Few law-abiding citizens imagined the moment would come when they would see Keith Schembri, the former OPM chief of staff, being driven out of court and heading to prison last night.
He had appeared untouchable, having elevated himself to power akin to a prime minister’s, despite being conspicuously absent from the public gaze.
For six years, behind the walls of Auberge de Castille, Schembri was known as the “kingmaker”, the “go-to” person for anything that needed sorting out. Since the publication of the Panama Papers, it also transpired the chief of staff was engaging in lucrative underhand business dealings.
We now have to let justice take its course and hope no stone is left unturned. And that sentiment extends to any of his associates who deceived honest people and abused the system as they dipped their hand into the till or dodged the law.
Schembri evaded the clutches of the law for far too long and he personified the intolerable impunity which infiltrated our institutions in recent years.
He should have been hauled in for questioning, sacked from office and possibly prosecuted the minute his name cropped up in the Panama Papers leak and certainly when his name was associated with secret company 17 Black.
Schembri’s name remains linked to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder. While so far no evidence has surfaced linking him directly to the assassination, there appears to be a mountain of evidence pointing to his attemps to cover up the crime and that he possibly acted in breach of the Official Secrets Act.
While the police deserve praise for finally rounding up the suspects involved in financial crimes as well as arresting more suspects involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder, the belated prosecutions will go down in history as a record of police ineptitude.
Saturday's arraignment would never have happened were it not for Simon Busuttil’s persistence in pushing for a magisterial inquiry after a leaked FIAU report indicated money laundering and graft by Schembri and former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman.
While the police deserve praise for finally rounding up the suspects involved in financial crimes as well as arresting more suspects involved in Caruana Galizia’s murder, the belated prosecutions will go down in history as a record of police ineptitude
It didn’t need to take five years for the authorities to proceed against a group of individuals who epitomised all that was wrong with the state of Malta and which has now brought the country to the brink. But inquiry delays and incompetence were the order of the day before a new police administration came into being.
Times of Malta is naturally well aware that Hillman’s involvement, and that of his predecessor at Allied Newspapers Ltd will cast a shadow on the company.
But even though some go out of their way to paint a different picture, Times of Malta’s editorial continues to operate independently of the commercial side of the organisation, which comprises two facets: Allied Newspapers Ltd and Progress Press Ltd.
The very fact it was Times of Malta which first reported that its own former managing director was likely to face criminal charges is evidence that we act without fear or favour. No amount of malicious talk from critics or diversionary red herrings by Schembri will change that fact.
While his attempts certainly appear to have been successful in “building a bridge”, to use his terminology, with the former head of Allied Newspapers, bringing the financial side of the company into disrepute, Schembri’s manoeuvres clearly failed to influence editorial decisions – to his very public discontent.
As we said when Caruana Galizia first broke the Panama Papers scandal, we were horrified at the revelations. We continue to be horrified as more facts emerge. But our track record in maintaining a high standard of ethical behaviour, establishing the facts and relentlessly chasing after the corrupt, irrespective of anyone’s background or affiliation, is testament to what Times of Malta stands for.
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