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If Schembri Laundered Millions From Times Of Malta, How Much Did He Steal From The Rest Of Us?

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If you haven’t read today’s live court report about Keith Schembri, you need to do so right now.

It’s essential reading that shows Schembri was a totally corrupt person who probably corrupted every deal he ever touched.

Of course Schembri is innocent until proven guilty, but the records detailing the police’s investigation are more damning than anybody imagined.

No wonder he went on a 1,400-word rant on Facebook before he got arrested, to condition how this would play out.

This was not a mere deal between two private companies before he ever made it to politics.

This is Keith Schembri’s modus operandi laid out for all to see.

Here’s how it happened, according to today’s court proceedings: Times of Malta issued a tender for a new printing machine. Schembri’s company won the bid, having agreed with two directors of the company that he would overcharge more than €6.5 million so he can launder €5 million in kickbacks to himself and three others, with the aid of Nexia BT and MFSP (now Zenith). Then he went on to sell Allied Newspapers some €21 million in raw materials. And the company ended up having to wind most of its printing operations down and sell its property in Valletta.

Meanwhile, a professional network of companies hidden around the world were used to launder the illicit money, according to what police described in court.

It’s hard to believe these same structures were not used for almost every other deal Schembri negotiated when he had full control of government and its institutions. If he laundered €5 million on a deal worth €13 million, one can only imagine what he took from the €1 billion Electrogas deal with Azerbaijan, where much like Allied Newspapers, we were conned and overcharged. And what about the €1 billion Vitals hospital deal?

We’re already starting to unravel what happened with the passports scheme. Then there are all the deals in between, where he always told us we got the best offer and the deal with signed off by a professional audit firm, only for us to find out that the deals were fraudulent.

The man who claimed his auditors Nexia BT accidentally included 17 Black in one of his business plans, is the same man who claims he lost his phone the day police apprehended him. And who, as we learnt today, told police he didn’t register himself as a Politically-Exposed-Person because he didn’t know he had to. How can anyone believe anything else he says?

Daphne Caruana Galizia and Simon Busuttil were so right when they said the Panama companies that were miraculously exposed merited jail time.

Instead, Joseph Muscat chose to reward Schembri by reconfirming him as Chief of Staff in 2017 after winning an election on the false claim that Muscat had learnt from his mistakes.

Today it’s more clear than ever. The movement built by Muscat and Schembri is nothing more than a criminal organisation that turned on the State to scale its business. And if Muscat and Schembri were never stopped, the EU could have been next.

With the promise of millions, if not tens of millions, over a 10-year period in government – on the back of heavy investment in data, advertising and political analysis to create an undefeatable electoral machine – they created a platform of hope and then betrayed it with the worst kind of duplicity. Their intention was simply to turn the masses into drunken worshippers while defrauding them and telling them they’re paying less for electricity.

Meanwhile, they would turn as many people as possible into accomplices.

What they didn’t realise is that their actions would one day be revealed and leave Malta in tatters.

They never imagined there would be a miraculous leak of documents in Panama that would expose them for the crooks they are.

And then the murder of the Maltese journalist investigating all this kicked the world’s institutions into finally forcing our country to start taking itself seriously.

Nobody should be thinking about bail. We should be thinking about building a bigger prison.

Muscat’s role in all of this can no longer be played down. Schembri was very literally his right-hand man, the person entrusted with every election, every big move by government. Muscat even thanked Schembri on the day he resigned in disgrace.

Make no mistake about it, Muscat is guilty. Guilty of at the very least having allowed for all of this to happen. Guilty of having ruined the island’s reputation and financial stability for generations to come.

And at this stage so is anyone who has information and refuses to come forward to help bring this terrible stain on Malta’s democracy to a close, allowing us to start the painful and arduous rebuilding.

The damage they caused is probably irreparable.

It certainly is for Daphne Caruana Galizia, her family, and the rest of us who were depending on her journalism to expose the fraud of the century.

It is also irreparable to generations of Labourites who believed they had finally found a winning duo who would do them proud. How wrong they were. Schembri and Muscat will go down in history for destroying the Labour Party and bringing shame to anybody who publicly supported it, especially those who did so after Panama Papers were revealed.

The writing was on the wall then. It was painted in very bright colours for years to follow. Last weekend the writing was etched on Valletta’s court room. And today it has been projected onto our bastions, as well as the European stage.

If you do not denounce Joseph Muscat and Keith Schembri today, you are either a despicable coward or you are admitting your guilt and complicity.

Of course you might be scared of Keith Schembri’s implicit threats that he will bring you down with him. It’s unlikely that he spelled it E-Grant and accompanied his Facebook post with a photo of Labour’s biggest mass meeting by accident. But that’s all the more reason to speak now before it’s too late.

To all those, including the Opposition leader, calling for pardons for people who have already been caught, hold your horses. This is still the very beginning of a very long process. Those who have already been caught are not the ones who should be getting pardons.

Labour’s MEPs proudly tell the European Parliament that seven people are in court for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

What they didn’t say is that dozens more will go down in the weeks, months and years to come for the countless financial crimes that preceded and probably succeeded the murder. The rot was too deep and lasted for too long for that not to be the case. They’re already dropping like flies from Parliament.

No wonder Daphne Caruana Galizia had to be killed. Those responsible could live with the fallout of her murder. They almost took credit for it. What they couldn’t live with was being exposed to all the supporters and voters they had duped.

They had one last shot to make it all go away, and they played it.

But it didn’t go away. Because no matter what anyone may think of Malta and the Maltese culture, we have a proud tradition of getting it right when it counts. And the hard work of underappreciated people is finally starting to pay off.

To Labour supporters, I urge you to read what I wrote in 2018 when things were still far away from being as bad as they are today for the Labour Party. It is too late to salvage the past but the sooner you start rebuilding the future, the more of a fighting chance you will have.

To everybody who was touched by the long tentacles of Keith Schembri and his money-laundering structures, this is the time to come forward, before you are arrested.

It is only now, before your transactions are exposed to the world, that you deserve to get some form of redemption. Owning up to your guilt and saving us the cost of long investigations and court proceedings could at the very least help us retrieve some of the money you stole from taxpayers.

Do the right thing today and start cooperating. This might be the last stop of the train.

It’s no coincidence that Malta is recruiting eight more judges to the bench. We’re certainly going to need them and more.

Tangentopoli indeed!

READ NEXT: A Look At The Road Ahead For Keith Schembri And His Associates

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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