Police have been given an inquiry into alleged passport sale kickbacks involving the former prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and are studying it for “possible actions”, a spokesperson has confirmed.
According to the criminal code, the procès-verbal – a rundown of all the evidence and testimony gathered by the inquiry – is sent to the police when the magistrate has “ordered that a person be arraigned in court on any one or more charges”.
However, the police still have the discretion to consult with the attorney general, who may direct that no proceedings are taken or that they are for different charges specified by the magistrate.
The conclusions landed on Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg’s desk over the past few weeks but she has refused to publish its findings or hand over a copy to former PN leader Simon Busuttil, who triggered the investigation.
It is not known if the inquiry has recommended criminal action against either Schembri or Tonna.
Very little was done to investigate the FIAU’s suspicion of kickbacks and money laundering
The allegations that Schembri took a €100,000 cut on passport sales from his friend and auditor Brian Tonna are not new to the police.
Testimony in the public inquiry into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder has shown the police opened a file, codenamed Operation Green, when the FIAU flagged the potentially suspicious transactions to them in April 2016.
Very little was done to investigate the FIAU’s suspicion of kickbacks and money-laundering, with former Economic Crimes Unit chief Ian Abdilla admitting that the police investigation ground to a halt after the FIAU report was leaked and an inquiry sparked in April 2017 by former opposition leader Simon Busuttil.
Abdilla argued it made little sense for the police to investigate in parallel with the inquiry.
Tonna has claimed the €100,000 was a repayment of a loan Schembri gave him in 2012, to help him through separation proceedings. The FIAU was unable to find any traces of the original transaction.
Willerby Trade Inc, the British Virgin Island shell company owned by Tonna and used to send the €100,000 to Schembri, served as a vehicle to channel referral fees on Maltese passport sales from BT International, a local company owned by Tonna.
The leaked FIAU report shows Tonna asked Bank of Valletta to close down an account held by Willerby on April 19, 2016, just a week after the Panama Paper leak exposed his ownership of the company.
A balance of €609.830.62 was transferred from the Willerby account to another account controlled by Tonna.
E-mails show the Nexia BT managing partner requested that Willerby be struck off from the BVI company registry a few months later, in October 2016.