“I trusted him almost with my life”

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri today withstood a six-hour-long probe by the Public Inquiry board.

The public inquiry is tasked to determine whether the state did all it could to prevent the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. At the end of the sitting, the Board read a declaration avowing its intent to carry on with the sittings in spite of the fact that Prime Minister Robert Abela had said that the Board had to conclude by the end of the year.

16:33 The sitting ended here. Thank you for following Newsbook.
Sylvana Debono
16:28 The board read a declaration written by the son of well-known leftist author Frans Sammut. In it, he said that he had been asked by Joseph Muscat to contribute to a blog against Daphne Caruana Galizia. He said that he had found a pretext to refuse.

Mr Justice Michael Mallia read a statement by the Inquiry board. He said that during the inquest, the board had held 85 sittings in which the testimony of 100 persons was heard. He added that the board would appreciate being left to conclude the hearings with peace of mind. "The search for the truth should never be subjected to terms which could condition behaviour," said Judge Mallia. The Board accepted the depositions of the Caruana Galizia family and notified that the next sitting will be held on the 29th January 2021.
Sylvana Debono
16:27 Mr Justice Said Pullicino said that these are not state procedures. Dr Comodin Cachia said that the Caruana Galizia family was deeply surprised that the State had no submissions to make to the board. Even worse, she said, the officer from the State Attorney’s office was now moving to stop the family from making its deposition.
Sylvana Debono
16:23 Dr Chris Soler for the State Attorney takes the stand. Dr Comodini Cachia said that she would be remiss in her duty if she did not make written submissions at that point. Dr Soler said that the State Attorney’s office had only observer status and that the depositions were not adversarial in nature. Dr Comodini Cachia said that the officers from the State Attorney’s office had been present in all the sittings and that they could have intervened at any time. She said that id the state Attorney did not want to put in written submissions, the Caruana Galizia family did.
Sylvana Debono
16:16 Keith Schembri steps down from the witness stand.
Sylvana Debono
16:15 Schembri said that if he were to point to a mistake which the administration made, it was that they had been too accessible to too many people. “Winning an election by 40,000 in a place like Malta causes more harm than good. As campaign manager I used to give, give, give,” concluded Schembri.
Sylvana Debono
16:07 Schembri added that all projects, around the world cause controversy…One story which I will share: a child with cerebral palsy could not be operated in Malta. I dropped everything to see that he got help. I am not saying this to brag, it’s just that that is the kind oof work I used to do,” said Schembri
Sylvana Debono
16:05 When asked about Chelgate, the international PR company, Schembri said that they had been put on the case after the assassination of the journalist so that the company could hel the government on an international level. “I said this and will repeat it again: mud and shadows will be cast but a situation will be assessed by its results. For as long as we were in government under the Muscat administration, when asked if they were living a better life a minimum of 64% said yes” said Schembri.
Sylvana Debono
16:00 Schembri said he had three types of friends: those that arrive to the door of the house, those that can access the kitchen and those who have the run of the house. When asked about the category occupied by Muscat, Schembri replied: “I nearly trusted him with my life”. And Fenech? “Much less than that” came the reply. Schembri said that he got to know of the leak of the Electrogas emails during the electoral campaign.
Sylvana Debono
15:55 Dr Azzopardi refers to the ‘Where is the laptop’ campaign which he said started in April 2018 in the Beddingfield blog. Schembri denies involvement. He also negates the possibility of a correlation between the blog of this former OPM official and the time when Il-Kohhu
Sylvana Debono
15:53 Schembri said that he had not been informed of Konrad Mizzi’s frequent trips to Montenegro. He added that the planning for the 2017 electoral campaign had started in February or March 2017. Dr Azzopardi interjected: So Daphne was right. “I never said she was wrong” retorted Schembri who added that the data gathering showed an electorate in favour of labour.
Sylvana Debono
15:48 The former Chief of Staff said that in the PN leadership race he had sometimes fed the PL media with stories. Looking through his file, Schembri remarks that he had done his homework. With hands slightly a-tremble, Schembri reads from articles published in The Malta Independent, Matatoday and Newsbook, articles which alleged that the murder of the journalist had been linked to fuel smuggling. Schembri said that he therefore excludes that the link to fuel contraband had been a Labour Media initiative.
Sylvana Debono
15:43 Schembri said that in the farmhouse of Yorgen Fenech in Ħaż-Żebbuġ, he say the Prime Minister, Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, and Silvio Valletta. He added that he was certain that Fenech Adami, Alfred Sant, Austin Gatt and Joe Saliba, among others, were invited to the farmhouse. He added that even Adrian Delia and Pierre Portelli were regular guests at the farmhouse.In answer to further questions he denies that there was a meeting between Fenech, Schembri Muscat discussing Melvin Theuma. He said that he never discussed anything with Muscat about the case of Yorgen Fenech.
Sylvana Debono
15:40 Following questions by Azzopardi, Schembri insists that the Electrogas plan was not hatched before the election of 2013.
The Board asks whether Fenech was being informed by someone else. Schembri seems unsure whether to answer or not. He said that Fenech did not ask him how he (Schembri) knew that Fenech was going to Sicily because Fenech is not stupid
Sylvana Debono
15:36 When Dr Azzopardi said whether Schembri was conscious that he was tipping Fenech during their 20-minute phone conversation on the eve of Fenech’s arrest, Schembri said that there was no reason why he should tip Fenech about investigations as Fenech was overseas for a whole year.
Schembri says that on 26 November he met Muscat to tell him that he was determined to resign. The lawyer noted that Fenech was arrested on November 20 and asked why did Schembri wait till November 26.
Sylvana Debono
15:34 Dr Jason Azzopardi now starts asking questions. He wants to know why Projects Malta was always the responsibility of Konrad Mizzi. Schembri answers that decision was the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
Sylvana Debono
15:32 Answering more questions, Schembri said that he does not remember the precise date when he came to know that Melvin Theuma had some involvement in the assassination.
Sylvana Debono
15:30 “Was it between October and December 2017”, asks Dr Azzopardi. “Certainly not” was Schembri’s answer adding that he came to know a long time after.
Sylvana Debono
15:27 He excludes that he was informed of the alleged involvement of Theuma during those three months. He confirms that he had conversations with Joseph Cuschieri, Silvio Valletta, Kenneth Azzopardi and Yorgen Fenech.
Sylvana Debono
15:23 The Board asks whether he is aware that during the night-long Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister had been told that he had been betrayed. Schembri insisted that he never betrayed the Prime Minister and never hid anything from him. He added that it is not true that he was warned that he would be interrogated or that he was a person of interest to the police. He said that he and Muscat are still friends but that now they do not meet every day.
Charmaine Attard
15:22 Schembri said that before he resigned he was not in any way called in by the police. He added that Muscat told him: “They arrested a friend so I do not think I should stay on as Prime Minister.”
Charmaine Attard
15:21 Schembri said that last year he was not asked to resign by Joseph Muscat.
Charmaine Attard
15:20 Schembri said that there are different ways of how one can offer a resignation. "I was successful in business before I entered the political arena. There were many times when I said that all this was causing him unnecessary trouble and there were times when he was determined to stop. However, when I look back at all the good things we did for the country I say that the suffering my family went through was worth it.”
Charmaine Attard
15:19 Dr Comodini Cachia said that despite many problems Schembri kept his place as Chief of Staff at OPM. She then asks how many times he offered to resign.
Charmaine Attard
15:18 "Was it you who approved a billboard with Daphne's face for the electoral campaign?"

