Malta’s Court upholds AG’s request for freezing of assets of former PM’s Chief of Staff and linked audit firm

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Madam Justice Edwina Grima, issued an order to freeze all assets held by Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff of former PM Joseph Muscat, Schembri’s wife and his companies, and Brian Tonna, managing partner of Nexia BT, and other linked partners and businesses..

The order was issued at the request of the Attorney General.

The court said it agreed with the Attorney General  that there was reasonable suspicion that the persons mentioned in the application are guilty of a crime (money laundering) under clause 3 of cap 313 of the Laws of Malta. 

The inquiry was based on a leaked FIAU report that raised suspicions about two €50,000 transactions that passed between the pair via Pilatus Bank.

The Attorney General’s application came days after the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry into whether the former prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, took a €100,000 kickback on passport sales.

Nexia BT, who held a privileged position under the Muscat’s administration was the company used by Schembri and former Minister Konrad Mizzi for the opening of the Panama Papers’ companies.

Nexia BT played a role in the Electrogas selection process. The Electrogas project and revelations about it are linked to the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The Guardian reported that police believe that the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed for what she was about to reveal about a government-sponsored power station deal, a court in Malta has heard.

At the start of 2017, Caruana Galizia received a cache of 600,000 emails leaked from an energy company partly owned by Yorgen Fenech, who is now the chief suspect in the murder. The company, Electrogas, holds a lucrative concession to supply Malta’s state-owned electricity provider.

The court heard that the deal was now the subject of an investigation by the Malta police force’s economic crimes unit.

The information was confirmed by Insp Kurt Zahra, one of two homicide detectives leading the investigation into the killing. He was testifying during the compilation of evidence against Fenech, who was charged with conspiracy to murder Caruana Galizia in November.

Zahra testified that police were working on the assumption that the crime was motivated by a desire to suppress information about Electrogas.

“That’s why we say she was murdered, because of something she was going to release, not because of something which she had already written about,” he said. “This is the subject of a separate police investigation by the economic crimes unit.”

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