The man who took over the sinking More Supermarkets chain in a bid to save it from total collapse says he is owed €10 million by its former owner, Ryan Schembri, who had “fraudulently and deceitfully” misled him into investing.
Businessman Darren Casha claimed in a judicial protest that Mr Schembri had fooled him into making the investment and that the accounts he had been shown were “mistaken and far from the truth”.
Mr Schembri is believed to have fled Malta in September 2014 after having allegedly racked up some €40 million in debt. No one has heard from him since, although sources said members of his family have since returned to Malta.
Through a judicial protest filed before Mr Justice Joseph R Micallef, presiding over the First Hall of the Civil Court, Mr Casha claimed that he was owed a total of some €10 million by Mr Schembri and the company through which More Supermarkets was being operated: Cassar and Schembri Limited.
The protest was filed by Mr Casha in his own name and in the name and in representation of D. More Holdings Ltd, More Supermarkets (Ħamrun) Ltd, More Supermarkets (Fgura) Ltd, More Supermarkets (Mosta) Ltd and More Supermarkets (P’Ville) Ltd.
Mr Casha told the court that he had, for a number of years, managed and been involved in various businesses principally in the field of catering, entertainment and tourism.
He also spent a long time working in Libya where he had invested with a third party in a catering establishment.
It was in this context that he had met Mr Schembri “who had presented himself as a person of trust”.
Mr Casha claimed Mr Schembri had informed him of his plans to develop a chain of supermarkets by the name More Supermarkets.
Mr Schembri seemed to have been acting on the execution of such a plan and had also asked to be introduced to other people, principally in business, who were ready to invest.
While there were some who invested directly, other investors had asked Mr Schembri for some kind of guarantee. For some time, the investors were receiving returns on their investment but all of a sudden, in March 2014, Mr Schembri told them he had problems paying them back, not only in respect of their returns but also the capital.
Mr Casha said that initially, even with the involvement of Mr Schembri himself, he had started to participate in the running of More Supermarkets. Creditors and suppliers had to be paid not only for their consignments but also for balances that had come due previously.
“Gradually the fact began to emerge that the figures and accounts details which Ryan Schembri had given and on which [Mr Casha] had based his decision to enter into such involvement were mistaken and far from the truth,” Mr Casha’s lawyer said in the protest. He also referred to two contracts of constitution of debt allegedly signed by Mr Schembri sometime before he allegedly left Malta, which brought about two garnishee orders to the tune of €3.5 million.
“Due to deceit, illegal, abusive and fraudulent behaviour on the part of the respondents and principally of the respondent Ryan Schembri, the protesting parties incurred huge damages...” the protest states.
Money belonging to third parties reached Mr Schembri through “fraudulent representations” and “deceitful means”.
The result was “loss of work, loss of business, loss of goodwill and even personal loss”.
“All together, the damages suffered as well as the continuous further damages that the protesting party is still suffering everyday… exceed €10 million,” Mr Casha said as he claimed that this was all documented.
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