Times of Malta’s editorial team has called for the publication of a 2016 internal inquiry into the questionable dealings between former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
In an editorial piece published on the new site, Times of Malta addressed criticism by stating that the editorial staff “remained conspicuously silent” about the internal query due to the fact that it never saw it.
“There is one simple reason for this – the editors have never seen the concluded inquiry. Formal requests for a copy of the inquiry have been turned down,” the team said.
“Editorial disagrees with this stance and believes its conclusion should have been made public.”
The editorial team also said that the organisation’s structure, which separates the commercial entity from its editorial counterpart, meant that “editors are not privy to decisions made by company management.”
“If anything, we are victims of this sordid affair.”
In addition to concluding that the internal inquiry is made public, the editorial team also requested that an external auditor take a look at Allied’s financial affairs over the past years.
In March 2016, now-assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia flagged suspicious payments from Kasco, a company owned by then OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, to Hillman.
Hillman denied wrongdoing but immediately resigned from his post as Allied managing director, while the Allied Group entrusted retired judge Giovanni Bonello with carrying out an internal inquiry into the allegation. Allied has never published this inquiry.
Bonello recently told Lovin Malta that his inquiry findings don’t shame Allied Newspapers “as such” and that he’s confident his recommendations on systematic reform have been taken on board.
In 2017, then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil requested a magisterial inquiry on the back of an FIAU report which had flagged suspicious payments amounting to €650,000 from Schembri’s companies to Hillman.
Hillman, who is now residing in the UK, is expected to be charged and will be brought to Malta on the back of the UK-EU surrender agreement.
Meanwhile, Schembri, along with 10 others, including former Allied Newspapers managing director Vince Buhagiar, were prosecuted over the weekend over a range of charges. All were denied bail, bar Buhagiar on medical grounds.
Schembri was charged with corruption, money laundering, criminal conspiracy, fraud, giving false testimony and making false declarations and making false declarations.
“To say we are mortified would be an understatement,” the Times said.
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