Schembri says that he was one of them.
Amy Borg
15:18 Schembri says he does not know how the conversation started.
Amy Borg
15:17 Dr Edward Gatt objects.
Amy Borg
15:16 Dr Comodini Cachia informs the witness that she will ask questions about a conversation between Muscat, Fenech and himself.
Amy Borg
15:14 As soon as he knew he asked him to stop attending meetings.
Amy Borg
15:13 Asked when was the first time he knew that Yorgen Fenech was a person of interest in the investigations related to the murder, Schembri said it was a big shock.
Amy Borg
15:11 Schembri then contacted Shapiro.
Amy Borg
15:10 He says that he first received a call from Mater Dei CEO Ivan Falzon who informed him that Daphne Caruana Galizia has been assassinated.
Amy Borg
15:09 Regarding the FBI investigations in relation to Daphne's murder, he had told the then PM that if they were not going to ask for foreign investigators the case will not be solved.
Amy Borg
15:08 Regarding the secret service meetings Shembri says he is willing to testify behind closed doors.
Amy Borg
15:07 He says he never attended a secret service meeting for which he was asked not to attend.
Amy Borg
15:05 "I think I do not completeley agree with what former Prime Minister said that she was or became irrelevant. For me she was relevant and how. My job was to lead the PL towards and electoral win and she helped me in that through her writing," says Schembri.
Amy Borg
15:04 The board asks Schembri about his relations with Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He takes a deep breath.
Amy Borg
15:04 He says this was not part of the Labour Party's strategy.
Amy Borg
15:03 He says he had no input in the page Taste Your Own Medicine.
Amy Borg
15:01 Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino refers to Daphne's blog and the whole campaign against her.

