Robert Abela has washed his hands of corruption claims after the arrest of ex-OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and defended the controversial sale-of-citizenship scheme this morning.
“Malta’s institutions are working robustly, without interference and displaying good governance,” he insisted in comments to MaltaToday, dismissing questions as to why no action was taken on corruption that happened under the previous administration led by Joseph Muscat.
Abela also defended the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), which is dubiously linked to the money laundering accusations against Keith Schembri.
“If it wasn’t for the IIP scheme we wouldn’t have measures like the wage supplement,” the Prime Minister insisted, referring to the ongoing COVID-19 wage scheme to help support businesses avoid laying off their staff.
It is alleged that Schembri received €100,000 worth of kickbacks from passports sold to three Russian nationals.
A leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit found that Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna transferred two €50,000 payments to Schembri through the now-closed Pilatus Bank.
Schembri and Tonna have insisted this was a repayment of a loan that Schembri had given Tonna during his separation, but the FIAU said it could find no evidence such a loan was ever paid to begin with.
Both men were arrested this morning, while their assets, together with those belonging to their families and over 100 connected companies, have been frozen by court order.
However, one of Schembri’s daughters was “bizarrely” left out of the asset freeze.
The IIP scheme, which allowed people to purchase Maltese citizenship through investments, was scrapped in July and will be replaced by a new residency programme, with more stringent rules coming into play as of this month.
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