Keith Schembri says Muscat statement in Daphne murder podcast was not attempt to disown him

Keith Schembri says he said what he had to say to the police and inquiring magistrate

Keith Schembri arriving in court to testify in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech (File Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Keith Schembri arriving in court to testify in the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech (File Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Keith Schembri has refuted suggestions that comments made by Joseph Muscat indicated an attempt to set him up as a fall guy over leaks from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation.

In an interview as part of a podcast by Reuters journalist Stephen Grey, former prime minister Joseph Muscat was asked directly whether he thought his then chief of staff, Keith Schembri, could have been the person leaking sensitive information from the police investigations to the suspects.

“I would say that I don’t know where he was getting that information… I honestly wouldn’t know,” is Muscat’s terse reply. “I trusted him and I thought, as I still hope - hope- that he was on my side on this. As in, on the side of the State,” Muscat added.

The question to the former PM was related to evidence that emerged in court of a visit pardoned middleman Melvin Theuma is said to have received from Kenneth Camilleri. Camilleri was a former security officer detailed with Muscat and a close associate of Schembri. At the time Theuma was fearing that he would take all the blame for the Caruana Galizia murder and Camilleri is understood to have tried to calm him down, even promising that the three men accused of the murder at that point - George Degiorgio, Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat - would be granted bail.

But Schembri has played down any suggestion that Muscat’s words were an attempt to disown him, distance himself from him or shift blame onto him.

“I have heard the clip many times and I disagree,” Schembri told MaltaToday, suggesting that such interpretations would be reading too much into Muscat’s words. 

“I don’t like attempts to use me to drive a wedge between [Robert] Abela and Muscat and have been advised not to go into details,” he replied. “I said what I had to say to the police and the inquiring magistrate.” 

After consulting with his lawyers, Schembri did not answer further requests for comment.

Muscat had retained Schembri by his side, who continued to run the OPM, with access to sensitive information about the investigation, despite his close connection to Yorgen Fenech.

In 2019, Fenech was charged with masterminding Caruana Galizia’s murder and his case is still ongoing. The night before Fenech's arrest, Schembri, acting on Muscat's request, had tried to convince the business magnate not to leave Malta. Fenech was arrested on board his yacht as it left the Portomaso marina.

Schembri is facing separate charges on money laundering and corruption over a private deal in which his company sold a printing press to Allied Newspapers for an inflated price. Former Allied Newspapers directors Adrian Hillman and Vince Buhagiar face similar charges over the same case.