Keith Schembri, the Chief of Staff to the disgraced ex-Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, has been arrested in connection with allegations he received kickbacks on the sale of Maltese passports.
For years, Maltese investigative journalists including the late Daphne Caruana Galizia who was assassinated by car bomb in 2017, have been publishing details of Schembri’s alleged kickbacks. They reported that he took some EUR 100,000 on passport sales facilitated through his auditor Brian Tonna who has also been arrested.
He was taken into custody along with Tonna and his business partner Karl Cini, and various other individuals.
In addition to the arrest, a comprehensive freeze has been placed on all his assets.
The former chief of staff was forced to resign last year, not because of the multiple allegations of corruption and money laundering, but because of the fact he was implicated in the murder of Caruana Galizia. He was arrested in connection with the case but then released. Police say he is still a “person of interest”.
Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme has been mired in controversy as multiple new citizens have been found to have criminal proceedings against them for various financial crimes. There are also multiple alleged instances of kickbacks, bribes, and due diligence processes being sidestepped due to deals being struck with ministers and officials.
The scheme is administered by concessionaire Henley and Partners, the same company that threw an event in London last year, attended by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. At the event, Rama announced he would start selling Albanian citizenship even though he knew it would get him into trouble with the EU.
Following widespread controversy and concerns, it would hurt Albania’s EU accession progress, there have been no new developments regarding the implementation of the scheme.