‘Move to freeze Schembri’s assets underlines importance of public inquiry’

The Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt has welcomed the court’s order to freeze all assets belonging to former chief of staff Keith Schembri and his family members as well as others associated with him.

Reacting, Omtzigt said he hopes this is a sign of a new determination from the authorities to resolve serious allegations of corruption.

“I welcome this decisive action by the new Attorney General. Hope that it is a sign of a new determination to resolve all long-standing allegations of corruption and bring an end to impunity. (I) Look forward to rapid further progress here and the other cases,” the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur said.

Meanwhile, Schembri is being interrogated under arrest at the police headquarters, according to Net News that reports that others are also being held for questioning.

The court has ordered the freezing of assets of Schembri’s Kasco top employees and senior people in Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT. It also lists Schembri’s family members, except one of his daughters, Francesca. It also leaves out some of the associated companies.

The court order, which followed an application by the Attorney General, was delivered on suspicion of money laundering.

On Twitter, Omtzigt echoed a common sentiment on social media that this decision took years to be taken, saying also that it underlines the importance of the public inquiry.

The same Council of Europe Rapporteur has recently written a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela arguing that it is not up to him to determine the time frame of an inquiry that is scrutinising the government as this would violate the principle of separation of powers that is fundamental to the rule of law.

This reaction came after Abela said he will give a one-time extension to the public inquiry.

The Opposition welcomed the court’s decision saying that it is now the Prime Minister who also has to shoulder political responsibility for defending Schembri.

“All those who dragged their feet should shoulder responsibility,” the PN said in a statement.

Former PN leader Simon Busuttil said that after three and a half years of insults, threats and attacks, the truth is finally emerging.

“The box files were not empty”, he said on Twitter referring to a campaign by the Labour Party that fed the line that the documents taken to court when the request for the magisterial inquiry into kickbacks to Keith Schembri was made were “empty boxes”.

The individuals listed in the court order are to provide the Attorney General with details of the source of the funds through which the suspects acquired their property and other assets within 24 hours. Any transfer of these assets to third parties is prohibited.

                           
                               

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