The former prime minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and directors of his various companies have been awarded moral damages for a breach of right to peaceful enjoyment of property hit by a freezing order last year. 

Judgement was delivered on Friday by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff, presiding over the constitutional proceedings filed after assets of dozens of businesses and individuals were targeted by the court order.

Schembri and 22 people or companies claimed that the action ordered against them was in breach of their rights to a fair hearing and to the enjoyment of their property as well as their right not to be punished without a conviction.

Firms belonging to Schembri had their assets frozen last September, after a Criminal Court had issued an attachment order to that effect. The garnishee order was issued by a court at the request of the attorney general. 

The order listed 91 people and companies, including Schembri and his accountants at Nexia BT, Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and Manuel Castagna. It ordered the freeze on suspicion of money-laundering offences.

It was swiftly challenged in court by Schembri and directors in many of his companies.  

Schembri and the Nexia BT partners have since been criminally charged with such offences and are currently out on bail. 

Friday’s judgment partly upheld their claim declaring that the applicants had suffered a breach of their right to peaceful enjoyment of property since the relative provision under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act did not envisage an ordinary remedy for persons hit by such an order. 

Such individuals could not ask the court to assess or vary such an order, allowing such faculty only to the Attorney General.

The First Hall, Civil Court in its constitutional jurisdiction, awarded each of the applicants €300 by way of moral damages for the breach, payable jointly by the Attorney General, the State Advocate and the Police Commissioner. 

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo assisted the applicants. 

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