Protest demanding Schembri’s resignation announced

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A protest demanding Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri resignation was announced on Tuesday afternoon.

17 Black: Schembri withdraws libel suit

The protest is being organised following what happened in court on Monday, when Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri avoided his day in court under cross examination by ceding his libel case against former Opposition and Partit Nazzjonalista leader Simon Busuttil. Schembri said that he dropped the case reluctantly.

17 Black: ‘I dropped the case against my will’ – Schembri

“It is all very well for Keith Schembri to plead his personal rights to avoid testifying in courts,” the anti-corruption NGOs said in a statement on Tuesday.

‘Either resign or be dismissed’- Delia to Schembri

The protest which is being organised by Repubblika and Occupy Justice will start near Pjazza Teatru Rjal at 7pm on Saturday. The day, 16th of the month coincides with the monthly protest vigil in which anti-corruption activists gather in Valletta demanding justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The vigil will be held after the protest.

“Daphne Caruana Galizia fought for justice. The best way to honour her memory is to convert sorrow into protest.”

Repubblika and Occupy Justice have called on civil society organisations and the entire community to join in the protest. Adding that the aims of the protests are ‘clear’ and ‘explicit’. The NGOs said that Schembri should immediately resign or the prime minister should dismiss him.

The NGOs referred to Schembri’s secret off-shore company which only came to light following work by a consortium of investigative journalists. It had emerged that the company drew up “business plans” with a Dubai-based company 17 Black. The latter, it was eventually revealed belongs to Yorgen Fenech who is a director at Electrogas.

“Everyone now is dodging the consequences. Keith Schembri ran away from the Court. Yorgen Fenech ran away from the country,” the NGOs said, adding that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi is ‘dodging every inquiry into his conduct’.

Further, the NGOs highlighted that Economy Minister Chris Cardona and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna are also the subject of a criminal inquiry, the second one ordered by a Court of Magistrates after the first attempt was quashed upon appeal.

Schembri cedes libel case

Then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil declared that Schembri had set up a secret shell company in Panama with corrupt intent, during an anti-corruption protest in March 2016. At that time little was know about the Dubai-based secret company 17 Black.

Schembri first took to the witness stand on 16 October 2017, hours before Caruana Galizia, who had first written about 17 Black, was killed in a car bomb.

Cross-examination by Busuttil’s lawyers was put off until a later date.

It was only later that details on 17 Black emerged as part of the Daphne Project.

Schembri failed to appear in court for cross-examination before a joint investigation by Times of Malta and Reuters shed more light on 17 Black. He then failed to appear again. When he eventually did turn up, he requested a decree to exempt him from testifying. In July, Magistrate Victor Axiaq ordered Schembri to testify in cross-examination.

On Monday, Magistrate Axiak said that he was approached by a third party on behalf of one of the parties, to recuse himself from the case. After making the news public, Magistrate Axiak did not recuse himself from the case. Schembri then asked the court to appeal before a different court. The Magistrate ordered Schembri to testify only for him to drop the case and avoiding testifying within minutes of taking to the witness stand.

Read also:

17 Black: Up to €8m passed through the company says Reuters to Newsbook

17 Black: “No evidence of an inquiry”; “Electrogas whistleblower spoke out”

“I don’t know anything about 17 Black or Macbridge” – Mizzi

17 Black: PM ready to resign if inquest finds him connected

‘EU doing what Malta didn’t about 17 Black’ – Casa