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Ex-aide to Malta's PM denies leaking details of probe into reporter's murder

VALLETTA (Reuters) - The former chief of staff to Malta’s prime minister denied on Wednesday leaking information about an investigation into the killing of an anti-corruption reporter to the man accused of masterminding her murder.

FILE PHOTO: Keith Schembri, former chief of staff to Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, arrives for a meeting at the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta, May 29, 2018. Picture taken May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo

The ex-aide, Keith Schembri, also denied writing a letter to the suspected mastermind, Yorgen Fenech, which instructed him what to tell police following Fenech’s arrest over Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death in a car bombing in October 2017.

Fenech, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, was arrested last month as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht. He has been accused of complicity in the killing, which shone a spotlight on corruption in the European Union’s smallest country.

Fenech denies the charge. He has also implicated Schembri in the murder and asked for lead investigator Keith Arnaud to be taken off the case, saying Arnaud and Schembri are close.

Appearing as a witness at a court hearing into Fenech’s complaint against Arnaud, Schembri said he had attended briefings which the police and security service gave Prime Minister Joseph Muscat about the murder.

He said he and Fenech were friends, but denied leaking information about the briefings to the businessman and said he had not told him his phone calls were being monitored by the security service.

“We only discussed what was reported in the media,” Schembri, who denies Fenech’s accusations that he has links to corruption and the self-confessed middleman in the murder, told the judge.

He said he had spoken to Fenech by phone for 20 minutes shortly before the businessman tried to leave Malta, but denied he had tried to help him escape.

Schembri had been held under arrest by police for questioning but was released late last month. He quit as Muscat’s chief of staff after Fenech’s accusations against him.

Schembri said he had twice met self-confessed middleman Melvin Theuma in the government headquarters but that the meetings were not related to the Caruana Galizia murder.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 14. Separately, three men are awaiting trial for setting off the bomb.

Editing by Timothy Heritage