Schembri asks for a specific example.
Amy Borg
15:00 Regarding Glenn Bedingfield's blog Schembri says that not always did he appreciate his blog as some were quite sensitive.
Amy Borg
14:59 He says that he used to be faced by journalists who used to pressure him to get a television programme. He then mentions Saviour Balzan.
Amy Borg
14:58 "Did you have journalists which were close to you?"

"Like in everything else", replies Schembri.
Amy Borg
14:55 Regarding the legal actions against Caruana Galizia from Henley and Partners, Muscat had said "I do not object" while Schembri replied "Good move Chris"

"Why did you discuss the legal action against a journalist with Henley and Partners?" asks Dr Comodini Cachia.

Schembri replies that he felt that Kalin was doing nothing wrong in defending his interests.
Amy Borg
14:54 Reference is now being made to e-mails between Schembri, Muscat, Klain and Minister Owen Bonnici.
Amy Borg
14:54 He explains that the scheme under PN government had to be changed as it was not working in the manner it should have.
Amy Borg
14:53 Schembri says he met him severla times in Malta and the first time was before IIP scheme, but they did not speak of it.
Amy Borg
14:52 Questions have now turned on Christian Kalin from Henley and Partners.
Amy Borg
14:52 He confirms he was a guest at Ali Sadr's wedding.
Amy Borg
14:50 Dr Comdini Ccahia quotes a piece from one of Daphne's blog in which the journlaist quotes a person who had access to Ali Sadr's phone.

Who was this person? asks the lawyer

"The blog does not mention any names and I will not reveal sources."

"Maria Efimova was the person who lied on this in the same way she lied on other issues," says Schembri.
Amy Borg
14:48 Dr Comodini Cachia is now asking questions on Ali Sadr and his connections to him.

Schembri says he had one bank account at Pilatus Bank.
Amy Borg
14:45 Dr Comodini Ccahia asks Schembri if he has his emails saved somewhere, such as on iCloud.

He replies that he has los alot of information he needed.
Amy Borg
14:44 Dr Comodini Cachia: "Who introduced Cheng Chen to Nexia BT?"

Schembri immediately replies: "Definately not me."
Amy Borg
14:43 Dr Comodini Cachia: "How did you get to know Cheng Chen?"

Schembri says he met him in Shanghai during a meeting in which 30 other people were present.

He denies having any commercial relations with Cheng Chen.
Amy Borg
14:42 Dr Comodini Cachia: Did you ask Fenech why was the project taking so long and that it was not bankable?

Schembri: "No, No."
Amy Borg
14:41 Dr Comodini Ccahia mentions the objections by Camilleri on the bank guarantee for the project.

Schembri says he was not present during the negotiations.
Amy Borg
14:39 Alfred Camilleri gave his testimony during the public inquiry earlier this year; https://newsbook.com.mt/en/finance-ministry-permanent-secretary-to-testify-in-public-inquiry/
Amy Borg
14:38 "Alfred Camilleri was always a shoulder for the government t rely on, says Schembri.

Alfred Camilleri is the permanent secretary within the Ministry for Finance.
Amy Borg
14:37 He also says that he never conducted business with Konrad Mizzi.
Amy Borg
14:36 Dr Comodini Cachia: "Did you and Mizzi go to Nexia BT together?"

Schembri: "No" He denies that he introduced Nexia BT to Mizzi. "I was a client and a friend to them."
Amy Borg
14:35 Keith Schembri was asked if Konrad Mizzi had ever approached him to discuss the viability of the projects. He replies that he did so only in the presence of other Ministers.
Amy Borg
14:34 "There were things which could be solved and other which were beyond my control," says the witness.
Amy Borg
14:33 He now says that Minister used to approach him whenever they encountered any difficulties in their projects.
Amy Borg
14:32 Schembri replies that the OPM needs to get involved in everything.
Amy Borg
14:31 Dr Comodini Ccahia reads the e-mail.

It refers to a meeting with Yorgen Fenech. In this e-mail there was a 'go-ahead'for the loan to be granted to this project.

She asks Schembri how come he was copied in ths e-mail.
Amy Borg
14:30 Dr Comodini Ccahia asks the witness if he is involved as explained in a particular e-mail?

In this e-mail reference is made to Keith Schembri.
Amy Borg
14:29 "My involvement was to listen and follow what is said during Cabinet meetings," says the witness.
Amy Borg
14:27 He says that he was involved in another meeting, apart from the cabinet meeting – regarding Electrogas once when foreign legal representatives were present, banks aswell and thi was after the tender was awarded.

