The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

Keith Schembri granted bail

Monday, 5 April 2021, 09:16 Last update: about 2 months ago

Keith Schembri and his associates have been granted bail by the court.

Schembri was charged together with his elderly father Alfio Schembri, a director of several of the Kasco companies, and business partner Malcolm Scerri and financial controller Robert Zammit.

They will not, however, be able to leave jail until at least tomorrow as they were unable to make the necessary deposit to the courts due to today being a bank holiday.

ADVERTISEMENT

His father Alfio Schembri had been awarded bail last week in a separate request.

The magistrate further decreed that there is enough evidence to place all four of the accused under a bill of indictment.

Schembri was charged with corruption and giving false testimony. He was also accused of forgery.

He formed part of a group of 11 people charged two weeks ago, including a former managing director at Allied Newspapers, publishers of Times of Malta.

13:11 The next sitting will take place on 11 May at 8:30am.

13:10 The court has ruled that there is enough evidence to place the accused under a bill of indictment. The sitting has been adjourned.

13:05 Malcolm Scerri has also been granted bail on the same conditions as those given to Robert Zammit.

13:03 Keith Schembri's bail has been granted against a deposit on €60,000 and a personal guarantee of €90,000. He will have to sign a bail book in Qawra.

13:02 Keith Schembri has been awarded bail.

12:55 The hearing continues. The magistrate will now decree on the bail request submitted earlier.

11:55 All submissions have been placed. The magistrate has retired to her chambers to deliberate over the request. A decree is expected to be given at 1pm.

11:54 Arguments against bail remain the same as last week. She pointed out that substantial amounts of cash where found in the properties of the accused.

11:48 Dr Mercieca Rizzo is now making submissions on behalf of the Attorney General's office, arguing against bail.

11:38 Lawyer Edward Gatt is making his argument for bail on behalf of the accused. He refers to case law regarding acceptable reasons to detain individuals, and argues that any dangers involving the accused tampering with evidence or obstructing justice has to be supported by factual evidence.

11:33 It seems that we have heard testimony from all the witnesses that were scheduled to testify today. The defence counsel filed a fresh bail request for the accused. Lawyer Mercieca Rizzo tells the court that their objection was sent in writing on Monday, with three replies presented. She explains that their objections to bail remain as they were last week, where bail was denied for all of the accused except Keith Schembri's father Alfio.

11:27 He now describes the arrest of Robert Zammit on 7 March. Similar to what a previous witness said, police were notified on site that Zammit was under mandatory quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. They instead requested his mobile to be passed on. His testimony ends.

11:24 Inspector Omar Caruana from the FCID now takes to the stand. He describes the search conducted by police at a Bormla residence belonging to Schembri. He recalls having searched the Kasco group offices, but was not involved in the seizure of any items.

11:22 He adds that Malcolm Scerri cooperated fully with the police. His testimony ends.

11:21 Police constable John J Cauchi is up next. He was involved in the arrest of Malcolm Scerri. They first went to his Birzebbugia property to arrest him, but in turned out he was at Kalkara at the time. When Malcolm later arrived back home he was notified that he was under arrest. Police conducted a search and elevated documents, a mobile and laptop, and €18,950 worth of money.

11:17 Police elevated a laptop, mobile, various documents and €18,920eur worth of money from the property and offices of Malcolm Scerri. Her testimony ends without cross-examination.

11:15 And we're back. Police constable Abigail Coudrey is testifying. Together with her colleague Inspector Joseph Xerri, they went to search the Birzebbugia property belonging to Malcolm Scerri.

10:32 The hearing is now briefly suspended until 11am today. Our liveblog will continue then.

10:29 The prosecution and defence are again huddled around the magistrate.

10:26 Another official, Colton Grech Micallef, has testified. He said he was deployed outside Kasco Group factory in September. He would remain by a car to make sure nothing is tampered with. He added that he assisted the search on the Times of Malta building in March 2021, but he did not seize any documents himself.

10:22 Farrugia, like the police officials who testified before him, was present for searches conducted on Schembri’s residence and the Kasco offices. He further helped with the search and arrest of Matthew Pace back in March.

10:18 The police officer steps of the podium. Francesco Farrugia, a police officer from the FCID, now takes the stand. 

10:17 Keith Schembri's lawyer Edward Gatt asks the police officer to confirm that Schembri was cooperative during the search on the Kasco offices. He says that it appeared that he was cooperating at the time, but pointed out that he wasn't communicating directly with Keith Schembri during the search.

