Muscat Arnaud said the investigation showed that the murder was commissioned by the Agius brothers but the police didn't have enough evidence to pros- ecute. "This changed with the Vince Muscat pardon request," Arnaud said of the suspect who earned a pardon on the 2015 Chircop murder. "At the potato shed in Mar- sa, George Degiorgio had told Vince Muscat that 'Maksar' had a job involving the murder of a lawyer. They had followed Chir- cop's movements but were later given an address. Muscat was offered €20,000 to participate in the assassination. Chircop was to be shot from inside a vehicle. Jamie Vella was to fire the shots," Arnaud said. Arnaud says that part of the money, €10,000, was given by George Degiorgio, "sent from Robert", and another two instal- ments of €5,000 were collected personally from Robert Agius. Murder and getaway Arnaud said the murderers had conducted reconnaissance on the garage complex in Birkir- kara. They would keep a look- out from a small window in the complex seeing the approaches. They drove from Santa Venera to Rampol Buildings and up to the door of the garage with Jamie ready to fire. When Chircop was killed, he had been making his way into the Rampol Buildings garage complex in Birkirkara. As soon as Carmel Chircop opened the garage door, Jamie Vella fired five shots at the lawyer from in- side the getaway vehicle. His dead body was found face up, three quarters inside his ga- rage with his lower leg protrud- ing into the entrance. There was damage from gunshot to the lock. The victim had suffered gunshot wounds to his abdomen and was lying in a pool of blood. His briefcase and mobile phone were next to him. A neighbour found the body and called the police. Arnaud says that no spent cartridges were found at the scene. This led to the police thinking it could have been a revolver and that the murderer had gathered the spent cartridges. The victim had eight wounds. All were bullet wounds – some entry and some exit wounds. This meant he was shot four times in his back. Two projectiles were found still in- side the body. Arnaud said that cameras on John Borg Street at 6:36am, cap- tured a Toyota Ractis car enter- ing the garage complex; when it departed right after the 7am shooting, it turned left and then onto Naxxar Road. The car then veered onto Val- ley Road and turned near the HSBC instead of going into the valley, near the aqueducts. The footage traced it to Fleur De Lys, then to Santa Venera. The vehicle's journey was a five or six-minute drive after the mur- der of Chircop. They went to Santa Venera, leaving the car in a garage there and then went to Jamie Vella's nearby apartment. Over there they changed clothes to avoid gunshot residue findings and went their separate ways. The weapon used was thrown away in the sea off Marsa, near the Tiger Bar area. This was the version of events given by Vince Muscat, Arnaud concluded. Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comodini Cachia are parte civile for the Caruana Gal- izia family. Daphne's widower, Peter Caruana Galizia was pres- ent too. Lawyer Vince Galea was present for the Chircop family. Robert Agius, Jamie Vella and Adrian Agius were assisted by lawyers Alfred Abela and Rene Darmanin. George Degiorgio is assisted by lawyer William Cus- chieri. Inspectors Shawn Pawney and Wayne Camilleri, prosecuted together with lawyer George Camilleri from the Attorney General. Police suspected Carmel Chircop was killed over More Supermarkets loan Lawyer Carmel Chircop (left) was murdered in 2015 and now Vince Muscat, il-Kohhu, (top right) has been given a presidential pardon to spill the beans on the assassination. A year before his murder, Chircop had loaned money to a group of investors involved in More Supermarkets, including Adrian Agius and Ryan Schembri (centre and bottom right)

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