Schembri says that probably it was during Summer 2013.
Amy Borg
14:26 He says that he would like the board to see the cabinet minutes to confirm what he is saying.

Schembri: "I do not want to contradict Minister Scicluna, but I am sure of I am saying."
Amy Borg
14:25 "The government would not agree on such a major projet without involvin the Minister for Finance," states Schembri.
Amy Borg
14:24 Keith Schembri says that the Finance Minister was involved in this project from the very start.
Amy Borg
14:23 Dr Comodini Cachia asks about his involvemet in the powerstation project. Schembri says that his involvement was like in any other project.
Amy Borg
14:23 We are back in session.
Amy Borg
13:40 The sitting will continue at 2pm.
Amy Borg
13:40 He says he always admired former PM Joseph Muscat, said Schembri.
Amy Borg
13:37 The kitchen cabinet:

"There was no kitchen cabinet. But as chief of staff I divide the cabinet in three; The Ministers who have the motivation, the parliamentary secretaries who also have that certain motivation and other whom you need to give them that extra push. If everyone loves you that you would not have succeeded. There were times I was strict," says Schembri.
Amy Borg
13:31 Once the agreement is signed, the entity keeps a copy of the agreement and not the Office of the Prime Minster and not even the Cabinet, says Schembri.
Amy Borg
13:28 He says that the NAO approached him a day before the report on Vitals was published.
Amy Borg
13:28 He says that for example, he prepared the roo for the AUM signing, for the Shanghai Electric, etc.
Amy Borg
13:26 Dr Comodini Cachia is now reading from the NAO report on Vitals and said that according to this report the meeting for Vitals was convened by former Chief of Staff OPM.

Schembri says that he wished Dr Comodini Ccahia to read his affidavit.
Amy Borg
13:24 He says that for the signing of the agreement he prepared a room at Castille.
Amy Borg
13:23 Dr Comodini Cachia mentions a number of names in relation to the Vitals agreement to confirm whether Schembri knows or met with them.
Amy Borg
13:22 Schembri confirms that he met with Ram Tumuluri from Vitals, when the project was explained, during a presentation.

This was after Vitals was granted the concession.
Amy Borg
13:20 Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino says that Prof. Edward Scicluna in his testimony said that the Vitals agreement was not discussed at cabinet level.

Schembri says that no project is given the go-ahead if not approved by the cabinet.
Amy Borg
13:19 He says that he had no involvement in the Vitals agreement and presents an affidavit.
Amy Borg
13:17 Keith Schembri explains that his job is to follow decisions taken by the cabinet and to help in negotiations between ministries in interministerial projects.

He also says that every chief of staff attends the cabinet meetings.
Amy Borg
13:16 Schembri is referring to some notes in his file.
Amy Borg
13:14 He confirms that after Panama Papers, he managed to open bank accounts in other banks in Malta.

Dr Comodini Cachia: "But you did not manage to find new auditors?"

Schembri: "No, the processes are different."
Amy Borg
13:13 He says that none of his holdings/ assets have been transferred, everything is still in Malta.
Amy Borg
13:11 Schembri says that after the Panama Papers were revealed he wanted to double-check things and contacted Mossack Fonseca.

Dr Comodini Cachia: "And you did not inform your auditors?"

Schembri says that they gave him all they had that is why he wanted to double check.
Amy Borg
13:10 Schembri says that in 2017 he contemplated his resignation, many times.

Dr Comodini Cachia says she has further questions related to Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
13:10 The board says that the issue is not related to the inuqiry.
Amy Borg
13:08 Since Keith Schembri said he never did any business with Fenech, Dr Azzopardi mentions a contract regarding the selling of a piece of land in Mellieha in 2017, between Keith Schembri's father and Yorgen Fenech.

Dr Azzopardi asks him to confirm or not.

Schembri asks to see the document.
Amy Borg
13:07 Schembri confirms that Fenech went to Bangladesh.
Amy Borg
13:06 February 2019: Communication between Schembri and Fenech regarding how a friend of his was handed an important role within the government in Bangladesh.
Amy Borg
13:03 Schembri: "I had lost trust in local banks. Let me say something personal…My ID Card was for sometime blocked from Mater Dei system. they could not access my data. I lost trust."

The Times of Malta article was written by Jacob Borg.

The board asks if he went after a journalist in the same way journalists chase him.

Schembri: "No no for sure not."
Amy Borg
13:02 Dr Azzopardi is now referring to a Times of Malta article in 2016 – Both Mizzi and Schembri wanted to avoid local banks.
Amy Borg
13:00 He says that he spoke about his problem with BOV with various people including Konrad Mizzi.
Amy Borg
12:59 Schembri says that when all this came out he asked Nexia BT to stop the work but he could not stop their direct orders.
Amy Borg
12:57 Dr Azzopardi: "Is it true that Nexia BT had an office at Castille?"

