‘Corrupt Keith Schembri evaded justice’ – Busuttil unrelenting in the House

Simon Busuttil applauds Repubblika for organising anti-corruption protest on Saturday and urges Nationalist Party to do likewise

Nationalist Party MP Simon Busuttil
Nationalist Party MP Simon Busuttil

Keith Schembri's decision to withdraw his libel case against former PN leader Simon Busuttil rather than face cross-examination was proof that the Prime Minister's chief of staff is indeed corrupt and trying to evade justice, Busuttil said. 

"Every MP and every Maltese citizen can now safely turn to the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri and tell him that he is corrupt," he said. 

Speaking during a parliamentary adjournment on Tuesday, Busuttil once again lashed out at Schembri and said that since he had dropped his libel against him and would no longer be forced to testify, Schembri had ostensibly evaded justice.

"He dropped the libel. It's because he couldn't defend himself which means that whatever I said in 2016, when I said he was corrupt, it was and still is the truth," Busuttil said.

Schembri withdrew a defamation suit against the former PN leader in order not to be questioned about the 17 Black offshore company and although the court ordered him to participate in a cross-examination, Schembri said doing so would incriminate him in an ongoing magisterial inquiry.

READ ALSO: Keith Schembri withdraws 17 Black defamation suit to avoid being questioned

Around 15 PN backbenchers — including Jason Azzopardi, Karol Aquilina and Mario de Marco — were behind Busuttil as he delivered his speech, reminiscent of his 2017 electoral campaign, which called for the resignation of Schembri and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi for being implicated in the Panama Papers scandal.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had not asked either to resign then and they still retain their office, which drove Busuttil to reiterate in parliament on Tuesday that Muscat must likewise have skeletons in his closet.

"Joseph Muscat left him there so Muscat is as corrupt as he is. Had he been my chief of staff, I would have fired him immediately: out, out, out!" Busuttil said. 

He described the situation in the courtroom on Monday when magistrate Victor Axiak ordered Schembri to testify and to answer lawyer Jason Azzopardi's question on how he is linked to 17 Black.

"There were security personnel from Castille, lawyers surrounded him in court, one couldn't see him. He was determined not to testify. The court ordered him more than three times to testify but he refused, even when it said that there would be consequences if he didn't. It didn't even bother with Schembri's excuse that he might incriminate himself if he did.

"He had a choice: to go to prison or to answer the questions. Instead, he dropped the defamation suit. He basically admitted that what we have been saying is the truth," Busuttil explained.

He added that late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had also been correct when she first broke the Panama Papers story implicating Mizzi and Schembri. He recounted on how the day Caruana Galizia had been assassinated by a car bomb outside her house in Bidnija, Schembri had been in court, testifying. 

"Just minutes before she was killed, she wrote how Schembri was a crook and pleading that he wasn't a crook. An email in April revealed how the Panama companies of Mizzi and Schembri were supposed to be getting €5,000 a day from companies 17 Black and MacBridge. Just last year, the owner of 17 Black was discovered to be Yorgen Fenech, the owner of the Delimara power station," Busuttil said.

Displaying disbelief and looking back at his colleagues, Busuttil asked how Mizzi and Schembri could still remain in office after such misconduct and said that the one allowing them to stay had to likewise be a 'crook.'

He concluded by saying that NGO Repubblika was organising an anti-corruption protest on Saturday and urged all members of the Nationalist Party and the Opposition to join.