Keith Schembri intended doing business with Yorgen Fenech ‘after leaving politics’

How Keith Schembri glossed over 17 Black during court testimony in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech • Schembri's testimony is admission he knew 17 Black belonged to Yorgen Fenech

Keith Schembri glossed over his involvement with Yorgen Fenech's 17 Black, telling the court that it was his intention to get into business with Fenech after he exited politics (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Keith Schembri glossed over his involvement with Yorgen Fenech's 17 Black, telling the court that it was his intention to get into business with Fenech after he exited politics (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Keith Schembri has admitted under oath that 17 Black’s inclusion as a target client for his Panama company formed part of plans to do business with Yorgen Fenech.

But the former chief of staff told a court this morning that the intention was to get involved with Fenech “after he left politics”.

Schembri was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Fenech, who stands accused of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

17 Black was a company that Fenech set up in Dubai. It had been listed as a target client on documentation filed by Schembri’s accountants when applying to open a bank account for his Panama company.

The same bank documentation had been filed for the Panama company opened for then energy minister Konrad Mizzi.

It was Caruana Galizia who flagged 17 Black for the first time in February 2017, around the time when the plan was hatched to murder the journalist. At the time, Caruana Galizia did not know who owned 17 Black and that it was listed as a target client for Schembri’s and Mizzi’s Panama companies.

A Reuters investigation revealed in November 2018 that 17 Black belonged to Fenech.

In court, Schembri said it was his intention “to do business with Yorgen Fenech once he had finished from politics”.

He did not clarify though why he included 17 Black as a target client for his Panama company during his time in politics.

Schembri's testimony, though, is an admission that he knew all along that 17 Black belonged to Fenech, despite avoiding question from journalists over the past two years.

“My reaction [to the blogs] was there is a small bit of truth and a lot of assumption. I could have filed a libel suit but I know how things go here; you spend four years coming back and forth. Having 17 Black as a target client means you either do business or not do business,” Schembri testified.

He said that before entering politics he had reiterated that after politics, he had to do business.

“I opened a trust fund with Bank of Valletta in 2013. The PN knows exactly how much money I have in the trust. BOV had admitted that there were leaks. Instead of filing a lawsuit against BOV, I told my advisers that I cannot trust Maltese banks anymore and was advised to open a trust in New Zealand or Singapore. So, I opened the trust in New Zealand. I was told for the trust to start working you need to open a company. The fastest way to do so was in Panama,” Schembri justified his Panama company.

Asked about 17 Black, Schembri said: “There are many Maltese businessmen doing business with Yorgen Fenech. He was prestigious. I didn't have any links to other companies aside 17 Black or have other business with Yorgen Fenech.”

Schembri left no comment to journalists after leaving court and he is expected to testify again under cross-examination at some stage.

More in National