Keith Schembri files court request to pay company employees

Six companies owned by Keith Schembri request temporarily unfreezing of assets to pay employees

Keith Schembri
Keith Schembri

Six companies owned by former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri have filed an urgent court application asking for permission to temporarily unfreeze their assets for the payment of 100 employees’ salaries.

The application was filed on Saturday before Mr Justice Aaron Bugeja.

The court was asked to consider the request as urgent, given that Tuesday is the end of the month. Firms belonging to Schembri had their assets frozen last Monday after a court issued an attachment order listing 91 people and companies, including Schembri and his business partners, his accountants at Nexia BT, Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, on suspicion of money-laundering offences

The application, signed by lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo states that Schembri and his companies are subject to an investigation and seizure order. These companies employ around 100 people on a full time basis, whose livelihoods and those of their families depend solely on their salaries.

The employees’ pay was due on Tuesday and the families were relying on the money in order to feed their children and repay bank loans, they said.

The lawyers argued that the effects of the garnishee were “catastrophic, not only on the person it was addressed to but intended for, but also on third parties who had nothing to do with the investigation other than the fulfilling of their duties as employees who were giving their time to earn their daily bread.”

Denouncing the order as an injustice, “aggravated by the fact that this order is nothing more than an exaggerated measure against Schembri and his interests” requested by the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police, the lawyers argued that the authorities had also seized assets belonging to people who had nothing to do with the investigation, including young children.

“It must be said that [the defence] are contending that it was yet to be seen whether this action is in keeping with the conclusions of the magisterial inquiry concluded by magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras,” added the lawyers, contending that the element of proportionality between the measures imposed by the AG and the Police and t he conclusions of the inquiring magistrate and the “great and unnecessary suffering“ caused to the employees who were simply victims in this case.

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