Keith Schembri’s wife’s interior design company part of complex scheme to transfer cash

Company run by Josette Vella Schembri received thousands from former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman, while thousands were sent out to Kasco business partners Malcolm Scerri and Robert Zammit

3City Design Limited, a company belonging to the wife of former OPM chief Keith Schembri, saw thousands of euro transferred through it from Adrian Hillman, Allied Newspapers, and Schembri himself.

During the compilation of evidence against Josette Vella Schembri, Inspector Leanne Bonello told the court that her company formed part of a complex scheme used to transfer sums of cash between various entities. 

She noted that 3City Design was set up in 2008, the same year in which the first Kasco-Allied printing press deal was first drafted.

Bonello said that Adrian Hillman transferred €14,000 to the 3City Design. Vella Schembri had told police that she had provided interior design services in his home, but failed to provide any documentation as proof.

Additionally, her husband Keith Schembri transferred €57,784.16 across three transactions to the company, but again no documentation was provided. 

Eventually, Kasco business partners Robert Zammit and Malcolm Scerri received money payments from 3City Design. In total, Scerri received €44,289.75 through monthly payments. Vella Schembri had told police that the payment covered works done by Scerri for the company, but she was unable to provide documentation in relation to this.

Substantial sums of money were also received from Allied Newspapers. Vella Schembri managed to present documentation for the transaction, but police noted significant discrepancies between the two.

The court later issued a prima facie decree against Vella Schembri. This means that there is a case to be heard against her, with enough evidence presented so far for her to face trial under indictment.

Vella Schembri stands accused of laundering money between 2008 and 2020 while failing to observe all of the duties of a company director.

09:44 That appears to be it for today. The next sitting will be held on 11 November between 9am and 12pm. Thanks for following with us. Nicole Meilak
09:40 Meanwhile, lawyer Veronique Dalli requests that the court allow Vella Schembri to leave the house at 6:15am instead of 6:30am. This request is upheld. Nicole Meilak
09:40 Lawyer Edward Gatt makes a brief comment. He flags a growing trend in cases of such offence.”The courts have a duty to preserve justice. In prima facie, there’s possibility and probability involved.”
He mentions that the prosecution presented a large leaflet full of figures, and warns that such figures tend to be used as a red herring.
Nicole Meilak
09:33 The cross-examination is temporarily suspended. The defence want to review the transactions being presented, and will later determine whether they would like to continue with the cross-examination. Nicole Meilak
09:30 Bonello is cross-examined by lawyer Mark Vassallo. He asks about the predicate offence. She explains that the predicate offence is corruption in the private sector in relation to the inflated prices of printing press equipment purchased by Allied Newspapers from Kasco Limited. Nicole Meilak
09:28 Substantial sums of money were also received from Allied Newspapers. Vella Schembri managed to present documentation for the transaction, but there were significant discrepancies in the amounts transferred and the documentation presented. Nicole Meilak
09:26 Subsequently, Keith Schembri transferred €57,784.16 to the company across three transactions. Against, Vella Schembri provided no documentation. Malcolm Scerri had received €44,289.75 from 3City Designs through monthly payments, ranging at around €500 a month. Vella Schembri told police this was for works done by Scerri for the company, but again provided no backing documentation. Nicole Meilak
09:24 Bonello refers to several transactions passed through 3City Design Limited. She says Adrian Hillman transferred €14,000 to Vella Schembri’s company. The accused had explained to police that this was for services provided in his home, but she had no documentation to back up her claim. Nicole Meilak
09:16 Inspector Bonello says that Vella Schembri was also presented with invoices during disclosure. When asked whether she had any emails or documentation connected to the invoice, she replied in the negative. Vella Schembri said she had no access to her company’s internal banking system. Nicole Meilak
09:15 During disclosure, Vella Schembri did not explain the transactions in question. When asked about joint bank accounts held with her husband, she said it was Keith Schembri who used to take care of them. Nicole Meilak
09:13 Police investigated Josette Vella Schembri’s company 3City Designs Ltd. From the investigations, it was found that Adrian Hillman received sums of money through the company but were marked as having been transferred by Kasco Group, which is Keith Schembri’s company. She added that Malcolm Scerri had also received some money through the company. Nicole Meilak
09:09 First witness of the day is Inspector Leanne Bonello. She is presenting a copy of the arrest warrant dated 5 March 2021 together with the disclosure. The latter includes cheques coming from Keith Schembri, his father Alfio, and other cheques from Kasco Limited addressed to Alfio Schembri but deposited in joint accounts.
“This was never a fixed amount. When I checked it was €2406.71 a month.”
Nicole Meilak
09:04 Good morning. We're live from Hall 9 to report the compilation of evidence against Josette Vella Schembri. Nicole Meilak

She is married to the former Muscat administration’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, who is himself accused of money laundering in separate proceedings.

Edward Gatt, Veronique Dalli and Mark Vassallo are defence counsel to Vella Schembri. Lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Andrea Zammit from the attorney general's office assisted inspector Leanne Bonello.