Police inaction since 2017 on fugitive Ryan Schembri: who will answer for bungled investigations?

(Left) Suspended assistant police commissioner Ian Abdilla, former head of FCID, and
(right) fugitive fraudster businessman, Ryan Schembri, who was extradited from Scotland back to Malta.

The Malta Police Force’s Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID), led in 2017 by Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla at the time, was informed that fugitive businessman Ryan Schembri was residing in the United Kingdom. Yet, the Police did nothing to have him extradited back to Malta, according to testimony given in Court by FCID’s Inspector Anthony Scerri.

Scerri is the lead prosecutor in the case of Schembri, who is suspected of money laundering. Schembri, the former owner of the ‘More Supermarket’ company, had fled Malta in 2014. His wife told authorities that one day in September, she awoke to find her husband telling her that they were leaving the country. They escaped the nation by catamaran to Sicily, then by train to Amsterdam, where they boarded a flight to Dubai, then to Australia, and finally returned to Dubai. Cash was used to pay for everything. Schembri claims he fled the nation because he was afraid for his safety. In 2017, he relocated to Scotland and began working. He is thought to have travelled in and out of the country during his time there.

Ryan Schembri travelled from Dubai to the United Kingdom in 2017, but despite being informed about this, “for some reason the Malta Police did nothing at the time.” Ian Abdilla, who has been suspended from the force pending a criminal investigation, led the FCID, then the Economic Crimes Unit, at the time. AC Abdilla has come under fire for suspected inaction on financial crimes, especially when it comes to probing top government figures.

After receiving information that Schembri had been caught speeding in Scotland, Inspector Scerri took over the case in 2020 and issued an international arrest warrant on April 11th, 2022. So far, the FCID police investigators have received allegations from Schembri’s former business associates alleging that he committed multimillion-dollar fraud. Other creditors are still being sought by the police.

Murdered Birkirkara lawyer, Dr Carmel Chircop.

Schembri had accrued millions of dollars in debt while running the grocery company before departing Malta with his wife and child in 2014. Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office (OPM), is his cousin. Dr Carmel Chircop, a Birkirkara lawyer, was shot dead outside his garage in October 2015, and the chain and its debts have since been linked to his death. Adrian Agius and his business partner Ryan Schembri were fronted €750,000 by Dr Chircop, which was to be used to support the ‘More Supermarkets’ chain that Agius and Schembri were involved in.

Chircop was pursuing Agius for the remaining €600,000 owing to him at the time of his murder. It’s unclear whether Schembri will be called to testify in the case or perhaps face prosecution. After Vince Muscat turned state witness in the case, Adrian Agius, Jamie Vella, and George Degiorgio were charged with murder.

Vincent Muscat,
a.k.a. ‘il-Kohhu‘.

Schembri, who has pleaded not guilty, said the problem was “business gone wrong” and that he had been striving to pay his creditors. When police inquired whether they could check his phone, he refused to give them his password.

Adrian Agius (left) and George Degiorgio (right.