Schembri: "This is not true, at all. They used to be there as any other auditors."
Amy Borg
12:55 Dr Azzopardi: "Why did Nexia BT continue to receive direct orders from the government despite the harm they brought upon th country?

Schembri: "I cannot answer that question."

Dr Azzopardi: "Was there some form of obligation towards Nexia BT?"

Schembri: "Not at all"
Amy Borg
12:54 Schembri says that he is 100% sure that 17 Balck belonged to Fenech between April 2016 and February 2017.
Amy Borg
12:53 Dr Azzopardi asks Schembri if he can indicate the months before February 2017, he knew to whom 17 Black belonged to.
Amy Borg
12:51 Dr Azzopardi asks if he had informed Muscat about the owner of 17 Black or if PM Muscat had asked him.

The board tells Schembri to answer the questions.

Schembri: "He did not ask and I did not feel the need to explain it to him."
Amy Borg
12:51 Schembri says that yes, at that point he knew it belonged to Yorgen Fenech.
Amy Borg
12:49 Dr Azzopardi says that Daphne Caruana Galizia mentioned it for the first time in February 2017. "So at that point, you did not know to whom it belonged?"
Amy Borg
12:46 Dr Azzopardi: "When was the first time you were aware of who the owner of 17 Black was?"

Schembri: " do not really remember. I knew when it was revealed."
Amy Borg
12:44 Dr Azzopardi: "Is it true that you refused to meet with the Pana Committee, why?"

Schembri: "Yes, I refused."

He explains that he had given a number of reasons why he did not attend in a letter sent to the committee.
Amy Borg
12:43 Dr Jason Azzopardi is asking the questions now.
Amy Borg
12:42 We are now back in session.
Amy Borg
12:40 Until now he answered questions related to the Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
12:40 The former Chief of Staff within the office of former PM Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, is giving his testimony.
Amy Borg
12:39 We are back inside courtroom 20.
Amy Borg
12:23 The board will take a 15-minute break.
Amy Borg
12:21 Schembri: "I was the chief of staff and was in a dilemma as I was also in business."

"I did not need a company in Panama. I imagine that the company was opened in Panama because Mossack Fonseca was based in Panama.
Amy Borg
12:17 Chief Justice Emeritus mentions the falsified signatures.

Schembri: "In Egrant there were falsified signatures, I am happy you are mentioning it."

Dr Comdini Cachia asks him if hi his case there was this issue. He says that to his knowledge he is not aware of them.
Amy Borg
12:17 Dr Comodini Cachia is reading from a document related to Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
12:13 Asked about crane currency, Schembri says that his company provides maintenance to the machines owned by crane.
Amy Borg
12:12 He confirms that during his time as Chief of Staff he received over €400,000 in contracts from the OPM – all related to the government printing press.
Amy Borg
12:12 Schembri says that Mizzi was not part of this team, "That is for sure."
Amy Borg
12:11 Dr Comodini Cachia asks him if he was part of the group working n the energy project. Schembri confirms but does not remember who was part of this team.
Amy Borg
12:10 The questions have now shifted on the PL's general election campaign in 2013.
Amy Borg
12:08 She now mentions the Egrant report and reads a passage from the report where his companies are mentioned.

Dr Comodini Cachia tells him that he said he does not remember if Colson is his.

He says that from its name he thinks it might be his.
Amy Borg
12:06 He says that there is a particular letter that mentions the Caruana Galizia family but in his letter, the Caruana Galizia family was never mentioned.
Amy Borg
12:05 Schembri says that there is another letter which is not identical to his.

Dr Comodini Cachia: "How do you know the difference?"

He says that Daphne Caruana Galizia had mentioned it.
Amy Borg
12:04 Dr Comodini Cachia: "Why did Schillings send an identical letter in your name and that of Konrad Mizzi's?"

Schembri: "You are wrong, it is not the same. It is in the public domain and you can look it up."
Amy Borg
12:01 She now asks him about the questions sent by ICIJ regarding his comapany.

He confirms that he approached Schillings, a British company, to contact Mossack Fonseca, to take care of the issue.
Amy Borg
11:59 Dr Comodini Cachia passes on a document to the witness.

The document states that no funds were to be deposited in Tillgate,

This is the opposite of what Schembri said today.
Amy Borg
11:56 The statement says that 17 Black and Macbridge were included.

