Updated 5.20pm

Investigators looking into Brian Tonna-owned companies combed through dozens of bank accounts and hundreds of transactions starting from last December, a court heard on Tuesday. 

Police inspectors and constables who formed part of a task force established to investigate the case against Tonna and others described spotting a transaction involving an unidentified “well-known fraudster” and others involving foreign citizens, notaries and lawyers. 

One bank account held by the Tonna-owned BT International held €797,000 at one stage, constable Ritienne Ciantar testified. Cheques were issued to Tonna and the other three accused as well as to companies they administered, she said. 

Constable Ciantar confirmed under cross-examination that she was not qualified to assess the investigation or its outcomes and her job was purely to document and flag suspicious transactions concerning the company. 

Inspector John Cauchi, who looked into another Tonna-owned firm, KBT Holdings, said he had assessed around 500 transactions in all. 

Tonna, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna and Katrin Bondin Carter all stand accused of money laundering, falsifying documents and other charges over work they did at financial services firm Nexia BT. Police pressed charges following two separate magisterial inquiries into claims of wrongdoing concerning former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. 

Tuesday’s court sitting was dominated by arguments in favour and against bail for the four people facing charges, who have been held at Corradino Correctional Facility since their arraignment two weeks ago. 

The magistrate ruled against granting the four accused bail, noting that testimony about them having falsified documents did not inspire trust in them.

Defence lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell, representing Tonna and Cini, requested a reference to a different court following that decision. The court said it would rule on that request on April 6. 

The court also heard that:
• Nexia BT started backdating documents needed to satisfy compliance requirements at Pilatus Bank. 

• The backdating began after the Panama Papers leak and was discovered after the FIAU carried out a compliance visit at Pilatus Bank. 

• Bondin Carter told the police that she followed her bosses’ orders and prepared documents as they requested them. She did not sign any paperwork. 

• Manuel Castagna does not appear to be involved in allegations concerning backhanders paid to Adrian Hillman and others. 

Earlier in the morning, magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech denied bail to Schembri, his business partner Malcolm Scerri and financial controller Robert Zammit. 

She however agreed to allow Schembri's father Alfio out of prison. The older Schembri is also facing criminal charges, although prosecutors on Monday conceded that they believe his role to have been less pronounced than that of the others. 

As it happened

Sitting suspended and live blog ends

2.25pm The magistrate suspends the sitting until 4.30pm, when she will issue her decree on bail. 

This live blog will end here. We will have a wrap-up of the key points of testimony available at the top of this article shortly. 

Decree at 4.30pm

2.21pm Having heard more than 90 minutes of legal arguments for and against, the magistrate says she will issue her decree on bail at 4.30pm.

Tampering with evidence

2.15pm Earlier, the magistrate asked the prosecution to explain, in concrete terms, what their fears of tampering with evidence are. 

Mercieca Rizzo notes that there is evidence of them having done so in the past (following the FIAU visit to Pilatus Bank) and that there is evidence of a criminal association at work. 

Back and forth 

2.10pm The various parties in the case are taking turns to argue their points. 

Tonna Lowell argues that bail is an accused person’s right, and that conditions to deny it cannot be “made up”. Debono returns to the timing issue - it took 20 days to investigate one inquiry and several months for the other, he says. 

Mercieca Rizzo reiterates - not all deals have been fully probed yet and investigations into third parties have yet to be conducted. 

'She knew the dates she was typing' 

1.55pm Mercieca Rizzo dismisses arguments made by lawyers of Castagna and Bondin Carter. 

Castagna was a company director, along with the others, the prosecutor says. And when Bondin Carter was typing out documents, she knew what the dates were when she typed them.

Tonna Lowell gets up and says prosecutors decided from the outset that the accused were guilty. They had hurried to prosecute for reasons known to themselves, he says.  

Disparities between inquiries

1.49pm The magistrate says the first inquiry (into passport kickback claims) was concluded in September and the second (into money transfers to Adrian Hillman and others) in March. 

It took investigators six months to press charges for one, and 19 days for the other, the magistrate notes. 

Mercieca Rizzo says that there was much more testimony and evidence preserved in the second inquiry, and the matter it concerned was more direct than in the first. Business accounts detailed in the first inquiry had to be analysed, she notes, while this had already been done in the second inquiry.

More arraignments possible 

1.45pm The prosecutor tells the court that the primary concern is not that the accused will flee the country – it is that investigations into the alleged crimes are ongoing.

Will more people be arraigned, the magistrate asks. 

