[WATCH] PN to seek Keith Schembri’s removal through parliamentary motion

Adrian Delia will attend Saturday’s anti-corruption protest by NGO Repubblika

The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri refused to answer questions on 17 Black during libel proceedings he instituted against former PN leader Simon Busuttil
The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri refused to answer questions on 17 Black during libel proceedings he instituted against former PN leader Simon Busuttil
Opposition presents motion for Keith Schembri's removal

The Opposition is calling on the Prime Minister to shoulder political responsibility and remove his chief of staff Keith Schembri in a parliamentary motion presented today.

Opposition leader Adrian Delia said the Nationalist Party parliamentary group unanimously agreed on the motion seeking Schembri’s removal from public office after what happened in court on Monday.

“The situation is surreal… in our country there are people who use the courts to give the impression that certain things aren’t what they are but then escape testifying. This is an admission of wrongdoing,” Delia told journalists after presenting the parliamentary motion.

Adrian Delia says the Prime Minister must shoulder responsibility and remove Keith Schembri
Adrian Delia says the Prime Minister must shoulder responsibility and remove Keith Schembri

The PN leader told MaltaToday that he and the party would also be joining Repubblika’s protest on corruption next Saturday.

This would be the first time that Delia would join in what is slated as the other half of the divided PN in an anti-corruption protest.

“The behaviour of Schembri goes against the principles and standards that this House agreed to when it voted on the new Office for the Commissioner for Standards,” Delia said.

Read the motion below:

He added that with Schembri retaining public office, he was not just damaging the Labour Party or the government but the country as a whole.

He admitted that he wasn’t hopeful that the motion would pass when presented in Parliament.

“Of course, when you form part of a parliamentary minority, you have to use all the legal tools to challenge this and we will. I have met with angry Labourites who claim that they’ve had enough of corruption in public office. The Opposition will do everything possible to fight corruption,” Delia said, adding that if the government continued to be mired in scandals, Malta would risk blacklisting. 

“Corruption isn’t just a theoretical and courtroom concept. It has a price that we are all paying for. Government is reduced to being heavy-handed with the weak and feeble with the strong powers that sway it. The government is compromised,” he added.

The late Daphne Caruana Galizia had accused Delia of laundering money by depositing his client’s funds derived from a Soho prostitution racket in a Jersey bank account he owned.

Asked why he had dropped his libel cases on Caruana Galizia’s estate, Delia said that after the journalist was murdered any cases would be shouldered by her children.

“My libel cases had now become the responsibility of Caruana Galizia’s children. The EU Commission for Human Rights had written to the Prime Minister himself telling him that such cases, where the children are punished, are an attack on freedom of expression,” Delia said, justifying his decision to drop the libel cases.

On Saturday’s protest by Repubblika, Delia said the PN will be attending and will be encouraging others to do likewise.

Background

The PN is seeking to remove Schembri from his public post as chief of staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, after the latter withdrew a libel case not to answer questions on 17 Black.

On Monday, Schembri withdrew libel proceedings against former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil after refusing to answer questions on Dubai company 17 Black that had been indicated as a target client for his Panama company.

17 Black is owned by Yorgen Fenech, one of the shareholders in the Electrogas power station.

After being warned repeatedly by the court that he could not refuse to answer, Schembri decided to drop the case, avoiding the possibility of being cross-examined on the matter.

Schembri had filed the libel against Busuttil in 2016 when Daphne Caruana Galizia and subsequently, the Panama Papers expose, outed the chief of staff’s Panama company.

Schembri has insisted he had legal advice not to answer on 17 Black because the matter was subject to a magisterial inquiry where he was willing to answer any questions.

After Schembri’s dramatic court withdrawal, Delia told Parliament that the chief of staff had every right to safeguard his rights but could not expect to continue serving in his public role when he refused to answer about 17 Black.

Schembri has always denied wrongdoing and has so far refused to quit.

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