Common criminals

Keith Schembri, who not so long ago brushed aside journalists’ questions with the deprecating, spite-filled claim that he was paying their salaries, is set to be arraigned in court on criminal charges related to bribery and money laundering. We know this because he told us, in a long public dirge on Facebook, and not because the police made a public announcement.

I know I’m not the only person asking why. Why did Schembri, by most accounts a shrewd strategist, decide to go public in the way he did? Was he attempting to pre-empt and capture the narrative with his claims of innocent victimhood before a police statement marked him indelibly with the stamp of common criminal? Was his Facebook opus actually a secret message to someone, a hidden warning to some accomplice who had been expected to protect him?

Was it a rallying cry for all the downtrodden sons of the Labour movement to come to his aid? To gather in their thousands, as in the photograph he used to illustrate his post, and demand his release? A Trump-like call to arms, to whip his supporters into an outraged frenzy to participate in a KMB-style throwback event?

People with a reputation such as Schembri’s, for cleverness, calculated craftiness, arrogance, ambition at all costs and sly spitefulness, often find that their actions are invariably seen through those same lenses. Knowing what we know, albeit probably only a tiny fraction of the truth, there’s no way anyone with a working brain will have taken Schembri’s lament at face value. This was not a “poor me” in any real sense.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was the first to call out disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s government as a mafia organisation. She has, of course, been proved right a thousand times over, as has her insistence that at the heart of this organised crime regime sat Keith Schembri himself, whom she identified as the power behind the throne, the actual architect and driver of the plan to hijack all the country’s institutions, install puppet yes-men at their helms and thus protect themselves from ever having to pay for their crimes.

So, while Schembri wrote that his impending arraignment is related to accusations that he bribed former Allied Group Managing Director Adrian Hillman to award a multi-million euro contract to his company in 2008, something he dismisses as business dealings between two private companies, it’s important to keep in mind that all this happened around the time that the newspaper owned by Allied Group, The Times of Malta, began to change the angle of its reporting dramatically.

Indeed, this alleged underworld deal with Hillman, resulting in the “strong bridge” cited by Schembri between Malta’s then most-read newspaper and the Labour Party, rather than a straightforward contract between two private firms, actually begins to seem like the very foundation upon which the Muscat-PL organised crime network was first laid. In 2008 the PN won their third electoral victory in a row, by the slimmest of margins. In the aftermath of that election, Joseph Muscat was elected leader of the Labour Party, replacing Alfred Sant.

Muscat and his childhood friend, Keith Schembri knew they had five years in which to spark the Labour “revolution” and create their notorious “roadmap” for the years they were planning to “make the most of it,” as Mrs Muscat once memorably put it, while in power.

Their first move was to capture the most-influential newspaper on the island, the support of which would be crucial to winning over a vast swathe of voters who would otherwise never dream of voting Labour. It’s almost incredible to me that Adrian Hillman, who’d been entrusted with the management of one of the most respected, venerable institutions in Malta, could possibly have fallen for this tawdry ruse.

And yet fall for it he did, thus helping lay the ground for the Labour Party’s 2013 electoral win and the activation of all the crooked deals that were planned so carefully in the five years prior. The “octopus” was released, thanks in great part to Hillman and his pact with the devil, and its tentacles sent winding their way into every nook and cranny of the State’s institutions.

So, while Schembri has so far not been forced to face justice on the myriad other accusations that swirl around him, including the fact that he has been accused of being at the heart of the plot to assassinate Caruana Galizia, the news that he is to be charged in the Hillman case is hugely significant. Without the assistance of The Times of Malta, Muscat may never have succeeded in conning so many otherwise sensible people into voting for the Labour Party in 2013.

Without this sordid deal, the rest of Schembri’s and Muscat’s “roadmap” of corruption may never have seen the light of day. The Electrogas deal, which had been turned down by the previous PN government, would never have come to fruition; accused murderer Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black and the Panama companies owned by Schembri and Konrad Mizzi would never have exchanged a penny, Pilatus Bank would never have got a banking licence, the Vitals hospital swindle would never have happened. Muscat’s government has been accused of so many shockingly criminal acts that it beggars belief that their authors have managed to evade justice for so long.

