[WATCH] PM reacts to Schembri asset freeze, questions on Muscat administration’s projects

‘It doesn’t mean that if you had one or two persons who committed something wrong, then either Electrogas or the IIP should be scrapped’

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela
PM reacts to Schembri asset freeze, questions on Muscat administration’s projects

Prime Minister Robert Abela has greeted news of an asset freeze on Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff to his predecessor, as a sign of his administration’s ‘good governance’.

But he refused to consider that inquiries should be held on such major projects such as the Electrogas power plan or the Individual Investor Programme, decisions in which the Muscat administration was also driven by Schembri’s say-so.

“I speak for my administration... there’s no doubt that all the institutions are robust, they’re discharging their duties without interference. This is the country I believe in: strong economic growth coupled with good governance,” Abela told MaltaToday on Tuesday morning.

“If there is any investigation that is required – and investigations have indeed taken place – any shortcomings must be investigated. It doesn’t mean that if you had one or two persons who committed something wrong, then either Electrogas or the IIP should be scrapped… indeed the IIP’s revenue has allowed us to launch the COVID-wage supplement.”

Abela had more sanguine views of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry, which he wants concluded by December 2020. “I don’t agree that such a public inquiry should take so long, and that is why I want the public inquiry to be over by December 2020; so that any remedial action can be taken on the basis of that inquiry.

The Criminal Court on Monday 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 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.

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