Published: December 03, 2019
Turlough Conway reports on two men associated with the murder of Malta’s most famous journalist, who were key donors to Nigel Farage’s pan-European political project.
The man suspected of supplying the bomb that killed the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is part of a group which funnelled €200,000 into a European Parliament party and foundation with close links to Nigel Farage, Byline Times can reveal.
Another member of this group was Ryan Schembri, the first cousin of the Maltese Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, who was questioned last week by police after it was alleged that he was the man who ordered the assassination.
Adrian Agius and Ryan Schembri controlled or were directors in companies that were responsible for the vast majority of donations to the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF) – a pan-European political party of right-wing Eurosceptics – and its foundation, The European Freedom Foundation (EFF).
Caruana Galizia who was killed in October 2017, was the first to discover the connection between Ryan Schembri, Adrian Agius and The European Alliance for Freedom through companies listed in the release of the Panama papers in 2016.
Schembri was involved in the supermarket business in Malta and Libya, which were suspected fronts for criminal activity. According to Caruana Galizia, Adrian Agius was a member Ryan Schembri’s gang who financed suspected drug imports from Brazil using loans of undeclared cash from tax-evading businessmen who were promised interest of between 20% and 40% a month. This fell apart in 2014 with Schembri fleeing Malta leaving debts of €40 million. He is also wanted in Croatia for money laundering crimes.
The €200,000 was paid into the EAF/EFF by Schembri and his associates between 2011 and 2014. While some of the money was paid under Schembri’s name, the majority was paid via companies he and his associates controlled. This seemed to be to avoid a €12,000 per year donations cap under EU rules. 15% of the EAF/EFF income can be obtained from outside donations, however, the bulk of income comes via an EU grant which would have jointly totalled around €750,000 per year.
Throughout its existence, the General Secretary of the EAF was ex-Maltese Labour Party politician Sharon Ellul Bonici, who was a close friend of Ryan Schembri. Another friend of Ellul Bonici was the EAF/EFF auditor and ex-Maltese Labour Party treasurer Joe Sammut. The address for the payments of the EU grant was Sammut’s legal business address. 250 companies released in the Panama Papers leaks are also registered at Joe Sammut’s business address.
In 2015, Sammut was arraigned on 11 charges including breaching his professional duties as an accountant, money laundering, fraud, misappropriation and forgery. The charges centred around a scheme to get Libyan businessmen EU passports. Sammut was the family accountant of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and had held a reported €90 million in the Bank of Valletta in the name of Muatassim Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi’s sons. The EAF/EFF accounts seem to have been managed by the same branch.
Nigel Farage (left) and Sharon Ellul Bonici (right)
Sharon Ellul Bonici has been a close friend and associate of Nigel Farage over two decades.
As far back as 2003, Farage was raising money for her ‘NO2EU’ campaign during Malta’s Referendum on whether to join the EU. Her husband Kevin, who went to university in Russia and is a fluent Russian speaker, is also extremely close to Farage. He was expelled from his EU position in 2015 for distributing propaganda with Russian nationals via MEPs’ cubbyholes.
Farage’s attempts to get UKIP to join the EAF en masse were voted down at UKIP’s 2010 AGM.
Instead, Farage loyalist Godfrey Bloom was installed as its first President in 2011, with Ellul Bonici as General Secretary. Another Farage Loyalist, UKIP’s Jane Collins, also served as President of the EAF party, with Farage’s long-time girlfriend Annabelle Fuller serving as Secretary of the EFF under the name of Annabelle Sanderson.
Last week, Malta’s richest man, Yorgen Fenech, was arrested in connection with the assassination of Caruana Galizia.
Under interrogation, he is reported as implicating Ryan Schembri’s cousin, Keith Schembri, as the man who ordered the car bombing.
Caruana Galizia had discovered money being passed from Fenech’s company, 17 Black, to Keith Schembri and Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi. Both ministers resigned last week and the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will stand down in January.
Byline Times has approached Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party for comment but has yet to receive a response.
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