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An Analysis Of Keith Schembri’s 1,400-Word Rallying Cry To Labour Ahead Of His First Criminal Charges

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It looks like Keith Schembri is in a tight spot. The disgraced former Chief of Staff of ex-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took to Facebook today to announce plans by the police to press charges against him, and several others, after the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry into a deal which saw his company supplying a printing press to Times of Malta in 2008.

What Schembri failed to mention is that he immediately filed a constitutional case to declare the conclusions null and try to prevent criminal charges.

He did, however, accompany his 1,400-word diatribe against the Magistrate in question with a photo of one of the Labour Party’s biggest mass meetings. Besides a clearly desperate rallying cry, Schembri’s post was intended to take control of the narrative before the news reached the public domain.

This way he was able to say everything he wanted to say: that he is a victim of the Nationalist establishment that wants to eradicate him so Labour can stop winning elections. The truth is that even those who used to be close to Schembri know that he has become a liability to them because the charges against him are far from being merely political attacks. Note that very few high profile government officials have engaged with his post.

The following is a paragraph-by-paragraph dissection of what he said, adding some much-needed context.

Minn mindu irrizenjajt fl 2019 ħsibt li ser inkun nista’ nkompli ngħix hajti u ngawdi ftit minn dak kollu li iccaħħadt minnu ghal 11-il sena sħaħ ta’ servizz lil-Partit Laburista li tant inħobb u lil pajjiżi.

Schembri introduces his long post with a reminder that he resigned on his own terms in 2019. Back then he had resigned from two posts, first from his role as Chief of Staff (some days after the arrest of Yorgen Fenech who was since charged with being the mastermind of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder), and later from the Labour Party after former Economy Minister Chris Cardona put pressure for the party to kick him out. Schembri says he was planning to “continue to live his life” – a luxury that was not afforded to Caruana Galizia – and start to enjoy “a bit of all that he was denied” in the 11 years of political service.

The implication here is that being in power was a great sacrifice and not a way to enrich himself, which is disputed by the myriad corruption claims in his regard. Interestingly, he ends his opening statement by making it clear that his allegiance to the Labour Party remains, and is actually stronger than his allegiance to the country. Notice how he refers to the party as something “he loves so much”.

Minkejja dan kollu, l-impjegati tagħna , in-negozji taghna ,l-familja tiegħi, inkluż uliedi u saħansitra ommi u missieri, ilna għal dawn l-aħħar xhur fil-mira ta’ persekuzzjoni politika.

Next, Keith Schembri plays a strong victim card where he claims “political persecution” not just in his regard but more so in the regard of his employees, his businesses, his family, including his children and parents.

Persekuzzjoni li laħqet il-quċċata tagħha  f’nofs il-lejl tal-festa tal-Indipendenza tat-2020, meta smajt il-bieb tad-dar iħabbat u t-tifla giet qaltli ‘Pa hawn il -pulizija wara l-bieb’.

Schembri then refers to an arrest, framing it again in the context of his young daughter telling him the police are at the door. Interestingly, here he is not speaking about his first arrest in November 2019, when he was arrested in connection with Caruana Galizia’s murder, or his arrest in December 2019, in relation with the phantom job given to Melvin Theuma. Nor was this the time he refused to show up in court and was arrested by court marshals outside his home. Instead he refers to another arrest that he points out happened just after Independence Day (September 21st) at midnight. He uses this reference to begin his implication that this is a Nationalist conspiracy, since Independence Day is a holiday mainly celebrated by the PN.

Tawni arrest warrant, fittxewli fid-dar, fittxewli fil-fabbriki taghna u wara ħaduni il-lockup fejn għamluli strip search u qafluni ġo ċella għal-14- il siegha sħaħ.

Again, Keith Schembri highlights the drama of his arrests, where he specifies that he was strip-searched and placed in lock-up for 14 hours. This is common procedure and, while it can be criticised, it cannot be used to claim Schembri was treated any differently to others. Searches were also conducted in his factories and at home. This is not to be confused with the original search of Schembri’s home where he allegedly lost his phone never to be found again.

Dan kollu minħabba f’inkjesta li kienet infetħet f’April tat-2017 fuq allegazzjoni li jien ircevejt xi kickbacks mill-iskema tal-passaporti. Dana kollu minkejja l-fatt li l-Maġistrat stess fl-konklużjonijiet tal-inkjesta qalet li ‘MA KIEN HEMM L-EBDA KICKBACK’.  IVA MA KIEN HEMM L-EBDA KICKBACK.

