MaltaToday previous editions


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 8 of 51

NEWS 9 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 MAY 2022 Chircop murder and €750,000 loan to More Supermarkets ACCORDING to their con- tract, Birkirkara lawyer Car- mel Chircop agreed to loan the directors of More Hamrun a €750,000 interest-free loan. Their loan contract suggests the money had already been passed on, since a €50,000 re- payment took place on the day of the contract itself, while a further payment was expect- ed by the end of the month on 31 March, 2014, and a fur- ther €50,000 to be paid by 30 April 2014. A final payment of €600,000 had to be paid by not later than 15 February, 2015 – less than a year later. Agius, known as 'tal-Maksar', held 20% in Interaa Holdings through his company Imora Holdings, together Cassar & Schembri Marketing (40%), M&R Construction (15%) and Panelix Supplies (25%). But Adrian Agius was the guarantor on the Chircop debt, presenting as a special hypothec a property at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq. Chircop exempted the notary, Malcolm Mangion, from carrying out the usual searches on the title and the property guarantee. Chircop was killed in October 2015, the money never having been paid. Six months after the murder, Adrian Agius took recourse to the law courts in a bid to cancel the notarial deed that had locked in his property as guarantee for the €750,000 debt. However, Chircop's wid- ow first refused the claim, in- sisting that Agius himself had informed Chircop "to take his villa in Madliena as repayment for the loan to Erom. If what he now claims is true, [Agius] would have not put the villa up… the business that was to take place with Carmel Chir- cop never did happen because the agreement was that either Erom or the loan guarantor, pay back the money loaned to them." Yet neither party ever made it to court to take a stand on the alleged claim. Indeed, in Sep- tember 2017 the house Agius put up as a guarantee was sold for €1.8 million. The notary was the same person who set out the deed for Chircop's loan. Soon after, following various deferments, Agius's lawyer Ar- thur Azzopardi told the court in January 2018 that Agius was renouncing the case after an out-of-court settlement with the Chircop heirs. Agius today is facing charges in court of having ordered the murder of Carmel Chircop. In the first months of 2014, Schembri started telling his creditors that a Croatian crim- inal investigation could snow- ball into Malta and lead to an asset freeze. Casha claims he disputed these claims, later re- alising it was a ruse. Farrugia, in his affidavit, says it was at this point that he learnt of Ca- sha's extensive claims on the supermarket business and the investors that had tagged along with him. At a certain point, Schembri had been floating the idea of crafting a bond issue for the More supermarket chain, and held meetings with representa- tives from KPMG together with Darren Casha and his associ- ates Adrian Zammit and Ray Camileri, and Schembri's own business consultant, Edmond Mugliett. The public offering never came to fruition, nor a potential sale of the business to another supermarket investor. Farrugia says that after Schembri was admitted to St James Hospital with heart problems, he suggested to him that he safeguard the Rahman investment with a loan note. "He told me of a certain Ed- mond Mugliett who had loaned him money for the supermar- ket furniture. He said he had requested a constitution of debt and suggested that he in- cludes me in this constitution of debt," Farrugia claimed in his affidavit. Farrugia claimed in his affi- davit that Schembri and Casha were transferring ownership of the supermarket's shelving and furniture to another company, with the intention of misap- propriating a VAT refund to settle the Copacabana debts. "I was a nominee. When I saw this fiddle on the VAT refund... I wasn't pleased, especially see- ing that the money was being used to pay off the Copacaba- na debts... a company nobody knows about," Farrugia told the court under cross-exami- nation. Darren Casha disputed this claim in court, saying nothing in the books for the supermar- ket chain show the €3.5 million claimed by Farrugia and Mugli- ett reflected. Additionally, the constitution of debt was signed before a no- tary, together with Schembri's father Mario, and More Ham- run's director Adrian Agius, whom Casha said had no au- thority to appear on such a contract. In another court sitting in which More's financial con- sultant and accountant Dennis Francalanza was questioned, he disputed suggestions that Farrugia – who ran the super- market's 'Sock Corner' outlet – could have poured in €1.5. million into the enterprise. He said Schembri "disap- peared for some time" in May 2014 to Croatia, and Cassar & Schembri Marketing stopped operating. The office was sud- denly taken over by Darren Ca- sha, Ray Camileri and Adrian Agius. Upon his return to Mal- ta, Schembri constituted Erom Trading ('More' spelt back- wards) and informed Fran- calanza that Edmond Mugliett would start doing the compa- ny's accounts. "On 17 October, as we were just about to wind up the Pace- ville outlet, a court marshall presented us two garnishee or- ders, one of €1.5 million from Alex Farrugia, and the other of €2 million from Mugliett. We were surprised at the origin of these orders." Adrian Agius: phantom director? It is unclear what role Adrian Agius had in the running of the More Hamrun supermarket. Today, Agius is in prison fac- ing charges of having ordered the murder of lawyer Carmel Chircop, who had loaned a substantial sum, €750,000, Ry- an Schembri, then appearing as director of the company Er- om Limited. Also appearing as debtors in the contract were Schembri's business partner Etienne Cassar, as well as Adri- an Agius - one of the men first arrested by police in December 2017 in connection with the as- sassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and later released on police bail. Together, Schembri and Cassar, and Agius, owned shares in another joint compa- ny called Interaa Holdings. Agius's brother Robert Agius is also accused together with Jamie Vella of having sup- plied the bomb used to kill the journalist Daphne Carua- na Galizia. The information, including that on the Chircop murder, was supplied by one of the triggermen, Vince Muscat 'il-Koħħu', who witnessed the events. But prior to his arrest, Agius appeared in court to be ques- tioned over the alleged €3.5 million debt he had signed off on. Agius in fact had told the court in 2020 that although he was a director of More's Ham- run supermarket, he had no effective role in the running of the outlet. "I trusted Schembri with my eyes closed." In his answers to Casha's law- yer, it seemed his knowledge of Schembri's affairs or business decisions, was wantonly limit- ed. "I passed on my shares to Darren Casha without collect- ing a cent, because until then I expected that those shares would return once things get back on their feet... I just rested on Ryan's word, because I don't understand anything about su- permarkets. Schembri would lead. But I did work from Ry- an's office basically. My office was his, and I would hear about things going on." And yet despite this kind of proximity, Agius claimed he was unaware of Schembri's plans for a bond issue with KP- MG, but was easily convinced that More Supermarkets owed Schembri and Mugliett €3.5 million. "Schembri told me I had to sign as a guarantor for their debt. In truth this did not suit me... apparently it was money to Ryan for projects he was investing in." Casha's lawyer pointed out to Agius that he had been a share- holder from day one at More Supermarkets, yet right up un- til the share transfer to Casha, he had no idea of the Mugli- ett-Farrguia loan. "Look, I didn't know be- cause... I would just hear them talk in the office. I never cared much. My shortcoming real- ly..." Agius replied. "Maybe Mugliett and Farru- gia would be in Ryan's office, speaking of the money... don't you remember that?" Casha's lawyer asked in cross-examina- tion. "They did come to speak to Ryan about the money but I never gave it much notice. I just kept myself busy with the laptop (Ifhimni, għaddast rasi fil-laptop tiegħi)... I trusted Ry- an blindly. My fault." "This was another confirmation that this was Schembri's ruse, and that Mugliett and Farrugia are involved with him in a bid to take from More Supermarkets something they are not entitled to." Darren Casha: the restaurant and clubbing entrepreneurs took over the supermarket chain after pouring over €5.7 million in the business

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MaltaToday previous editions - MALTATODAY 8 May 2022