[WATCH] Simon Busuttil makes request to testify on Schembri evidence in Egrant inquiry

PN leader takes evidence on €650,000 transactions not to Magistrate investigating alleged Schembri kickbacks, but to Egrant inquiry claiming ‘it has a wider remit’

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
18 May 2017, 2:58pm
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil this morning filed a court application, making himself available to testify before Magistrate Aaron Bugeja again over documents showing how the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, paid former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman €650,000 in payments between 2011 and 2015 – something Busuttil claims is a “textbook case of money laundering”.

Busuttil had already taken evidence claiming kickbacks paid to Schembri by auditor Brian Tonna on the sale of Maltese citizenship, but Magistrate Bugeja later issued a decree so that a new inquiry be launched.

Instead of taking the new evidence to Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, Busuttil filed his application before Bugeja, arguing that it was up to Bugeja to delegate it to another magistrate if he felt it necessary.

“Aaron Bugeja’s terms of reference are clear. Did you expect me to go to the Police Commissioner? Of course not. Bugeja was the first magistrate I went to. It’s up to [the magistrates] to decide who will follow it up,” Busuttil said, when asked about the procedural meandering.

Busuttil said the information he was presenting today had come into his possession after he had handed the inquiry a previous batch of documents. People were still coming forward with information, he said.

In a reaction, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Busuttil's decision to go to Magistrate Bugeja was a prolonging tactic to delay the Egrant inquiry. Asked about Busuttil's claims that he did not trust the police, Muscat replied that "the Opposition leader knows that he's lying and that he is trying to invent excuses."

Busuttil is alleging that Schembri, with the assistance of Brian Tonna, used bank accounts in Switzerland and Gibraltar, together with others at Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex to route funds to Hillman either directly or through a hitherto secret company called Lester Holdings.

Within 24 hours of receipt, the funds were then invested in international bonds via financial intermediaries, he said.

The PN leader said that he police commissioner had been made aware of the issue in late 2016, but had not acted. Busuttil said he would have liked to go through the proper police channels, but in view of the apparent reluctance on the part of the police to investigate the previous claims, he could not trust them.

“How can the police be helping the inquiring magistrate investigate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the magistrate investigating Mr Schembri if they had known about all this and kept it under wraps,” Busuttil said yesterday.

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Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...