On 11 March 2016, the day that slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reported a damning story of graft and money laundering involving the Managing Director of Allied Newspapers Adrian Hillman, he left his office in Valletta carrying the hard disk of his desktop computer that possibly contained incriminating evidence, The Shift can reveal based on documents seen.
Although the hard disk and its contents were the property of Allied Newspapers, the company never got the hard disk back and did not report the incident to the police. Allied Newspapers had not wiped the disk to remove its contents before Hillman walked off with it.
Sources said the police, who visited The Times of Malta offices in Mriehel searching for evidence, asked for the hard disk they are still seeking.
Hillman’s hard disk and its contents are deemed instrumental in charges of money laundering expected to be launched shortly against him as well as the OPM’s former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. It seems likely others will face charges too.
The Shift sent a list of questions (below) to Allied Newspapers on the matter. Managing Director Michel Rizzo said the organisation would rather not comment on a “sensitive” issue.
Three days after the March 2016 revelations by Caruana Galizia, Hillman resigned from his directorships at the company but remained on its books receiving his full salary. This lasted until he voluntarily resigned, claiming unfair dismissal.
While Allied Newspapers, publishers of The Times of Malta, refuted Hillman’s claims of unfair dismissal, it did not fight the claims in court. Instead, an out of court settlement was reached, the details of which have not been made public.
An internal probe on the graft allegations was never published. Asked if the conclusions had been provided to the magistrate conducting the inquiry, Allied Newspapers said it “will continue to co-operate fully with the police investigations regarding the Schembri-Hillman case, as it did during the magisterial inquiry conducted by Magistrate Josette Demicoli”.
The Shift revealed that both Hillman and Schembri were expected to be arraigned in court facing charges of money laundering and graft. In a lengthy post on social media, Schembri revealed the conclusions of two magisterial inquiries and said The Shift’s reports were correct. He announced he had requested an investigation on The Shift for this reason.
The post was intended as a distraction as Schembri filed a Constitutional case through his lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo 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.
The inquiry was launched in 2017 after the Opposition Leader at the time, Simon Busuttil, presented eight box files with evidence he said showed “a textbook case of money laundering”.
A year earlier, the police were presented with evidence from an investigation by the country’s anti-money laundering agency, the FIAU, but the police never acted on the findings.
The evidence by Busuttil was presented in the midst of a snap election called by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat as the Panama Papers revelations swept the country. Muscat secured a victory for the Labour Party, with conclusions of several inquiries only coming to the fore now, almost four years later.
So far, the police have already spoken to a number of people including Keith Schembri’s father, Alfio (a co-director in his son’s business ventures), Malcolm Scerri (another business partner), Adrian Hillman’s wife, Velislava, and Vince Buhagiar the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers (before Hillman).
Arraignments are expected soon, despite Keith Schembri’s legal manoeuvres. Senior legal sources told The Shift the police can still prosecute Schembri and others, independently from potential court proceedings resulting from the case filed by Schembri in the Constitutional Court.