Criminal Court issues freezing order on Schembri, Tonna, families and business accounts

Freezing order requires 24-hour compliance from all Maltese banks and financial institutions, and asset funds

Keith Schembri leaving court after testifying in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. He is accompanied by Neville Gafa (right)
Keith Schembri leaving court after testifying in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech. He is accompanied by Neville Gafa (right)

The Criminal Court has instructed the entire host of Malta’s financial institutions, asset managers and investment fund managers to grant access to police investigators to any assets they hold in the name of Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, as well his extended family.

The freezing order was issued to aid money laundering investigations by the police in which the suspects include Schembri and his spouse, his parents, his companies, business partners and their family members, as well as Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna and his family, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna, Nexia BT related companies, and a host of offshore companies.

The companies have 24 hours to comply with the order to notify all possessions of the subject-persons, together with any precious goods, accounts, services or safety deposit boxes they have with Maltese financial institutions.

The suspects will now be prevented form transferring any of their property with these institutions.

The investigators will have access to all their accounts, property, and safety deposit boxes, as well as information on transactions with any person who could have benefited from these same sources of income.

The subject persons include Keith Schembri and his wife Josette Schembri Vella, his parents; his new logistics company in Bulebel, Navis, as well as its directors Malcolm Scerri and his relatives; the Kasco group of companies owned by Schembri, with its various subsidiaries; GSV Co, and other related companies run by Kasco directors such as ThoughtZone Limited and Acumen Projects; Brian Tonna, his spouse and children, as well as all partners in the Nexia BT group, Manuel Castagna, Karl Cini; Nexia-related companies like Smartsites Limited, NBT Technology, Eximus Business Malta and Eximus Business Aviation Private; other subjects such as blockchain consultant Anton Dalli and a host of Nexia BT partners, employees and their families; the ofshore companies Willerby Trade (BVI), Holdforth (Cyprus), Malmos (Gibraltar), Colson Services (BVI), SPX Services (BVI); private Tonna-owned companies SOPNIF and AWNY Properties, and Zonqor Estates amongst others.

Assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported that Tonna’s BT International, an accredited agent of the Individual Investor Programme, had handled the purchase of Maltese citizenship for a Russian family. Using his own Willerby Trade as an introducer, Tonna invoiced BT International for 50% of the fees. Caruana Galizia said he passed on 50% of that fee to Keith Schembri’s accounts at Pilatus Bank and the Bank of Valletta.

Operation Green was the title of a police investigation into former chief of staff Keith Schembri and Nexia BT managing partner, Brian Tonna. According to an FIAU investigation, Schembri had made reference to a €100,000 loan he had granted to Tonna.

In May 2017, then PN leader Simon Busuttil had presented evidence in court to support his allegation that €166,831 had been paid by three Russian nationals to Tonna after they applied for Maltese citizenship. Busuttil alleged that shortly after receiving the money, Tonna had made two payments of €50,000 to Schembri's bank account. Both men claim that these transactions were made as repayments on a loan.

That same year, five magisterial inquiries were launched into allegations of government corruption: the inquiry into alleged links between Panama-registered company Egrant and the Prime Minister being held by magistrate Aaron Bugeja, magistrate Doreen Clarke's inquiry into the FIAU leak of compliance reports about Pilatus Bank, magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera's inquiry into the leak of a preliminary FIAU report on Pilatus Bank to the then Commissioner of Police Michael Cassar in April 2016, magistrate Galea Sciberras' inquiry into Schembri and Tonna, nor magistrate Josette Demicoli's inquiry into allegations of money laundering by Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman through Pilatus Bank have yet been concluded.

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