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Dozens testify in inquiry into passport sale kickback claims

Process is not open to public or press

Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna.

Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna.

Scores of company representatives testified in a marathon court hearing today as the inquiry continued behind closed doors into allegations of kickbacks from the sale of citizenship scheme.

The court process was triggered off following claims by Opposition leader Simon Busuttil that the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri and Nexia BT director Brian Tonna benefitted from the scheme. 

A procession of witnesses choked the corridors of the court building, which is normally deserted at this time of the year.

The inquiry in front of Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras is not open to the public or press.

Magistrate Galea Sciberras' inquiry was launched after Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is conducting a separate inquiry into allegations that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat or his wife set up an offshore company in Panama to launder kickbacks, ruled that there were grounds for an investigation to be launched into the financial dealings of Mr Schembri and Mr Tonna.

The Panama Papers had revealed that Keith Schembri and then energy minister Konrad Mizzi were first outed as the owners of companies in the secretive Panamanian jurisdiction. Nexia BT, local representative of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, whose records had been leaked online, also came under scrutiny. More allegations of

More allegations of money laundering and corruption involving shell companies and trusts followed, resulting in no less than five magisterial inquiries.

Last May, the PN leader had presented evidence in court to support his allegation that €166,831 had been paid by three Russian nationals to Mr Tonna after they applied for Maltese citizenship. Mr Busuttil alleged that shortly after receiving the money, Mr Tonna had made two payments of €50,000 to Schembri's bank account. Both men insisted that these transactions were made as repayments on a loan.

 

 

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