Keith Schembri and two of his business associates have been denied bail by a court as they face money laundering proceedings.
It means that Schembri and business associates Robert Zammit and Malcolm Scerri will return to prison as proceedings against them continue in court.
Scerri is the CEO of Kasco Group while Zammit is its financial controller. Kasco used to be Keith Schembri’s company, although he resigned his directorships after entering politics, where he served as the chief of staff to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat between 2013 and 2019.
Only Alfio Schembri – Keith Schembri’s father, who took over the said directorships – was granted bail by the court.
The defence, led by lawyers Mark Vassallo, Edward Gatt, and Ishmael Psaila, had argued that the accused had been on police bail for a length period of time, that their assets had been frozen, and that there was no risk that they could abscond. The prosecution, led by Elaine Mercieca Rizzo, had argued that the charges against the foursome are grave, that they are accused of criminal association, that investigations are still ongoing, and that others who may have been involved are yet to be charged.
In her decree, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech said that the fact that Schembri was being accused of forged documents did not give the courts “the peace of mind it needs.”
She ruled that when not all strands of crime have been intercepted yet and that there is a real danger of interference with ongoing investigations.
As a result, the magistrate denied bail for three out of the four accused “at this stage”- emphasising the word “this”. She gave the hurry-up to the prosecution, urging them to wrap up its investigations as soon as possible.
Alfio Schembri – who is the only one out of the four granted bail – will have to sign a bail book at Cospicua police station every day and have to put up a €20,000 deposit and €50,000 guarantee.
Defence lawyer Edward Gatt, following the decision, requested that prosecutors present any sensitive witnesses in the next sitting, in the hope of getting his clients bail – but the Magistrate replies that her concerns most lie in the fact that police investigations are still ongoing.
The case will continue next week, on April 5. The magistrate will decide on prima facie evidence – whether there is enough evidence to formally indict the accused – by April 20.