The Malta Independent 12 August 2020, Wednesday

‘Not off the hook yet’ - Law enforcement entities join forces in Keith Schembri investigation

Rachel Attard and Neil Camilleri Sunday, 8 December 2019, 08:30 Last update: about 8 months ago

 

A number of law enforcement units and financial crime investigative entities have joined forces and are still “actively investigating” Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, The Malta Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The Police Financial Crime Unit, the Criminal Investigation Department, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), the Malta Security Service (MSS) and Europol are all looking into the claims levelled against Schembri, and are searching through his business links to see whether he was really leaking sensitive information and if there are any links with the motive behind the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, sources said.

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Schembri was arrested and questioned on Tuesday last week but was subsequently released without charge. He has not been seen in public since he was released and returned to his Mellieha villa.

Yesterday afternoon, he was called in for questioning at the police headquarters but sources said he was spoken to in relation to pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma’s phantom job. His lawyers were seen exiting from the Criminal Investigation Department building at around 5.30pm.

Schembri’s name has come up numerous times in testimony given by the owner of 17 Black Yorgen Fenech, who has been charged with being a mastermind in the murder, and by Theuma.

Fenech claimed that Schembri had sent him a script regarding what to tell investigators while he (Fenech) was in police custody. The messages were sent through Dr Adrian Vella, who is close to both men and is also their family doctor.

Earlier this week, Fenech claimed that Schembri had kept him continuously informed of progress in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation. In shocking testimony, Fenech said that Schembri had informed him that his telephone was being tapped, that the police were going to carry out a big raid in Marsa in December 2017 when the three men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia were arrested, and had also given him a script regarding what to say while he was on police bail.

In a separate case, Melvin Theuma also told the court of the close relationship Fenech had with Schembri. He claimed that Fenech had told him that he would be called by the OPM’s customer care chief, Sandro Craus, and be given a government job. He was eventually called to Castille, where he met Schembri, shook hands and had a photograph taken with him. He was then given a phantom job with an entity falling under the family ministry.

The phantom job led to a huge controversy this week, with Civil Service head Mario Cutajar first denying and later confirming its existence. A number of individuals, including Craus, have been questioned by the Economic Crimes Unit.

Theuma also mentioned Schembri in a letter found at his home during a police search. In the letter, Theuma claimed that Yorgen Fenech and Keith Schembri were trying to get rid of him. “I prepared this proof so that if I am eliminated you will know the entire story. To use me, Keith Schembri il-Kasco even got me a job with the government but after he was served, I ended up out of that job. I am therefore sending a copy of the job contract as well as a photo in Castille with Keith Schembri il-Kasco and chips with recordings.”

In court, Theuma said that, as far as he was concerned, the mastermind was Fenech, because it was Fenech who paid for the hit. He said, however, that he started suspecting that Fenech and Schembri were plotting to kill him.

He also mentioned an instance when he had been approached by two men – Kenneth Camilleri and Johan Cremona. Camilleri was previously a member of the Prime Minister’s security detail and Theuma suspected that he had been sent by Schembri.

Schembri’s name also cropped up several times during a sitting of the public inquiry this week. Members of the Caruana Galizia family said that Schembri was on a list of names that had been given to the police.

The court heard how information about ongoing investigations, such as the FIAU’s probe on 17 Black, were shared with Ian Abdilla of the Economic Crimes Unit who, they said, was in contact with Schembri.

Several media outlets, including this one, reported last week how Schembri would have been present for MSS meetings during which information about the murder investigation would have been provided.

Questions have been raised as to why Schembri was released without charge rather than being placed on police bail.

But sources who spoke to The Malta Independent on Sunday said that the investigation is far from over. “In fact, it has intensified further, and several entities are collaborating and looking into the claims.”

These entities are trying to establish a possible motive for the journalist’s murder, the sources said, adding that Fenech’s claim that he wanted Caruana Galizia killed to prevent her from publishing a story about his uncle is dubious.

It is understood that the investigators are studying financial transactions and are focusing mainly on the Electrogas power station deal in which both Fenech and Schembri were involved. Fenech was a member of the Electrogas consortium while Schembri was heavily involved in the negotiations from the government side.

Speaking during the public inquiry hearing on Friday, Peter Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s widower, said that the Electrogas contract is what led to her death.

“Schembri is not off the hook yet,” a source said, explaining that investigators want to build a strong case against the former OPM Chief of Staff before making any moves.

Attempts to reach Schembri at his home this week proved futile. OPM official and close colleague Neville Gafa was seen entering the Mellieha property several times over the past week but said he was visiting “purely on a friendship basis.”

 

 

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