What’s easiest, declaring bankruptcy or spending your life on the run?

Published: October 9, 2014 at 8:21pm

Exactly. I am amazed at the way the news reports haven’t thought the obvious through. People who owe huge amounts that they cannot repay, especially when it’s all done through a limited liability company and legitimate business, do not go on the run for fear of being jailed or made to work as debt-slaves. They declare bankruptcy. Then, if their home is sold, they go and live with their parents or siblings, or they start again in a rented flat.

They do not disappear into the night without saying goodbye to those they love and who love them, without letting those loved ones know where they are or what has become of them, in the full knowledge that they are causing them a great deal of suffering while making their own lives miserable.

When people do that, it is not because they can’t pay their civil debts but because they fear the violent threats of the criminals with whom they have associated and done business. They are not running away from their debts, but running away to save their lives.

Clearly, this is not a purely financial scam in which Ryan Schembri took people’s money, purportedly to invest it, and squirreled it away in some secretive jurisdiction in his own name. This was an illegal operation using a legitimate business as a false front, in which Ryan Schembri fell foul of some very nasty and dangerous criminals.

There has been a spate of such things over the last two years or so.

Times of Malta reports today:

A leading meat importer has left the island with his family and is being sought after running into serious financial problems.

Informed sources said Ryan Schembri was unable to pay investors and creditors for several months.

According to In-Nazzjon, he is being sought by the police for fraud amounting to €40 million.

If a legitimate meat business goes bad, its owner declares bankruptcy. But this was not a meat business. This was a criminal operation. All the news reports are talking about how Schembri traded “meat from Brazil” to various countries.

In the 1980s, one of my contemporaries had a business trading “coffee from Brazil” to various countries including Malta. Much later, when the law finally caught up with him completely by chance, he was jailed for 15 years for trafficking in cocaine.

My only observation is this: the gullibility of Maltese people is sometimes astonishing. They never ask where money comes from, and never measure a person’s lifestyle or the amount of money he has and spends against the nature of his business. Nor do they examine what that business might be. They are so blinded by money that they take the rest at face value – for example, that it is possible to acquire a mansion worth Eur7 million and very much else besides off a few bars in Paceville.

41 Comments Comment

  1. Towni says:

    Those Paceville bars…not when you deal in ‘talcum powder’ of course…and hookers, escorts and lap dancing.

  2. Ta'Sapienza says:

    Thing is, some of the creditors might not follow your logic. The Tyson Butcher case comes to mind.

  3. anthony says:

    A lot of apparent ‘big business’ in Malta is nothing more than a front .

    The real ‘big’ money lies in the white stuff. A turnover, according to my conservative estimates, of a quarter of a million euros per day.

    That makes it very close to one billion euros annually.

    Escorts, lap dancers, meat, gentlemen’s clubs, hookers, whatever, are just complementary peripherals.

  4. ken il malti says:

    It seems everything is from Brazil.

    Just like the film, “The Boys From Brazil”.

  5. Robert says:

    The people who financed Ryan Schembri probably did so because they wanted to launder their own money.

  6. mrxemx says:

    Things like this make me wonder how savvy the Maltese bankers are? Or is this a situation of no bankers involved and savvy investors taking a bigger risk and now complaining they have been bitten?

  7. White coat says:

    “….that it is possible to acquire a mansion worth Eur7 million and very much else besides off a few bars in Paceville.”

    Careful there, Daphne…. watch your back.

  8. AnthonyG says:

    There were at least another two murders related to the meat industry the past months; one outside a meat processing factory near Playmobil, and the Tyson butcher murder. I’m not saying they are related, but it seems likely.

  9. Stephen Forster says:

    Never has the term “Meat is murder” hold so true

  10. AE says:

    If the Maltese are gullible, the Maltese police are even worse. They are either on the take or close an eye.

    Everyone knows the owner of that Madliena mansion made his money off drugs and yet he is not locked up.

    Instead he flaunts it, even posting a Mafia/Scarface style video of himself on YouTube.

    Property, bars and restaurants are the classic modes of laundering money and he is doing just that under the police’s nose.

    • Tabatha White says:

      If you delve deeper you’ll find that it’s the bouncers that are in full control of the scene.

      With security subcontracted, the dangerous guys are those meant to be in enforcement.

      Isn’t that just how the Yugoslav mafia got hold of Sweden’s scene?

      Isn’t there a Croat in this picture too?

  11. J Abela says:

    You can rest assured that everybody knows you can’t buy a mansion worth Eur7 million off a few bars in Paceville. It’s an open secret and it’s absolutely disgusting.

