The Malta Independent 11 July 2020, Saturday

Updated: Keith Schembri, Malcolm Scerri deny fraudulent documents allegations

Sunday, 8 May 2016, 10:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri are denying allegations of fradulent presentation of documents, a statement by their lawyer said this evening.

This morning, The Malta Independent on Sunday reported that HSBC Bank Malta is expected to launch an investigation into the possible fraudulent presentation of documents concerning OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri, the general manager of the company Mr Schembri owns, Kasco Ltd, sources have told this newsroom.

Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia published an article on Friday highlighting the levels of secrecy both Mr Schembri and Mr Scerri applied in order to hide their companies in the British Virgin Islands, some two months after the March 2013 general election and Mr Schembri’s appointment as the prime Minister’s chief of staff.

Mrs Caruana Galizia also published two HSBC Malta “information report” documents with respect to Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri, which were apparently requested by BTI Management Ltd, a company owned by Nexia BT Holdings Ltd.

Brian Tonna of Nexia BT

She alleged that the ‘information reports’ for Keith Schembri and Malcolm Scerri, who took Mr Schembri’s place as managing director of Kasco Ltd when Mr Schembri was appointed as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, were “purportedly” issued by HSBC Bank Malta plc’s Attard branch. Both bank documents she published were dated 27 May 2013.

“I am informed by people who work at the bank that the Attard branch had closed more than a year earlier – in February 2012 – and was then already no more than an unmanned automated office,” Mrs Caruana Galizia reported.

If this turns out to be the case, action would very well be taken by the Malta Financial Services Authority which could, in turn, result in punitive action against the directors of BTI Management Ltd, who include Brian Tonna and Karl Cini. Both men are linked to Mr Schembri and are also heavily implicated in the Maltese spectrum of the Panama Papers scandal.

Some two months after the 2013 general election and being appointed as Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri and Kasco’s Malcolm Scerri created several new layers of secrecy for their companies in the British Virgin Islands.

This included ATC Administrators Inc taking 50,000 shares in both companies, as well as both Mr Schembri and Mr Scerri removing themselves as the sole shareholders and the sole directors of the companies, while appointing persons associated with Mossack Fonseca as directors. Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini were also granted power of attorney over the companies by both of the new directors.

In addition, Mr Schembri and Mr Scerri had signed documents indemnifying Mossack Fonseca of all costs and expenses in relation to the company. Brian Tonna also wrote and sent letters of reference for both Schembri and Scerri to Mossack Fonseca.

The information reports cited were required to serve as further reference for Mossack Fonseca on Mr Schembri and Mr Scerri’s behalf.

Under the HSBC document’s ‘general comments,’ it is stated that Mr Schembri: “is known to us for a number of years as honest and trustworthy and unlikely to enter into commitments he would be unable to fulfil. Highly esteemed in his business circles. Considered to be a good business relationship.” The same was said of Mr Scerri in a separate document.

But, in a statement through their lawyer Andre Sciberras, Schembri and Scerri denied the allegation claiming that the article in question is "both factually incorrect and libellous in nature".

The lawyer gave the newspaper time until tomorrow at 12pm to retract the story pending legal procedures.

This newsroom intends to await an official declaration by HSBC before taking any further action.



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