Keith Schembri

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Keith Schembri
Chief of Staff (OPM)
In office
March 11, 2013 – November 26, 2019
Prime MinisterJoseph Muscat
Succeeded byMark Farrugia
Personal details
Born (1975-07-26) 26 July 1975 (age 44)
Cospicua, Malta
Political partyPartit Laburista

Keith Schembri (born in Cospicua, 26 July 1975) is a Maltese politician and the former Chief of Staff to the Prime minister Joseph Muscat from 11 March 2013 to 26 November 2019. Schembri resigned in relation to the murder investigation of Daphne Caruana Galizia and in course of the political crises in Malta.[1] The crisis also led to unprecedented protests in Malta, which called for Schembri's resignation.[2][3]

Biography[edit]

In 1996 Schembri established Kasco Holdings, a group of companies providing various services and products within the fields of graphic art and engineering.[4] The group's flagship company is Kasco Paper.[5]

Schembri first set up an offshore shell company in January 2011.[6]

In 2008, Joseph Muscat brought Schembri into the Labour Party. Schembri updated the stale communication style of Partit Laburista. He managed the 2013 electoral campaign that saw the Labour Party elected with the largest margin of victory in Malta since its independence.[7] Schembri was appointed as the "Chief of staff", a newly created position in the organization chart of the ruling government.[8]

The opposition Nationalist Party owed Kasco, Keith Schembri's company €121,000,[9] as they were unable to finance their daily newspaper immediately prior to the last general election.[10] Kasco had to intervene to help Allied Newspapers, publishers of the Times of Malta, to finance their investments and keep the company afloat.[11] His intervention can be viewed as saving the Nationalist Party's ability to convey its own message during an election campaign.[9]

Joseph Muscat won the Maltese elcetion in 2013 and Keith Schembri as well as Brian Tonna and others became part of his office team.[12] In July 2013 employees of Tonna created three letterbox firms in Panama: Tillgate Inc. owned by Keith Schembri, Hearnville Inc. owned by Energy-minister Konrad Mizzi and Egrant.

In June 2015, Schembri purchased Panama companies from the Mossack Fonseca-related firm ATC Administrators Inc, specifcially Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc.[6] Schembri asked the audit firm Nexia BT (Mossack Fonseca franchise in Malta), auditors of the Kasco Group,[6] to help him set up a New Zealand trust and associated company. Konrad Mizzi also used Nexia for this purpose; he said Schembri suggested an overseas trust and brought him to Nexia.[13] 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.[6] Mossack flagged both Schembri and Mizzi as politically exposed persons due to their roles in the Maltese government,[6] 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.[6] FPB Bank of Panama refused to open accounts for the two, judging them potential corruption risks.[6]

Schembri was one of the Maltese individuals mentioned in the initial Panama Papers leaks in April 2016, together with then Minister for Energy and Health Konrad Mizzi. These revelations led to calls for Schembri's resignation from government.[14][15] However since Schembri was not an elected official, this motion was later amended to censure the Prime Minister, under whose employ Schembri falls.[15]

In July 2016 Schembri won a libel case against the Nationalist Party's newspaper In-Nazzjon over an article which alleged that Mr Schembri knew the whereabouts of a man who ran away from Malta due to debt problems. The newspaper was ordered to pay him €5,000 in damages.[16]

Involvement in the Caruana Galizia murder investigation[edit]

Prominent Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested on 20 November 2019 in connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder. Schembri resigned his government post on 26 November 2019, and was subsequently arrested by the police for questioning.[17][18] Schembri was later released by police.[19] Yorgen Fenech, in his court statement, accused Schembri of being the mastermind behind the Caruana Galizia murder.[20] Schembri is also accused to have tried to influence Fenech in order to frame Chris Cardona as responsible for the murder of Caruana Galizia.[21] According to Fenech's testimony in a constitutional case, Schembri had allegedly informed Fenech that the latter's phone was being tapped.[22]

A campaign boycotting Kasco imports was initiated; Pasta Rummo was a notable example, having been targeted in supermarkets with stickers with bloody hands being placed on the pasta packaging. Pasta Rummo distanced themselves from Schembri in an issued statement.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Keith Schembri resigns as OPM Chief of Staff". Times of Malta. 26 November 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ Clapp, Alexander (11 December 2019). "The prime minister and the murdered journalist: inside Malta, a nation on the brink". 1843 Magazine. Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  3. ^ Micallef, Keith (20 November 2019). "Opposition walks out of Parliament over PM's failure to dismiss Schembri, Mizzi". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 21 November 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Kasco". Kasco website. Kasco Holdings. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  5. ^ Schembri, Keith (22 May 2016). "Keith Schembri says he wants to 'set the record straight'". Times of Malta. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Panama Papers - Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri wanted to open Dubai bank account". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Labour claims largest majority ever in post-independence history". MaltaToday. 10 March 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Keith Schembri". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b "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.
  10. ^ "Busuttil proposes commission to lift PN out of financial crisis - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  11. ^ Ltd, Allied Newspapers. "Keith Schembri says he wants to 'set the record straight'". Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Wer hat sie umgebracht?". Die Zeit. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Panama, Konrad Mizzi, Azerbaijan, trusts…". Times of Malta. 13 March 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Marlene Farrugia tables no confidence motion in Keith Schembri". Times of Malta. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  15. ^ a b 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.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ "Malta Caruana murder: Resignations spark government crisis". BBC. 26 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Keith Schembri under arrest, along with Yorgen Fenech's doctor". The Times of Malta. 27 November 2019. 'I don't think we know exactly whether he is being questioned or what he is being questioned about, so let's take it one step at a time', [the PM] said"
  19. ^ Malta Independent
  20. ^ The Guardian
  21. ^ Lovin Malta
  22. ^ Diacono, Tim (5 December 2019). "Yorgen Fenech Testifies On Close Friend Keith Schembri: 'He Showed Me The Pardon And Told Me My Phone Was Being Tapped'". Lovin Malta.
  23. ^ Urpani, David Grech (5 December 2019). "Rummo Distances Itself From Keith Schembri As Various Supermarkets Slash Pasta Prices Amidst Calls For Boycotts". Lovin Malta.