The board asks what "were included means"

Schembri insists that it was not him who included them.
Amy Borg
11:55 She asks him what is the truth if what he has stated on April 18th 2018 or today in court.
Amy Borg
11:54 Dr Comodini Cachia quotes from a statement issued by Schembri during his time as Chief of Staff, on 17 Black and Macbridge.
Amy Borg
11:52 The board says that he is considering to summon Dr Adrian Delia.
Amy Borg
11:51 He is now reading from Daphne's blog – on allegations against Adrian Delia.
Amy Borg
11:49 Schembri: "I do not want to influence the board but if I understood correctly, one of the terms of reference of this inquiry was related to impunity and something that directly links to this is the money-laundering accusations against Adrian Delia."
Amy Borg
11:48 Schembri: "It's easy to accuse someone and make allegations about someone. For four years she wrote and wrote, the proof is now out, no kickbacks."
Amy Borg
11:46 Schembri: "The greed we used to see fro people who always want more was incredible. I might have taken shortcuts. I was wrong? Maybe."
Amy Borg
11:45 The board asks if he ever helped Fenech to do business.

Schembri: "He gave me supports and many others helped me. He was always there."
Amy Borg
11:43 "My friend Yorgen had many friends and many wanted to do business with him…I was seeking to venture maritime and infrastructure business with him," says Schembri.
Amy Borg
11:39 Schembri: "I never had any business with Fenech"

Dr Comodini Cachia smiled and Schembri replies that there is nothing funny.

Dr Comodini Cachia: "Its funny because the Chief of Staff tried to make fun of his country"

Schembri: "I did no such thing. I am proud of this country. I am not the one who talks against his own country in international institutions abroad."

The board objects.

Schembri: "She made it political"

Schembri's lawyers: "She is provoking him"
Amy Borg
11:38 Dr Comodini Ccahia again asks Schembri about his business plans with Fenech in Bangladesh.
Amy Borg
11:35 Asked if Fenech was his friend, Schembri says that he has lots of friends and that he never denied he knew Fenech.
Amy Borg
11:34 Schembri says he never had any business with Yorgen Fenech.
Amy Borg
11:28 Dr Comodini Cachia asks Schembri if he had any business interests in Bangladesh.

He says that he saw Bangladesh as a country that was still progressing and had great potential.

"I knew that Yorgen Fenech was to invest there and one of the reasons was to exploit his contacts there," says Schembri.
Amy Borg
11:27 Dr Gatt, representing Schembri, says that his client would like to answer a question about the administration, during the time he was chief of staff, behind closed doors.
Amy Borg
11:26 Chief Justice Emeritus: "Your problem is that the funds which you had to receive had to come from a shady source."
Amy Borg
11:25 "You created alot of unnecessary trouble," says Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino.

Schembri: "For me, yes, but then I look at the economy of this country and I can say that a corrupt country does not create a surplus."
Amy Borg
11:23 "I never expected to remain Chief of Staff for so long," says Keith Schembri.
Amy Borg
11:22 Dr Comodini Cachia: "But since it was temporary why did you choose such specific areas?"

Schembri: "Although t was temporary I had to say why I opened it."
Amy Borg
11:21 Schembri says he did not write that. His lawyers say that the aim of the company was then changed to recycling and tourism amongst others.
Amy Borg
11:20 Reading from a document, Dr Comodini Cachia says that the company was intended to offer international consultation services.
Amy Borg
11:17 Dr Comodini Cachia asked him to provide an explanation on why he needed the company in Panama.
Amy Borg
11:17 Regarding Nexia BT, Schembri says that he has known them for years. "I grew up with them and I trust them."
Amy Borg
11:14 Regarding his health condition (Cancer) Schembri says that if it was for him he would have resigned as he did not feel like dealing with all this.

In January he was to receive his last Chemotherapy treatment when the hijack of Afriquiyah Airways took place. The Prime Minister then called him and told him he was needed.

From then on he involved himself again.
Amy Borg
11:13 Chief Justice Emeritus says that all this does not make sense since the owner of 17 Black was a friend of Schembri and Muscat's aswell.
Amy Borg
11:12 The board: "But the Prime Minister was a good friend of yours"

Schembri: "There is a difference between being friends and being great friends"
Amy Borg
11:11 Dr Comodini Cachia: "So you are saying that you knew that Joseph Muscat was being asked questions by the media on 17 Black for three years and you never informed him?"

