Keith Schembri, chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister was expected to testify in libel proceedings against Simon Busuttil, after the former Nationalist leader had accused him of receiving kickbacks.
The suit revolves around the speech delivered by the then PN leader on March 6, 2016 in a national protest in Valletta against corruption.
But the case was adjourned as lawyers argued over whether Mr Schembri should also testify over secret company 17 Black. The company had been named in leaked e-mails as one of two companies that would pay $2 million to Mr Schembri’s and Konrad Mizzi’s Panama companies
This a minute-by-minute rundown of Thursday’s case:
11.27am: Simon Busuttil leaves the court room followed some time later by Mr Schembri.
11.26am: The court is putting off the case to March 7 to deliver a decree specifically on this application. This means that Keith Schembri does not need to be cross examined on Thursday.
11.25am: Magistrate Francesco Depasquale has to decree upon today’s application whether there are to be questions on 17 Black.
11.17am: If you’re catching up with us now, the two lawyers from the opposing sides are arguing over whether the court should also discuss 17 Black.
Mr Schembri’s lawyer says the respondent cannot expect to dictate proceedings – there’s the law of procedure and it must be followed.
“It’s not that my client doesn’t want to testify but the information he (Dr Busuttil) gets from here he will try to use elsewhere.”
The lawyer says he had been present at the cross examination of Konrad Mizzi in separate libel proceedings (although he was not involved as lawyer) and had noted that it had been a fishing expedition. He did not want a repeat in this case.
11.14am: Dr Fenech replies that Panama Papers mentions secret companies, one of which belongs to Keith Schembri.
“Schembri must answer. He filed the libel, now he must allow us to put questions even if documentation emerged later… What Busuttil had alleged was proved right, the pieces of the mosaic were falling into place,” the lawyer charges.
Dr Gatt rebuts: “These are populist remarks.”
11.12am: Mr Schembri’s lawyer says (the secret company) 17 Black had not been mentioned by the time of the March 2016 protest. So today the court should rule that questions on 17 Black should not be allowed.
Dr Busuttil’s lawyer Peter Fenech laughs: “Of course, it’s a laughing matter. Anyone who has nothing to worry about need not try to avoid such questions.”
11.05am: Dr Gatt explains there is another libel concurrently against Daphne Caruana Galizia. Says there was a “mix-up” way back. As for Thursday’s application, Dr Gatt says that both Mr Schembri and Dr Busuttil also testified, referring to Panama papers issue.
11.05am: Keith Schembri is present in the court room together with lawyers Edward Gatt, Mark Vassallo and Robert Abela.
Dr Busuttil had testified in October 2016 in libel proceedings instituted by Mr Schembri, who insisted he never received kickbacks.
10.40am: Even before the case started on Thursday, Dr Busuttil accused Mr Schembri through a tweet of running away since Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered.
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