Millions Schembri borrowed to save Libyan supermarket

No police investigation launched into disappearance of man who allegedly owes €40 million to loan sharks • Extent of business debts revealed.

Ryan Schembri
Ryan Schembri

No police investigation was formally launched into the debts allegedly incurred by Ryan Schembri, 36, a supermarket director and a meat importer who is said to have amassed €40 million in debt to businessmen and loan sharks, forcing him to abscond from the island with his wife Angie and a young son.

A senior police source told MaltaToday that Schembri, of Mellieha, had no prior criminal convictions and that no Interpol alert had been issued after the man was reported to have left the island on the night between 20 and 21 September.

But it transpires that no reports were filed with the police over the debts owed by Schembri.

“No police reports gets lodged over illicit loans, that’s for sure. But then even id Schembri defaulted on his legitimate businesses debts and bank loans, that’s not even a police matter. If anything it would be his hypothecated that would suffer,” the police source told MaltaToday.

Millions in bank and private loans, and a €500,000 Santa Marija villa

News of Schembri’s disappearance was broken in the Nationalist press last week, after purportedly being alerted by debtors left empty-handed after Schembri’s ambitious food import business was run to the ground.

But it is also banks and other companies associated with Schembri which will be left to pick up the pieces of his business debts.

In June 2012, Schembri and his wife purchased a villa in Mellieha’s lavish Santa Marija estate for an impressive €535,000.

As recently as last June, Schembri and his firm Cassar & Schembri Marketing, together with the More Supermarkets franchise, were registered as debtors of entrepreneur Edmond Mugliett for €2 million in capital, at the highest interest rate permissible at law. The money had been loaned from various companies.

Schembri, his firm and the More chain also borrowed €1.5 million, at the highest interest rate possible, from businessman Alexander Farrugia.

Schembri, together with his firm Cassar & Schembri Marketing, also have a fair amount of business loans from banks: as much as €930,000 was outstanding to HSBC Malta before the firm changed its bank to Banif Bank.

In 2011, Banif forwarded Cassar & Schembri Marketing €1 million to refinance current facilities held with HSBC Malta, and to refinance their investment and capital expenditure at the Palm City Supermarket outside Tripoli, Libya.

Banif also accorded a €627,000 overdraft to Cassar & Schembri, and another €700,000 loan for Schembri’s firm Interaa Holdings Ltd, to be utilised for the business’s working capital requirements in connection with its Libya operations.

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

The conflict in Libya made it impossible for Schembri to turn his Palm City supermarket operation into a viable business, despite having been a link for his food import business to the North African country.

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.

It is believed 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, which has operations in Fgura, Hamrun, Mosta, Paceville and Valletta.

The owners of the More Supermarkets chain are, according to company records, D.More Holdings, which was constituted in May 2014.

D.More Holdings’s sole director is Darren Casha, who appears as a personal shareholder for 75% of the company; while Vice Holdings owns the other 25%.

Vice Holdings is equally owned by Casha; AZ Investments, whose beneficial owner is property entrepreneur Adrian Zammit; and Raymond Camilleri, of Villino Chapelle in St Paul’s Bay.