[WATCH] Keith Schembri was arrested at his Mellieħa home at 1am after court's freezing order

Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri has been arrested • Schembri's lawyers seen entering police depot

Keith Schembri (left) was arrested at his Mellieħa home. His lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo were seen entering the police depot on Tuesday afternoon.
Keith Schembri (left) was arrested at his Mellieħa home. His lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo were seen entering the police depot on Tuesday afternoon.

Updated at 2:45pm with developments at police depot

Keith Schembri, former chief of staff of Joseph Muscat, has been arrested and is being interrogated at police depot over bribery and money laundering allegations.

Schembri was arrested at around 1am at his Mellieħa home on Tuesday. Nexia BT's Brian Tonna and Karl Cini are also believed to have been arrested by the police.

The arrest comes after the Attorney General asked the court to impose a freezing order on all Schembri’s assets, including those of his immediate family and companies.

The freezing order also effects Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and all business partners linked to Tonna and Schembri. There are 41 individuals and 41 companies impacted by the wide-ranging freezing order.

On Tuesday afternoon, Schembri's lawyers, Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo were seen entering the police depot through the back gate. Earlier, Schembri's lawyers filed an urgent court application seeking access to the inquiry that prompted Schembri's arrest.

There has been little visible action from the outside at the police headquarters. Police can detain individuals for 48 hours, after which they will have to press charges or release the suspects.

The police investigation is linked to allegations that emerged in 2017 that Schembri received €100,000 in kickbacks from Tonna over the sale of Maltese citizenship to a Russian family.

A magistrate recently concluded an investigation into the allegations and passed on the inquiry results to the Attorney General.

The magisterial inquiry kick-started in April 2017 when then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil forwarded documentation to the magistrate.

READ ALSO: PM reacts to Schembri asset freeze, questions on Muscat administration’s projects

Schembri's arrest was welcomed by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, which said that action was long overdue. "Had Malta’s institutions worked effectively from the start, Daphne would be alive today and the country would have been spared years of ​pain, grief, and shame," the foundation said.

Nationalist Party reacts

Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia has said that all those “who stole the country’s money” must pay for their actions.

“The former Attorney General’s resignation was a confirmation of how in recent years, like the former police commissioner, he became a puppet of the Labour government which snatched the country’s institutions,” he said.

Delia said the former AG did his utmost to prevent investigations from being carried out, in turn preventing the truth from emerging.

“We are now waiting for all those responsible of corruption to face justice,” Delia said.

He said the Maltese people are fed up of the secrecy and lies.

“These are delicate times for the truth to emerge, and so I appeal to the AG and police commissioner to take decisions in favour of the country’s interests,” he said.

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