Updated | Alleged €40 million fraud, PM’s chief of staff disassociates himself from cousin

More Supermarkets director Ryan Schembri believed to have left island with his family over millions in unpaid business loans

Ryan Schembri. Photo: Facebook
Ryan Schembri. Photo: Facebook

Maltese police are investigating businessman Ryan Schembri, 36, over allegations that he may be connected in a business fraud totalling an estimated €40 million.

The investigation made the news today in Nationalist Party organ In-Nazzjon, after it was revealed that several creditors of Schembri had filed reports with the police.

The Prime Minister's chief of staff, Keith Schembri - cousin to Ryan Schembri - issued a comment to MaltaToday denying any connection to the man.

"I have absolutely no association to my cousin. We were not connected through business or in anyway and have had no connection in the past and present," he told this newspaper.

MaltaToday has so far established that claims that Interpol had been called to assist police in their search for Schembri, are unfounded.

Schembri is believed to have borrowed large sums of money from entrepreneurs, before finding he was unable to pay back the loans, originally intended for an ambitious import-export operation.

He is now believed to have absconded from Malta with his family, some time in late September.

According to In-Nazzjon, sources close to Schembri say the young entrepreneur had opened a supermarket in Palm City, in Tripoli, Libya and from then on started trading goods from Europe to North Africa through his company Cassar & Schembri Marketing Ltd.

Schembri was said to have hit it big with the importation of meat products from Brazil, which generated generous profit margins.

His ambition for a larger operation, requiring large loans to keep up with larger consignments of meat imports, hit hard times some time during 2014. Sources told In-Nazzjon he was unable to keep up with the payments he owed his creditors, and that he had been reported away from the island for several weeks at a time.

Police believe Schembri departed between 20-21 September, when the country was busy celebrating its 50th Independence anniversary, departing by catamaran to Sicily with his Mercedes Benz vehicle.

His other business partner in the firm is Etienne Cassar, who also is a co-shareholder with Schembri in Food World Ltd. Cassar & Schembri owns interests in the firms Sant Andrija Developments, Interaa Holdings, and Ipco Ltd.

Schembri was also a director in the More Supermarkets franchise.