PM’s chief of staff had Swiss bank account before opening Panama companies

Embattled chief of staff exposed in Panama Papers has admitted to having owned a Swiss bank account which he closed in 2011

Keith Schembri has admitted having owned a Swiss bank account
Keith Schembri has admitted having owned a Swiss bank account

Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, has confirmed he had a Swiss bank account which he closed in 2011, two years before Labour was elected to power.

His statement was made after two days in which Nationalist Party media questioned Joseph Muscat as to whether Schembri had a Swiss bank account. Muscat has been reticent to answer the question.

News of the Swiss bank account will compound the image of Schembri, the owner of the Kasco group of companies which includes the island’s major paper merchant, who was revealed in the Panama Papers to  have opened an offshore company through Mossack Fonseca in 2013, and before that an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands.

Schembri has also been targeted by the Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who accused him of receiving kickbacks in his bank account at Pilatus Bank from an offshore company owned by auditor Brian Tonna.

According to Busuttil, who presented his evidence to an inquiring magistrate, Tonna was paid fees for his services to three successful applicants for Maltese citizenship, and then paid €100,000 from his offshore company Willerby Trade, to Schembri’s bank account.

Schembri and Tonna have denied the allegations, saying that Schembri loaned Tonna the money in 2012 and that the money was a repayment. They both said they will present their evidence to the magistrate conducting the inquiry.

Muscat himself requested the magisterial inquiry after his wife was alleged to have been the beneficial owner of a secret Panama company. He has denied the allegations.