Tista' taqra bil- Malti.
Disgraced former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri confirmed under oath that the 2017 snap election was planned well before slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia linked the third offshore company, Egrant Inc., whose ultimate beneficial owner was not shared via email, belonged to the wife of disgraced then prime minister Joseph Muscat.
Muscat had asked the duty magistrate to investigate the allegations that Egrant was owned by his wife. The inquiry did not find any links to the Muscats.
Taking the witness stand on Monday, Schembri confirmed that the snap election was planned in February – March 2017, well ahead before 20 April when Caruana Galizia published a blog post titled: “Declarations of trust in Pilatus Bank safe: Egrant Inc shares held for Michelle Muscat”.
On 17 May of the same year, Caruana Galizia published a post revealing that Partit Laburista’s campaign domain was registered on 7 April. She had pointed out that it was at least one month before the story on Egrant Inc broke that it had already been decided “somewhere in the middle of March” that a general election for between 27 May and 17 June would be called.
Muscat had announced a general election in May 2017, claiming that he was going to polls nine months early because of news reports that were destabilizing the country.
While testifying before the public inquiry, Muscat said that he took actions on the Panama Papers and removed people from office and the Egrant claim led to the snap election.
This however contrasts greatly with what his former chief of staff said on Monday who said that it was planned in February – March 2017 after data showed that Partit Laburista had the necessary support from the electorate.
Theuma gets commissioned for the murder
The go between the murder suspect Yorgen Fenech and the three alleged hitmen brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio and Vincent Muscat, Melvin Theuma, testified about receiving a phone call from Fenech and meeting him outside Blue Elephant restaurant in St Julian’s. The meeting during which Fenech contracted the killing was held at the beginning of April 2017.
Fenech had allegedly told him that she would be publishing damning information about his uncle, Ray Fenech.
Theuma in the meantime received a phantom job with the government for which he received pay cheques until the June 2017.
On the day, Muscat announced the election, Fenech called Theuma ordering him to stop everything.
He received a call to proceed with the assassination after Partit Laburista won the snap election June 2017. He had initially ignored Fenech, because the latter was drunk, Theuma had testified in court.
On 22 February 2017, Caruana Galizia published 17 Black – the name of a company incorporated in Dubai, in which photos Keith Schembri, John Dalli, Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi featured and which was accompanied without any text.
Schembri told the board of inquiry that he knew that the Dubai offshore company, 17 Black, whose owner was only made public following a joint investigation by Reuters and Times of Malta, belonged to Yorgen Fenech.
Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asked Schembri to indicate how many months ahead of February 2017 was he aware that 17 Black belonged to Fenech.
He also told the board of inquiry that Muscat did not ask him about the Dubai company, and he did not feel the need to disclose any information about it.
Under oath, Muscat said that he did not know who owned 17 Black and neither did he ask about it.
According to a December 2015 email, Panama companies owned by disgraced then minister Konrad Mizzi and Schembri stood to receive payments from 17 Black for services.
The email said the Panama companies expected 17 Black to be a “main target client,” with payments of up to $2 million expected within a year. The email made no reference to the gas power station energy scheme and there is no evidence the payments went ahead.
Caruana Galizia had received a cache of emails from Electrogas which she was investigating at the time of her assassination.
During his testimony, Schembri said that he got to know about the leak sometime during the campaign in 2017.
More than 60,000 emails were leaked to Caruana Galizia in March 2017, of these, some have already emerged in court during the public inquiry. Dr Azzopardi had explained in parliament that upon examining these emails, one would find that those who had to gain financially from the Electrogas contract, could have had a motive to silence the journalist.
A magisterial inquiry to track down the whistleblower was subsequently set up.
In Parliament, Azzopardi had revealed that on 28 April 2018 Electrogas wrote to the police asking them to open an investigation which is still ongoing, into alleged misuse of electronic equipment to gain access to data and confidential documents.