Libel case against PM: Ann Fenech defends herself against ‘lady in Panama’ allegations
PN Council President Ann Fenech has denied allegations and insinuations made by the PL over her involvement in Panama companies, through a libel case heard in court yesterday.
She instituted the libel case against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, as head of the PL, and Daniel Micallef, PL President, on two statements released by the PL on 3 March 2015 and 6 March 2015. She said the statements claim she kept the Panama companies under wraps for many years.
She rejected allegations of having a set up an account in Panama, similar to that of Minister without portfolio Konrad Mizzi.
The 6 March statement read that she was involved in Panama-registered companies since 2003.
In 2003, she said, Fenlex Corporate Services, a subsidiary of Fenech and Fenech Advocates assisted a client in operand Timber Trading Capital Inc. and Union Private Ltd. in Panama. She said that she became Director of Fenlex in 2005.
As a result, Dr Fenech explained, around 30 billboards were erected with the slogan “The lady in Panama”.
Dr Fenech added that “several PL representatives went on television attempting to put me in the same basket as Minister Konrad Mizzi..
She said that Minister Konrad Mizzi, on Timestalk, said that the two companies in Panama are Timber Trading Capital Inc. and Union Private Ltd. were incorporated by Fenlex, and insinuated that she was the ultimate beneficial owner.
She said that the PL kept insisting that she disclose the names of the beneficial owners, however she cannot legally do so.
Dr Fenech’s lawyer, Joe Zammit Maempel asked her whether she was the ultimate beneficial owner of any Panama company, to which she said no.
She said that to her knowledge, Panama was not blacklisted in 2003 and 2004, but rather was blacklisted in 2015. Dr Fenech argued that she didn’t sue Minister Mizzi, or others as they were saying what they said on the strength of the PL statement.
“At the end of the day, people were asking what is this Ann Fenech person doing? There was a conference called Opportunities in Superyachts in March 2016 in which we were participating. Many people came from abroad. As soon as they arrive they find a billboard with my name.”
She said she does not know what is more offensive, the poster, or people being led to believe she was guilty of something.
Dr Fenech told the court that she has been working in the maritime sector for 30 years. “I am also the president of the Malta Maritime Law Association, and two years ago I was elected as an executive member of the Committee Maritime International. She explained that the CMI, a council of 13 members, is responsible for the drafting of the International Maritime Organisation’s conventions. She said she was humiliated, having to explain what was happening in Malta.
“Why? Because according to the Labour Party I was incorporating companies in Panama and unlike Konrad Mizzi, I hadn’t declared them.”
She referred to a question which had been posed to the Prime Minister about what he planned to do about Minister Mizzi, saying the PM replied, “Don’t you think you should ask me about Anne Fenech?” She stressed that those who watch the news would start to think that she did something wrong.
She also denied being directly involved in the IIP scheme, however her firm did participate. She stressed that she personally has never handled a single application on a point of principle
Dr Paul Lia, representing the defendants, said that Dr Fenech said many things for the benefit of the media, and reserved the right to contest the relevance of some of the evidence.
Dr Joe Zammit Maempel and Dr Antonio Ghio are representing Dr Fenech.
She rejected allegations of having a set up an account in Panama, similar to that of Minister without portfolio Konrad Mizzi