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Malta: Joseph Muscat's former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, charged with fraud

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By Euronews & AFP
Undated file photo of Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri
Undated file photo of Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s former chief of staff Keith Schembri   -   Copyright  AP/AP

Keith Schembri, former chief of staff to former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was charged on Saturday with money laundering, corruption, fraud, and forgery.

According to police, he is one of eleven people indicted for the offenses and charges have also been laid against twenty companies. He pleaded not guilty when he appeared in court.

Schembri had been accused by investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered in 2017, of being involved in a system of widespread corruption within Muscat's entourage.

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, an NGO created after his death, said the accusations were "long overdue".

"Pursuing Schembri today brings us closer to a Malta where no one is above the law. It is the country Daphne fought for and the one we all deserve," the Foundation said in a statement. 

Muscat resigned in January 2020 after protests against his handling of the investigation into the journalist's assassination.

Schembri had already resigned his post as chief of staff in November after his name was mentioned by businessman Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the murder of Caruana Galizia.

In September 2020, he was arrested and his assets frozen following an investigation into alleged bribes linked to the sale of Maltese passports to wealthy foreigners.

He has also faced allegations of using offshore accounts, but he strongly denies committing any wrongdoing.

Schembri has called the investigation a "travesty of justice".

"For the establishment, the 'crime' of which I am guilty is having been part of Joseph Muscat's team which has led to a number of electoral victories for the (Labor) party that I love so much," he said. 

"I hope the time will come soon when I can clear my name of all these allegations."