The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

More Supermarkets boss Ryan Schembri charged with fraud and money laundering

Sunday, 24 April 2022, 12:30 Last update: about 5 months ago

Ryan Schembri, wearing a designer windcheater, jeans and trainers appeared under arrest before magistrate Charmaine Galea on Sunday.

Schembri was charged with money laundering, misappropriation, fraud, making fraudulent gain, offering financial investment services without a licence, knowingly making use of forged documents

Lawyer Karl Muscat, on behalf of the Attorney General's Office and police inspector Anthony Scerri are prosecuting Schembri , 43, from Mellieha.

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Asked to give his particulars to the court, Schembri confirmed his age. He initially hesitated to give his address. He told the court that he was self-employed.

Schembri pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Roberto Montalto also entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Schembri's companies, Cassar and Schembri Marketing ltd and Food World Ltd.

Requesting a freezing order against the accused, Muscat told the court that Schembri held financial assets abroad, the police having seized foreign credit cards. The defence did not object to the request for the freezing order.

The court upheld the prosecution's request.

Montalto said that no request for bail was being requested at this stage as he had not had the opportunity to sort out living arrangements.

Schembri had always intended to return to address the issues, said the lawyer. He didn't want to come back under these circumstances.

There are financial interests of third parties which could create a danger to Schembri in prison and risk of approach by other inmates who have an interest in his case. The lawyer asked the court to recommend to the prison's CEO that steps be taken as soon as possible so as to ensure Schembri's safety.

Montalto suggested that the court recommend that the prisons CEO communicate directly with the prosecution or the defence to obtain more precise information about the threats to Schembri, without them being declared in open court. The court upheld the request.

Schembri was remanded in custody.

Schembri had fled the country in 2014 with a reported €40 million in debts left behind from the More Supermarkets crash.

He had initially moved to Dubai, where he lived with partner Aviva Ryan.

At some point after that, the couple subsequently moved to London, and later to Scotland, living under the radar.

But the breakthrough in the case came when UK authorities had informed their Maltese counterparts that Schembri had been fined for speeding there. This had led to an investigation by the Maltese police which found evidence showing that Schembri resided in the United Kingdom and had bank accounts, as well as a partner there.

UK company records also show both Schembri and his partner Aviva Ryan opened two companies in London, Bors Trading and DAL Capital Partners.

Schembri was arrested on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant that had been issued by Interpol some years back. Maltese police were present in Scotland for the arrest.

As boss of the bankrupt More supermarket chain, he could be connected to the supermarket debt that led to the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop. Chircop had been one of the 'investors' in the mysterious More Supermarkets bust. The lawyer had loaned €750,000 to More Supermarkets in March 2014.

Appearing as debtors in the contract were Schembri's business partner Etienne Cassar, as well as Adrian Agius, one of the men first arrested by police in December 2017 in connection with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Together, Schembri and Cassar, and Agius, owned shares in another joint company called Interaa Holdings.

Agius, known as 'tal-Maksar', was previously a director linked to the More Hamrun supermarket. Agius held a directorship in a company related to More's main shareholder Ryan Schembri, Interaa Holdings, with the shareholders being made up of Schembri's own Cassar & Schembri Marketing (40%), M&R Construction (15%) and Panelix Supplies (25%), and Agius's Imora Holdings (20%).

Schembri's absconding from Malta in September 2014, took place soon after he had started procedures aimed at transferring his supermarket business to a new investor, the restaurateur Darren Casha, who was then under the impression that the More Supermarkets chain was in excellent financial health.

 


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