“There could be,” says Mercieca Rizzo.

Prosecution argues against bail

1.41pm Prosecutor Elaine Mercieca Rizzo now makes her arguments against granting the four accused bail. 

Two large magisterial inquiries will be presented and prosecutors are concerned (about bail) because investigations remain ongoing, she says. 

Mercieca Rizzo says the charges made against the accused are serious ones – the people in dock looked for ways to abuse a financial system they were duty-bound to protect against abuse. 

When the FIAU started probing, they began to find ways to cover up what they had done, Mercieca Rizzo adds. 

Arguments against bail 'always the same'

1.36pm Debono says prosecutors’ submissions against bail are nearly always identical. He sees countless week in, week out, he says. 

He appears to have hit a nerve – both the magistrate and prosecutor take umbrage at that remark.

Debono moves on, and wraps up by noting that no civilian witnesses are expected to testify against his client. 

Switch off your phones 

1.29pm A sharp buzzing from a vibrating mobile phone disrupts proceedings. The magistrate orders whoever owns the phone to stop it. Debono checks his. 

“Don’t remind me about problems with mobile phones,” he tells the court to further chuckles.

No risk of tampering or absconding

1.21pm Debono notes that his client cooperated throughout and investigators had confirmed that they never had any suspicion that she would meddle with investigations or abscond. 

Prosecutors have no proof of their hypothesis, he argues somewhat animatedly.

On the contrary, they have proof of the opposite, he says. 

Debono makes submissions for Bondin Carter

1.15pm Lawyer Franco Debono is the final defence lawyer to make submissions. He’s representing Katrin Bondin Carter.

Debono says he will have to repeat some of the arguments made by his colleagues, as "arguments are built and do not fall from the sky". 

That prompts a chuckle from Mercieca Rizzo. 

Sciriha makes submissions for Castagna

1.10pm Lawyer Michael Sciriha, representing Manuel Castagna, is next. 

Sciriha backs Tonna Lowell’s arguments, but also notes that his client’s position is different to that of Brian Tonna and Karl Cini. 

He recalls Italy’s Enimont case (a precursor to the 1990s Mani Pulite investigation into political corruption) and says the courts there had demanded hard proof of the fear of absconding or other potential reasons to deny defendants bail. 

Sciriha says his client is not linked to the Hillman affair and was only on the “periphery” of the €100,000 “loan” issue. The case against his client, Castagna, was based on a paper trail and the fact that his client was a company director, Sciriha argues.

That last claim prompts the magistrate to interject. Both Castagna and Bondin Carter have been charged in their personal capacity, she notes. They are not responding to charges against a company. 

Playing 'games' 

1pm Tonna Lowell wraps up by accusing the prosecution of playing “games”, by charging people when they were still under investigation and delaying testimony. 

“We were assigned from 10:30am until 4pm today and we only heard two hours of testimony,” he says. “We haven’t heard a single witness. Isn’t that
disrespecting the court’s authority?” 

Tonna Lowell says he will be making a referral to the first hall of the civil court about this.

Tonna Lowell argues his points 

12.55pm Back to Tonna Lowell and his legal pleas. 

The lawyer argues that his clients were not given enough time to give their side of events, given that it took an inquiring magistrate four years to establish. Instead, they were charged on March 20.

Submissions made about ongoing investigations should be “thrown in a skip,” Tonna Lowell argues. And the prosecution has not presented a single civilian witness yet. 

The case, he argues, revolves around a €100,000 loan that was not believed to be a loan, but had also not been proven to be anything else. 

His clients were not called "Joe Borg", he says, alluding to the high-profile nature of the case, and they had nowhere to flee. 

"At the end of the day, the requirements at law to be granted bail are all met by Brian Tonna and Karl Cini," he argues. 

Finding more witnesses 

12.46pm Tonna Lowell begins his legal arguments by saying that in Malta, the attorney general is “omnipotent” and that in his view, recent reforms are anti-constitutional. 

Before he goes on, the magistrate notes that she has freed up her schedule until 4pm today. “I hope the time is used,” she says. 

Mercieca Rizzo says she thought the session was due to end at 1.30pm and says she will try and produce more witnesses today.

“Make hay while the sun shines,” the magistrate says.

Defence submissions for bail

12.39pm Meanwhile, defence lawyer Franco Debono hurries out of the courtroom, to return shortly – another client of his is being arraigned under arrest. 

Defence lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell will be the first to make bail submissions. Tonna Lowell is representing Brian Tonna and Karl Cini. 

