Malta
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Jailed thug tells court Matthew Schembri commissioned former father-in-law's beating

One of the men jailed for assaulting Matthew Schembri’s former father-in-law has told a court this afternoon that Schembri had promised them payment for the deed.

The compilation of evidence against Schembri, who is charged with commissioning two men to assault his ex-wife’s 62-year-old father while jogging on the Sliema front, continued before Magistrate Victor Axiak on Tuesday.

In previous sittings, the police had described Matthew Joseph Schembri, 37, from Sliema, as "the brains behind" the unprovoked assault on Louis Spiteri near the George Bonello Dupuis garden in Sliema.

Schembri who, according to reports, used to moonlight as the personal driver to the Lands Department CEO Robert Vella, is also the developer behind the Kordin construction site which collapsed in December 2022, claiming the life of JeanPaul Sofia.

He is denying charges of complicity in attempted grievous bodily harm, attempted grievous bodily harm and actual slight bodily harm with respect to the assault case.

Schembri and the two alleged attackers, unemployed Albanian nationals Xhovano Ndoci, 23 and Agostin Marku, 23, who both resided in a Sliema apartment owned by Schembri, had originally all been charged together in connection with the assault, but the cases were subsequently separated after the Albanians admitted the charges. Ndoci and Marku were both sentenced to imprisonment for 20 and 22 months respectively, in connection with the attack.

Marku, who served his sentence and was to be released before the end of the week, was first to take the witness stand in the compilation of evidence against Schembri on Tuesday.

The court was told that Marku was to be repatriated upon his release from prison, in terms of a removal order that had been issued against him.

He confirmed on the witness stand that he had been sentenced and had not filed an appeal, but claimed to be unable to remember the details of the incident which had taken place a year and a half ago.

Speaking in vague terms and with evident reluctance, Marku said he had followed a person whom he knew there was a problem with and had punched him, telling the court that he could not remember who had a problem with the victim. Warned that he could face legal repercussions if found guilty of perjury, he eventually said that it was Schembri, but insisted that he had assaulted the man “because he wanted to” and not at Schembri’s behest.

The next witness was the other convicted assailant, Xhovano Ndoci, also from Albania.

“Matthew Schembri had a problem with another person, whose name I don’t know,” Ndoci told the court. Asked by prosecuting police inspector Lydon Zammit whether he recognised Schembri in the courtroom, he pointed to the defendant.

The witness said that before the incident he had been on good terms with Schembri and used to work for him.

“He [Schembri] showed me this photo and I knew that this was the target,” Ndoci said, when asked how he had identified the victim.

But contrary to the previous witness, Ndoci admitted that Schembri had offered to pay the men after the assault, although he insisted that “we were going to carry out the act out of respect.”

Magistrate Axiak asked whether the offer of money from Schembri had been made before or after the assault. “It was supposed to be paid after, but we did it out of respect for Matthew.” replied the witness, going on to say that “he told us before.”.

The court pointed out that he had previously indicated that the money had been proffered as a “thank you.”

“The promise was made before the act, but the money was handed over after,” clarified the witness.

Asked how much money was involved, he said that a financial award had been promised but that the actual amount was never discussed.

“I was supposed to beat or punch the person to get the money,” said the witness, who said that he had been arrested some two or three hours after the incident, in reply to another question.

Schembri had handed him a photo of the intended target and told him his name and the town where the target resided, both of which he said he had now forgotten.

At this point, the court announced that there was reasonable suspicion that the previous witness, Agostine Marku, had given false evidence at points in his testimony. In such circumstances, the court can order the suspect witness’ arrest.

In view of this, the court ordered that the police be instructed not to deport Marku, who was due to be released from prison later this week, until he is brought to court again to be confronted with the discrepancies in his account of events.

After lawyer Arthur Azzopardi informed the court that Schembri had been granted permission to go abroad by the Criminal Court, magistrate Axiak set the date of the next sitting to the morning before Schembri’s planned departure.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Franco Debono are representing Schembri in the proceedings. Xhovanu Ndoci is being assisted by lawyer Dean Hili. Lawyer Charles Mercieca is appearing for Agostine Marku.