Muscat to be charged with money laundering, bribery and corruption

Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi to be charged with accepting bribes and corruption • Chris Fearne and Edward Scicluna charged with defrauding the government through deceit

Updated at 8:47pm with additional charges

Joseph Muscat and others will be charged with money laundering, fraud and making fraudulent gain, as well as conspiracy to commit an offence punishable by imprisonment for more than four years and participating in a criminal organisation with more than ten members.

Muscat and Konrad Mizzi are to face charges of accepting bribes and corruption in public office. Keith Schembri will be charged with offences relating to the solicitation of bribes and abuse of his office to exact an unlawful advantage “through threats or abuse of authority”.

Brian Tonna (left) and Karl Cini (right)
Brian Tonna (left) and Karl Cini (right)

Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, are to be charged together with their firm Nexia BT with knowingly assisting Muscat to accept bribes.

The court is being asked to impose a freezing order to the tune of €30 million apiece on Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri. A freezing order of the same amount is being imposed on former Progress Press managing director Adrian Hillman and businessman Pierre Sladden, who are also being charged with money laundering.  

Pierre Sladden (left) and Adrian Hillman (right)
Pierre Sladden (left) and Adrian Hillman (right)

Meanwhile, Brian Tonna and Karl Cini are facing freezing orders for €20 million each. An equally massive order was requested against Nexia BT.

These are among the largest freezing orders ever requested by Maltese prosecutors. 

Auditors, secretaries charged

Lawyer David Joseph Meli, in his own capacity and as legal representative of Steward Malta Management Ltd is accused of corrupting public officials, namely Muscat, Schembri and Mizzi.

Steward’s IT manager Clarence John Conger-Thompson and its auditor, Christopher Spiteri, are also to face bribery-related charges.

Spiteri alone is further accused of acting with grave dishonesty in while carrying out the professional activity of auditor or accountant, as well as with making false declarations to a public authority, breaching professional secrecy and omitting or making false tax declarations for Pakistani entrepreneur Shaukat Ali Chaudhry and members of his family. He is also accused of perjuring himself before the magisterial inquiry.

Christopher Spiteri (left) and Shaukat Ali Chaudhry (right)
Christopher Spiteri (left) and Shaukat Ali Chaudhry (right)

Spiteri in his personal capacity as well as that of auditor, together with Jonathan Vella, medical equipment supplier Ivan Vassallo and his business partner Mario Victor Gatt in their personal capacities as well as in representation of Technoline Ltd and Eurybates Ltd are accused of false accounting.

Spiteri is also accused, in his personal capacity as well as that of auditor, together with Jonathan Bondin, David Meli, as representatives of MTrace p.l.c. and Gateway Solutions Ltd, with knowingly making false declarations to a public authority to obtain an illicit advantage.

A freezing order of €30 million each was requested against Christopher Spiteri and Jonathan Vella. A €32 million freezing order was requested for David Meli.

Other freezing orders have been filed against Ivan Vassallo (€11 million), Mario Victor Gatt (€7 million), Brian Bondin (€12 million) and Conger-Thompson (1 million). Freezing orders of the same amount were requested against their companies.

Should guilt be found, besides any sentence, the court is requested to order the confiscation of all assets up to those values and to order the perpetual interdiction of the defendants.

Meanwhile, a separate list of lesser charges was filed against Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, Central Bank Governor Edward Scicluna, past and present permanent secretaries, lawyers, advisors and former heads of government entities.

Fearne and Scicluna are to be charged with defrauding the government through deceit by painting a false picture of things. They are also being charged with misappropriation of funds.

Similar charges were filed against former finance permanent secretary Alfred Camilleri and former health ministry permanent secretary Joseph Rapa, and the permanent secretary in the Economy Ministry Ronald Mizzi.

Other charges were issued against Kenneth Deguara, Kevin Deguara, Jean Carl Farrugia from DF Advocates, lawyers Aron Mifsud Bonnici and Robert Borg, Deborah Anne Chappell, Bradley Gatt, James Camenzuli and Manuel Castagna of Nexia BT.

Lawyers Francesco Refalo, Rebekah Spiteri and Shelby Aquilina are prosecuting on behalf of the Attorney General, assisting police Inspectors Wayne Rodney Borg and Hubert Cini.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello has been assigned to the cases.

Police issued the criminal charges in connection to the Vitals Global Healthcare inquiry on Monday. It is understood that the persons charged will be arraigned by summons and not under arrest. 

The magisterial inquiry

Magistrate Gabriella Vella, who was investigating the sale of three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare, concluded her report and passed it on to the Attorney General last week.

The inquiry was initiated in 2019 on Repubblika’s initiative.

Joseph Muscat had tried to remove the magistrate from the inquiry, insisting she had a conflict because her relatives were publicly critical of him. He also complained of constant leaks from the inquiry and decried the magistrate’s refusal to let him testify before her.

In January 2022, as part of the inquiry, police officers searched Muscat’s Burmarrad home and seized several electronic devices.

Muscat told reporters on Tuesday that he had no doubt he will be charged as he adopted a defiant tone. He insisted he did nothing wrong and would fight the charges tooth and nail.