Administrator to run companies 

12.34pm The magistrate says an administrator will take charge of companies which are subject to a court-imposed freezing order, to ensure creditors and salaries are paid. 

She says she will name the administrator at a later stage. 

Case to resume next week

12.32pm The next hearing in the case will be on Tuesday April 6 and it will take place between 12.30pm and 3pm. 

After that, the court will convene on April 15 for what could be a marathon session. Proceedings will start at 8.45am and run to 11.30am, continuing at 1pm for as long as necessary. 

There’s still a key issue for the court to decide today, though – bail.

Laughter and a frown 

12.29pm It seems constable Zammit’s work is too lengthy to delve into today – both the prosecution and defence suspend questioning to a later date. 

But before the witness walks off the stand, she says she has another report to present. 

“I thought it was too good to be true,” the magistrate quips, prompting laughter from prosecutor Elaine Mercieca Rizzo.

No smiles from Brian Tonna, who has spent the past two hours sternly looking ahead with his arms crossed.

Constable Zammit testifies

12.25pm The next – and probably final – witness is constable Samantha Zammit. 

Zammit is also stationed at the police’s FCID and was also part of the taskforce assessing companies and transactions. 

Zammit was tasked with analysing Nexia BT and Nexia BT Advisory Services. 

Constable cross-examined

12.22pm Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell cross-examines the witness. He asks Ciantar whether she is an analyst.

The witness says she is not and that she cannot comment on what resulted from investigation, as that is not her job.

€9m account 

12.14pm There were cheques issued to the four accused people, as well as to companies of interest administered by the accused, Ciantar says.

The magistrate interjects and says details of the transactions are listed in the report. The magistrate mentions an account holding €9 million, but it is not clear which account she is talking about [The reports are not public and the press does not have access to them].

Money from fraudster? 

12.09pm The inspector says money moved between accounts and legal persons. One account held €797,000 at one stage. 

Ciantar moves on to transactions involving actual individuals. Transactions involved foreign citizens, lawyers, notaries and in one case a €7,000 one involving a "well-known fraudster", who Ciantar does not name.

Brian Tonna sits with his arms crossed as Karl Cini is seated behind him following their arraignment earlier this month. Photo: Matthew MirabelliBrian Tonna sits with his arms crossed as Karl Cini is seated behind him following their arraignment earlier this month. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

12 bank accounts under scrutiny 

12.06pm Ciantar says BT International was linked to foreigners who acquired Maltese citizenship. 12 bank accounts were reviewed. 

One account, in UK Sterling and held at Bank of Valletta, received funds from three legal persons amounting to €36,000. The money was then transferred out. 

Company credit cards

12.01pm Constable Ritienne Ciantar, who is stationed at the police’s anti-money laundering unit, is next up. 

Ciantar reviewed credit cards held by BT International Ltd and Nexia BT and transactions involving them. 

Transactions were divided according to type: payments to individuals, internal transactions and so on. 

Two more witnesses 

11.58am Lawyer Gianella de Marco wants it clarified that a payment involving Keith Schembri which Cauchi was of €650, not €600,000. Cauchi confirms this. 
That’s all from this witness. 

The prosecution says it has two further witnesses to present today. The magistrate says the court will hear their testimony, and then follow that with a decree on bail. 

500 suspicious transactions

11.53am Cauchoi is detailing transaction after transaction, including ones to Tonna's daughter Beverly. [Beverly Tonna is listed as the sole director of KBT Holdings].

He analysed around 500 transactions in total, he tells the court.

Inspector Cauchi testifies

11.50am Xuereb is done testifying. FCID inspector John Cauchi is the next witness. 

Cauchi was part of a taskforce set up in December to analyse companies and transactions involved in the complex investigation. 

His job was to look closely at KBT Holdings - a company owned by Brian Tonna, that lawyer Gianella de Marco is representing in court.

 Castagna not involved in Hillman issue

11.48am Lawyer Michael Scriha, who is representing Manuel Castagna, has some minor questions for inspector Xuereb.
The inspector confirms that Castagna was arrested together with Cini and Tonna.

She also confirms that it appeared Castagna was not involved in the matter concerning Hillman and Progress Press. 

Alleged fraud

11.47am The inspector asked about the second magisterial inquiry, which concerns transactions to Adrian Hillman.
Tonna Lowell asks her to confirm that the case is one of alleged fraud. 
The inspector confirms this.

The lawyer suspends his testimony.

Joint assets 

11.44am The lawyer turns to the inquiry's conclusion. 

