The Malta Independent 6 December 2021, Monday

Keith Schembri’s business partner eyeing lucrative government bottle deposit contract

Rachel Attard & David Lindsay Sunday, 4 February 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

The business partner of the Office of the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri, Malcolm Scerri, is eyeing a potentially lucrative plastic bottle return system that was announced seemingly out of the blue by the Prime Minister last September during his speech marking the first 100 days of the legislature.

Scerri, through Acumen Projects Ltd - a company that he solely owns and directs - is the Malta representative of Tomra, a Norwegian multinational recycling solutions corporation.


Contacted recently by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Tomra was, in all fairness, completely up-front about the prospective contract and its relationship with Scerri, perhaps unaware of the connections and the connotations it brings.

Sources within the industry have, in fact, suggested to this newspaper that once the project and tender get off the ground, they will be tailor-made for Acumen to snap up.

Contacted about its potential interest in the nationwide project, Tomra told this newspaper: "At the moment, and probably like our competitors, through our local representative, Acumen Projects Ltd, there will most likely be preliminary discussions with interested business stakeholders to better understand their needs and provide them with input on the relevant equipment, technical documentation and potential quotations."

The whole thing may look innocuous enough on the surface, with the Kasco businesses and Scerri being involved in the recycling sector. It could also be yet another case of wheels within wheels: Acumen was set up in May 2014, well before the announcement that the government was looking into a plastic bottle return system, but over a year after the Labour Party was swept to power in March 2013.

Company registered at Nexia BT's offices

Scerri is involved in a number of companies, all of which are registered at either Kasco's premises, or his personal address. But Acumen, the company that would potentially vie for the plastics contract, is actually registered at the office address of Nexia BT, of Panama Papers-Mossack Fonseca fame. The phone number given is also that of Nexia BT's offices.

Nexia, and its head Brian Tonna, had been heavily implicated in the Panama Papers revelations. The firm had housed Mossack-Fonseca Malta before the company left the country in the wake of the scandal and it had also engineered the financial machinations of Minister Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

Schembri and Scerri were also revealed in the Panama Papers as having had companies in the British Virgin Islands. Scerri's company, Selson Holding Corporation, showed an injection of almost US$1.2 million in 2014. Scerri had taken over the management of Schembri's Malta-based Kasco Ltd and Kasco Engineering when Schembri was appointed the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff in March 2013.

Last July, former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil asked the courts to launch a magisterial inquiry into all the information revealed by the Panama Papers, requesting that an investigation be undertaken to discover whether money-laundering laws had been broken.

Busuttil requested that seven people, including Scerri, are placed under investigation. The others are Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and Adrian Hillman. All seven have appealed against the decision for a magisterial inquiry to be launched.

'Bidding on government tender is a potential option' - Tomra

Commenting further, Tomra said: "As a company dedicated to providing technologies to facilitate the recovery of waste for reuse and recycling purposes, Tomra is very supportive of legislation to improve the quality of the recycling service and of the recycled material, as well as measures that lead to the reduction of beverage container littering, be it marine or terrestrial."

As such, Tomra said it "applauds the Maltese government's current endeavours of introducing a deposit return system for one-way beverage containers in Malta, as it yields various environmental, social and economic benefits for the country.

"We have been following the process in Malta closely over the past weeks and months, however we were not actively involved on a government level. Also, we have not been approached by any government representatives seeking consultancy services in the field of reverse vending or sorting, which is quite common during the system design phase, as seen in other countries."

A company spokesperson added: "It is why we are looking forward to a public consultation to get further details as to how the scheme in Malta will operate, giving us the opportunity to feed in our experiences from around the world.

"With regard to bidding on a government tender, I can say that this is a potential option. However, it is far too early to give a firm statement on this, as it is currently not known what type of deposit system the government envisages. There are many questions that need to be answered beforehand, which is why a public consultation is very much welcomed."

Government statement

The Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, would like to categorically deny unfounded allegations published in The Malta Independent on Sunday article titled “Keith Schembri’s business partner eyeing lucrative government bottle deposit contract”. The article aims to prejudice a positive innovative environmental initiative, with the publication of uncorroborated statements such as “once the project and tender get off the ground, they will be tailor-made for Acumen to snap up”.

The Government will be launching an open public consultation process in the coming weeks whereby all stakeholders will have the opportunity to study the framework being proposed.


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