    • Ho hum says:

      Best not to go there. He too came from humble beginnings, his father running a little ammunition shop in Valley Road, Birkirkara (under the ramp opposite Mac Donald’s) until at least the early 1980s.

    • White coat says:

      Mexican police fight it out with the drug dealers, with many heroic victims on the right side of the law. Here they don’t.

      I wonder why. Wait a minute, one does not really need to wreck his brain to get an answer.

  12. Scarface says:

    The disgusting conclusion is that these people are totally above the law and get away with murder, so to speak, under any government and with any Commissioner of Police or indeed Commissioner of Inland Revenue who happen to be in office.

    • anthony says:


      In Al Capone’s case it was the taxman who nicked him rather than the policeman.

      In Malta it will be neither the one nor the other.

  13. LIXU says:

    It’s obvious you have stumbled onto something big, in fact very very big with the result that a number of persons may be having sleepless nights. Just watch yourself.

  14. Ivan says:

    And when my employer made a mistake in my tax payments of around €30 in a particular year, I was sent a bill complete with interest. I paid without complaining but when I see these kind of things I become sick.

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

  15. Calculator says:

    These criminals must be having the time of their life at the moment.

    Joseph Muscat obviously doesn’t care where money comes from (remember the ‘blokka silġ’?); he publicly advertises its possession as a measure of talent. Surely not the best message to send either abroad or locally with a seedy underbelly like this in Malta.

  16. Manuel says:

    Will the Fraud Division investigate these so called ‘investors’? I wouldn’t count on it.

    The Barunijiet – reminiscent of the Santian 1996 election battle cry – are now the PL’s and Muscat’s main financial benefactors.

    No wonder no body investigates them.

    And the PN Opposition is in lethargy.

  17. Malti ta' Veru says:

    That old adage, love of money is the root of all evil, comes to mind.

    [Daphne – Radix malorum cupiditas est: love of money (cupidity) is the root of all evil, not money.]

    • Malti ta' Veru says:

      Exactly so! In other words it is HOW we use that commodity that is the question, not the commodity itself……

  18. Kevin says:

    You should have marked this as “attakk fahxi.” Few will understand that you are providing important details otherwise omitted by the press, establishing a rational conclusion to present a theory, and, baring a possible scandal that IS in the public interest. I, for one, wouldn’t want the party in government to be tainted with drug money.

  19. Benny Hill says:

    So you can’t make enough to buy a €7 million mansion and plenty of cars and girls from selling sushi, tapas and cocktails in Malta? Was always kind of doubtful about that. Or maybe we’re not thinking about the same person.

  20. Volley says:

    The Maltese economy runs on laundered money.

  21. Madoff says:

    Fraudulent bankruptcy would land him in jail. In anticipation he is already at large.

  22. chico says:

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

    Good one, Daphne – all the English language dailies, even those that have been around decades, still covering the mundane village politic and UHM non-stories.

  23. Jozef says:

    It’s always meat that seems to make these people tycoons.

    Remember the one with the Midas touch?

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Restaurants, nightclubs, supermarkets and real estate.

      Satan’s Maltese Quadriga.

      Imbaghad jigi xi Giovanni De Martino bil-proud of what this country has achieved.

  24. chico says:

    I remember some years back I wanted to withdraw some 20k from my late mum’s account to pay 1 year in advance for the residential home she was in. The bank manager gave me all sorts of bull about wanting to know what the money was for, money laundering and so on.

    Guess the banks can’t tell their millions from their thousands.

    • Tabatha White says:

      That’s just the beginning.

      How do you think this is going to affect Malta’s reputation with these institutions abroad?

      “Third world country where people are into cash deals.”

      “What? Businessman? From ….Malta?”

      “What? Wholesale business? … Malta?”

      But, you say:…. Malta’s in the EU.. We HAD a strong economy…. We WERE doing well….We HAD a good reputation. We are represented in Brussels (SNIGGER)…

      Sorry. Not strong enough. Things have changed.

      Good timing PN. This was exactly the right time to launch the business effort.

      The NP have always been on the ball when it comes to safeguarding the reputation of Malta, and the business interests of all Maltese businessmen.

      The contrast couldn’t be more evident.

    • anthony says:

      Chico, next time round offer him ten percent.

      Not only will he not ask any questions but the chances are he will ask you out for lunch.

  25. oasis says:

    The real truth today is that the honest businessman is just a normal worker that maybe can afford a to go on holiday once a year, while the new instant rich are fraudsters, drug dealers and loan sharks.

    Comino in summer is one hell of an example. Just check the yachts there.

  26. jaqq says:

    Where was the tax compliance unit?

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