10:15 We are seeing police officer after police officer give testimony on the various arrests and searches that took place in relation to these charges. Another police officer has taken the stand, having assisted Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb during the police search that took place at the Kasco offices in Bulebel and on the raid at Matthew Pace’s residence last month.

10:13 Another police sergeant steps to the podium, describing the arrest of Robert Zammit. She says that when police knocked o the door of his residence, they were informed that Zammit was in mandatory quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Police seized his mobile.

10:10 Ritianne Ciantar steps to the podium. She says she was present during the search on Castagna's San Ġwann residence, the operation of which was led by Inspector Xerri. She steps off the podium and finishes her testimony. 

10:09 Demicoli explains that he was present at a search on Manuel Castagna's residence and other properties Castagna had easy access to. The officer says that three laptops and five mobiles were seized during the searches. He steps off the stand.

10:06 Cutajar steps off the stand and police officer Clayton Demicoli takes his place. The magistrate speaks to the witness, but this is inaudible over video call.

10:04 Shawn Cutajar, another police officer from the anti-money laundering squad takes the stand. He tells the court that he was involved in the search conducted on Karl Cini’s home on 21 September 2020. Other properties were searched.

10:02 Another police official from the FCID has taken the witness stand. She describes the search procedure conducted on Karl Cini’s San Ġwann home, where various items were seized, including documents relating to Nexia BT. At 3am, police went on to search his office, also in San Ġwann. The police official further recalls a search carried out on Matthew Pace’s home in St Paul’s Bay. Matthew Pace is the director of MFSP Financial, now Zenith, who is facing charges on money laundering in separate proceedings. During the search on his property, Pace failed to open the door immediately, with police having to call his wife.

09:54 The magistrate has emerged from her chambers - the hearing resumes. 

09:53 The accused are back in the dock after a quick pause. They are currently seen discussing with their lawyers, Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo. The prosecution, led by lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo from the Attorney General's office, is seen huddled on the other side of the courtroom.

09:31 The hearing is briefly suspended for a short break, but we haven't been told how long this break will be. We expect a 10 to 15 minute break.

09:28 The magistrate has called for all the parties. The prosecution and defence counsel all huddle around her. 

09:27 Police then went to Kasco’s Bulebel offices. Same procedure - a laptop, PC tower were seized from Keith Schembri’s office. 

09:27 A separate police officer takes the stand and explains the various searches carried out on the property of the accused. First, he details the search on Keith Schembri’s residence at Santa Maria Estate. His wife Josette Schembri Vella opened the door at first, with police asking her to call for her husband. Police explained the search procedure to him, and went ahead. They seized two iPhones, two iPads, MacBook Pro and some documents from a study room. Police went on to search Alfio Schembri’s property on the same procedure. Nothing was seized here.

09:22 Jurgen Sciriha, another police officer, takes the stand, detailing the arrest of Brian Tonna and the items seized during a search on his property and on the Nexia BT officers. His testimony is also quick and prompt.

09:20 Inspector Ian Camilleri steps a way from the podium to finish testimony. A police officer from the Anti-Money Laundering Squad now takes stand. He briefly gives an overview of Brian Tonna’s arrest and raid, and promptly steps off the stand. His testimony lasted less than 30 seconds.

09:17 Robert Zammit, Schembri’s accountant, said he carried out a lot of administrative work and invoicing at Kasco. He said that he would generally follow the instructions of Schembri and Scerri without question, as he hadn’t been working there for long. Zammit is among the accused.

09:12 In a police statement, Schembri’s business associate Malcolm Scerri explained the reason behind discrepancies in the invoice price and selling price for the Progress Press deal. He said that the selling price includes consumables for a five-year period. 

09:05 We are currently going over usual procedures. The Inspector is giving a run down of various police statements given by the accused, while exhibiting the transcripts to the courts. 

08:56 The Inspector is now referring to payments relating to the Progress Press scandal, whereby Keith Schembri, ex-Allied Newspapers director Adrian Hillman, and several others allegedly secretly pocketed millions in profit from a printing press deal. When Keith Schembri told police that these payments took place outside of Malta because “the Times wouldn’t be happy taking consultancy from Kasco”. 

08:52 He has just passed on to the Magistrate a police statement given on 20 October by Keith Schembri. Schembri was asked about payments he was receiving from his father that he said were simple “donations”. Schembri provided police with explanations for several transactions. 

08:49 Inspector Ian Camilleri is currently giving testimony to Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech. He is recalling the arrests of the four accused and explaining how police investigations were being carried out. 

08:45 Good morning. Today’s court hearing will be a little different today. We’re in Hall 12, viewing the proceedings in Hall 9 over conference call due to the size limitations of the courtroom. 

 

 

 

  • don't miss