Keith Schembri does not turn up in court for libel case

The case was filed by Schembri against then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil over a speech delivered by Busuttil during a March 2016 Panama Papers protest

Keith Schembri filed a libel case against former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil over statements made during a March 2016 protest
Keith Schembri filed a libel case against former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil over statements made during a March 2016 protest

A libel case filed by the Prime Minister’s Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister has had to be postponed to May after Schembri failed to appear for his cross-examination this morning.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale’s courtroom was packed with lawyers and journalists, eagerly awaiting Schembri’s cross-examination, after he had testified in an earlier sitting that he had never received any kickbacks. But when the case was called at 1030am this morning, the court was informed that Schembri was unable to attend the sitting.

The libel case was filed after a speech delivered by the then PN Leader on 6 March, 2016 during a national protest against corruption organized in Valletta following a series of events in the wake of the Panama scandal.

Schembri has claimed that certain allegations made by Busuttil during that public event, amounted to libel in his regard.

In response to media coverage of his absence, Schembri insisted that Busuttil had never filed a "formal request in court" for him to take the witness stand today. He accused Busuttil of believing that "rules apply to all except himself".

During an earlier sitting, Busuttil had insisted on the witness stand that the protest had been directed against the Government in general and that Keith Schembri had been mentioned in the light of his ownership of a secret company in Panama.

Moreover, it had been pointed out that Schembri was the same man involved in the major contracts concluded by the current government, including the deal with Electrogas as well as the privatisation of three state hospitals.

Later, during that same sitting, Schembri had likewise testified under oath, stressing that he had “never received any kickbacks…Had I been after money, I would not have left my 12 or 13 companies all doing well to take up my position with the Prime Minister,” Schembri had insisted on that occasion.

“I shall continue to pursue him for as long as he continues to make such allegations,” Schembri had said, claiming to have been unable to speak out both on account of his official position and also because of the medical situation, which he had been through. “All this time I had to face a trial by the media,” Schembri had said.

Schembri was due to return to the witness to face cross-examination by Busuttil‘s lawyer, this morning but the court was informed by his legal counsel that their client was unable to attend.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, presiding over the case, put off the cross-examination to another date in May.

The case continues.