‘Keith did several good things’: Muscat’s unbreakable bond with former chief of staff

Former Labour leader who defended Keith Schembri to the hilt rejects suggestions he was held at ransom over potentially compromising information about him

In good times and bad...
In good times and bad...

Former Labour prime minister Joseph Muscat has candidly admitted he will not severe his historic alliance with former chief of staff Keith Schembri, who is facing charges of money laundering and now fighting a battle against cancer.

In an interview with The Times, Muscat, who resigned in disgrace in December 2019, said he was not aware that  Schembri was relaying information on the Caruana Galizia murder investigation to the alleged mastermind Yorgen Fenech, or other associates.

Muscat said he would “definitely not ditch him” and that he believed Schembri “did several good things. I will allow justice to take its course.”

Muscat still insisted that he had paid the political price for the association of Schembri with the Tumas magnate, now accused of masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Schembri had set up secret companies in Panama for the alleged receipt of bribes from 17 Black, the secret company in Dubai owned by Yorgen Fenech, a shareholder in the Electrogas power plant, Labour’s chief electoral plank in 2013. Schembri is charged with money laundering charges so far unconnected to the Panama Papers.

But Muscat has always defended Schembri and refused to get to the bottom of 17 Black’s ownership, or even demand the resignation of Schembri when the Panama Papers broke.

Muscat even rejected suggestions that he refused to take action against Schembri and Konrad Mizzi because they had potentially compromising information about him. “Did Konrad and Keith tell me the truth? I think time will tell.”

Muscat has always denied having been the owner of a third offshore company opened by auditors Nexia BT for Keith Schembri. Upon being accused he requested a magisterial inquiry which revealed that the company Egrant had never been given ownership after being acquired by Nexia, and that neither Muscat nor his wife had been paid a $1 million gift by the Aliyev regime of Azerbaijan.