Adrian Hillman and Keith Schembri yesterday refused to give details on the €650,000, which Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said had changed hands between 2011 and 2015.
Asked whether Mr Hillman, a former managing director at Allied Newspapers, had acted as some kind of service provider to him or his Kasco Group, Mr Schembri, the Prime Minister’s closest aide, declined to explain the connection.
Mr Hillman said he would explain to the inquiring magistrate.
Research by this newspaper shows that, apart from his formal responsibilities at Allied Newspapers and its sister printing company, Progress Press, Mr Hillman did not have any shareholding in any other commercial entity in Malta at the time Mr Schembri reportedly paid him the €650,000.
According to data at the Malta Financial Services Authority, Mr Hillman has no shareholding in any Maltese company and only sat on the boards of Allied Newspapers and Progress Press as part of his official duties.
Asked whether he had provided any personal service to Mr Schembri or through any other company, registered abroad or owned by members of his family, Mr Hillman did not reply.
“The allegations being bandied about are completely unfounded. Considering that the matter is before a magistrate, I shall refrain from comment until I give my testimony. However, I relish the opportunity to clear my name,” he said.
The allegations being bandied about are completely unfounded
Mr Hillman did not reply to questions on whether he was in some sort of business with Mr Schembri on a personal basis.
“Considering that the matter is being properly scrutinised, I believe that, in a democratic country, I should be allowed the right to a full due process rather than being subjected to an agenda-driven trial by the media,” he said.
Mr Schembri was less forthcoming when asked to explain the reason for his payments to Mr Hillman and on whether he had any personal business connection with him.
“The matter concerns private business carried out prior to my entry into public office,” he said.
“Your newspaper has covered the issue extensively last year and has commissioned an internal inquiry, which your company has now chosen not to publish,” he said.
He was referring to an internal inquiry that Allied Newspapers Limited set up in the wake of graft allegations involving Mr Hillman.
Dubbing the latest allegations as “a witch-hunt” by the leader of the Opposition, Mr Schembri said he would explain to the magistrate.
Dr Busuttil said he had documented proof that the money was paid by Mr Schembri to Mr Hillman through accounts in Switzerland, Gibraltar and Pilatus Bank in Malta.
When appointed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as his chief of staff, in March 2013, Mr Schembri had said he had divested himself from the running of his businesses.
According to Dr Busuttil, some payments to Mr Hillman were made when Mr Schembri was already working in Castille.
Dr Busuttil gave details of the transactions and noted that, soon after receiving the funds, Mr Hillman invested the money within 24 hours in bonds.
Dr Busuttil said this was a textbook case of money laundering adding that both the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General had known of these serious crimes since last year but did nothing to investigate and bring people to justice.
Dr Busuttil has also said that an investigation by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit last year showed that Mr Schembri had received €100,000 in kickbacks on the sale of Maltese passports from his auditor Brian Tonna.
Although both Mr Tonna and Mr Schembri denied the claims, a magistrate found that the documents presented by Dr Busuttil about the matter de-served to be investigated by a separate magistrate.