US wanted to spy on Maltese PM and Keith Schembri over Russian refueling

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Darren Debono, the suspected Maltese fuel smuggler currently facing charges in an Italian court in Catania, has alleged in court that officials from the United States embassy asked him for information about Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri, MaltaToday reports, in exchange for them lifting sanctions against him.

Debono’s lawyer Victor Bugeja claimed in court on Wednesday that US embassy officials told Debono they wanted information on the provision of fuel to Russian ships, in order to lift sanctions against Debono and his businesses.

It was alleged that Debono was asked to confirm by US officials whether two Russian ships which were not allowed to refuel in Malta were taken outside territorial waters refueled by him. He also said that the officials wanted information about Muscat and Schembri.

This allegation was made in a case where Debono is asking for an injunction relating to UN sanctions.

Last month, MaltaToday reported that an attempt by Malta to have UN sanctions placed on the two men had hit a snag after Russia sought more details about the petition at the eleventh hour.

Debono was arrested on the island of Lampedusa in October 2017 and was subsequently charged in connection with a fuel trafficking operation involving Libya, Italy and Malta. He has since been released on bail and last November was allowed to return to Malta after being released from house arrest in Sicily due to delays in the commencement of his trial.

In court on Wednesday, a representative of the Sanctions Monitoring Board informed Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi that no action was to be taken against the man. This despite Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela having said on 22 July that he would support every action taken to impose UN sanctions.

His lawyer insisted Debono was a fisherman who never made any transfers of oil outside territorial waters, because he does not own fuel barges.


Via MaltaToday

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