Schembri and Tonna claimed that a transfer of €100,000 was repayment for a loan that Schembri gave Tonna during his separation.

The inquiring magistrate found that Tonna had plenty of money in his bank accounts and did not need Schembri’s loan. 

Defence lawyer Tonna Lowell asks whether the implication is that his client should have “stolen” funds from his communal assets he held his wife [rather than take Schembri’s money]. 

Inspector Xuereb notes that Tonna held money in an SPX [trading] account and had told the police that he had set this up exclusively for his own personal use.


Backdated documents 

11.38am The defence lawyer now asks about the alleged falsification of documents. The documents were “simply backdated”, he says. 

Xuereb replies that investigators mainly found backdated documents, as well as documents that were drafted featuring contents that did not appear to have happened. This was what experts in the magisterial inquiry concluded, she adds. 

The backdated documents were first discovered during a compliance visit that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit carried out at Pilatus Bank. 

Tonna Lowell asks whether his client Tonna had confirmed that the paperwork was backdated. 

He did, the inspector says, with Tonna later adding that the information contained within them was completely accurate.

Phrases used

11.33am Tonna Lowell is now asking about “the alleged loan between Keith [Schembri] and Brian [Tonna]”. 

An inquiry had looked into whether this loan was bogus and that money that changed hands was actually kickbacks for the sale of passports. 

He asks the inspector whether the inquiry had found that words like “fake loan” and “kickbacks” were justified. 

The inspector says those were not the exact phrases used.

Moving offices 

11.32am Tonna Lowell asks the inspector to confirm whether his clients, Cini and Tonna, had told the police that they were having trouble answering questions about some documents because they were in the process of moving offices. He says his clients asked for more time to gather the necessary paperwork.

Xuereb agrees and says Tonna had said that they were due to leave their San Gwann offices by the end of March. She can’t remember how many extra days they asked for, but confirms that they asked for more time.

Reading inquiry conclusions

11.27am He asks whether the inspector recalls the first interrogation - the one where no answers were given to the police’s questions – and says that during that session, the police mostly just read out the inquiry conclusions. 

Tonna Lowell says he had asked for disclosure of evidence several times but this had not been given before December of last year. 

“Do we agree that Brian Tonna and Karl Cini had answered all the questions put to them bar those which they had already told the inquiring magistrate?”

The inspector confirms this. 

Disclosing inquiry findings

11.23am Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell is now cross-examining inspector Xuereb. Tonna Lowell is here representing Brian Tonna and Karl Cini. 

Tonna Lowell asks the inspector to confirm the dates when his clients were questioned and that he had sent emails requesting disclosure of evidence.

It appears the defence lawyer was initially given disclosure of one magisterial inquiry’s findings but not of the other. 

Reminder: Charges are based on two separate magisterial inquiries. One relates to allegations of kickbacks on passport sales, while the other focused on suspicious transactions between Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman.

'Nothing illegal'

11.18am Debono asks that he be allowed to ask the inspector one question before she starts her testimony.

He asks her the same question put to Camilleri before her. "Do we agree that Bondin Carter had not signed any of the documents in question?" 

Xuereb confirms this. Partners would tell what documents were needed.
Paperwork concerned due diligence being conducted by Pilatus Bank, and it was being backdated after the Panama Papers leak came up.

“Nothing illegal there,” says Debono.

“As if (U mela mhux hekk),” prosecutor Elaine Mercieca Rizzo shoots back.

Inspector Xuereb cross-examined

11.14am Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb is the next person on the witness stand.

Katrin Bondin Carter covers her face as Karl Cini looks down in a police van escorting them to prison. Photo: Matthew MirabelliKatrin Bondin Carter covers her face as Karl Cini looks down in a police van escorting them to prison. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Office manager

11.12am Debono continues his questioning. Was his client essentially an office manager, who did what her bosses told her to?
The inspector describes Bondin Carter as “the senior accounting manager”. 
Debono asks whether it is true that she never signed a single document.

The inspector says his job was to focus on the money laundering aspect.  The next witness will shed more light on that.

Debono: Did you ever suspect her of tampering with evidence or trying to abscond? 

Inspector: No 

That's all from inspector Camilleri. 

 Preparing documents

11.07am Debono notes that the inspector said Bondin Carter “drafted” documents and asks whether that means that her role in all this was that of a “typist”. 

The inspector says it appears that she would prepare documents requested by Karl Cini. 

The magistrate interjects – would she photocopy documents, or create them [from scratch]? 

