Wasn’t it OK to have a com­pany in Panama, PM?

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

Fol­low­ing fresh al­le­ga­tions by Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia, who is an in­de­pen­dent blog­ger be­sides be­ing one of our colum­nists, that she has more than an inkling on who is the ul­ti­mate ben­e­fi­ciary of the in­fa­mous Pana­ma­nian com­pany Egrant, the Prime Min­is­ter went out of his way to un­der­line that nei­ther he nor any mem­ber of his fam­ily are the se­cret owner of the third com­pany. He even stopped in his step when chased by a PN jour­nal­ist to threaten him with li­bel if he dared say that Egrant is his.

A year ago, when hell broke loose with the Panama Pa­pers and ev­ery­one ex­pected Kon­rad Mizzi to step down from cabi­net, the Prime Min­is­ter de­fended his favourite apos­tle by say­ing that he (Mizzi) did noth­ing il­le­gal. Joseph Mus­cat re­peated the same line when mem­bers of the European Par­lia­ment moved a mo­tion to this ef­fect. His stuck his nails deep into this line like a life saver; “Kon­rad Mizzi did noth­ing il­le­gal.” He did con­cede, back then when the po­lit­i­cal heat started to be­come

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un­bear­able, that what Kon­rad Mizzi and his Chief of Staff Keith Schem­bri did when they opened se­cret com­pa­nies in Panama and the BVI a day af­ter they won the elec­tion in 2013, was po­lit­i­cally in­sen­si­tive. But un­til now, open­ing a com­pany in Panama and claim­ing to de­posit a mil­lion euro each year was all well and good for a min­is­ter, by Mus­cat’s stan­dards. So one won­ders why the Prime Min­is­ter has be­come so con­cerned at be­ing seen as the pos­si­ble owner of a com­pany in Panama. Why did he feel the need to ad­dress the PL’s gen­eral con­fer­ence to dis­as­so­ci­ate him­self and his fam­ily from the no­tion of hav­ing a com­pany reg­is­tered in Panama? What has changed over the course of the past eight months?

Although Mrs Caru­ana Gal­izia hasn’t yet let the ‘lamb’ out of the bag (pun in­tended), one thing has surely changed for the Prime Min­is­ter in the ugly mess he found him­self in. Caru­ana Gal­izia has con­nected the dots and is al­leg­ing that money from Azer­bai­jan has flown into the se­cret com­pa­nies owned by Mizzi and Schem­bri. This is still to be proven by Caru­ana Gal­izia, and Schem­bri opened a li­bel case im­promptu on the mat­ter. The Prime Min­is­ter had trav­elled to the cor­rupt State of Azer­bai­jan and sealed a deal for re­fined gas sup­plies, a hedg­ing deal which saw Malta lose €14 mil­lion.

Even if he is not di­rectly in­volved in any trans­fer of funds into se­cret Pana­ma­nian com­pa­nies, Joseph Mus­cat knows all too well that it is time to dis­tance him­self from what­ever is set to be re­vealed by Caru­ana Gal­izia. Like in pre­vi­ous sce­nar­ios, if he’s put with his back against the wall, he will drop any­one around him to save his skin, es­pe­cially on the eve of an elec­tion in which he needs to prove that his poli­cies will give him a big­ger ma­jor­ity than the one he ob­tained four years ago. The real ques­tion is whether he is in a po­si­tion to ditch Mizzi and Schem­bri. Will he go down with them should he de­cide to let them go?

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