Allied Newspapers has no knowledge of payments amounting to €650,000 allegedly paid to its former managing director Adrian Hillman by the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri, the company's board has said. 

In a statement, the company said that its own internal investigation into claims concerning Mr Hillman could not have looked into the €650,000 claims, since the company did not know of them.

Consequently, the company said, Mr Hillman's conclusions that "nothing illegal or of a criminal nature as alleged by Simon Busuttil" had resulted from the investigation was "misleading and gratuitous", since the internal investigation had concluded its work in June 2016. 

Nationalist Party leader Dr Busuttil has said that he has documented proof that Mr Schembri passed some €650,000 to Mr Hillman through offshore companies. He has presented his evidence to the judiciary, with the investigation being led by Magistrate Josette Demicoli.

In its statement, Allied Newspapers welcomed the magisterial inquiry and noted that while its own investigation did not have the power to summon witnesses to testify or access information related to offshore activity, the magisterial inquiry underway did. 

The company said that it would cooperate with the magisterial inquiry and would request a copy of its findings "to establish if any 'illegal or criminal' activity was conducted to the prejudice of the Allied Group." 

It also noted that Dr Busuttil had said that the company would be the victim of any criminal activity if confirmed by the magisterial inquiry, and reiterated the company's absolute respect for the independence of its editorial staff.

"The board therefore never requests to know any investigative material in the hands of its media journalists in the full knowledge that the protection of the journalistic sources of its journalists is a fundamental principle of the freedom of the press. The internal investigation also complied in full with this principle," the company said.

Allied Newspapers is the publisher of the Times of Malta.

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