Inquiring magistrate reports that there are grounds for criminal investigation into Prime Minister’s chief of staff and accountant Brian Tonna

Published: May 4, 2017 at 7:24pm

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff has been hoist by his boss’s petard, along with their corrupt accountant Brian Tonna.

When he asked for the inquiry, the Prime Minister did not foresee this consequence, nor did he foresee that Pilatus Bank and Nexia BT would themselves end up embroiled in the inquiry, with other clients dragged into the mix.

In the panicked rush to save himself, Muscat did not consider the fact that an inquiring magistrate – quite differently to a board of inquiry – does not have specific terms of reference, and must look at anything that could be criminal. Sticking to Egrant Inc was never going to be an option when the bank in question is as shady as Pilatus Bank.

Muscat should have considered the fact that any magistrate’s inquiry that touched Pilatus Bank would immediately detect the signs of money-laundering, and then be obliged to proceed in that direction.

Now the inquiring magistrate has found that there are grounds for the criminal investigation of Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna for kickbacks on the sale of Maltese passports, and money-laundering. The transactions in question took place between their accounts at Pilatus Bank. He says that a new magistrate will have to lead the inquiry into their activities, and the name of this magistrate will be drawn by lot.

The police received a similar request for the criminal investigation of Tonna and Schembri, on exactly the same grounds, from the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit last year, but failed to proceed.

FIAU reports are kept secret under the law, which means that the police found it easy to cover the whole thing up. Now, with a report by the inquiring magistrate on the same grounds, which is public, they will no longer have that option of protecting Schembri and Tonna.

I should point out here that Keith Schembri is the subject of not one but three FIAU reports to the police. One of them, along with Konrad Mizzi, is about their secret companies in Panama. Another is this particular business of kickbacks on the sale of passports, involving accounts at Pilatus Bank.

And the third, which was made last October/November, and which I am reporting about for the first time here, involves hundreds of thousands of euros which the Prime Minister’s chief of staff paid to the managing director of Allied Newspapers, Adrian Hillman, via an undeclared bank account in Switzerland. The police have failed to take action on that report, too.

This morning, after journalists asked the Prime Minister whether his chief of staff has a bank account in Switzerland, Schembri issued a one-line statement saying that he had a Swiss bank account which he closed in May 2011.

If we are to believe him on the subject of the date when he closed his Swiss bank account, it coincides with the setting up in the British Virgin Islands, around the same time, of undeclared companies, hidden behind nominees, for himself, his business partner Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman. These BVI companies are called Lester, Colson and Selson, and all three have accounts at Pilatus Bank. Read more about these three companies here.

The inquiring magistrate has said that there are grounds for the criminal investigation of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and of corrupt accountant Brian Tonna of Nexia BT.