Ex-Maltese PM Aide Among 11 Charged with Corruption
Prosecutors in Malta charged on Saturday former top government official Keith Schembri, his father and nine business associates with money laundering and fraud. Schembri was accused years ago by murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia of corruption.
Schembri, who served as former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff, and the others were charged with money laundering, criminal conspiracy and accountancy crimes to fraud, false testimony and the falsification of documents.
They pleaded not guilty but were denied bail after prosecution said they had access to means to abscond and to an obscure financial system. The suspects have also shown a propensity to obstruct justice when they allegedly falsified documents and made untrue declarations to state authorities, local media cited the prosecution as saying.
In March 2016, Schembri and his associates were accused by Maltese investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, of corruption, money-laundering and bribery in her popular blog Running Commentary. In the same blog post, she accused the then Prime Minister Muscat of lying about Schembri’s holdings in the British Virgin Islands.
“The Prime Minister is lying,” she wrote at the time. “Keith Schembri’s holdings in the British Virgin Islands are not for his legitimate Kasco business. He is the beneficiary of those holdings in his personal name.”
“This is the scandal of the century – a tangled web of corruption, sleaze and white-collar crime,” she added.
More than a year later, in October 2017, Caruana Galizia was killed when a bomb planted under her car exploded. Two years later, Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, Schembri’s close friend, was charged with complicity in her murder, and a month later, Schembri resigned as chief of staff.
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation called the Saturday charges “overdue,” adding that “the failure to prosecute Schembri five years ago allowed him to commit crimes related to Daphne’s assassination and her investigative work.”
Caruana Galizia’s final blog post, posted only half an hour before her assassination and titled “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook,” outlined how Schembri set up a secret company in Panama together with a minister. It accused him of “using his government influence to benefit his private business in Malta.”
“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” her final comments read.