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Malta: Ex-PM Joseph Muscat’s Leading aide freed on bail in corruption probe

The Times of Malta reports the Keith Schembri was freed on Tuesday day, 20 hours after being arrested as a member of a money-laundering probe.

The analysis is into bribes connected to the selling of Maltese passports to wealthy individuals from countries outside the European Union.

This so-called”gold passports” visitors were denounced by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered in 2017, who’d accused Muscat’s former close associate of corruption.

Schembri was detained after a court ordered the freezing of his house and companies, and those of his loved ones, authorities said. He’s suspected of money laundering by Maltese prosecutors.

Malta began selling passports to wealthy foreigners in 2014, allowing individuals or companies to repay in the archipelago and consequently within the EU.

Schembri has become the subject of evaluation since 2017, to ascertain if he obtained $100,000 in bribes from prison earnings.

“Ultimately, things are moving in the fight against corruption in Malta,” said German MEP Sven Giegold, by the European Green Party.

But he added that”impunity for money laundering and corruption is systemic. Malta needs basic institutional reforms to strengthen the rule of law”.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently announced the custom of”gold passports” was contrary to EU values.

Schembri resigned from his post as a leading advisor to the former prime minister in late 2019 later Joseph Muscat announced he was stepping down.

He had been detained and questioned within Caruana Galizia’s murder but authorities said they found no reason to hold him.