PM re­it­er­ates Egrant de­nial as PN Leader of­fers pro­tec­tion to whistle­blow­ers

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat yes­ter­day again de­nied claims that he or any mem­ber of his fam­ily has or has had a se­cret off­shore com­pany or bank ac­count, in any juris­dic­tion.

He was tak­ing ques­tions af­ter a So­cial­ist and Demo­crat meet­ing in Malta on the role of the pres­i­dency and the fu­ture of the EU.

Dr Mus­cat was asked why he had gone from pre­tend­ing that blog­ger and jour­nal­ist Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia does not ex­ist to deny­ing her claims, in­clud­ing on Tues­day evening at the Labour Party AGM. Dr Mus­cat said he had made a mis­take not to re­act ear­lier.

The Panama Pa­pers pot was stirred again last week when Mrs Caru­ana Gal­izia claimed to know who the owner of the third Pana­ma­nian com­pany – Egrant – is. She also claimed that she is aware of large sums of money were moved to bank ac­counts held by Hearnville Inc and other com­pa­nies. Mrs Caru­ana Gal­izia fur­ther al­leged that in Septem­ber 2015, Min­is­ter Mizzi vis­ited Pi­la­tus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex, and that the bank was set up af­ter 2013 in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate such trans­ac­tions.

She also used a pic­ture of the PM’s wife with the daugh­ter of Az­eri Pres­i­dent Il­ham Aliyev, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that Mrs Mus­cat or an­other mem­ber of the PM’s fam­ily might be the owner of the elu­sive third com­pany.

Al­le­ga­tions about who owns Egrant have been rife since the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal broke. One year af­ter the scan­dal came to light, Dr Mus­cat said it was a mis­take to re­main quiet in the wake of in­sin­u­a­tions that he was linked with the com­pany, and that it was ac­tu­ally Brian Tonna, of cor­po­rate ser­vice pro­vi­sion com­pany Nexia BT, who ac­quired it as a shelf com­pany.

Panama Pa­pers refers to the leak of 11.5 mil­lion doc­u­ments show­ing the deal­ings between Panama based law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca and its clients. Panama is an ex­tremely se­cre­tive fi­nan­cial juris­dic­tion and the leak ex­posed how the world’s elite con­cealed their wealth for avoid tax, evade tax, while out­right crim­i­nals used such ser­vices to laun­der money.

Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi and the Prime Min­is­ter’s chief of staff Keith Schem­bri had been named in the scan­dal for hav­ing se­cret Panama com­pa­nies, no con­crete wrong­do­ing has been found but the EU’s PANA com­mit­tee said that it looked like a “clas­sic case of money laun­der­ing”.

When asked how the Prime Min­is­ter has any cred­i­bil­ity to talk about off­shore com­pa­nies, since his clos­est two men, Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi and chief of staff Keith Schem­bri had been caught with such struc­tures but re­tained their po­si­tions close to the govern­ment, Dr Mus­cat chose to at­tack the Times of Malta. In­stead of an­swer­ing the ques­tion, he ques­tioned how the news­pa­per has any cred­i­bil­ity about trans­parency when it failed to pub­lish an in­ter­nal re­port into the al­le­ga­tions about former man­ag­ing direc­tor Adrian Hill­man.

Mrs Caru­ana Gal­izia had al­leged that Mr Hill­man and Mr Schem­bri had or­ches­trated kick­backs, which led to the res­ig­na­tion of Mr Hill­man and an in­quiry be­ing drawn up into the mat­ter.

PN Leader of­fers “pro­tec­tion” to whistle­blow­ers

In the mean­time, Na­tion­al­ist Party Leader Si­mon Busut­til yes­ter­day made an ap­peal to any mem­bers of the pub­lic to come for­ward with in­for­ma­tion on Egrant, or any of the other com­pa­nies named in the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal. He said that the PN would pro­tect any­body who spoke up.

He ap­pealed for any­one with in­for­ma­tion about trans­ac­tions made about “this net­work of crim­i­nal­ity in Castille [the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter]” to come for­ward. He asked whistle­blow­ers to “do the right thing” by re­lay­ing any rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion.

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