A magisterial inquiry has been concluded into allegations of money laundering and graft by former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and ex-Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman. 

Sources said the inquiry, conducted by Magistrate Josette Demicoli, was handed over to the State Prosecutor’s office for consideration on Monday. The conclusions have not been made public.

Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil requested the inquiry in 2017, based on information found in a leaked FIAU report, following fears that the police covered them up.

That report detailed how Schembri filtered over €650,000 to Hillman in over 30 “suspicious transactions” between 2011 and 2015.

Hillman was also found to have deposited €225,000 in cash into his personal HSBC account between January 2011 and February 2016.

In May 2017, Busuttil presented then magistrate, today judge, Aaron Bugeja with eight box files of documents which, he said, contained detailed proof of €650,000 in transactions from Schembri to Hillman, who at the time was at the helm of the company which publishes Times of Malta.

Bugeja had decreed that there was sufficient evidence for the files to be considered further by an ad hoc magisterial inquiry.

The Opposition had described the matter as a clear case of bribery and money laundering linked to a major investment undertaken by Allied Newspapers to purchase a new printing press.

Hillman went on garden leave and the company severed all ties with him shortly afterwards. Allied Newspapers Ltd has said it has no knowledge of payments amounting to €650,000 allegedly paid to its former managing director. 

According to the documents presented to the inquiring magistrate, Schembri used bank accounts in Switzerland and Gibraltar, as well as the Ta' Xbiex-based Pilatus Bank, to pass the money to Hillman directly or through his secret company Lester Holdings with the assistance of  Nexia BT's Brian Tonna.  

The FIAU report was compiled after some of the secret structures used for these transactions were revealed in the 2016 Panama Papers leak.

To date, no one implicated in the leak has been prosecuted. 

Busuttil said on Tuesday that he has asked the attorney general for a copy of the inquiry report, saying it was in the public interest for everyone to know its outcome. 

Schembri is linked to several other magisterial inquiries. 

Another leaked FIAU report had also detailed two “suspicious” transactions worth €100,000 between Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna and Schembri. The FIAU had requested the police to probe whether the payments were a kickback on Maltese passport sales.

That inquiry was finalised last year but it has so far remained under wraps.

Another inquiry is also being conducted by magistrate Charmaine Galea into 17 Black, the company set up by Yorgen Fenech to funnel funds into secret Panama companies owned by Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi. 

And he also features in an inquiry into a government job allegedly given to Daphne Caruana Galizia murder middleman Melvin Theuma after a meeting with Schembri shortly after the hit was contracted. 

 

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