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It’s Easy To Demonise Keith Schembri After Sucking Up To Him, Joseph Muscat Says

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Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has opened up about his relationship with Keith Schembri and has called out unnamed people for “demonising” his former chief of staff after sucking up to him while he was in power.

“It’s easy to demonise Keith Schembri. People who used to suck up to him for a thousand things, from a TV programme to a bit of work, have now discarded him,” Muscat said when interviewed on L-Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa tonight, drawing parallels between Schembri’s role and the one played by Richard Cachia Caruana as chief of staff to former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.

“Every government in the world will have people who are ready to take decisions and there aren’t many people like this. The easiest thing to do would be to sit behind a desk, read newspaper and don’t take decisions. Keith and many others made decisions and I’m not going to blame them. If there’s any responsibility to me shouldered, I shouldered it myself.”

Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has implicated Schembri in the murder, an allegation which forced both him and Muscat to resign from their roles last year.

Muscat tonight refused to weigh in on these accusations, stating he is confident justice will take its course.

“What I can say is that no one had implicated Keith to me, and the first time I heard his name brought up was when [Yorgen Fenech] made his police statement,” he said, later adding that the courts will decide whether Fenech is guilty and whether he acted alone.

Returning to the night Fenech was arrested after trying to leave Malta, Muscat said he had instructed Schembri to make sure he doesn’t escape after receiving a tip-off from the authorities.

“I coordinated with the AFM for them to be stationed at specific places and I told Keith Schembri to make sure he doesn’t leave. There would have been a problem if a suspect ended up fleeing the country.”

Muscat said his requests for foreign investigators to assist the police in the Caruana Galizia murder case showed he had nothing to do with the murder himself.

“If I had a finger in the pie, would I have shaken the world to solve this case? No one believed this crime was going to be solved. Daphne Caruana Galizia, Saviour Balzan and Frans Ghirxi suffered arson attacks back in 2006, an attack on the freedom of the press, but the culprits have never been found. Not even the burning of doors was solved, let alone car bombs, but we solved this case.”

He also confirmed that he has remained on friendly terms with Schembri, arguing that they have known each other for ages and cutting off contact would be difficult.

“There are discussions we still need to have though,” he added.

The former Prime Minister confirmed police interrogated him over a WhatsApp chat with Schembri and Fenech, but insisted there was nothing compromising about those messages.

“It was a very leisurely chat… we mostly shared photos of food and football. Police asked me legitimate questions about what certain messages could mean but there’s nothing compromising in my regard.”

Muscat also called for the publication of the conclusions of a magisterial inquiry into an alleged kickback from Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna to his former chief of staff. Both Tonna and Schembri were recently arrested in connection with this inquiry but police have yet to press charges.

“I’d like to know what the inquiry states and I think journalists should ask for it to be published. Did it find corruption or not? I’d like to know. It’s in the national interest to publish at least the relevant conclusions.”

Muscat insisted that he never saw facts on government corruption under his watch, arguing that he needs to rely on inquiries and that no charges have been pressed in this regard.

He also questioned why police have yet to charge former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova, despite a magisterial inquiry accusing her of calumny and perjury over her claims that Muscat’s wife owns the Panama company Egrant.

“I never told the police to take action against people. They have the results of an inquiry in their hands and I never asked them what they’re doing. The magistrate ordered them to take action, but have they done so? My wife and I have remained where we are, proven right but with a shadow still hanging over us which sees people ask me who Egrant belongs to. It angers me a lot.”

What did you make of Joseph Muscat’s interview?

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