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|Chief of Staff (Office of the Prime Minister)|
Assumed office |
March 11, 2013
|Prime Minister||Joseph Muscat|
6 July 1975|
|Political party||Labour Party|
Keith Schembri is the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat. He managed the 2013 electoral campaign that saw the Labour Party elected with the largest margin of victory in Malta since its independence.
Prior to his involvement in politics, Schembri established Kasco Holdings in 1996, a group of companies providing various services and products within the fields of graphic art and engineering. The group's flagship company is Kasco Paper.
Schembri was one of the Maltese individuals mentioned in the initial Panama Papers leaks in April 2016, together with then Minister for Energy & Health Konrad Mizzi. These revelations led to calls for Schembri's resignation from Government on behalf of the Nationalist Party Opposition, civil society groups and independent MP Marlene Farrugia, who attempted to table a no-confidence motion in Schembri. As Schembri was not an elected official, this motion was later amended to censure the Prime Minister, under whose employ Schembri falls.
Schembri first set up an offshore shell company in January 2011.
The setting up of trusts and offshore companies is quite common in Malta especially when one considers that the economy depends on financial services. 714 Maltese companies were listed on the Panama papers and included names such as Louis Farrugia of Farsons, who is also Chairman of the Strickland Foundation, which owns Allies Newspapers, the publisher of the Times, former PN Minister Ninu Zammit among many others. Maltese financial services companies were also included in Panama papers, as they provide financial services to non-Maltese nationals in particular FZD Trustee and Fiduciary Services, whose CEO was a former PN Minister Francis Zammit Dimech and EMD, which is linked to Richard Cachia Caruana, Malta's former Permanent Representative to the European Union under the previous administration.
Various allegations were made against Keith Schembri. However, it was later revealed that the Nationalist Party owed KASCO, Keith Schembri's company €121,000, as they were unable to finance their daily newspaper immediately prior to the last general election. His intervention can be viewed as saving the Nationalist Party's ability to convey its own message during an election campaign. Kasco, had to intervene to help Allied Newspapers, publishers of the Times, to finance their investments and keep the company afloat.
In June 2015, Schembri purchased Panama companies from the Mossack Fonseca-related firm ATC Administrators Inc, respectively named Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc. Both companies were shelf companies, already in existence and previously used for other business transactions.
Audit firm Nexia BT is the Mossack Fonseca franchise in Malta. It also audits the accounts of Schembri's companies in the Kasco Group. Schembri hired Nexia to help him set up his New Zealand trust and associated company. Mizzi also used Nexia for this purpose; he says Schembri suggested an overseas trust and brought him to Nexia. Rotorua, Mizzi's trust, and Haast, the trust created for Schembri. are both run by Orion Trust (New Zealand). Under New Zealand law the trusts pay no tax on foreign earnings; New Zealand regulators may demand this information, but do not disclose it to other governments. Mossack flagged both Schembri and Mizzi as politically exposed persons due to their roles in the Maltese government, and noted "some negative coverage regarding the tender process for supply of paper to the government," and also concerns about the level of compensation received by Mizzi's wife. FPB Bank of Panama refused to open accounts for the two, judging them potential corruption risks.
However, Keith Schembri has lately won a libel case against the Nationalist Party's newspaper. The newspaper was ordered to pay €5,000 in a case involving a man who ran away from the island due to debt problems. The Magistrate in his ruling said that "this court cannot ignore the fact that this kind of journalism is detrimental to the general field seeing that the report is not based on fact but rather on the intent to cause damage to Keith Schembri, who is considered to be a political adversary".
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- "Kasco". Kasco website. Kasco Holdings. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- Schembri, Keith (22 May 2016). "Keith Schembri says he wants to 'set the record straight'". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- "Marlene Farrugia tables no confidence motion in Keith Schembri". Times of Malta. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- Grech, Helena (24 May 2016). "Opposition's motion on Speaker's ruling defeated - 35 against, 30 in favour". The Malta Independent. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- "Panama Papers - Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri wanted to open Dubai bank account". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Panama Papers: Former PN minister Ninu Zammit, MFA President, Louis Farrugia on list". The Malta Independent. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Allied Newspapers affirms 'full confidence' in Louis Farrugia". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
- "Panama Papers - 714 offshore companies: prominent Maltese, hotel groups, oil scandal business partner, and Belarus bagman's wife". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
- "OPM refuses PN letter addressed to Kasco Ltd; PN says Schembri embarrassed to accept cheque - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
- "Busuttil proposes commission to lift PN out of financial crisis - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
- Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Keith Schembri says he wants to 'set the record straight'". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
- "Panama, Konrad Mizzi, Azerbaijan, trusts…". Times of Malta. March 13, 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
- "AD Demands Immediate Suspension Of Keith Schembri - Alternattiva Demokratika". alternattiva.org. Retrieved 8 April 2016.[permanent dead link]
- "Updated: Keith Schembri to file libel proceedings against Busuttil; PN 'will not be intimidated' - The Malta Independent". independent.com.mt. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- Allied Newspapers Ltd. "No answers forthcoming from Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri". Times of Malta. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Keith Schembri wins libel case against PN newspaper, In-Nazzjon ordered to pay €5,000; PN reacts - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 4 June 2017.