Keith Schembri interfered in 17 Black, Panama Papers investigations - inquiry board

Former economic crimes chief Ian Abdilla spoke with Schembri twice about the FIAU's investigations into his offshore accounts

Keith Schembri interfered directly in 17 Black, Panama Papers investigations being carried out by police, a board of inquiry concluded in its report.

Tasked with evaluating the political circumstances surrounding Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, the board of inquiry identified several instances whereby Schembri directly influenced police investigations involving him.

For example, when FIAU reports on Schembri's offshore accounts were leaked to the public, the former Chief of Staff spoke with economic crimes chief Ian Abdilla and asked for his opinion on the issue.

The inquiry said that Abdilla testified that he met with Keith Schembri twice and discussed the reports that affected Keith Schembri, and that the meetings took place at Castille.

"This shows that there was direct and suspicious interference by Schembri in the work and investigation of the Police into his role in the Panama Papers," the report reads.

Another instance flagged by the inquiry involves the 17 Black investigation. Former deputy commissioner Silvio Valletta revealed to the inquiry board that Schembri told him not to speak with Yorgen Fenech over allegations that he owned 17 Black.

Valletta told the board that Schembri asked him, "are you really going to speak with Yorgen Fenech because he appeared in a Times report?" - in effect gaslighting the deputy commissioner in an effort to stall 17 Black investigations.

It was a collaborative report by the Times of Malta and Reuters that revealed ownership of the once-elusive company 17 Black, which according to Nexia BT correspondence was supposed to channel $1.6 million into Schembri's and Konrad Mizzi's offshore companies.

The inquiry board also noted that Yorgen Fenech knew when he was going to be arrested in relation to Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, and spoke with Schembri at lenghth over this, with the former Chief of Staff warning him not to flee Malta.

Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat admitted this in his testimony in front of the inquiry board, revealing that he had told Keith Schembri to tell Yorgen Fenech not to leave Malta.

The inquiry board's almost 500-page report concluded that the State should shoulder responsibility for contributing to the culture of impunity that facilitated Daphne Caruana Galizia's death.

It found that the Muscat administration "created an atmosphere of impunity, generated by the highest echelons at the heart of Castille and which, like an octopus, spread to other entities and regulators and the Police, leading to the collapse of rule of law".

Our full coverage of the report, including a blow-by-blow account of the report's findings, can be read here.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has since apologised for the State's wrongdoings - an apology that the Caruana Galizia family has since accepted.

Meanwhile, Muscat declared that he will accept the conclusions of the Caruana Galizia public inquiry, claiming that he “paid the ultimate political price” with his resignation in December 2019.