Keith Schembri, the former chief of staff of the Office of the Prime Minister, has been awarded €300 in moral damages after the courts found that a freezing order imposed on him and his companies had breached his rights.
Schembri, along with former Nexia BT partner Brian Tonna, and a number of their associates were hit with a freezing order as part of an investigation that kicked off following the completion of a magisterial inquiry into the allegation that Schembri had received kickbacks from Tonna from the sale of passports to three Russian nationals.
The garnishee order was placed on their assets given that there was reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of crimes under the Money Laundering Act. The order listed 91 individuals and companies, believed to have been linked to the alleged wrongdoing discovered by the inquiry.
It has since been revealed in the court that the inquiry had not found any prima facie evidence of kickbacks, however, the experts assisting the magistrate observed that neither Schembri nor Tonna had offered credible answers to the questions they had been asked.
The Constitutional Court presided over by Justice Lawrence Mintoff, found that Schembri and his associates had suffered a breach of their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property since there was no way of challenging the law they were suspected of breaching.
The court awarded each of the applicants €300 in moral damages. Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo appeared on their behalf.
What do you make of the court’s decision?