Former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, who was released on police bail last Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of bribery and money laundering, has been ordered to return to police headquarters in mid-October, sources have said.

The sources said the police are meanwhile proceeding with their investigation into the financial crimes that he and a raft of other people allegedly committed.

Schembri was arrested in the early hours of Tuesday morning at his Mellieħa home, just hours after a court issued an order to freeze all assets belonging to him, his immediate family, Brian Tonna and Karl Cini from the audit firm Nexia BT and others. He was released from custody some 20 hours later.

During the day, Schembri and his lawyers were not granted disclosure of what the police had in hand against their client.

The lawyers warned they did not want to participate in the interrogation process but were later told the conclusions of a magisterial inquiry into the crimes. The interrogation then proceeded as planned, sources said.

In April 2017, Schembri was alleged by Daphne Caruana Galizia to have laundering funds derived from kickbacks on passports, transferred to him by Tonna.

The opposition leader of the time, Simon Busuttil, then presented what he said was documentary proof of these crimes to a court and formally requested a magisterial inquiry.

The inquiry was concluded last week but has not been made public.

What is police bail? 

When the police arrest someone on suspicion of a crime, the police have 48 hours to issue the criminal charges and arraign that person in court.

But when the police do not have a watertight case or enough evidence to press charges within that time window, a provision in Malta’s Criminal Code allows them to grant the person ‘police bail’.

This is usually granted against certain conditions. The person must attend the appointment given to him by the police or be accessible on a given mobile number and attend police headquarters when asked to.

Police bail can be granted for three months at most

They must also reside at an address known to the police.

Suspects cannot leave the island while under police bail, though they do not have to forfeit their passport.

Police bail can be granted for three months at most. After that, investigators must convince the duty magistrate that an extension is required and it can only be granted by the courts.

Suspects can be re-arrested after being granted police bail but this can only happen after the previous release from police custody is "clear and effective", a term not defined in the law.

What exactly is disclosure?

A person’s right to disclosure while under arrest was introduced by the government in 2014.

It allows suspects or persons accused of a crime to have access to all evidence available to the police and to information about their criminal proceedings, so as to be in a better position to challenge the legitimacy of the arrest and detention.

Lawyers would be in a better position to advise their clients if they know what evidence the police have in hand.

This right followed the introduction of the right to speak to one’s lawyer for up to an hour before being interrogated.

Another amendment followed, providing for the physical presence of a lawyer during interrogation, although the lawyer is not allowed to speak during the actual questioning.

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