[WATCH] Magistrate to hear Busuttil on evidence over alleged IIP kickbacks

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said he will be appearing in front of Magistrate Aaron Bugeja at 9am on Thursday

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil will be testifying before inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja at 9am on Thursday
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil will be testifying before inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja at 9am on Thursday

The magistrate investigating claims that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife – Michelle – owns shares in the secret Panama company Egrant has invited Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to testify under oath with regards to evidence he claimed to possess and which he says “proves beyond doubt” that Muscat’s chief of staff accepted kickbacks from passport sales through the IIP scheme.

Busuttil announced tonight that he will be appearing in front of inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja at 9am on Thursday where he will present all the evidence he has in his possession.

Busuttil claimed on Wednesday that he had irrefutable evidence which proved that Keith Schembri had received two payments of €50,000 from an account belonging to Brian Tonna, who in turn – Busuttil alleged – had received €166,831.90 from three Russian individuals who were waiting to be awarded Maltese citizenship through the scheme.

Earlier on Wednesday, Busuttil filed an application in court, urging inquiring magistrate Aaron Bugeja to invite him to testify and to let him present the evidence during the enquiry’s investigations.

Busuttil said tonight that Keith Schembri was known to be very close to the owner and chairman of Pilatus Bank, Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad.

“And when I say they are close, I know what I am talking about,” he said. “And I don’t care what Keith Schembri says or does to try and stop us.”

Busuttil had said he had received his information from a separate source to that of blogger and The Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who posted the allegations earlier in the day and who had originally claimed in May 2016 that Tonna was receiving money in a Pilatus Bank account.

He said 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, and then made two transfers of €50,000 each to a bank account held by Keith Schembri through their respective bank accounts at Pilatus Bank.

Willerby Trading Inc. was registered in the British Virgin Islands and was revealed to be owned by Tonna in the Panama Papers leaks in 2016.

In a statement, Keith Schembri rebutted Busuttil's claims and said that the money paid to his accounts were a repayment of a personal loan he had advanced Tonna in 2012 while going through a separation from his wife.

Busuttil reiterated his calls for Joseph Muscat to step aside immediately because it was now more evident that he did not belong in politics.

“The prime minister finds himself desperately needing to win the upcoming election to avoid being arrested and arraigned on charges of conspiracy or, at minimum, turning a blind eye to what his chief of staff was doing.”

Busuttil also vowed to reopen the investigations into claims made by MaltaToday – which reported that two ministers had interfered in Gozo to protect two men after a woman arrested by the police for drug possession, identified them as having supplied her the drugs. An inquiry appointed by Muscat had concluded there was no evidence to substantiate the claims, Busuttil noted, but he insisted that was only because the inquiry was led by a former Labour candidate.