The Malta Independent 24 June 2018, Sunday

Speaker rules against Busuttil over blocked Keith Schembri offshore account PQs

Julian Bonnici Wednesday, 14 March 2018, 17:01 Last update: about 4 months ago

Speaker Anglu Farrugia has ruled against MP Simon Busuttil over the permission to ask parliamentary questions about the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

Pointing towards established procedure in the House of Commons in the UK, Farrugia insisted that allowing Busuttil to continue on these questions would go against his duty to ensure that order is kept in the house, explaining that PQs directed at ministers should specifically relate they responsibilities, and not be based upon media reports.

Busuttil will be appealing the decision. 

Last week, Farrugia stopped two Parliamentary Questions from being made about the Prime Minister’s chief of staff on the basis that they are not in the public interest.

Busuttil had asked whether the Schembri, has a bank account in Dubai and whether he has a bank account at Pilatus Bank.

Reacting to the Speaker’s decision, Busuttil described the decision as 'unprecedented'.

“The Speaker has confirmed that I cannot ask the PM if his Chief of Staff has a bank A/C in Dubai and Pilatus Bank. This decision is absurd and dangerous because it takes away my right as MP to keep the Govt under scrutiny. This is how democracies start to die," he tweeted.

 

 

 

The significance of Schembri’s offshore holdings relates to a series of revelations about the PM’s right-hand man, such as his acquisition of a Panama company sheltered by a New Zealand trust, together with his colleague Minister Konrad Mizzi just weeks after the Labour Party were elected into power.

Pilatus Bank was given prominence after the now assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia alleged that top government officials had used the bank as a vehicle for illicit transactions.

A leaked Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) report showed that serious shortcomings continued to subsist at Pilatus Bank, however another leaked report months later said the shortcomings had been addressed.

Caruana Galizia alleged that the PM’s wife is the true owner behind Egrant, the third Panama company in connection with Malta through the Panama Papers leaks, and that she received $1 million from one of the daughters of Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani dictator through Pilatus Bank. All involved deny wrongdoing.

All denied wrongdoing while the bank even began legal proceedings by suing Caruana Galizia for $40 million in Arizona, USA, shortly before she was brutally murdered. Pilatus Bank has threatened all independent media houses in Malta with law suits worth millions in the USA and the UK for covering the Caruana Galizia’s allegations. 

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