Here Keith Schembri specifies more clearly that his arrest had come about after the inquiry into the alleged passport kickbacks with Brian Tonna. He points out, in capital letters, that the Magistrate concluded there were no kickbacks. He also repeats this statement for effect. The statement is not something we can verify because the report was never published despite several requests for it to be published, including the Nationalist Party, Busuttil himself and Joseph Muscat.

Meta qrajt din il-konklużjoni tal-Maġistrat bħal qisni straħt.  Dak li vvintaw fuqi Simon Busuttil lanqas il-Maġistrat innifisha ma emmnitu.

He then says he breathed a sigh of relief when this conclusion was reached because “not even the Magistrate herself” believed what Simon Busuttil “invented” about him. Here he emphasises the role of Busuttil, a former PN leader, who reported this deal to be investigated by the Magistrate in the first place.

Dan huma l-istess nies li jgħajjruna b’impunita’meta huma stess, f’wiċċ kulħadd, għamlu diversi reati fosthom rapport falz kontra tiegħi u li kienu qed jiċċirkolaw, fosthom fil-Qrati stess, dokumenti suppost sigrieti tal-FIAU.

He then goes on to say that “these people”, presumably referring to Busuttil – not the Magistrate – accused “us” of impunity when “they themselves” had committed several offences, including a false report and “supposedly secret” documents from the FIAU. It is not clear what false report Schembri is referring to, but this raises the spectre of Egrant, the inquiry against Joseph Muscat which had cleared him of owning the Panama company Egrant. Muscat had claimed – and the inquiry gave credence to this claim – that certain documents that had been given to the court were false. It must be said that Busuttil did not submit these documents.

Madanakollu, l-uffiċju tal-Avukat Ġenerali iddecidew li jiffriżaw il-kontijiet bankarji tiegħi, ta’ marti u tat-tfal (ta’14 u 16 il-sena), ta’ ommi u ta’ missieri, it-tnejn anzjani, ta’ kull kumpanija li jien shareholder fiha u ta’ numru ta impjegati u tal-familji tagħhom u anki saħansitra ta’ uliedhom. Iffrizaw l-operat tal-kumpaniji kollha u tefaw l-impjieg ta’ 100 haddiem u l-familji taghhom f’periklu. Ftit li xejn impurtahom li 100 familja setgħet spiċċat bla xogħol.  Ftit li xejn impurtahom li l-Maġistrat Galea Sciberras qalet li ma sabet l-ebda kick-back.

Here, once again, Schembri puts his employees in the spotlight, together with their families and children. Instead of apologising to his employees and their families for putting their jobs at risk, Schembri puts the blame on the office of the Attorney General. He also names Magistrate Galea Sciberras and says the AG’s office did not care about the fact that she found no kickbacks. Here Schembri gives the presumably false impression that there is a conflict between the Magistrate and the AG’s office.

Sadanittant, ilni sitt xhur tiela u nieżel id-depot u nirrispondi ghall kull mistoqsija li jagħmluli u ma kelli l-ebda problema naghmel dan. Issa waslu biex jiskadu is-sitt xhur ta’ friza.  Ġo qalbi kont naf li la ma rnexxielhomx ikissruni kienu ser jerġgħu jippruvaw.

Next, Schembri says he has been going to the depot for six months, answering all questions and has no problem doing this. As the six month asset-freezing comes to an end, he says he knew that “they” would “try break him again” since they did not manage the first time.

U kelli raġun. Minn imkien wara erbgħa snin sħaħ ta’ stennija, feġġet il-konkluzjoni ta’ inkjesta oħra li kienet infetħet minn Simon Busuttil fuq allegat tixħim li kien sar bejn zewġ entitajiet privati fl-2008 u ċioe’ bejn il-kumpanija Kasco u l-Progress Press Limited – il-publishers tat-Times of Malta.

He finally gets to the point of his post today and says he was right because after four years another inquiry triggered by Busuttil was concluded on “alleged bribery” involving two private entities, his company and Progress Press. Here his first impulse is to defend himself, not to deny the allegations. He said this is about a deal between “two private companies”, as if to say there is no public interest in what happened. In the next paragraphs he downplays his political involvement at the time but also connects his relationship with The Times to better coverage for the Labour Party. Read on…

Din l-inkjesta tirreferi għal negozju li sar 13-il sena ilu meta jien ma kelli x’naqsam xejn max-xena politika. Fiha allegazzjonijiet li jien xaħħamt direttur tal-Progress Press biex nirbaħ tender ta’ impjant tal-printing – stamperija sħiħa state of the art.

