Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff, failed to turn up in court on Thursday morning to be cross-examined in a libel suit he instituted against Simon Busuttil over corruption allegations.
The case revolves around a speech by Dr Busuttil on March 6, 2016 during a national protest against corruption organised in the wake of the Panama Papers Revelations.
Mr Schembri is claiming that allegations made by Dr Busuttil amounted to libel in his regard.
Surprise, surprise, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff @keithaschembri did NOT turn up in Court today to face questions on @PanamaPapers. What is he afraid of? #DaphneCaruanaGalizia @ICIJorg https://t.co/PtTPBVtMSm— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) March 22, 2018
In a tweet, Dr Busuttil poured scorn on Mr Schembri for failing to turn up in court, but the chief of staff replied that he had not turned up because he was not notified.
@SimonBusuttil never filed a formal request in Court. He believes rules apply to all except himself. Looking forward to face Busuttil in Court on 3rd May to expose his lies. Busuttil cannot accept that he succeeded in leading his party to the biggest electoral defeat in history.— Keith Schembri (@keithaschembri) March 22, 2018
During an earlier sitting, Dr Busuttil had insisted that the protest had been directed against the government in general and that Mr Schembri had been mentioned in the light of his ownership of a secret company in Panama.
Moreover, Mr Schembri was the same man involved in the major contracts concluded by the current government, including the deal with Electrogas as well as the privatisation of three state hospitals.
Later, during that same sitting, Mr Schembri had testified under oath, stressing that he had “never received any kickbacks… Had I been after money, I would not have left my 12 or 13 companies - all doing well - to take up my position with the Prime Minister,” he had insisted on that occasion.
“I shall continue to pursue him for as long as he continues to make such allegations,” the applicant had concluded, with clear reference to Dr Busuttil, explaining that he had been unable to speak out both on account of his official position and also because of the medical situation which he had been through.
“All this time I had to face a trial by the media,” the PM’s right-hand man had said, winding up his testimony.
Mr Schembri was due to return to the witness stand on Thursday morning to face cross-examination by Dr Busuttil‘s lawyer, but the court was informed by his legal counsel that their client was unable to attend.
Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, presiding over the case, put off the cross-examination to May.
The case continues.
Lawyers Pawlu Lia, Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo assisted Mr Schembri.
Lawyer Peter Fenech assisted Dr Busuttil.
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