Judge orders investigation into leak of order freezing Schembri’s assets

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Judge Edwina Grima has ordered a police investigation into the leak of her order for the freezing of assets of former chief of staff at Castille Keith Schembri, top brass at Nexia BT and various people and companies linked to them, highlighting that the leak was a criminal offence.

The ruling was made at the request of Attorney General in the wake of the leak of the order, and the judge ordered that a copy should be sent to the Institute of Maltese Journalists “so that they may follow the ruling’s directions in the future.”

Judge Grima emphasised that she did not seek to impinge on journalists’ right to protect their sources. She observed that doing so could breach the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Malta and by the European Convention on Human Rights, and insisted that this right should always be safeguarded.

But the judge said that she was constrained to deplore “that at such a delicate stage of police investigations, details of the same investigations and above all, the original ruling, were published.”

She highlighted that the leak was a crime according to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Article 4 of the act states that “where an attachment order has been made or applied for, whosoever, knowing or suspecting that the attachment order has been so made or applied for, makes any disclosure likely to prejudice the effectiveness of the said order or any investigation connected with it,” is liable to a fine of up to €11,646.87 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months.

Judge Grima said that she was concerned by the leak and by the fact that it was even published in its entirety in some news sites, arguing that this could hinder police investigations.

Schembri, as well as Brian Tonna and Karl Cini from Nexia BT, were arrested within hours of the order leaked to the media.