Schembri denies kickbacks allegations, says loan to Tonna was in 2012

Keith Schembri ‘welcomes’ Busuttil’s decision to go to magistrate, denies graft allegations and insists he loaned money to Brian Tonna in 2012

OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri
OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri

In the face of allegations that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff has received kickbacks from Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna on the sale of Maltese passports, Keith Schembri has issued an outright denial, adding that he will be instituting libel proceedings against Simon Busuttil.

“I positively welcome that Simon Busuttil shall be going to the Magistrate leading the Inquiry so that even in this case, the truth of the matter shall become known to all. Just as I will gladly face any questions put to me on the matter, so too will Simon Busuttil have to face legal consequences if the Magistrate determines that his accusations have been false,” Schembri said.

In what he called “an attempted frame-up”, Schembri rejected the accusations made by Busuttil in a press conference convened at 8.30pm.  

Busuttil this evening called for the arrest of Schembri, whom he has accused of corruption and money laundering.

“I outright deny and refute completely that I have ever received any kickbacks from Brian Tonna or anyone for that matter,” Schembri said.

“Simon Busuttil has chosen once again to resort to blatant lies and attempt a frame up, in his lust for power, repeating allegations made by Daphne Caruana Galizia on May 24, 2016.”

Schembri said he would make himself readily available again to answer any questions that Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is leading the Egrant inquiry, may raise.

Busuttil has claimed that Tonna had received €166,831.90 – in an account he owns under the name of Willerby Trading Inc. – in fees for the sale of passports to three Russian individuals. Then, Tonna would have made two transfers of €50,000 each to a bank account held by Schembri through their respective bank accounts at Pilatus Bank.

On the allegation that he had received €100,000 from Tonna, Schembri insisted that it was a payment to settle a loan, “for which the necessary evidence exists”. According to Schembri, the loan was made in 2012 – a year before the Labour Party was elected to power.

“Similar and larger facilities were given by myself and my companies to Allied Newspapers and the Nationalist Party's commercial arm. One might expect Simon Busuttil now to assume I have been paid kickbacks by them too,” Schembri added.

Concluding by saying that he will be proceeding with libel proceedings against the PN leader, Schembri said: “It is however a complete shame that this is the only tool I have to protect my name, however I shall be making full use of it to ensure that my name is cleared.”