Man arraigned over Iklin shooting, remanded in custody

33-year-old fuel distributor Christopher Schembri charged after allegedly firing three warning shots during an argument in Iklin • Second man expected to be arraigned on Monday.

Three warning shots were allegedly fired in the air after an argument in Iklin on Friday night.Photo: John Pisani
Three warning shots were allegedly fired in the air after an argument in Iklin on Friday night.Photo: John Pisani

A 33-year-old man was this afternoon remanded in custody after pleading not guilty to shooting a firearm during an argument outside a lawyer’s office in Iklin.

Christopher Schembri, a fuel distributor from Sliema, denied shooting a firearm in an inhabited area, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and to threatening and assaulting David Vella.

The accused also denied to breaching public peace, to having an unlicensed weapon, to carrying the weapon, and to relapsing.

Magistrate Miriam Hayman head how the incident occurred on Friday at around 9pm in Triq Anton Manuel Caruana, Iklin, close to the office-garage of lawyer Jonathan Abela. Prosecuting officer Carlos Cordina told the court that an argument had erupted between Vella and Schembri over a dishonoured cheque.

Sources said that Schembri, a fuel distributor, received a number of cheques from Vella. Schembri subsequently, used the cheques to pay AC Fuels Limited – a company that import fuel - only for the cheques to bounce back when the fuel importers tried to cash them.

Lawyer Jonathan Abela called Schembri to his office requesting an explanation over the cheques. The cheques had a mobile number, and a third party, identified as David Vella, was called in at the lawyer’s office. The sources claimed that Vella admitted that the cheques had been “stolen from his parents” and he reportedly urged the involved parties to resolve the matters quietly, fearing repercussions for his actions.

An argument subsequently erupted between Schembri and Vella. The argument is said to have spilled over out of the lawyer’s office and into the driveway, and Vella is said to have shot first at Schembri – almost hitting him in the process.

Police investigations suggest that Schembri then retaliated by grabbing a pistol and firing between two and three shots in the air.  According to police investigations, Mr Vella shot first and Mr Schembri retaliated by firing shots in the air.

In addition, Inspector Cordina told the court that Schembri had told police that his intention was to scare Vella – and not harm him.

Echoing the police, defence lawyer David Gatt said his client had only retaliated after he was almost hit by bullets.

Sources said that the other man involved, David Vella, is currently being held under preventive custody and is expected to be arraigned on Monday.

In submissions for bail, the prosecution argued that bail should be withheld because of the seriousness of the crime and because several witnesses have yet to testify. Magistrate Miriam Hayman acceded to the prosecution’s request and denied bail.

The Magistrate also recommended that Schembri and Vella be kept apart while at the Corradino Correctional Facilitiy.

Police Inspectors Carlos Cordina and Nicholas Vella prosecuted, while Lawyer David Gatt was defence counsel.