Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of disgraced and ousted Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, together with his father Alfio Schembri, Malcolm Scerri and Robert Zammit – all involved in his various business activities – have filed an urgent constitutional case following the conclusions of a magisterial inquiry recommending criminal charges against them and others, including the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers.
Through his lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo, Schembri is asking the court to declare as a matter of urgency that the inquiry concluded by Magistrate Josette Demicoli into kickbacks involving Adrian Hillman be declared null.
Legal sources told The Shift that Schembri’s is a last-minute legal attempt to try to stifle criminal procedures against him before they even start.
The Shift is informed that the police are expected to initiate criminal proceedings against the former chief of staff, as well as Hillman, the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers, and others, including directors of Progress Press – publishers of Allied Group and clients of Schembri.
Senior legal sources told The Shift that while the constitutional case is “legally hollow”, the police can still prosecute Schembri and others, independently from potential court proceedings resulting from the case filed by Schembri in the Constitutional Court, if accepted.
The filing of the ‘urgent’ court procedure this morning was done at the same time as Schembri turned to social media in a lengthy post announcing his expected arraignment. He defined the results of the magisterial inquiry as “political persecution”.
Schembri is challenging the inquiry conclusions on two main grounds: the lack of fair trial, and his distrust of an expert he claims is biased.
The former OPM chief of staff blamed the “Nationalist establishment” that could never accept his strong relations with The Times of Malta, which falls under Allied Newspapers. He alleged that the pending prosecution against him is some form of payback. Boasting about the “bridge” he claims to have built with the newspaper, he said it was “finally listening”.
“The bridge was so strong that The Times of Malta, for the first time in history, after years of a non-existent relationship with Labour, was ready to hear what Labour had to say,” former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s right-hand man said on Thursday.
In their constitutional case, Schembri and his associates also attacked The Shift, twice, for revealing news that the magisterial inquiry had been delivered to the Attorney General, while confirming that the reports were accurate. It is not the first time that government officials, current or former, have hit out at The Shift for reporting facts while attempting to defend themselves in court.
Schembri’s lawyers said the inquiry, which led to recommendations of criminal procedures against him, his associates, Adrian Hillman and directors of Progress Press, took too long to be concluded, included the work of an expert, which according to Schembri was politically biased.
Schembri also accused Magistrate Demicoli of bias as she “decided not to hear important evidence” in this inquiry. The inquiry, launched in May 2017, has taken almost four years to come to a close – years in which Schembri remained at the helm, pulling government strings in the midst of a swamp of scandals he faced thanks to the work of the press.
It was Daphne Caruana Galizia, brutally assassinated by a car bomb in October 2017, who first revealed Schembri had passed on to Hillman some €650,000 through various companies and bank accounts in various jurisdictions with low or non-existent money laundering oversight.