Schembri: "I never did anything behind the Prime Minister's back"
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11:10 Asked when exactly he informed Muscat, Schembri says he does not remember.
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11:09 It was after the media revealed it belonged to Yorgen Fenech, he informed Muscat, says Schembri.
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11:08 17 Black: "W never discussed the issue in such detail," says Schembri referring to Muscat after the Panama Papers were revealed.
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11:06 Schembri: "Can I ask you something"

Dr Comodini Cachia: "No"

Schembri: "It is normal for a businessman to have companies outside of Malta"
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11:05 Dr Comdini Cachia: "Therefore you are saying that it is obvious that Muscat knew of your structures in Panama and New Zealand.

Schembri: "After the Panama Papers"
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11:04 Schembri's lawyer Dr Mark Vassallo intervenes and says that the questions are now turning on an investigation that is still underway.
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11:03 Dr Comodini Cachia asks him if he knows how many companies he owns.

Schembri says not 100%.
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11:02 Dr Comodini Cachia mentions to Schembri Colson Services Limited and asks him what was his connection to it.

Schembri says that the name is familiar.
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11:01 Schembri says that he had similar companies in the UK and Cyprus. In the British Virgin Islands, he had opened accounts not companies.

He says he does not remember if they were in his name or on his companies' name.
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10:59 Schembri insists that 17 Black was his potential client after he had to exit the political sphere.

The board: "Potential client which had t transfer $2 million?!"
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10:58 He says that according to law he dod not need to inform the Inland Revenue Commissioner about his financial plans and his company in Panama.
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10:54 Schembri says that his BOV trust had his financial assets and that he started transferring his holdings bit by bit.
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10:53 "It was not in his interest to know," says Schembri.
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10:52 I never gave any instructions for my company to be similar to that of Konrad Mizzi's.
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10:51 Asked when was it when he acquired Tillgate, Schembri says he does not remember as he has around 20 more similar to that company.
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10:50 Chief Justice Emeritus says that if he discredits Nexia BT then they have to discredit them in everything.
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10:50 Madame Justice Lofaro advises the witness to be careful in his replies.
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10:48 Dr Comodini Cachia asks Schembri if maybe he can find a particular document he had signed, regarding the panama papers.

Schembri: "They took my mobile phone"

Dr Comodini Cachia: "Your phone was not seized"

Schembri: "They seized my laptop"
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10:45 The board: "You are admitting that they caused you great harm"

Schembri: "They could say the same thing, that I caused them trouble. I hate judging in the same way I hate when I am judged."
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10:44 Madame Justice Lofaro tells him that she cannot understand why he continued working with them.

Schembri says that it is not easy to find auditors.
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10:43 Dr Comodini Cachia asks when was the first time he approached Nexia BT to assist him.

Schembri says, "When I was 17, that is 28 years ago."
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10:42 The board: "A temporary company, look to what it led"

Schembri: "Do you think I was happy with all that happened?"
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10:41 The board notes that there is documented evidence which says that Tillgate had to be active with immediate effect but in today's testimony Schembri said that its aim was for him to use it after his time in politics.
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10:40 Madame Justice Lofaro: "You built an empire on your own and you let someone like them work for you?"
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10:40 Madame Justice Lofaro says that if it was her she would have fired them.
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10:39 Schembri: "I gave the benefit of the doubt"
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10:38 The board: "Why didn't you fire the auditors if they identified Macbridge without your authorisation?"
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10:38 "This is not credible," says Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino.
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10:37 He says that he had no idea how Macbridge became 'his client' but his auditors never found records of the company.
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10:36 Schembri: "I did not say that."
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10:36 Dr Comodini Cachia: "Was Macbridge invented by Nexia BT?"
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10:34 Schembri: "17 Black was identified by myself"

He confirms that he knew to whom 17 Black belonged to but does not know the owner of Macbridge.
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10:32 Dr Therese Comdini Cachia: " You said that it was Nexia BT who determined the number of funds that were to be deposited in your company. Did they also decide the client from whom the funds were to be deposited?"
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10:32 Dr Comodini Cachia starts asking the questions.
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10:30 Tillgate: "I was already Chief of Staff when this was opened," says the witness.
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10:29 Egrant: "I have no reason to doubt the inquiry. Egrant was one of the shell companies under the name of Brian Tonna which was never used," says Keith Schembri.
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10:27 Asked if he discussed the Panama Papers with Konrad Mizzi, Schembri says, Of course.

He continued saying that they never took decisions together as they work differently.
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10:26 "I was naive because I kept thinking with the mind of a business man" – Schembri
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10:25 The board: "This is something that led to your resignation and that of Joseph Muscat."

"For me these are mind-boggling," says Schembri.
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10:24 "That trust had nothing to do with Konrad Mizzi. I gave the instructions to my auditors but did not give them a date," says Schembri.
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10:23 The board asks if he and Konrad Mizzi acted together since the accounts were opened on the same day.
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10:23 He says that he has to shut down his other financial structures.
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10:21 Schembri says that more than one company was opened.