The truth is that Schembri was a lifelong intimate friend of Joseph Muscat who was elected Labour leader and Opposition leader in 2008. Schembri’s involvement in Labour was made public closer to the 2013 election where he was responsible for the campaign and he was later appointed Chief of Staff when Muscat was elected. Therefore, the deal between Schembri and Malta’s leading newspaper publisher cannot be seen in isolation from the political consequences, and his claim that he had nothing to do with politics at the time needs to be taken in this context. Schembri frames the allegation in terms of him bribing a director of Progress Press to win a tender for the building of a printing press.

Also, Schembri may have forgotten that he himself admitted to being in politics since 2008 when he was questioned in court as part of a constitutional case instituted by Yorgen Fenech.

His exact words were: “Let me start by saying that I didn’t ask Mr Fenech to do anything. Regarding whether or not it bothered me… there are some levels that bothered me. However, I’ve been in politics since 2008 and I’ve developed a thicker skin and can take certain things.”

Dan wara li l-Progress Press ħarġet tender li ħadu sehem fih tlett kumpaniji, ġie skrutinizzat minn żewġ ditti kbar ta’ awdituri rinomati, minn zewġ bordijiet tal-kumpanija, u dan it-tender intrebah għax l-offerta taghna kienet iktar minn ŻEWĠ MILJUNI ORĦOS MILL-EQREB KOMPETITUR. Tender li l-establishment Nazzjonalista ma fehem qatt.  Jew m’aċċetta qatt.

This is now the heart of Schembri’s defence, which is very much in keeping with his strategy of many years. He mentions scrutiny by big audit firms and says his offer was €2 million cheaper than the closest competitor and then goes on to say that the “Nationalist establishment” never accepted this fact.

Għax dan l-establishment għadu ma jistax jifhem jew jaċċetta kif tifel LABURIST, iben familja tal-haddiema, imrobbi go dar tal-gvern f’Bormla, irnexxielu jidħol f’suq li kien kkapparrat totalment mill-istess kumpaniji li kellhom monopolju ghal aktar minn 40 sena.

Suddenly Schembri goes into full victim mode, pitching himself as a “LABOUR boy”, “the son of a family of workers”, from the housing estate in Bormla who broke a monopoly. Here Schembri is rallying the troops and playing into the narrative that this police action against him is just an attempt to stifle a Labourite from being able to succeed.

L-istess establishment ma setgħax jifhem jew jaċċetta kif LABURIST kien bena bridge b’saħħtu mat-Times of Malta. Bridge tant b’sahhtu li t-Times of Malta, għall-ewwel darba fl-istorja, wara snin fejn ir-relazzjoni bejn iz-zewg nahat kienet inezistenti,  kienet lesta li almenu tisma x’qed jghid il-Partit Laburista.

This is now the second CAPSLOCK description of himself as a Labourite but it is also an admission of sorts that he “built a strong bridge” with Times of Malta, so strong that he was able to get Times of Malta to listen to the Labour Party. This is a contradiction of his previous statement that this deal had nothing to do with politics.

Dan l-establishment jemmen li l-Gvern jista’ jkun tiegħu biss u ta’ ħadd aktar. U r-rebħiet enormi tal-2013 u l-2017 kienu ta’ nkwiet kbir ghall istess establishment. U kien għalhekk li ddeċidew li jeradikaw lili.

Schembri now indirectly pitches himself as the only reason Labour won the 2013 and 2017 elections, claiming that he is being “eradicated” by the Nationalist establishment to ensure they can be in government.

Dawn l-aħħar tlett ġimgħat, ġejt mitlub nattendi fid-depot tal-Pulizija kważi kull tlett ijiem.  Weġibt għal kollox.  Spjegajt kull ma ġejt mistoqsi.  Spegajt anki dak li ma ġejtx mistoqsi. Nagħmilha ċara li mhux qed nattakka dawn il-fizzjali li qed jaghmlu xogħlhom.  Dawn qed jagħmlu xogħlhom.  Dawn qed jimxu fuq rapport li ħejjiet Maġistrat li kienet ilha tmexxi inkjesta għal 4 snin sħaħ.   

Here Schembri gives us some new information: that he has spent the last three weeks going in and out of the police depot for questioning. He is careful here not to criticise the police, but he goes a step further than before when he criticised the Attorney General. He is now upping the ante against the Magistrate since he says the police are simply following her report. Remember that Labour famously fired its deputy leader Anglu Farrugia, now Speaker of Parliament, just before the 2013 election for criticising a Magistrate.