The inspector says his superior, inspector Anne Marie Xuereb, is best positioned to answer that question.

Cooperative suspect

11.04am  Debono: Am I correct in saying that Katrin did not feature in the original warrants?”

Inspector: No. She featured in February of this year. 

Debono: And when you wanted her to show up, she did so on her own? 

Inspector: Yes. 

Debono asks the inspector whether his client always cooperated with investigations.

He appears to be laying the groundwork for his arguments in favour of granting Bondin Carter bail – something the court will decide at the end of today’s session.

Inspector cross-examined

11.01am Lawyer Franco Debono, who is representing Bondin Carter, begins cross-examination.

Disclosure of evidence

11am The inspector is now detailing the process known as disclosure of evidence. This is when, during interrogation, the police provide the accused with the body of evidence against them.

Bondin Carter told investigators that she would carry out instructions given by her bosses at Nexia BT and stressed that she was not a financial controller or warranted accountant.

Case against Bondin Carter

10.56am Camilleri turns his focus to one of the accused, Katrin Bondin Carter. 
Her involvement stems from Nexia BT’s accountancy, he says. Bondin Carter also, together with Karl Cini, backdated documents which were given to Pilatus Bank. 

Another inspector assessed several transactions that Bondin Carter was involved in, the inspector says, and moved to arrest her. 

Bondin Carter cooperated with investigators during her interrogation, but she asked for some time to verify some transactions dating back a few years. She was given 24 hours to do so. 

Backhanders to Hillman, Buhagiar

10.53am Camilleri now refers to a separate magisterial inquiry, led by Josette Demicoli, into payments that Schembri made to former Allied group managing director Adrian Hillman. 

The inspector says that experts in that investigation concluded that the payments were backhanders related to a deal Schembri’s company Kasco made with Progress Press (which Hillman led). 

There were also other payments to Progress Press chairman Vince Buhagiar, the inspector adds.

Read more about those alleged backhanders.

Sealed lips 

10.51am Camilleri tells the court to that Tonna, Cini and Castagna all refused to answer questions put to them by investigators during two initial interrogations. They then answered questions in a separate interrogation.

Seizure receipts 

10.48am The inspector testifies about details of that arrest. 

He says officers seized a number of electronic devices from Tonna’s home and office, and presents the court with seizure receipts for all the items confiscated.

Inspector testifies

10.44am The day's first witness is financial crimes inspector Ian Camilleri. 

Camilleri works at the police's FCID - the financial crimes investigation department. 

Camilleri was instructed to analyse transactions listed in an inquiry concluded by Natasha Galea Sciberras into claims that Tonna was involved in kickbacks on the sales of Maltese passports. 

Camilleri was also the officer who arrested Tonna at his Marsascala home. 

'10.30 means 10.30'

10.42am The three other accused are finally brought into the courtroom by prison officials, more than 10 minutes late. The CCF officials get a scolding by the magistrate. 

"10.30 means 10.30," she tells them. 

Court in session

10.39am  The magistrate and lawyers are in the hall. The court is in session - but three of the accused are not here yet. Only Katrin Bondin Carter is. 

The magistrate says it is not acceptable for the court to be asked to wait, when the time had been set from the last sitting on Thursday. 

Minutes away 

10.28am We're back in hall 22 of the law courts, where proceedings against the Nexia BT four will begin within minutes.  

One of the defence lawyers, Gianella de Marco, is in the hall. Others will no doubt follow shortly. De Marco is representing KBT Holdings, a Tonna-owned company named by prosecutors. 


'Friendship before justice' 

10.12am "As Keith Schembri is accused of money laundering, corruption, perjury and fraud, Abela still shields him. No condemnation, no apology, no categorical denunciation. Friendship trumps justice every time," writes Kevin Cassar in a Times of Malta opinion piece published today.

What to expect in today's proceedings

9.55am Sources tell us they expect prosecutors to present a couple of new police witnesses when the case gets under way this morning, as well as defence lawyers to cross-examine police investigators who testified last week.

There’s also another thorny issue for the court to settle today – whether or not to grant Tonna, Cini, Castagna and Bondin Carter bail.

While you wait

9.40am Proceedings in the case against the Nexia BT defendants are due to begin at 10.30am. While you wait, catch up on the evidence prosecutors say they have against them. Their case was presented to the court last week.

Degiorgios in court 

9.25am Meanwhile, Degiorgio brothers Alfred and George are in court this morning, after their lawyer William Cuschieri filed an application regarding testimony given by state witnesses Melvin Theuma and Vince Muscat. 