He says that the date when he was given the instructions is not the date when the companies were opened.
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10:19 He says that Mossack Fonseca told them that the most efficient way was to open an account in Panama which had to be temporary.

His auditors advised on the amount.

The board notes how it was possible that the accountants and his auditors chose the number of funds to be transferred to this account.
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10:18 He is now explaining how and why he opened his secret company in Panama.
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10:17 He mentions 17 Black and Chief Justice Emeritus tells him is trying to evade the questions.
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10:16 "My kids are 15 and 17-years-old and they can't even receive their stipend," explains Schembri.
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10:16 He mentions how after all this the court ordered the freezing of his assets.
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10:15 He says that Magistrate Galea Sciberras said that she could not understand how in 2011 I gave a loan of €100,000 to Brian Tonna.
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10:14 Schembri also says that he has asked for this inquiry to be published.
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10:11 "During the whole course of this inquiry, the people who gave their testimony invented things about me. For the past three years, it has been reported that I received kickbacks from the passport scheme. There is the inquiry report on the allegations which says that there is no prima facie evidence against me" – Keith Schembri.
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10:11 Schembri looks into his file and takes out a paper.
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10:10 Chief Justice Emeritus Said Pullicino says that the power station project is considered a 'shady deal.'
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10:09 Schembri says that they met at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York and that he was told that Siemens will be part of the consortium in the power station project.
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10:07 The former Chief of Staff says that they used to travel to New York and he was once approached by the Permanent Secretary of Germany.
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10:07 The board asks about a meal at Portomaso before 2013.

Schembri says "Never."
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10:06 Madame Justice Lofaro: "Maybe lunches or dinners…?

Schembri: "I never discussed the energy project with any of them."
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10:04 The board: "Do you exclude that prior to the 2013 general election you met with Gasan, Apap Bologna and Fenech?" Be careful in your reply.

Keith Schembri: "I never spoke to them"
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10:04 "It was a culture shock," says Schembri as he explains his transition from the private to the public sector.
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10:03 Schembri says that he does not want to sound arrogant but in Malta, things do not need to take a long time to get done, when compared with abroad.
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10:02 The board says that one cannot understand how and why was the power station project not discussed with the stakeholders.
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10:01 "This was a simple power station intended to reduce emissions and the cost of production, says Keith Schembri.
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10:00 Schembri insists that there was a need for an idea of a project but not the plan for the project.
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09:59 The board mentions to Schembri that they think that the 'energy deal' was already settled before the general election.
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09:57 The witness continued saying that as head of the electoral campaign the main promise was to address utility bills.
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09:55 "The interconnector on its own could never be a replacement. The country could not depend solely on it." -Schembri
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09:54 Schembri says that there were more than one projects being proposed.

"We take it with a pinch of salt," says Schembri as he continued saying that the government was evaluating what can and cannot be done.
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09:52 The board of inquiry is now asking questions about the Electrogas deal.
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09:51 Schembri says he resigned as a Director of his companies to serve as Chief of Staff.
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09:50 After the 2013 general election, Schembri says that Muscat told him that he needs him by his side.
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09:49 When Muscat decided to enter politics, he asked for Schembri's assistance, says the witness.
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09:49 Schembri says that he worked with Joseph Muscat for at least 10 electoral campaigns.
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09:48 He has been in business for the past 20 years, says Schembri.
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09:48 he says that he spent two years working at the BOV and after he decided to set up a business.
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09:47 Schembri tells the board that he intends to answer all the questions he is asked.
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09:39 Schembri says he is under investigation in relation to a chat with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech and that he is also being investigated in relation to alleged kickbacks from the IIP Scheme.
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09:38 The board advises Schembri that if he feels he should not answer certain questions he can, since he is under investigation.
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09:37 Keith Schembri says he is under Police bail.
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09:37 Keith Schembri takes the witness stand.
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09:36 Dr Peter Caruana Galizia and his son Paul entered the courtroom.
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09:35 Keith Schembri is asked to enter and take the witness stand.
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09:34 The board has just entered the courtroom.
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09:29 Lawyers Jason Azzopardi and Therese Comdini Cachia, who are assisting the Caruana Galizia family, are present inside the courtroom.
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09:25 The witness, Keith Schembri, is waiting outside the courtrroom.
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09:25 We are live from courtroom 20.
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09:25 Good morning and welcome to Newsbook.com.mt live blog.
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June 2020: Schembri’s testimony during the compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech
Watch: “Yorgen never informed me about any murder” – Schembri