After a brief pause in the wake of his arraignment in March 2021 on corruption, money laundering and other charges, former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s chief of staff Keith Schembri is once again receiving direct orders from the government through a company he owns.
Even though Schembri’s companies are in administration as the disgraced former prime minister’s right-hand man awaits trial on various government corruption charges, the Water Services Corporation issued a €10,000 direct order to a Kasco Group company last May, just a few weeks after the general elections.
The public corporation purchased some €10,000 worth of photocopy paper directly from a company owned by Schembri and his father, Alfio Schembri, instead of by public tender as obliged by law, according to the Government Gazette.
WSC CEO Ivan Falzon was known to be close to Schembri before his fall from grace. Falzon was appointed Mater Dei CEO during Muscat’s first administration and later moved to the Water Services Corporation before transferring to Infrastructure Malta last July.
While serving as Muscat’s right-hand man, Schembri’s various companies made a killing from government tenders and direct orders for the supply of paper.
Various companies connected to the Kasco Group and that of his wife, Josette Vella Schembri, had been showered with direct orders and lucrative tenders in Muscat’s time with Schembri at the OPM’s helm.
When asked at the time about the blatant conflict of interest, Schembri had said he was not directly involved in the running of his businesses as he had transferred the day-to-day operations to his father.
Following his resignation in 2019, the police started acting on Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports that had been shelved, connecting Schembri to a corrupt deal with Allied Newspapers.
It was only in 2021 that Schembri and two managing directors of Allied Newspapers – Adrian Hillman and Vince Buhagiar, among others – were accused of corruption, money laundering and fraud over the purchase of a multi-million-euro printing machine for Progress Press.
The case is ongoing.
Last September, Schembri was also charged, along with Muscat’s former head of customer care and Rabat Mayor Sandro Craus, with the misappropriation of funds and other criminal offences in connection with the phantom government job given to Melvin Theuma, the middleman in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Yet despite Schembri’s name repeatedly cropping up in connection with the Caruana Galizia assassination case, the police have still not pressed charges against him.