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Maltese Central Bank Governor, Deputy PM Face Fraud Charges

Maltese Central Bank Governor, Deputy PM Face Fraud Charges

VALLETTA (Reuters) – Malta’s attorney general has filed charges of fraud and misappropriation of funds against Central Bank of Malta Governor Edward Scicluna and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, court documents show.

More serious corruption charges have also been levelled against former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff and a former health minister – all in connection with a hospital privatisation scandal dating back to 2015.

The charges follow a four-year inquiry instigated by the opposition Nationalist Party over a deal which handed management of three state hospitals to a previously unknown group, which had no experience in the medical sector.

The 30-year deal, which was conservatively valued at 4 billion euros ($4.23 billion), was annulled by Malta’s highest court in February after it found fraud.

Scicluna was finance minister and Fearne was a junior health minister at the time of the deal. Scicluna, who is a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, has not commented on the accusations, but has previously denied any wrongdoing. Fearne has rejected the charges.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the court will find nothing other than my complete innocence,” he said in a statement.

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Muscat, chief of staff Keith Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi face charges of money laundering, corruption, bribery, trading in influence and setting up a criminal association. All three men have denied the accusations.

Muscat resigned in January 2020 after media revealed that he and Schembri had a close friendship with businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is awaiting trial for complicity in the 2017 car bomb murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Muscat has not been linked to the murder investigation.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has criticised the way the inquiry was conducted and has defended Fearne, saying he would remain in office and had no doubt about his integrity.

However, he has not confirmed whether he will press ahead with previously announced plans to nominate him next month as Malta’s next European Commissioner.

No date had been announced for the formal court arraignments when the accused will be asked to file a plea.

(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Angus MacSwan)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.

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