Former bank employee turned serial fraudster jailed after €1 million scam

Man who persuaded three siblings to invest in a Malta-Sicily tunnel jailed for 29 months after being found guilty of defrauding and swindling them out of € 1 million

A former HSBC clerical hardware technician has been jailed for 29 months after being found guilty of misappropriation, and of defrauding three siblings out of €1 million.

The accused, Joseph Francis Scerri, 50, of Birkirkara persuaded three siblings to believe that he was investing their money in US real estate, in the Vatican Bank, oil companies in England and Dubai, as well as a tunnel between Malta and Sicily.

The court heard how the victims – siblings Paul, Joseph, and Emanuela Schembri – had been taken advantage of, because they lacked experience and knowledge of financial instruments.

Paul Schembri – who during court proceedings passed away – had invested a total of €558,067, £192,041 and $93,795. Schembri told the court that he met the accused in September 2010, and upon their meeting, he gave him €25,000.

A week later, he gave him an additional €15,000. Schembri later told the accused that he does not want to put all his eggs in one basket, and subsequently, Scerri had recommended that he invests in the Vatican Bank and Chevron.

Schembri told the court that he trusted Scerri and consequently accepted. Moreover, he said that Scerri had promised him that he would yield considerable profits after two years, and that after two years had lapsed, Scerri had told him that his interests are currently generating more profits.

Eventually, Schembri heard rumours that Scerri was not a man to be trusted, and realised that Scerri had defrauded him. Moreover, it transpired that the accused fabricated a letter from Professor Alberto Cerrutti, who was supposedly representing Empire State Buildings.

Moreover, Emanuela and Joseph Schembri – who met with Scerri on their brother's recommendation - invested a total of €135,000 and €30,000 respectively.

In its decision, Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit noted that Joseph Francis Scerri used to work at a bank three years prior to the incident, and ruled that the accused had taken advantage of his victims’ lack of education.

In addition the court ruled that Scerri had swindled the siblings, fabricated false certificates, misappropriated the money, and forged signatures to induce his victims into believing him.

He was found guilty of all the charges and jailed for two years and five months.

Lawyer Mark Busuttil defended the accused while Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb prosecuted.