Keith Schembri’s police report ‘falls flat on its face’ after magistrate’s decree – Jason Azzopardi

The shadow justice minister insisted that rather than uphold a part of Simon Busuttil’s request the magistrate had accepted it ‘in its totality'

Azzopardi said that the magistrate had upheld the request 'in its totality' despite not being obliged to
Azzopardi said that the magistrate had upheld the request 'in its totality' despite not being obliged to

Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi has said that the fact that magistrate Ian Farrugia has upheld Opposition leader Simon Busuttil’s request for an investigation into the Panama Papers meant that for the first time since the leaks, a “criminal investigation” will be held. 

Azzopardi stressed that the fact that the magistrate had upheld the request “in its totality” meant that the police report filed by OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, where he accused Busuttil of “fabrications and calumny”, had now fallen “flat on its face”.

“I specify that the request was upheld in its totality, because the magistrate could have accepted the Opposition leader’s request as it concerned some but not all of the suspected persons,” Azzopardi said during a press conference at the Party's headquarters.  

Magistrate Ian Farrrugia this morning issued a decree where he upheld Busuttil's request for an inquiry into Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, among others, alleging that they broke money-laundering laws by opening offshore accounts in Panama.

In their replies, the accused alleged that Busuttil has no reason to submit the inquiry since other similar inquiries exist and that Busuttil was not clear in his criminal allegations. Legal specifications were also unsatisfactory, the five replies argued.

“The magistrate has confirmed that which Simon Busuttil has been saying from the start,” a triumphant Jason Azzopardi said. “This is a decision that merits investigation.”

In his rebuttal of the five replies, Simon Busuttil made reference to an FIAU report that investigated money laundering, particularly in relation to the Panama Papers leaks. The 2017 report outlined the legal deviations that raised suspicion, starting from March 2013.

On why, given the seriousness of the accusations, Busuttil had waited this long to file a request which could have been filed over a year ago, Azzopardi highlighted the fact that the Attorney General is the only person with the powers to start an investigation and that he had failed to do so for more than a year.

Asked whether this meant that the Opposition leader had waited in order to prove a point about the Attorney General at the expense of the country, Azzopardi said that Busuttil had only found out about the existence of FIAU reports into the dealings of Schembri in recent months.

"Although we are living in a dystopian novel, the inquiry shows that the Opposition today has been proven right," Azzopardi said. "We aren’t living in a normal country. If we were, Joseph Muscat, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri would have already resigned."

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, chief of staff Keith Schembri, Minister Konrad Mizzi, auditors Brian Tonna and Karl Cini as well as Kasco Limited employee Malcolm Scerri and former Allied Newspapers Limited managing director Adrian Hillman have all been accused within the inquiry. 

PN leader hopeful stands by Busuttil

Former justice minister and Nationalist Party leader hopeful Chris said this morning stood in solidarity with Simon Busuttil, hailing magistrate Farrugia’s decree a “landmark decision that vindicates the actions taken by current PN leader Simon Busuttil, and shadow minister Jason Azzopardi.”

“These actions are not based on convenience, and are not aimed at obtaining any political mileage…Our duty as representatives of the Maltese and Gozitan citizens is to ensure that the law applies to each and every single of us,” Said said, adding that “Muscat’s closest allies” had absolutely disregarded the rule of law and the transparency, honesty and law-abiding behaviour required from them.

“Today’s decision by Magistrate Ian Farrugia proves that had Simon Busuttil and Jason Azzopardi not acted in this strong, assertive manner, these criminal doings would have been buried,” Said reiterated.

Said said that faced with such circumstances, he would always stand up for what is right. “This is how I have always directed my political career and how I intend to carry on if elected to lead the Nationalist Party.”

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