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MaltaToday 31 March 2021 MIDWEEK

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3 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 31 MARCH 2021 NEWS FORMER OPM chief of staff Keith Schem- bri, Malcolm Scerri, and Robert Zammit were denied bail over charges of corruption in a bribery and money laundering case. Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech made it clear that she was denying the men bail at "this stage" and urged the prosecu- tion to wrap up its investigation as quickly as possible. However, Schembri's father Alfio, a di- rector of the Kasco group, was grant- ed bail. He will have to put up a €20,000 deposit and €50,000 guarantee for bail. Schembri will have to deposit his pass- port, ID card and driver's licence with the court. He must live at his Cospicua home, and sign a bail book at the Cospicua police station daily. Keith Schembri, together with his elderly father Alfio Schembri, a director of sever- al of the Kasco companies, and business partner Malcolm Scerri and financial con- troller Robert Zammit have been charged on multiple counts of money laundering, fraud, forgery and corruption. They formed part of a group of 11 peo- ple charged last week, including a former managing director at Allied Newspapers, publishers of Times of Malta. Keith Schembri denied bail, court urges prosecution to wrap up investigation Keith Schembri MATTHEW AGIUS BRIAN Tonna and Karl Cini had pre- pared backdated documents to satis- fy due diligence requirements after a magisterial inquiry started probing their actions, a police inspector said in court. Testifying in the compilation of evidence against Nexia BT partners Tonna, Cini and Manuel Castagna, and their employee, Katrin Bondin Carter, Inspector Ian Camilleri said the documents were required by Pi- latus Bank. The four accused were denied bail by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Di- mech. Camilleri was testifying about the conclusions of an inquiry that probed an alleged kickback of €100,000 by Tonna to former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. Tonna had claimed the money was repay- ment for a loan Schembri had given him while he passed through marital separation. The court heard how Bondin Cart- er, who was a manager at Nexia BT, had prepared backdated documents with Karl Cini to be presented to Pi- latus Bank. The documents did not reflect reality, the inspector testified. In other testimony, Inspector Anne Marie Xuereb said that Bondin Cart- er would be sent for by the firm's partners and told what to write and what not to write. "When I asked her why she hadn't questioned why the letters were backdated, she said as long as she wasn't signing off on them, she had no reason to. The documents were sent to Pilatus Bank for due dili- gence requirements," Xuereb told the court. She said the documents related to Willerby Trading and things that had already happened. "They were definitely backdated, but I don't re- member if there were other docu- ments except those relating to Pila- tus," she said. Willerby Trading was owned by Brian Tonna and was the company from which money was transferred to Keith Schembri's Pilatus Bank ac- count. Bondin Carter's defence lawyer Franco Debono argued that his client did not sign any of the documents and was just fulfilling requests made by her employers. Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell for Tonna and Cini argued that the doc- uments were not fake. "Brian Ton- na's and Karl Cini's document is truthful, but had been backdated," he argued. But Xuereb rebutted that the charge related to false documents dealt with a cheque for €84,000 to MFSP. MFSP, later renamed Zenith, was the financial services firm that held invest- ment accounts for Adrian Hillman, Vince Buhagiar and Keith Schembri. The owners of Zenith – Matthew Pace and Lorraine Falzon – are also facing money laundering charges. The court also heard the police in- spectors give details of various mon- ey transactions that passed through accounts attached to the various companies linked to Tonna, Cini and Castagna. AG lawyer Elaine Mercieca Rizzo objected to bail on the grounds that investigations are ongoing, which could lead to further arraignments. She said that the prosecution feared the accused would tamper with evi- dence. "Accounting firms are a gateway to our financial services sector and they are there to prevent abuse. In this case, they gave advice on how to abuse the system… We heard the inspector testify that as soon as the magisterial inquiries began, a pro- cess of falsifying documents also be- gan, after the alleged offences took place in order to cover their tracks," Mercieca Rizzo said. Defence lawyers argued that all documentary evidence had been preserved in the inquiry and their clients had not absconded in the four years the investigation was go- ing on. Police inspector tells Court Brian Tonna and Karl Cini started falsifying documents when inquiries kicked off Nexia BT's Brian Tonna, Karl Cini denied bail Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna (centre) and Karl Cini (right) being transported to Court by police

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