An interior design company owned by Keith Schembri and his wife did not have an in-house accounts department and accounting was handled by Kasco Group, a court heard on Thursday.
An interior designer working at 3City Design Limited took the witness stand at the ongoing compilation of evidence against Josette Schembri Vella, wife of the former OPM chief of staff, who stands accused of money laundering in her capacity as director.
When proceedings resumed on Thursday, interior designer Sean Fenech who has been employed at 3City Design since 2013, gave an overview of how the system functioned within the company’s two sectors, namely retail and design services.
An accountant had access to timesheets inputted by all employees for all their work, the witness said.
Questioned by AG lawyer Antoine Agius Bonnici about who actually handled those timesheets, the witness replied, “I believe it’s the accounts department”.
Yet upon further questioning, he said the company did not have an in-house accounts department and since it formed part of a larger group, he believed that it was the financial controller, stationed at Kasco Group’s Bulebel offices, who handled 3City Design’s accounts.
The court also heard how under police questioning, Keith Schembri’s wife had said she had experienced trouble accessing her bank accounts and had sounded Kasco Group’s financial controller over the matter.
The controller would explain that there were difficulties in clearing invoices and so forth, testified inspector Christopher Ellul.
Eventually, Schembri Vella employed a Colombian national as a bookkeeper in a move to gain greater financial independence, she told police.
Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb who led searches at the couple’s Mellieħa home and offices last year, confirmed that several electronic devices had been seized.
In the presence of Schembri and his wife, equipment had been seized by the inspector who was accompanied by a number of constables as ‘test observers’ throughout the search.
Papers found inside Keith Schembri’s wardrobe were also seized.
Nothing was taken from the offices of 3City Design Limited, said the inspector.
The search ended at the Kasco factory at the Bulebel Industrial Estate where police seized an HP laptop and tower from Keith Schembri’s office.
Asked by defence lawyer Edward Gatt whether the Schembri couple had “fully cooperated” all throughout the investigations, Inspector Xuereb replied, “yes, I confirm.”
Earlier in Thursday's sitting, two police officers tasked with organizing and analyzing data related to the personal bank accounts of Schembri Vella and those of the company, presented reports detailing their work.
Transaction information obtained from banks was classified under five categories covering business and personal loans, A to A accounts, legal persons, natural persons and ‘others’ related to bank fees.
The data covered the period spanning 2008 to 2020.
The case, presided over by magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech, continues in December.
AG lawyers Antoine Agius Bonnici and Andrea Zammit are assisting the prosecution.
Lawyers Edward Gatt, Mark Vassallo and Veronique Dalli are defence counsel.