Two inquiries into kickbacks and money-laundering allegations involving former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri have yet to be concluded, three years down the line.
Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil had requested the inquiries in 2017, based on information found in two leaked FIAU reports, following fears that the police had covered them up.
One report detailed how Schembri filtered over €650,000 to former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman in over 30 “suspicious transactions” between 2011 and 2015.
Hillman was also found to have deposited €225,000 in cash into his personal HSBC account between January 2011 and February 2016.
Another report detailed two “suspicious” transactions worth €100,000 between Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna and Schembri. The FIAU had requested the police to probe whether the payments were a kickback on Maltese passport sales.
The FIAU reports were compiled after some of the secret structures used for these transactions were revealed in the 2016 Panama Papers leak.
To date, no one implicated in the leak has been prosecuted.
Economic Crimes unit chief Ian Abdilla had admitted to Times of Malta in 2018 that the police did not pursue a separate line of investigation after the FIAU reports leaked as it made “no sense” to duplicate the work done by the inquiries.
In comparison to the two Schembri inquiries requested by the former Opposition leader, the Egrant inquiry, whose terms of reference were dictated by former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was completed within a year-and-a-half.
The inquiry had concluded that documents linking Muscat’s wife Michelle to a Panama company set up by Nexia BT had been falsified, and further police investigations were needed to establish who was behind the falsification.
Forensic accountants had also found evidence of suspicious transactions, concealed corporate relationships and other indications of probable money-laundering activities at both Nexia BT and Pilatus Bank, but the strict terms of reference drawn up by Muscat prevented them from going any further.
“We have not investigated these activities, but they appear to involve both citizens of Malta and elsewhere. You have directed that these matters fall outside the scope of the current investigations,” Harbinson Forensics wrote in the report to then magistrate Aaron Bugeja.
A spokesman for NGO Repubblika said the delays to the Schembri inquiries were unacceptable.
“We know Keith Schembri has unexplained deposits at the disgraced Pilatus bank, but no one has done anything about it. The shady wheeling and dealing involving the takeover of the three Maltese hospitals is still unresolved by the courts.
“Joseph Muscat has hijacked the judiciary because it serves the interest of his clan to do nothing about these and other matters showing up their corruption. This cannot go on,” the spokesman said.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us