The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation praised the arrest of former OPM Chief-Of-Staff Keith Schembri in connection to alleged passport kickbacks… even if it is three-and-a-half years too late.
“The action against Schembri and his money-laundering network is long overdue,” it said, referring to the financial crime allegations that sparked the detainment.
Schembri was arrested today in connection to illicit profits linked to the government’s citizenship-buying scheme, a revelation first revealed by the late murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
The Foundation also warned that authorities had failed to exercise their legal duties three years from Caruana Galizia’s findings on the former OPM Chief-of-Staff.
“For three and a half years, the Malta Police Force and the Attorney General failed in their legal obligations to act against Schembri. A magistrate’s inquest conducted in secret, whose findings remain secret, is no substitute for justice.”
“Had Malta’s institutions worked effectively from the start, Daphne would be alive today and the country would have been spared years of pain, grief, and shame,” the foundation said.
It is alleged that he 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 detained 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.
However, Abela has defended the scheme, insisting that without it Malta couldn’t have had its wage aid to prevent mass redundancies.
What do you make of these major developments?