But Cuschieri is indisposed, so their application will have to be put off by a week. Judge Edwina Grima will decide on their application on Wednesday, April 7 at 9am. The Degiorgios will be returned to Corradino Correctional Facility with nothing accomplished.

Reminder: The Degiorgio brothers stand accused of murdering journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. They have both filed requests for presidential pardons, saying they can provide information about the murder and other major crimes, including politicians’ involvement in them.

Stay put 

9.11am This case is wrapped up for today, but the day’s proceedings are far from over. Within an hour, the magistrate will have a new set of defendants in the dock – Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna and Katrin Bondin Carter. 

We’ll be live blogging those proceedings too.


Following court hearing on April 9 

9.07am Following April 5, the court will then convene again that Friday, April 9. Defence lawyer Edward Gatt tells the court that he expects his clients to be bailed after that Friday hearing. 

As an aside - Schembri looked especially sullen as he entered court this morning. Did he have an inkling of what the court was going to decree?

Case adjourned to April 5 

9.02am The magistrate says she is sure prosecutors will work diligently to conclude their investigations. 

The case is adjourned to next Monday, April 5. The magistrate says she will give a decision on whether there is enough evidence to move the case forward - what in legal jargon is known as 'prima facie' - by April 20.


Defence was sensitive testimony out of the way

9am Defence lawyer Edward Gatt would like prosecutors to present any witnesses they deem to be sensitive during the next sitting.

It is the prosecution’s prerogative to decide how and when to present witnesses in a case, and Gatt acknowledges that. But he is keen to get the most
complicated testimonies out of the way, in the hope of getting his clients bail. 

The magistrate replies: her concerns mostly concern the fact that police investigations are ongoing, she says.

Alfio Schembri bail conditions

8.55am Meanwhile, the magistrate instructs Alfio Schembri to deposit his passport, ID card and driver’s licence with the court and tells him he must live at his Cospicua home, not approach the coast and sign a bail book at the Cospicua police station daily. 

He will have to put up a €20,000 deposit and €50,000 guarantee for bail. 

Bail denied "at this stage" 

8.53am The magistrate makes it clear that she is denying the men bail at this stage – she emphasises “this”. 

She urges the prosecution to wrap up its investigations as quickly as possible.

Keith Schembri denied bail

8.51am Keith Schembri, Malcolm Scerri and Robert Zammit are denied bail.
Alfio Schembri is granted bail. Alfio shakes his head in disapproval as the magistrate continues with her decree.

Court concerned about forged document charges

8.49am The magistrate says that defence lawyers are right to argue that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. 

But being freed from arrest is not automatic and the allegations that Schembri forged documents “does not give the court the peace of mind it needs”. 

Quoting from the European Court of Human Rights, the magistrate says that not all strands of crime have been intercepted yet and there is a real danger of interfering with ongoing investigations. Third parties who may be involved have not yet been identified or charged.

Arguments for and against bail

8.45am The magistrate runs through the defence’s arguments in favour of bail: the accused had long been on police bail, their assets are frozen, they are not at risk of absconding. 

She runs through the prosecution’s arguments: the charges are very serious, the men are accused of criminal association, investigations are ongoing and others who may be involved have yet to be charged. 

Court in session

The magistrate walks in and proceedings can begin.

Schembri in court

The accused are led into court. Schembri and Scerri speak to one of their lawyers, Edward Gatt. Other members of their legal team - Mark Vassallo, Ishmael Psaila and Sean Zammit - are also here.

The case against the Nexia BT accused

8.25am The case against the Nexia BT four – that’s Tonna, Cini, Castagna and Bondin Carter – began last week, with prosecutors outlining their case against the suspects. 

Among other things, they said that: 

• Tonna’s claims that €100,000 in transfers to Keith Schembri were repayment for a loan were “not credible”. 
• Bondin Carter and Cini created backdated documents including a loan agreement to "mislead investigations".
• Police found evidence of false accounting and tax evasion with the way a Tonna-owned company called Willerby received funds linked to Malta's passport scheme.
• Tonna had more than €642,000 in various banks and companies, showing that claims he needed a loan from Schembri did not make sense.
• Nexia BT staff were given 'top-up' payments by cash that did not appear in any of the company's accounts.

Read our full report about last week's court hearing.


8.23am Good morning and welcome to this live blog. We're in Valletta for what is likely to be another busy day at the law courts. Today's proceedings will be held in hall 22. 

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