The court this morning heard the police detail suspicious transactions involving a company owned by Josette Vella Schembri, and former Allied Group managing director Adrian Hillman and Kasco Group CEO Malcolm Scerri.
The compilation of evidence against Vella Schembri – the wife of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri – continued today, with the court hearing from inspector Leanne Bonello.
Vella Schembri has been charged following investigations which started after the publication of the magisterial inquiry into the Progress Press affair, in which Keith Schembri and his associates have been accused of defrauding the printing company out of millions.
After presenting a copy of Vella Schembri’s arrest warrant and the disclosure she was given in March 2021, Bonello described to the court a number of transactions, involving Vella Schembri’s company 3City Designs Ltd.
Bonello said that Hillman had received funds from 3City Designs Ltd which were marked as having been received from Kasco Group.
She said Vella Schembri had failed to explain the transactions to the police, arguing that it was her husband who always handed their joint bank accounts. Bonello also outlined a €14,000 transaction from Hillman to Vella Schembri’s company.
This, she had told the police, related to services provided in his home, though there was no documentation to back up the claim.
Replying to questions from lawyer Mark Vassallo, Bonello explains that the predicate offence behind the charges against Vella Schembri was corruption in relation to the inflated prices of printing press equipment purchased by Progress Press from Kasco Engineering.
The sitting was a short one, with lawyer Edward Gatt, also appearing for Vella Schembri once again telling the court that it was unacceptable for people allegedly involved in money laundering cases to be charged in the manner in which they were.
“Out there, there are many views about this trend. My work is in court, but I am saying it because the courts must be there to protect society. The last defence society has is not the FCID but the courts,” Gatt said.
He said he was repeatedly being presented with the same evidence he had presented with in other linked cases.
The court accepted a request by Vella for her to be granted permission to leave the house at 6.15am instead of 6.30am on two particular days in order to take her daughter out to get her bus to school. There was no objection by the prosecution and the request was accepted.
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech is presiding.
Lawyers Edward Gatt, Veronique Dalli and Mark Vassallo are appearing for Vella Schembri.
AG lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Andrea Zammit assisted Inspector Camilleri.
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