46-year-old dies of Covid-19 / Malta News Briefing – Saturday 27 March 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Updated 1330 Covid-19 Update

Health authorities reported 93 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday while three patients, including one aged 46, passed away.

The cases were found from a total of 2,982 swab tests carried out over the past day. 

Updated 0930

Almost a week after being charged in court with various degrees of financial crime, the MFSA has ordered suspended the operations of Zenith Finance Limited and Zenith (Tied Insurance Intermediary) Limited. Owners Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon are being accused of money laundering activities.

The MFSA said that it had ordered Zenith to refrain from onboarding of new clients and refrain from providing existing clients with any new or additional services; to cease all outgoing transactions from the Company’s client accounts, including intra-client account transactions; and to ensure that the Company and its directors maintain proper safeguard of all records relating to Zenith’s operations, including its investment services activities. The Company should therefore not destroy, conceal or alter such records in any way.

Newspaper Review

The Times follows the testimony in court of police inspector Joseph Xerri who said that former chief of staff Keith Schembri defrauded a total of €5.5 million from progress press to pay backhanders to his business partner and two Allied Newspapers senior officials.  

The Independent says that the police discovered a spreadsheet compiled by Keith Schembri on his company’s servers, detailing how a profit from the sale of printing equipment to Progress Press would be divided between the people involved in the deal.

L-Orizzont reports that the courts granted bail to Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon after ensuring that evidence has been preserved. The two were among the 11 people to be arraigned last week on charges of money laundering.

In-Nazzjon follows the testimony of financial crime police officers who told the courts that Keith Schembri evaded taxes on the sale of printing equipment to Progress Press, while making illegal payments using a complex network of offshore companies.

The Times quotes a statement by the Chamber of Advocates calling on the judiciary to take measures to avoid the risks of Covid-19 contagion. The communication came after reports that state witness Melvin Theuma tested positive to the virus.

L-Orizzont says that the number of active Covid-19 cases have decreased to below 2,000. Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said that controls in communities are helping to contain the spread.  

The Independent reports the death of four people from Covid-19 on Friday, bringing the number of fatalities to 382. The victims aged 68, 72, 73, and 80 were all men and were being treated at Mater Dei hospital.

In-Nazzjon covers a briefing by Public Health Superintendent Charmain Gauci who said that the UK variant of the Covid-19 accounts for three in four cases of local transmissions. There was also an increase in cases of the South African variant.

Morning Briefing

Keith Schembri paid $5.5m in commissions, Court told

Former OPM CHief of Staff Keith Schembri paid around US$5.5 million in corrupt commissions to three men for the sale of printing machines to Progress Press, prosecutors said in Court on Friday, detailing how complex transactions were used to mask the corruption and defraud the company.

The Court heard how Schembri, ex-chief of staff to PM Joseph Muscat between 2013 and 2019, used a network of offshore firms to send the kickbacks to accounts belonging to himself, his business partner Malcolm Scerri, Adrian Hillman and Vince Buhagiar.

Joseph Xerri, the inspector laying down the accusations said that Progress Press paid around US$6.5 million more than it should have in buying machines from Schembri’s Kasco.The $5.5 million which Schembri dished out in “commissions” was over-and-above the significant markup which Kasco applied to the prices of the machines it sold to Progress Press.

“It’s a clear case of bribery to buy machines from Kasco,” inspector told the court.

Six die despite full anti-Covid vaccination

The Superintendent for Public Health, Professor Charmaine Gauci, revealed in her weekly briefing that six persons passed away from Covid despite having been given two vaccination doses.

In her weekly medical bulletin Profs Gauci remarked that in general vaccination has helped decrease the number of deaths, and so far only six deaths have been ascertained after having received two doses.

She explained this confirms that vaccination offers protection but after receiving the vaccinations a person has to continue to exercise protective measures and if they suffer symptoms to immediately speak out. This is in light of the fact that no vaccine is 100% efficient.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95% and 94% efficient respectively while the AstraZeneca vaccine is 76% efficient against Covid.

Zenith’s Pace and Falzon granted bail

Zenith Finance’s Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon have been granted bail against several conditions by a court over money laundering charges which they are facing.

The two, hailing from financial services firm Zenith Finance are charged with, amongst other things, money laundering.
Originally, they were refused bail last Saturday, but made a fresh application after the case was moved to a different magistrate.

Yesterday, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech granted bail to both, saying that the criminal record and seriousness of the crime as well as the fact that there was no risk of absconding and the police said that he cooperated in the investigations.

Covid-19 Update
The number of active cases has gone down to 1,853 after 332 recoveries far surpassed the number of new cases, which stood at 103. These were identified through 2,252 swab tests taken yesterday. During the last 24 hours, 4 men aged between 68 and 80 died while Covid-19 positive.
Till yesterday 166,104 doses of the anti-Covid vaccine were administered.

Related Stories

%d bloggers like this: