Updated | Keith Schembri, 3City Designs demand proof on allegations that they received money from Vitals

3City Design, owned by Keith Schembri's wife and already implicated in money laundering, allegedly received thousands of euro from Vitals in 2017

An interior design company owned by Keith Schembri's wife received payments running in the thousands from Vitals Global Healthcare just before it sold its concession for the running of three hospitals to Steward Healthcare. 

According to the Times of Malta, the company 3City Design started receiving unusual payments at around the same time negotiations were underway for Steward Healthcare to buy the hospitals concession from Vitals. 

The company belongs to Josette Schembri Vella, wife to the former chief of staff. She was charged with money laundering last year, with a police inspector telling the court that her company formed part of a complex scheme used to transfer sums of cash between various entities.

In November 2017, Vitals transferred €45,000 out of the hospitals concession to 3City Design, allegedly to draw up plans for a multi-storey car park in Pietà.

However, the running of the St Luke's car park was delegated to the Pietà local council in 2014.

Apart from this payment, another company run by Josette Schembri signed a two-year lease agreement with Vitals to rent a property in Pender Gardens. 

This agreement saw Vitals, and later Steward Healthcare, pay €2,400 in monthly rent to 3City Design. The first four payments were sent through Bluestone Investments, the parent company of Vitals Global Healthcare. 

Steward Healthcare kept up the payments for nine months after taking over the concession, with a total €21,600 transferred to 3City Design.

However, the payments stopped in October 2018, a year before the lease agreement was supposed to end.

3City Design and the Allied-Kasco deal

Schembri Vella and 3City Designs were charged with laundering €1.5 million last year. She is accused of laundering money between 2008 and 2020 and failing to observe all of the duties of a company director. 

Police inspectors had told the court that her company formed part of a complex scheme used to transfer sums of cash between various entities. 

In particular, the company was used to transfer cash between Allied Newspapers, its former managing director Adrian Hillman, and Keith Schembri himself as part of a deal to purchase a printing press Kasco. 

Kasco is the holding company for Keith Schembri's various business ventures. 

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.

Keith Schembri, 3City Design demand proof

In a statement to the press, Keith Schembri and 3City Designs completely denied ever receiving this €45,000 payment from Vitals. 

"This allegation is a complete lie. The company 3City Designs never received this payment and neither did it carry out these works (or any other works) to Vitals and Steward."

The company went on to invite Times of Malta to publish the documents on which it based its article. 

"In the absence of this the Times of Malta is being asked to publicly acknowledge its mistake and explain to its readers how this mistake was made and why it was allowed to be made."