The Malta Independent 24 September 2020, Thursday

Updated: Inquiry into alleged passport kickbacks to Keith Schembri concluded, AG refuses to publish

Monday, 14 September 2020, 11:43 Last update: about 9 days ago

A magisterial inquiry into allegations of kickbacks through Malta’s passport scheme has been concluded, with former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil demanding that he, as the person who opened the inquiry, receives a copy of it.

The inquiry was requested by Busuttil in April 2017 – only weeks before the general election was called – after allegations emerged that the then Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri had received kickbacks from the sale of Maltese passports under the country’s Individual Investor Programme.

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Schembri was alleged to have received kickbacks in the form of two payments of €50,000 each from Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna – the person who set up Schembri’s Panama company – from the sale of Maltese citizenship to a family of three Russians.

Schembri had claimed the funds transferred to him by Tonna were repayment of a personal loan he had given him a few years back.

There has been no official communication or statement to say whether the inquiry has actually been concluded and what its conclusions are.  The publication of the inquiry if concluded is not automatic and depends on the discretion of the Attorney General.

However, Busuttil’s lawyer – Jason Azzopardi – said that the inquiry has been concluded, noting that they had only gotten to know this by chance.

In a Facebook post written on behalf of his client Busuttil, Azzopardi said that they had now asked the Attorney General to hand over a copy of the magistrate’s findings to him as the person who had initiated the inquiry in the first place.

He noted that they were expecting the Attorney General to immediately give a copy to Busuttil, on the basis that the Attorney General had given a complete, un-redacted copy of the Egrant magisterial inquiry upon its completion to the person who initiated it – that person being former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Public access to that report was only possible after it was published by Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia, who had to go through a long court battle to obtain the report in the first place.

In a later post by Azzopardi however, it emerged that Busuttil’s request was denied and Azzopardi included the letter sent by the AG to his request.

Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg said in a letter that that the inquiry was sent to the Attorney General’s Office, but said that “the procès-verbal has been examined and in the circumstances no copies of the procès-verbal are going to be released at this stage.”

Meanwhile, in separate statements, the PN and two NGOs Repubblika and the Civil Society Network all called for the publication of the inquiry.

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