Of course, what ifs are pointless in most situations. But in helping to underline the importance of certain events, what ifs are invaluable. And they bring us back to why Schembri chose to inform everyone via a Facebook post that he’s going to be arraigned on criminal charges in the coming days. Was he attempting to capture the narrative? Sending out a warning to someone? Calling out the die-hard Labour supporters to stand up and defend him?

Looking back at the last, horrendous eight years under the PL government, it seems to me that Schembri’s Facebook post was actually all three. Seizing the narrative, as he did in 2008 by entrapping Hillman in his own greed; issuing a threat, perhaps to Joseph Muscat, who has compromised himself a million times over protecting Schembri in the past, or even to Robert Abela, who was, after all, Muscat’s legal adviser before he replaced him as prime minister.

And at the same time, perhaps, his post was also an attempt to rally the troops, to ignite the outrage and indignation that one of their own, a Labour boy born and bred, is being “persecuted” by the amorphous “establishment” – though of course, up to just over a year ago, Schembri himself was not only an integral part of the “establishment,” but actually one of its most ruthless and powerful architects.

                           
                               
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Marc Sant
Marc Sant
7 months ago

I have always wondered why Allied Group has kept the whole Adrian Hillman affair under wraps. Allied Group paid Hillman handsomely for sitting on his backside for a year while he was on gardening leave and then settled an unfair dismissal claim with Hillman out of court. This is not the way that an employee which almost brought down a mighty old institution like The Times is normally treated.

Keith Schembri’s Facebook rant mentions that Allied Group may have wittingly or unwittingly defrauded Malta Enterprise. Did Allied Group under Hillman apply for and obtain funding from Malta Enterprise to set up a unrequired new printing press supplied by Keith Schembri’s Kasco? Was the paperwork used to obtain funding from Malta Enterprise (if this is what happened) “cooked”?

Winston Smith
Winston Smith
7 months ago

Excellent article! The author gives a superb analysis of Schembri’s modus operandi. This brings me to his ‘lost’ phone. The one that went missing just before his arrest and mysteriously switched itself on while ‘lost’. My hypothesis is that he wanted the news to get out that his missing phone (or his insurance policy) had switched on. Shrewd as he is this was a perfect way to get the attention of those who have lots to lose if he goes down: a) The phone was indeed not missing. b). The phone and its incriminating contents are perfectly fine.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
7 months ago
Reply to  Winston Smith

Labour trolls have been asking for a long time “Where is Daphne’s laptop?” Eventually, we got to know that Daphne’s laptops are safe with the German police and available to be accessed. But the trolls aren’t asking now ” Where is Keith Schembri ‘s mobile phone?. We don’t know if it is safe and certainly can’t be accessed.

Leonard Schembri
Leonard Schembri
7 months ago

Some of the truth will hopefully come out but I don’t think that the PL won the elections in 2013 only because, and I quote: “Without the assistance of The Times of Malta, Muscat may never have succeeded in conning so many otherwise sensible people into voting for the Labour Party in 2013.

carlo
carlo
7 months ago

notorious criminals were and are still lodged in castille.



Anna Briffa
Anna Briffa
7 months ago

Adrian Hillman would be a great catch right now. He must have dirt filed neatly away about everyone from Allied Group board and management to the members of government and hangers-on of the last couple of decades. He may even be micro-managing Keith Schembri’s rumoured database for the general embarrassment of bigwigs. Though a tired PN was set to lose the 2013 election especially with social media manipulation by Russian sources, most likely, Hillman was certainly a vital instrument to ensure a resounding PL victory became acceptable to certain echelons of Maltese society and the business world.

Martin Vella
Martin Vella
7 months ago

“I lost my telephone in the dead of night… at my home… somewhere…..” Famous last quotes by a disgraced OPM COS… so do we have to believe him in whatever he says or posts on fb?! He has transformed Castille into a nest of corrupt criminals, vipers and ultimately killers!

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