UPDATED: Allegations about Keith Schembri to be investigated by another magistrate
A new development has occurred in the allegations which PN Leader Simon Busuttil has made, in which he is accusing Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna of corruption. After listening to Dr Busuttil’s testimony, Magistrate Aaron Bugeja concluded that the case is different to the case about the allegations that Egrant belongs to Michelle Muscat. The Leader of the Opposition and Mr Schembri’s lawyer Dr Edward Gatt also gave their respective versions of this new development. .
In his ten page decree, Magistrate Bugeja said that after listening to the sworn testimony and reading the documents submitted by the PN Leader, Dr Simon Busuttil, as well as the replies given by Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna, he has decided that this case is not related to the allegations being made by Daphne Caruana Galicia on which his inquiry is based. In the decree, it was stated that Mr Schembri said that it was at the Magistrate’s discretion whether to investigate the allegations made by Dr Busuttil, while Mr Tonna said he has no problem with an investigation while once again denying that any crime had been committed.
The Magistrate said that the alleged facts raise the possibility of a crime having been committed and therefore there are the necessary prerequisites for an investigation, although the request had not been made as it is done normally by the Commissioner of Police or the Attorney General. Magistrate Bugeja concluded that, from the facts presented at this stage, including documents which may be admissible, there are the pre-requistis for an investigation against Schembri and Tonna.
The decree gave the two men two days to appeal this decision by the Magistrate, and to ask the Court for it to be revoked. If this appeal is not filed, or if the Court decides that there should be an investigation, then the name of the Magistrate leading the inquiry needs to be chosen by poll.
Reacting to this decree, Dr Busuttil said that the Magistrate had decided that from the facts presented to him there was enough for in investigation into the alleged crimes of kickbacks and moneylaundering. He said that this decision means that the PM’s Chief of Staff, the person closest to the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, is formally under investigation for criminal acts. He said that the same applies to the PM’s consultant, Brian Tonna.
Dr Busuttil said that he expects that, after this new development, a Magistrate should be immediately chosen to start the criminal investigation so that Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna can be arraigned in Court on charges of kickbacks and money-laundering. The PN leader said that at this stage, there was not the slightest doubt that Joseph Muscat should step down because his place was not in politics.
He said that this development continues to confirm that the general election on 3 June is not a normal election, but an extraordinary one, in which we have to chose whether our country should be led by a person who is up to his neck in serious allegations of corruption and money-laundering by those around him.
Speaking in front of the court house on behalf of Keith Schembri, his lawyer Dr Edward Gatt said that in effect what this means was that Magistrate Bugeja could not continue to hear the allegations presented by Dr Busuttil. Dr Gatt said that while the Magistrate’s decree could be appealed, after he spoke with Mr Schembri, the latter said he did not wish to contest the decree but wanted the inquiry to take place as requested in the decree by Magistrate Bugeja.
A Government statement said that through this court decree, Magistrate Bugeja would no longer be hearing the allegations brought forward by Dr Busuttil against Keith Schembri and one needed to see whether this case should be heard in front of another Magistrate.
The Labour Party said that the Court decree had confirmed that the Leader of the Opposition had not presented any evidence against the Prime Minister. The Labour Party has described this as pre-electoral mudslinging by a Leader of the Opposition who was desperate.