As the mainstream media are being drip-fed leaks by the police on ongoing high profile arrests, including those of disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat’s right hand man Keith Schembri, no charges have been brought against them so far and it seems that this may not necessarily happen, according to legal sources.
Several criminal lawyers who spoke to The Shift said that while all the country is talking about these arrests, which have been dragging on for a number of weeks, no concrete results have yet been reached. They expressed concern that this may be just “a show” by the police to echo the government’s mantra that “the institutions are working”.
Admitting that trading in influence and money laundering offences are “very difficult to prove”, legal sources told The Shift that while it is obvious that the police are deliberately leaking information to the media about who, how, where and when certain people would be picked up to be interrogated, this might be just a PR exercise to show that they are doing something.
“So far we only have claims and sensational pictures of Mizzi and Schembri being dragged for an interrogation. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and if no charges are finally presented to follow these high profile arrests, this will all fizzle out to be just another police show,” one lawyer said.
On Tuesday evening, The Times of Malta reported that Mizzi had been taken in for questioning by the police “as part of what is understood to be an investigation into trading in influence”. He was released after 24 hours.
Schembri is also being questioned as part of the same probe, according to the same newspaper.
Lawyers pointed to another instance, two months ago, when Schembri was filmed entering the police headquarters under arrest in connection with money laundering allegations and passport kickbacks together with Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, among others.
Despite an attachment order, also leaked to the media, issued against dozens of companies ordering the freezing of assets of Schembri’s Kasco empire, no one has been charged yet.
“So, the result so far is that after three years of a magisterial inquiry and an attachment order, Schembri, Tonna and Cini are still free and not facing any charges in court. That is what finally matters. Televised arrests do not mean anything,” another lawyer added.
As Schembri’s mobile phone remains ‘missing’, it was reported today that Mizzi and Schembri have been called in to reply to questions over messages they exchanged with Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of plotting the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Mizzi has dumped his lawyer and close associate Aron Mifsud Bonnici.
While he was minister, Mizzi always used the services of Mifsud Bonnici in every legal controversy in which he was involved.
This was reciprocated by the appointment of Mifsud Bonnici and his wife, Katrina Borg Cardona, on taxpayer-funded public boards under the political remit of the disgraced Minister.
Mifsud Bonnici and his associates also received tens of thousands of euro in direct orders and tenders from Mizzi’s Ministry and quangos under his responsibility.
Mifsud Bonnici, who also used to regularly travel with Mizzi, including to Montenegro and China, has now been replaced by Carol Peralta, a 68-year old former magistrate who has not actively practised law for a number of years.
The association between the disgraced former minister and the former magistrate, a self-declared member of a freemasonry lodge, is a new development.
Mizzi’s co-defender, Jean Paul Sammut, is also a surprise as he is known as developer Charles Polidano’s (Caqnu) right-hand man who has never made a name for himself as a criminal lawyer.