Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri has filed a fresh request for bail that will be decided on Friday.
Lawyers representing Schembri have filed an application in the courts after he was remanded in custody for fear of tampering with ongoing investigations.
Schembri, once the most powerful unelected government official in the country, was taken to prison following a marathon court sitting on Saturday night.
He was among 11 people, including Schmebri’s own father, business partners, financial advisors and a former managing director of Allied Newspapers Ltd, charged with a litany of money laundering offences related to alleged commercial corruption.
All, bar one, were denied bail and taken to Corradino Correctional Facility.
Schembri’s lawyers have also requested a referral to the highest court in the country arguing that their client’s constitutional rights are being violated.
The application for a referral says that while the State Prosector has a right to appeal bail decisions, the accused parties do not. This, the lawyers argue, constitutes an inequality of arms in the law and a breach of the accused parties’ rights.
A fresh request for bail can be made because a new magistrate, Donatella Frendo Dimech, is taking over the case from Magistrate Charmaine Galea who was on duty when the accused were arraigned under arrest.
Should bail again not be granted on Friday, then the matter will likely head to the higher courts. This, legal sources said, would be a much longer process and could take several weeks.
Lawyers representing other parties in the case are understood to be pursuing similar action for their clients.
The case against other parties will be back in court on Thursday, while Schembri will be before the court again on Friday.
Times of Malta understands that Schembri is being held in a cell with his father, Alfio, 72, in the prison’s much maligned Division 6.
The section of the prison is one of the oldest parts of the correctional facility and used to be used as a punitive isolation measure for ill-behaved inmates. Since the COVID-19 outbreak it started being used as a quarantine facility for incoming prisoners.
Who is in the case and what is it all about?
Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Katrin Bondin Carter and Manuel Castagna have all been charged with money laundering offences and professional breaches.
They are being represented by legal heavyweights Franco Debono, Gianella Caruana Curran, Stephen Tonna Lowell, and Michael Sciriha.
Financial advisors Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon and their company Zenith Financing are facing charges linked to money laundering, accountancy law breaches and criminal conspiracy.
Vincent Buhagiar, 73, the former managing director of Allied Newspapers Limited was charged with money laundering, corruption and fraud. He pleaded not guilty through his lawyers Veronique Dalli and Dean Hili and was granted bail.
Schembri, his 72-year-old father Alfio, and his business associates Malcolm Scerri and Robert Zammit, were represented by lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo.
Lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo is leading the prosecution.
The case revolves around two magisterial inquiries.
One inquiry was concluded and handed to the State Prosecutor’s office earlier this month and investigated allegations of commercial graft between Schembri and Adrian Hillman, a former managing director of Allied Newspapers Limited, publishers of Times of Malta.
The inquiry had been requested by then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil back in 2017 amid suspicions of deliberate inaction by the police.
Busuttil had submitted findings by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit into alleged money transfers to Hillman from Schembri through his financial advisors. The payments are suspected to be linked to a multi-million Euro investment for a state-of-the-art printing press supplied by Schembri.
A second magisterial inquiry, concluded last year, looked into claims of alleged kickbacks from the sale of passports involving Schembri and his financial advisors Nexia BT.
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