Keith Schembri should have resigned as soon as police started investigating the Dubai company 17 Black, according to an interview by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ahead of last year’s general election.
The clip is at 27:35 – 28:38
Appearing on the TV show Xtra, Muscat was asked by host Saviour Balzan whether, in the eventuality of a Labour victory, he planned to reappoint Schembri as his chief of staff and grant Konrad Mizzi a ministerial portfolio.
The Prime Minister’s response was clear and to the point: “Konrad Mizzi is a candidate and the people will judge him. I’ll wait and see how the people judge him and take it from there. As for Keith Schembri, he has already said that it if he is ever subjected to some type of criminal investigation, he will resign on the spot from any position he may hold. That is my crystal clear position.”
Yet Schembri has not resigned, despite the police investigating 17 Black, the company suspected of being intended for the channeling of illicit funds into his and Mizzi’s Panama companies. Justice Minister Owen Bonnici last night confirmed the police have requested a specific magisterial inquiry to aid them in their investigations.
Meanwhile, Muscat’s stance on his chief of staff has shifted and is now insisting he will await the outcome of the inquiry before deciding whether or not to take action against Schembri and Mizzi.
In his Xtra interview last year, Muscat said the main reason behind his decision not to fire Mizzi and Schembri was because he didn’t want to risk the LNG power station project falling behind.
“I was ready to pay a political price for the sake of this project’s completion. I put my country before politics, political points and surveys.”
The power station project has now been completed, but it is subject to scrutiny in light of revelations that one of its directors, Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech, owns 17 Black.
This was not the first time Muscat had pledged political accountability in the run-up to a general election. As Opposition leader in 2013, he had pledged to hold people in public life to account, warning he will not tolerate people who view public service as a means of getting rich.