Commissioner for Standards can’t investigate Keith Schembri’s €1.5 million loan to The Times

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler tells Arnold Cassola he cannot investigate anything that happened before 30 October 2018

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler (left) was asked by Arnold Cassola (top right) to probe Keith Schembri's loan to the publishers of Times of Malta, a case that goes back to 2012
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler (left) was asked by Arnold Cassola (top right) to probe Keith Schembri's loan to the publishers of Times of Malta, a case that goes back to 2012

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, George Hyzler, said that there is no basis to investigate Keith Schembri’s loan to the Times’s publisher Progress Press.

In 2012, Schembri had granted a loan of €1.5 million via Kasco Ltd—of which he was a director—to Allied Newspapers and Progress Press to aid them in paying back substantial monies they owed to the same company.

Former Alternattiva Demokratika leader Arnold Cassola recently wrote to Hyzler, asking him to investigate this on the basis that it breached the Code of Ethics since Schembri is now the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

“If persons occupying high and important offices can be involved in such loan operations, our democracy is threatened,” Cassola wrote.

Hyzler returned with a dismissal, saying that there was nothing he could do since such a loan was granted back in 2012.

“I am precluded by law from investigating anything that happened before 30 October 2018, the date on which the Standards in Public Life Act came into force,” Hyzler wrote to Cassola.

Despite this curtailment to his office’s powers, Hyzler still wrote a length reply to Cassola, explaining how Schembri had even provided his loan to The Times’s publisher before he became the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

“While I do believe that it’s a deficiency in our laws that persons of trust are not obliged to make a declaration of assets in the same way that parliamentary secretaries and ministers do, Schembri had publicly declared his loan to the biggest private media house in the country, even if this occurred late,” Hyzler said.

Schembri’s declaration came in May 2016, four years after the loan was granted.

His declaration was in response to The Times reports which had said that Kasco was a loss-making company and that it had funded the Labour Party’s 2013 political campaign, which he categorically denied.

Hylzer declared in his letter to Cassola that he had even undertaken research with the Malta Business Registry that showed how Schembri had resigned as a director of Kasco on 15 March 2013, even though he remained an ultimate beneficiary owner.

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