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Special rapporteur urges AG to take ‘effective action’ on inquiries

The Council of Europe's Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt
The Council of Europe's Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt. Photo: PACE

Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt has urged the Attorney General to take “immediate and effective action” on magisterial inquiries in a letter sent today as news emerged that the probe into kickbacks to the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff has been concluded.

Omtzigt reminded newly-appointed Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg that once an inquiring magistrate reports back to the Office, the AG will have to decide on how to act on their recommendations.

He pointed out that there seems to have been little action on previous similar reports, including the Egrant inquiry.

The Attorney General today confirmed the conclusion of the inquiry into whether Keith Schembri took a €100,000 kickback on passport sales from auditor Brian Tonna of Nexia BT. Yet she is so far refusing to release a copy of the report.

“No copies of the proces verbal will be released at this stage,” Buttigieg said in a letter to PN MP Jason Azzopardi who was acting as lawyer to former PN leader Simon Busuttil who had requested the inquiry.

The same office has also refused to reply to questions by The Shift on whether the Attorney General is willing to state the main conclusions of the inquiry and whether any legal action will be taken.

Azzopardi said on Monday morning that he had written to the Attorney General requesting that Busuttil be given a copy of the report, as had happened when former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was given a copy of the Egrant report.

“It is only by coincidence that we got to know that this inquiry had been concluded several days ago,” he said.

The request for an inquiry was made after a leaked FIAU report raised suspicions about two €50,000 transactions that passed between Tonna and Schembri using Pilatus Bank.

Assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had reported on Pilatus Bank’s links to money laundering, kickbacks to Maltese politicians and large transfers of money to members of the Azerbaijani ruling elite.

Caruana Galizia wrote that Nexia BT, the firm that set up Panama companies for Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, had received money in referral fees on the sale of Maltese citizenship to three Russians. Tonna had received the money into his account at Pilatus Bank. An internal transfer was then made to Schembri’s account in the same bank.

Schembri had claimed that the money was for a loan repayment.

Omtzigt said the case shows that Caruana Galizia was murdered because of her reporting on high-level corruption.

“These allegations also remain unresolved, despite the numerous ongoing magisterial inquiries. I understand that an Attorney General has various powers under the Criminal Code to ensure that magisterial inquiries are expedited and facilitated. I trust that you will use these powers to their full potential.”

Busuttil committed to publishing the report immediately if given a copy. PN MEP David Casa joined the call for the Attorney General to make the report public. “The Maltese public deserves to know the truth,” Casa wrote.

The Nationalist Party has also supported the call for full publication of the report. In a statement, the PN said the new Attorney General should recognise that her predecessor Peter Grech had failed to act on the Egrant inquiry and that she should lead by example.

No lesson left unlearnt

Former Malta police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar.

The police rot from the head down