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Wife of Keith Schembri charged with money-laundering offences / Malta News Briefing – Friday 17 September 2021

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Updated 1830 – Afternoon Portal Review

The Times of Malta leads with the charges brought against Josette Schembri Vella, the wife of former chief of staff Keith Schembri, who stands accused with money laundering offences related to her company on Friday. The charges are related to transactions linked to the company 3 City Designs and carried out in the period 2008 to 2020. Inspector Leanne Bonello from the anti money laundering team said the suspicious amount subject to the charges total €1.5 million. She was granted bail.

Maltatoday brings the reaction of PS Alex Muscat to EC President Ursula von der Leyen’s appeal to scrap the golden passport scheme. Muscat insisted that citizenship is a national competence.

Newsbook reports that the Police and the AG have dismissed a criminal complaint brought by Judge Grixti against MP Jason Azzopardi. Judge Giovanni Grixti filed a criminal complaint against lawyer and PN MP Jason Azzopardi over Facebook comments made after it was revealed that he had acquired a yacht from the father of murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.

TVM reports on press briefing by the political parties. The PL said it will remain open to ideas to continue renewing Malta while the PN announced the organisation of a national conference to discuss climate change.

Updated 1234 – Mid-Day Briefing

Covid claims 643rd victim

An 84-year-old male passed away overnight while Covid-19 positive, becoming the 453rd victim of the coronavirus pandemic in Malta. 27 new cases were reported on Friday, while 79 patients recovering, lowering active cases to 643. 25 patients are currently being treated at Mater Dei Hospital, four of whom are in ITU.

Increase in full-time employment

In March 2021, registered full-time employment increased by 0.9 per cent while part-time employment as a primary job decreased by 0.6 per cent when
compared to the corresponding month in 2020. Administrative data provided by Jobsplus shows that, over a period of one year, the labour supply
(excluding part-timers) in March 2021 increased by 1.0 per cent, reaching 237,671 This was mainly attributed to a year-on-year increase in the full-time registered employment (2,081) and an increase in registered unemployment (262).

Food prices drive inflation up

In August 2021, the annual rate of inflation as measured by the HICP was 0.4 per cent, up from 0.3 per cent in July 2021. The 12-month moving average rate for August stood at 0.2 per cent. Data released by the NSO this morning has shown that once again, the largest upward impact on annual inflation was measured in the Food and non-alcoholic beverages index, while the largest downward impact was recorded in the Restaurants and hotels Index.

PN proposes lowering of VAT thresholds

The Nationalist Party has proposed doubling the current VAT-exempt threshold from €30,000 to €60,000 as a means of simplifying bureaucracy. Speaking during an event forming part of the Independence Day festivities, PN leader Bernard Grech said that “my message to you, as party leader and as future Prime Minister if you give me your trust, is that with me you’ll carry less of a burden, because you won’t have to collect and pay VAT”. Grech argued that this measure would also serve to tackle rising living costs, a topic which the party has pressed heavily on over the past week.
“We’ll help you soar, advance, and move forward so that you can grow your business, invest more, and earn more money and employ more people,” he continued.

President invites the Maltese diaspora to contribute to Malta’s social and political transition
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President of Malta George Vella called on the Maltese diaspora to follow closely developments regarding the setting up by the Presidency of the Foundation for National Unity and to contribute to Malta’s social and political transition. The President was addressing guests at an event organised by the Maltese embassy in Rome to celebrate Malta’s Independence Day.

Relations between Malta and Italy continue to flourish and embody the historical friendship and deep-rooted cooperation at the diplomatic, commercial, cultural, and people-to-people level, President Vella said. The sustained and open dialogue at both the bilateral and multilateral levels is built on mutual trust and recognition. Year after year, the two neighbouring countries continue to realise that cooperation continues to be at the core of their common future – both within the European Union and as regional players within the Mediterranean region and further south.

Updated 0845 Newspaper Review

The Independent quotes the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, that Malta’s passport-selling scheme must be scrapped. She raised concerns about the effects on other EU members states.

The Times speaks with the father of the 29-year-old inmate who died in July after attempting suicide in her cell. He said that the young woman suffered abuse and bullying in prison and a scan found that she had suffered three broken ribs.

L-Orizzont says that the public will start receiving cheques from today as part of a tax refund scheme. Announcing the exercise, the Prime Minister said that more than 250,000 people are set to be eligible for a total €17 million.

In-Nazzjon quotes PN Leader Bernard Grech that a Nationalist government would raise the VAT exemption ceiling to €60,000. Grech said that thousands of businesses are exceeding the current €30,000 limit marginally.

The Times reports on a visit by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Malta on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference, she praised the country’s green agenda submitted as part of the post-covid recovery plan.  

L-Orizzont reports that the EU Commission has approved Malta’s €316 million Recovery and Resilience Plan. The funds are earmarked for reforms in digitalisation, sustainable transport, energy supply and other strategic areas.

The Independent says that the arraignment in court of John Dalli has been deferred to November. The former EU Commissioner will face charges over allegations that he tried to solicit a €60 million bribe while in office.

In-Nazzjon follows a PN press conference warning about impartiality in the news reporting of the national broadcaster. Deputy Leader David Agius said that PBS routinely features government representatives but ignores the opposition.

L-Orizzont speaks with a woman from Nevada who said that the wife of one of the American soldiers who died in a terrorist attack in Kabul last month gave birth to a girl. The source said that baby has been robbed of her father but will find the nation’s love.

Morning Briefing

Daphne Caruana Galizia made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy, says EC President

EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen visited the site were Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered and met her family on Thursday afternoon. She said that Daphne Caruana Galizia made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy and said that those who speak truth to power must be protected.

Von der Leyen had earlier met Prime Minister Robert Abela. During a joint press conference, she slammed the controversial passport scheme and called for its complete termination. On the other hand, while confirming that the Commission had green-lighted Malta’s Recovery Plan, she praised the act that Malta’s plan was the greenest in the EU. “Golden passports enable people to access to the other Member States. It is of utmost importance to stop this procedure”, the President of the EU executive said. She also welcomed the Government’s commitment towards SLAPP reform and media freedom.

Manoel Island project approved

The Planning Authority Board on Thursday voted unanimously in favour of a revised masterplan and Outline Development Permit for Manoel Island. Four members of the board and the Gżira local council recused themselves following a request by objectors since they had decided on a previous application in March 2019.
The project put forward by MIDI includes300 apartments set on three clusters over 58,000sq.m, commercial facilities, a cultural centre, sports facilities and 175,000sq.m of public open spaces.

Residency Malta invests €85,000 in social robots to serve as learning companions
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​Residency Malta is financing a University of Malta Centre for Literacy initiative – EduRoboKids. The two-year project will study how verbal and multimodal interaction takes place between humans and robots, how children on the autism spectrum respond verbally and emotionally to robots in learning situations and what kind of problem-solving situations children have in communicating with robots. Robotic systems targeted towards people on the autism spectrum, especially children, are a growing subfield of social robotics and human-robot interaction (HRI) research. Residency Malta has allocated funds amounting to €85,000, over two years, for the research and development required for this project, which will start immediately. Three educational robots will be purchased, with the aim of assisting seven- to ten-year-old children with learning challenges, including those on the autism spectrum.

Covid-19 Update: Two men, aged 69 and 74 passed away while positive to Covid-19, health authorities said, as the death toll climbed to 452. 25 new cases were reported on Thursday, while recoveries reached 45, lowering the active case toll to 696.

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