The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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Darren Debono claims US wants information on Prime Minister and Keith Schembri - reports

Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 12:43 Last update: about 6 years ago

The suspected fuel smuggler Darren Debono alleged that US embassy officials asked him for information about Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri MaltaToday reports, in exchange for them lifting sanctions against him.

Debono faces charges of fuel smuggling in an Italian court.

Debono's lawyer, Victor Bugeja, claimed that the US officials wanted information regarding giving fuel to Russian ships. The lawyer said that Debono was asked to confirm whether two Russian ships which were not allowed to refuel in Malta were taken outside territorial waters refuelled 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.

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.

Maltese government rebuffs claims of change of direction in potential sanctions against Debonos

The Maltese government has rebuffed claims that there was a change in direction in the potential issuance of sanctions against Gordon Debono and Darren Debono with the United Nations.

Gordon Debono together with Darren Debono (photo, left) had been arrested in September 2017 by the Italian authorities in Catania and Lampedusa after the arrest of Libyan fuel smuggler Fahmi Slim Bin Khalifa. They were accused of forming part of a fuel smuggling ring involving Libya, Malta and Italy. The Maltese pair had earlier been flagged by the UN as having been involved in the smuggling of fuel from Libya.

It was reported last month that Russia had blocked a Maltese request for UN sanctions against the two suspects, despite the measure having the support of the rest of the Security Council and other member States.

In court yesterday, 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.

In a statement issued today, the government said: "Yesterday's declaration by the government during court proceedings instituted by Gordon Debono was made as is requested by law in proceedings where a warrant of prohibitory injunction is being requested against the Government of Malta. The declaration was made to explain that the elements for the issuance of a warrant of prohibitory injunction did not subsist."

"This declaration does not imply that actions done in the past or actions that can be taken in the future could be changed. In today's court proceedings another warrant of prohibitory injunction is being sought against the government by Darren Debono. The Office of the Attorney General during these proceedings explained that whether or not a petition for sanctions was presented in front of the United Nations Security Council is a matter of confidential nature. If such petition was presented, the Security Council of the United Nations had the power to accept or reject these sanctions. The Government of Malta could only abide with such decision."

"The Government of Malta remains committed to actions pursued in the past and future actions which may be taken if the situation calls for them. Malta will not refrain from taking action to enforce its laws or in the interest of peace and stability in the Mediterranean region or elsewhere."


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