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FIAU filed inquiry complaint over newspaper reports

Four magistrates are now working round the clock on four separate inquiries linked to allegations concerning the Prime Minister and chief of staff Keith Schembri, as well as two complaints on the leak of FIAU reports

22 May 2017, 1:40pm
The most recent magisterial inquiry was launched after a complaint was lodged by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit on its compliance reports on Pilatus Bank
The most recent magisterial inquiry was launched after a complaint was lodged by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit on its compliance reports on Pilatus Bank
Four magistrates are now working round the clock on four separate inquiries linked to allegations concerning the Prime Minister and chief of staff Keith Schembri, as well as two complaints on the leak of FIAU reports.

The most recent magisterial inquiry is being headed by Magistrate Doreen Clarke, after a complaint was lodged by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit itself over reports published in The Times and Malta Independent, on its compliance reports on Pilatus Bank.

Another inquiry headed by Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera concerns the leak of a preliminary report penned by former FIAU director Manfred Galdes, to the then Commissioner of Police Michael Cassar in April 2016, also dealing with Pilatus Bank.

It is highly likely that a fifth inquiry be appointed over the complaint Opposition leader Simon Busuttil took to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja – who heads the original inquiry into the Egrant allegations – against Keith Schembri, whom Busuttil accused of money laundering over payments made to the former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman since before Schembri entered politics.

Busuttil on Friday claimed that the magisterial inquiry into the leaks of FIAU documents had taken place after a police report by the Prime Minister and Keith Schembri. But both Muscat and Schembri denied having made the police report, and yesterday Busuttil made only the slightest of retreats, saying that the inquiry “must” have been launched at Muscat’s instigation.

Simon Busuttil
Simon Busuttil
But this latest, fourth investigation has turned out to have been made on a complaint of the same FIAU.

The third inquiry was kicked off after a complaint by Pilatus Bank to the police over the leak of banking documents. Times journalist Jacob Borg and the Malta Independent’s manager Pierre Portelli, who reported the contents of the reports, have already appeared before the magistrate and refused to reveal their sources.

Malta remains in the grip of unanswered questions after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat requested a magisterial inquiry into allegations by Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia that his wife Michelle was the owner of a secret offshore company, Egrant.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s inquiry is expected to establish whether or not a bank account belonging to Egrant or the Muscats existed at Pilatus Bank, where Caruana Galizia said that over $1 million had been transferred into this account by Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of Azerabaijani ruler Ilham Aliyev.

While Pilatus Bank has denied the existence of such an account, it has offered full access to Magistrate Bugeja into their IT platform. Muscat has called the allegation “the biggest political lie in history” and has challenged Simon Busuttil to take responsibility for the “calumny” when the magisterial inquiry is over. 

But the revelations emanated from the declarations of a Russian national, who worked with Pilatus Bank for two months before she was sacked. While the Russian national is suing the bank for unpaid wages, the police have charged the woman with misappropriation of the bank’s funds when she handled travel arrangements for executives, and in separate charges for making false accusations against her arresting officers. 

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras is also investigating another complaint, this time allegations brought by PN leader Simon Busuttil, of a €100,000 kickback ostensibly paid into Keith Schembri’s Pilatus bank account by Nexia BT’s managing partner Brian Tonna through his offshore company Willerby Trade, which he used to retain fees for services related to the sale of Maltese citizenship.

The accusations emanate from the preliminary report that Manfred Galdes, the former FIAU director, had penned in a report to Commissioner of Police Michael Cassar in April 2016, before the latter resigned without an investigation taking place.

Busuttil has now taken new graft allegations, specifically over some €650,000 in transactions made between Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman in the period between 2006 and 2015, through Schembri’s company in Gibraltar as well as a Swiss bank account. At the time, Schembri’s Kasco Group was the supplier of newsprint to the Allied Group’s Progress Press, which was headed by Hillman.

On Friday Busuttil suggested that these payments were made for “editorial and printing services” at the Times, which is published by Allied Newspapers.

A similar claim had been made last year before the publication of the Panama Papers, when senior editors at The Times declared that at no point were they told what or what not to write by Hillman.

An internal inquiry by Allied, headed by judge Giovanni Bonello, remained unpublished after a private agreement was reached with Hillman to withdraw litigation. 

Busuttil: ‘Complaint by Muscat’s puppet’

Earlier yesterday, PN leader Simon Busuttil said that a criminal complaint against the people who exposed the alleged kickbacks by Keith Schembri to Adrian Hillman must have been filed “by a puppet of Joseph Muscat”.

Responding to journalists’ questions at a press conference in Qormi, Busuttil said that he had not personally seen the criminal complaint he had spoken about on Friday but deduced that the Prime Minister’s hand must have been behind it.

“I certainly didn’t file the complaint to the duty magistrate myself, and neither did anyone from PN or PD, so who else could it have been?” he wondered. “I would imagine that Muscat would have been smart enough not to write it himself, so it must have been one of his puppets.”

“I never said that Muscat had filed the criminal complaint himself, but that he had used it to intimidate those people who were courageous enough to come to me with the information,” he said. “To those people, I tell them to hold out until 3 June, when they will be treated as heroes and not as victims, and when criminals will be investigated and treated as the criminals they are.”