Schembri piled debts onto supermarket after selling chain to investor for €90,000

Ryan Schembri sold supermarket chain for €90,000 to Darren Casha to repay €5.7 million loan held with restaurant entrepreneur

Ryan Schembri (left) and Darren Casha
Ryan Schembri (left) and Darren Casha

The extradited supermarket boss Ryan Schembri had sold his chain of six supermarkets to the Medasia restaurant entrepreneur Darren Casha for just €94,000 – weeks before absconding the island with tens of millions in debts left behind.

Schembri, 43, was arrested last week in Scotland and extradited to Malta to face charges of fraud and money laundering after his More Supermarkets chain crashed, leaving a trail of debts worth millions when he fled the island in November 2014.

He had been living in Dubai, London and finally Scotland with his partner Aviva Ryan, and even set up a trading company called Bors Trading according to UK records.

But it is the nature of the debt left in the wake of the More Supermarket crash, which still raises questions on the dealings he had with various businesspeople, as well as Adrian Agius, the ‘Maksar’ gang boss accused of the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, who himself was a More Supermarkets creditor.

Agius was a registered director of the More Supermarkets outlet in Hamrun, by far the most lucrative outlet of all, as well as having a partnership with Schembri in the company Interaa Holdings.

Sale of More to Casha

Darren Casha and his other associates had accepted a share transfer for the supermarket chain in May 2014 after having previously loaned Schembri the sum total of €5.7 million for the development of a Libyan expansion of the supermarket business.

The transfer of the supermarket business was intended as a means for Schembri to no longer be Casha’s debtor, with other shareholders in the More Supermarket chain following suit and signing off on the transfer to Casha’s D More Holdings.

The More shareholders appearing on the private agreement comprised Adrian Agius, on behalf of Imora Holdings; Alexander Polidano for Panelix Supplies; Kurt Camilleri for K Consult; and Christian Delia

Casha had incorporated Vice Holdings to take over the More Supermarket chain back in April 2014, together with shareholders Adrian Zammit for AZ Investment and Raymond Camilleri. Casha’s share was later transferred separately into the company D More Holdings, with Vice holding a 25% shareholding.

Schembri was however retained only as a director of the More Supermarkets outlet of Hamrun, together with his father, Adrian Agius, Chris Delia and Kurt Camilleri.


Schembri and Agius signed ‘secret’ constitution of debt

But after his share transfer to Darren Casha, Ryan Schembri had more debts to settle: a major headache was a €3.5 million loan from two creditors, Edmond Mugliett and Alex Farrugia.

Despite having sold off the supermarket chain to Casha, and no longer empowered to act in the name of More Supermarkets, Schembri signed a new constitution of debt weeks later in June 2014 with his creditors, and with Adrian Agius present for the signing of the debt agreement.

Using their roles as directors of More’s Hamrun outlet, Schembri and Agius signed the constitution of debt – allegedly unbeknownst to Casha.

Casha only found out about the ‘new’ debt in October 2014, when Schembri fled the island. He has since refused to assume responsibility for the debt owed, telling the courts that not even the More financial controller at the time had any indication that More Supermarkets had received that kind of money.


Casha claims he is owed €10 million

Darren Casha has claimed he is owed €10 million by Schembri. In a 2016 judicial protest, Casha accused Schembri of having “fraudulently and deceitfully” misled him into ‘investing’.

Casha claimed Schembri had fooled him into making the investment to expand More Supermarkets in Libya and that the accounts he had been shown were “mistaken and far from the truth”.

He also said Schembri seemed to have been acting on the execution of such a plan and had also asked to be introduced to other people, principally in business, who were ready to invest.

While there were some who invested directly, other investors had asked Schembri for some kind of guarantee. For some time, the investors were receiving returns on their investment but all of a sudden, in March 2014, Schembri told them he had problems paying them back, not only in respect of their returns but also the capital.

Casha said that initially, even with the involvement of Schembri himself, he had started to participate in the running of More Supermarkets. Creditors and suppliers had to be paid not only for their consignments but also for balances that had come due previously.

“Gradually the fact began to emerge that the figures and accounts details which Ryan Schembri had given and on which [Casha] had based his decision to enter into such involvement were mistaken and far from the truth,” Casha said in the protest.

“Due to deceit, illegal, abusive and fraudulent behaviour on the part of the respondents and principally of the respondent Ryan Schembri, the protesting parties incurred huge damages...”

“All together, the damages suffered as well as the continuous further damages that the protesting party is still suffering everyday… exceed €10 million,” Casha said.