Inkjesta dwar tender ta’ magna fil-privat li damet biex titlesta aktar mill-inkjesta E-Grant. Jidher li l-letarġija li kellha l-Maġistrat biex tlesti din l-inkjesta f’daqqa waħda inbidlet f’enerġija kbira biex tagħlaq.  F’temp ta’ ftit ġimgħat il-Maġistrat għamlet dak li naqset milli tagħmel tul erba’ snin twal sħaħ.

Now he goes further, accusing the Magistrate of going slow for many years, only to rush to close in the last few weeks. It must be said that for many of these years, Schembri was the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister and from what we have heard in various inquiries had quite a stranglehold over key members of the police force and other institutions. Next, Schembri turns to the media…

Min kien qed iżommna infurmati dwar l-andament ta’ din l-inkjesta?  Il-Maġistrat jew l-impjegati tagħha? L-Avukat Ġenerali? Il-Pulizija?  Le ta.  Ħadd minn dawn. Kienu qed iżommuna infurmati dwar din l-inkjesta il-ġurnalisti ta’ The Shift News!  U jkolli ngħid li l-informazzjoni li kienet qed tingħatalhom mhux biss kienet korretta iżda saħansitra kienet informazzjoni friska dwar x’qed jiġri f’inkjesta suppost sigrieta.

After criticising the Magistrate, Schembri now criticises the police and the Attorney General for not keeping anyone informed about the inquiry. Instead, he said The Shift News was keeping people informed and with correct information that should have been kept secret. Again, this is ironic from Schembri who allegedly helped keep  the Caruana Galizia murder suspects informed of investigations.

Tlabna lill-Maġistrat tinvestiga dan il-leak. Xejn. Baħħ. U kif bassru tajjeb is-Shift News, l-inkjesta ingħalqet u llum li rajt il-konklużjonijiet, b’wiċċi minn quddiem ngħid li din l-inkjesta m’hi xejn għajr travestija tal-ġustizzja.

This is the key point in this long post. Here Schembri says that he has seen the conclusions of the inquiry and that it is nothing but a “travesty of justice”.  The implication of course is that this inquiry did not clear him. Now his attack on the Magistrate escalates…

Ibda biex, il-Maġistrat appuntat bħala esperta biex tassitiha lil ċertu Miroslova Milenovic.  Din Milenovic jidher li hi popolari ħafna ma ċertu individwi qrib ħafna tal-establishment. U min hi jew kienet din Milenovic? 

Here Schembri attacks the Magistrate’s choice of  court expert who he names. Ironically, after going on about how personally persecuted he has been because of his political beliefs, he claims that this court expert is “very close” to the Nationalist establishment, thereby judging her based on his perceptions of her politics. He continues…

Mirsolava Milenovic hija jew kienet l-Viċi President ta’ Partit Politiku fis-Serbja jismu Enough is Enough.  Mhux se nidħol fil-mertu ta’ x’iħaddan dan il-Partit.  Pero naf fiċ-ċert li l-affiljazzjonijiet politiċi ta’ Milenovic ipoġġu l-pożizzjoni tagħha bħala espert f’din l-inkjesta f’diffikultajiet kbar. Aktar u aktar meta fir-rapport tagħha stess, din Milenovic bla tlaqlieq iżżeffen il-politika fin-nofs.  Tgħid li l-ftehim tiegħi mat-Times of Malta kienet ‘skema politika nefasta, presumibbilment biex jiġi aġevolat il-Partit Laburista’. Milenovic tinkludi fl-inkjesta dokumenti li ċertament ser jintużaw mill-establishment biex jattakkaw politikament. 

So who is Milenovic? She is, in fact, the Vice President of a political party in Serbia called Enough is Enough. According to Wikipedia, she is also an economist and forensic accountant who served on the Anti-Corruption Council of Serbia from 2012 until her resignation in 2016 which is when she became Vice President of this emerging political party. She was named the 2015 Person of the Year by the OSCE Mission to Serbia, for her contribution to the fight against corruption and for the promotion of freedom of the media, Wikipedia states. Schembri’s argument is that because Milenovic ascribed political motives to the deal with Times of Malta, she should not be credible.

Another thing Schembri forgot to mention is that Milenovic was also a court expert in the Egrant inquiry which him and Muscat hailed as an excellent one.

