Former More Supermarkets boss Ryan Schembri was on Sunday charged with money laundering and fraud. He pleaded not guilty.
Schembri was arrested in the UK and extradited to Malta early this week.
He had fled Malta in 2014, leaving behind a trail of debts worth millions of euros.
The ex-supermarket boss is believed to have slipped out of Malta in 2014 after loan sharks turned on him and started threatening him and his son.
On Sunday, wearing jeans and a jumper, he was charged and remanded in custody, with the court, presided by magistrate Charmaine Galea, requesting steps be taken in prison to ensure his safety.
Left because of 'safety concerns'
Lawyer Roberto Montalto appeared for the accused, telling the court that the case concerned a “substantial sum of money” and his client should be protected.
He said his client had always planned to return to Malta and had only left because of concerns for his safety.
The prosecution was led by Police inspector Anthony Scerri of the Financial Crimes Investigation Department and lawyer from the Attorney General’s office Karl Muscat.
Schembri, along with his companies, Cassar and Schembri (Marketing) Ltd. and Food World Ltd., were charged with money laundering and fraud.
According to the charge sheet filed in court, Schembri allegedly converted money derived from criminal activity, made use of falsified documents, and offered investment services without a license.
He also allegedly concealed the provenance of ill-gotten funds to the detriment of Etienne Cassar, Steev Delia, Ian Azzopardi, Christian Delia, Darren Casha, JJC Holdings Limited, D.More Holdings Limited, More Supermarkets (Fgura) Ltd, More Supermarkets (P’Ville) Ltd, and More Supermarkets (Valletta) Ltd.
Schembri has long faced fraud claims over the spectacular collapse of the More supermarket chain, which left behind a trail of unpaid debts.
In 2016, Darren Casha, who had taken over the sinking chain, claimed in a judicial protest that Schembri had fooled him into making the investment and that the accounts he had been shown were “mistaken and far from the truth”.
Schembri is believed to have left Malta with around €40 million in debts.
In the judicial protest, Casha’s lawyer claimed his client had suffered huge damages due to Schembri’s “deceit, illegal, abusive and fraudulent behaviour”.
Slain lawyer Carmel Chircop was one of the 'investors' in the supermarket chain.
Chircop had personally entered into a contract with Schembri to loan him the sum of €750,000.
Appearing as debtors in the contract were Schembri’s business partner Etienne Cassar, but also Adrian Agius – now known as one of the men first arrested by police in December 2017 in connection with the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and later released on police bail.
Agius was last year charged with commissioning Chircop's murder, while his brother Robert is separately charged with supplying the bomb used to assassinate Caruana Galizia.
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