A Maltese court has ordered that all assets held by the former Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, including that of his companies, and Nexia BT managing director Brian Tonna, be frozen.
Madam Justice Edwina Grima issued the order following a request for the Attorney General. Other names mentioned in the court order, beyond relatives of Tonna and Schembri, is Nexia BT partner Karl Cini.
The assets have been frozen over suspicion that Schembri and Tonna are guilty of money laundering. A magisterial inquiry into a passport kickbacks scheme between the two men was recently concluded. The Attorney General did not publish its conclusions.
According to a leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Tonna transferred two €50,000 payments through Pilatus Bank to Schembri.
Schembri is facing allegations that the payments were kickbacks related to the sale of Maltese citizenship to a family of three Russian nationals.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing, with Schembri claiming that the €100,000 was the repayment of a personal loan given to Tonna while the former underwent separation proceedings.
The loan was repaid through Willerby Trading, a British Virgin Islands shell company secretly owned by Tonna. Willerby Trading is named in the court order.
The same FIAU report also raised suspicions of the loan document presented to the bank to justify the payments after finding no trace of the original loan payment by Schembri to Tonna.
The money-laundering investigation covers Schembri, his spouse, his parents, his companies, his business partners, their family members; along with Tonna, Cini, Nexia BT’s Manuel Castagna (who worked on the VGH project), Nexia BT’s companies, and a number of offshore companies.
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