U xi ngħidu dwar l-inkjesta nnifisha u l-konklużjonijiet tagħha? Din kienet inkjesta li lil ħafna min-nies indagati ma semgħathomx. Qagħdet biss fuq il-parir ta’ Miroslova Milenovic u ditta barranija oħra li dwarha ftit li xejn naf. Inkjesta li rrikmandat li jistgħu jittieħdu passi kontra numru kbir ta’ individwi. Fosthom kontra membri tal-familja tiegħi, inkluz jien u kontra soċji tiegħi fin-negozju. Saħansitra kontra impjegati li ma kellhom x’jaqsmu xejn ma dan kollu.

It seems the inquiry does not only recommend criminal charges against Schembri but also other members of his family and some of his employees.

Mhux biss.  Din l-Inkjesta irrikmandat li jittieħdu passi kriminali kontra diriġenti tat-Times of Malta. Għax skond il-Maġistrat it-Times of Malta iffrodat lill-Malta Enterprise.

Here’s another important titbit. The inquiry, he alleges, also recommends action against directors of Times of Malta – or Allied Newspaper Limited which is the company that publishes the newspaper. He says the Magistrate accuses Times of Malta of defrauding Malta Enterprise. We still do not know what exactly this is about but it probably relates to funds the newspaper acquired from Malta Enterprise, which was at the time under a Nationalist administration.

Għandi riservi kbar ħafna dwar il-konklużjonijiet ta’ din l-inkjesta. Riservi kbar mhux biss għax il-konklużjonijiet huma għal kollox skorretti.  Imma pjuttost għax nemmen li dawn il-konklużjonijiet ma sarux b’kumbinazzjoni. Konkluzjonijiet li huma ibbazati jew fuq nuqqas ta’ għafien jew misinformazzjoni li forsi wkoll hija waħda malizzjuża. Konkluzjonijiet li huma perikolużi ħafna għal kull minn qiegħed fin-negozju. Konklużjonijiet li ċertament huma spinti biex nakkomodaw il-moneyval a skapitu ta’ nies bieżla u ezemplari fin-negozju, jew professjonisti li jaħdmu siegħat twal ta’ kuljum u li jimpjegaw mijiet ta’ haddiema. Konklużjonijiet li b’qalb sewda jkolli nammetti għandhom warajhom id moħbija biex jagħmlu ħsara lil Gvern u lil partit. Konklużjonijiet li fil-prattika irrakkomandaw it-tkissir tal-ħajja ta’ ħafna nies innoċenti.

Schembri says the Magistrate’s conclusions are based on potentially malicious information that set a dangerous precedent for anybody in business and are “certainly” being reached to accommodate Moneyval at the expense of hardworking employers. He again warns that this is happening to cause damage to the government and to the Labour Party, continuing the narrative that this is not an inquiry that found wrongdoing on his part but part of a wider Nationalist conspiracy.

Ara dwar min kien qed iqassam dokumenti sigrieti bi ksur tal-liġi kriminali, fuq dan il-Maġistrat ma qalet xejn. Lanqas  ma qalet xejn fuq min kien qed jgħaddi l-informazzjoni sigrieta dwar l-inkjesta stess lil The Shift News.

In classic Schembri fashion, he accuses others of wrongdoing and accuses the Magistrate of doing nothing about leaks to the press, as if that absolves his own wrongdoing.

Ftit jiem oħra qed nistenna li ser niġi mixli.  Mhux għax għamilt reat.  Għall- establishment ir-“reat” li jiena ħati tiegħu huwa is-sehem tieghi bhala parti minn team immexxi min Joseph Muscat li wassal ghal sensiela ta’ rebħiet elettorali lill-Partit li tant inħobb.

Jien  nixtieq li jasal il-mument mhux fil-boghod, fejn inkun nnaddaf ismi mill-allegazjonijiet li ilhom jippruvaw iħammġuni bihom – u nerġa nsib mod kif inkun nista ngħin lin-nies li huma verament  fil bzonn.

Naghlaq billi nghid li għadni nemmen fil-kapaċita tal-moviment Laburista li jkompli jkattar u jqassam il-ġid lill-poplu Malti.

Schembri concludes by saying he is going to be charged, not for a crime but because the Nationalist establishment found him guilty of helping Joseph Muscat win elections. He also says he hopes to be able to “help people in need” once again when he clears himself of all the allegations. And lastly, he asserts his belief in the Labour movement that can generate and distribute wealth to the Maltese people.

What do you make of Schembri’s Facebook post?

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Christian is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who founded Lovin Malta, a new media company dedicated to creating positive impact in society. He is passionate about justice, public finances and finding ways to build a better future.

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