Freezing of Keith Schembri’s assets should have happened in April 2016 – David Casa
The freezing of the assets of Keith Schembri, the long-time Chief of Staff of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, should have happened in April 2016, PN MEP David Casa told European Commissioner Vera Jourova in a meeting on Wednesday.
Following the strong statements on the commitment toward the rule of law and the protection of journalists by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the State of the Union speech last week, Casa held a meeting with Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency.
During the meeting, Casa updated Vice-President Jourová on the latest developments in Malta, namely the freezing of assets of Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, and what the EPP described as “the political interference by the Prime Minister in the Public Inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.”
Schembri and Tonna were arrested on Tuesday soon after their assets and those of the companies they are involved in were frozen over suspicions of money laundering. Schembri, Tonna, and another Nexia BT partner Karl Cini, were arrested in connection with a recently concluded magisterial inquiry into allegations that Schembri received €100,000 in kickbacks from Tonna on the sale of Maltese passports. Schembri was re
leased under police bail on Tuesday night.
“Over the past years, Malta’s institutions have been hijacked by a criminal cabal intent on protecting corrupt politicians to the detriment of honest citizens. The setting up of the Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was opposed at every turn by the Maltese government. It must now be allowed to continue its work in tranquillity, free from any political interference. The Board should be able to continue their work for as long as they deem it necessary,” Casa told Jourová.
The EPP said that Casa and Jourová also discussed the latest developments regarding Keith Schembri.
“The freezing of assets should have happened four and a half
years ago, in April 2016, when the Panama Papers were revealed. If the authorities had done their job back then, Daphne would still be alive today,” Casa said.
Casa also reiterated his call for additional funding for media houses that have been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “At a time when we need the free press more than ever, they are under most strain,” Casa stated.
Casa and Jourová also discussed the Commission’s long awaited plans to address abusive SLAPP practices. Casa welcomed the Commission’s commitment to tackle this issue and gave the Vice-President assurances of the European Parliament support for legislation that will put an end to these practices.