Former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri have been barred entry to the US on orders of the Secretary of State.
The statement by the US State Department refers to “credible information that Mizzi and Schembri were involved in a corrupt scheme that entailed the award of a government contract for the construction of a power plant and related services in exchange for kickbacks and bribes” – a reference to what could only be the Electrogas project.
“Their actions undermined rule of law and the Maltese public’s faith in their government’s democratic institutions and public processes,” the statement adds, listing also Mizzi and Schembri’s immediate family members (Mizzi’s wife, Sai Mizzi Liang, and his two minor children; Schembri’s wife, Josette Schembri Vella, his daughter Juliana Schembri Vella, and his minor child).
The statement cites the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, which allows the US Congress to bar entry to the US to any foreign public officials who have been directly or indirectly involved with significant corruption and/or a gross violation of human rights.
Both Mizzi and Schembri have been under national and international scrutiny for their involvement in a number of deals signed and pushed through by the two during their time in power as part of the administration of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. All three were forced to resign as a result of public pressure in 2019.
While Schembri has since been arraigned on money laundering charges in relation to The Times of Malta scandal, no action has been taken against all three on a number of other scandals exposed.
Mizzi was recently in the spotlight due to his defiant, filibustering appearances in front of the public accounts committee which sought to grill him about his involvement in the Electrogas deal.
Both Mizzi and Schembri had opened offshore companies to receive €5,000 a day in kickbacks from a Dubai-based company originally known as 17 Black, owned by former Electrogas chief and Daphne Caruana Galizia murder suspect Yorgen Fenech.