The Maltese phrase is “inqela b’żejtu”. He filed a libel suit against Simon Busuttil three years ago because Simon Busuttil accused him of being corrupt. He testified to sustain his claim of innocence on the 16 October 2017. Hours later, Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who caught him feathering his nest in Panama was killed by car bomb.
Since then he’s been dodging every effort to stand for cross-examination by Simon Busuttil’s lawyers seriously flirting with handcuffs.
At one point the magistrate that was hearing the case was suddenly promoted to judgeship by Keith Schembri’s boss Joseph Muscat. Francesco Depasquale took his oath as judge in April 2019 in a ceremony held by the government after a civil society court action claiming it was illegal. Francesco Depasquale handed over the brief of the Keith Schembri case to a Magistrate being sworn in at the same ceremony: Victor Axiaq.
This morning Keith Schembri could avoid it no longer and he showed up in court.
The magistrate opened proceedings by saying “someone” approached him informally suggesting he should recuse himself because he used to be Nexia BT’s lawyer. Someone? Approached him informally? What the bloody hell is this? What banana republic farce is this?
The magistrate said he would still hear Keith Schembri on the stand. Keith Schembri’s lawyers said he should not testify because he could be forced to incriminate himself. The magistrate said he would have Schembri on the stand anyway. Keith Schembri’s lawyers asked for leave to appeal that decision. The magistrate said he would have Schembri on the stand anyway. Keith Schembri’s lawyers said they want to argue the matter in front of the Constitutional Court. The magistrate said he would have Schembri on the stand anyway.
Keith Schembri took the stand. Jason Azzopardi produced a statement from a year ago by Keith Schembri himself where he confessed to the world he had “draft business plans” for private business with 17 Black and Macbridge. Keith Schembri’s lawyers said their client could not answer or he might incriminate himself.
Then the final act of surrender. After five orders by the magistrate to allow himself to be cross-examined in the law suit brought by himself on pain of arrest, Keith Schembri threw in the towel. He withdrew the case, effectively admitting two things:
First, the allegations by Simon Busuttil against Keith Schembri stand.
Second, he knows things that if others find out, he’d be a criminal.
Repubblika said today that everyone has the right not to be forced to testify in a manner that would incriminate them. Keith Schembri’s rights in court are equal to everybody else’s.
But outside the court room Keith Schembri is the most powerful man in the country. He is a very, very, very senior government official. Anyone who publicly recognises that they know things that would incriminate them should fuck out of office without time to blink.
Think of the pain, the cost, the threats this man has caused to so many people merely to sustain his lies to cover up his crimes.
Keith Schembri is toast. We have ‘known’ for a long time that he’s a lying crook, a corrupt abuser of power, a bribed, compromised, greedy criminal in public office. Now we can remove the single quotes. We know he is. His prime minister knows he is.
Think of how the Labour Party insisted PN MP Toni Bezzina resign because he lost a libel suit, he brought in his own defence after One TV reported he used 5-man hours of public works time to whitewash an attic in the PN club of Żurrieq.
But when Chris Cardona withdrew the case he filed in his defence when he was accused of fucking prostitutes on government time, they made no such demand.
This is even more serious. Keith Schembri has just withdrawn the libel suit defending himself from the gravest charge he has been facing since Daphne Caruana Galizia outed him.
The last time before that Keith Schembri stood up in court in this case Daphne Caruana Galizia was still alive. She then posted her last article which ended with the very last words of her written legacy. “There are crooks everywhere you look”.
For a second I wondered if I should conclude this post — you know — with something I would want to be remembered by if this had been my last ever article. I have nothing as eloquent to leave you with. So I’ll leave a note for Keith Schembri instead:
Fuck off. Now. Now. Now.