PM denies Egrant is his wife’s, to libel DCG, does not order investigation
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has challenged blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia to provide the documents she alleged to have showing that his wife, Michelle Muscat, is the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant Inc. He promised to be filing for libel against Mrs Caruana Galizia, something he has done only once before in nine years of public life, he said.
Egrant Inc is the third Panamanian company that was acquired by Nexia BT, whose managing director is Brian Tonna. He facilitated the acquisition of three Panama-based companies through the services of Mossack Fonseca, Hearn ville Inc, Till gate Inc and Egrant Inc. The first two belonged to Minister Konrad Mizzi and the PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. Panama is a financially secretive jurisdiction, with the Panama Papers scandal exposing the world’s elite concealing their wealth.
Mrs Caruana Galizia alleged that one of the daughters of the Azerbaijani leader, Leyla Alijeva, through an offshore company, transferred large sums of money to all three companies, and that she transferred US$1.017 million to Egrant.
The Prime Minister categorically denied the claims, and said that he holds Opposition leader Simon Busuttil accountable for this “attack” on his family.
“This is the biggest political lie that was ever said in the history of Malta. I stand here again, before all Malta and Gozo, and categorically deny in my name, in the name of my wife, in the name of my family that I ever had, have, a type of company or account not declared in Malta or outside of these islands.”
Dr Muscat called a snap press conference just minutes after Mrs Caruana Galizia made the claims.
Members of the press were given a 10 minute’s notice in order for Dr Muscat to “categorically” deny these claims, and announce that he will be taking legal action against Mrs Caruana Galizia.
“I add that I never signed, nor my wife, any type of document that transfers any type of a company to me. I never signed, I was never offered to sign.”
Mrs Caruana Galizia alleged that there are two separate documents to back up the claims she had made but has failed to reproduce them on her personal blog.
“I cannot allow a lie like this to continue, especially as it’s relayed by Simon Busuttil and his media. I am here to be extremely clear, that if there is any form of proof, this comes out. I challenge her to prove what she is saying immediately.”
He challenged, not just Dr Busuttil and Mrs Caruana Galizia, any member of the public to come forward with information. He stressed, multiple times throughout his address, that any documents provided would have to go through a rigorous authentication process.
Asked by The Malta Independent whether, for the sake of transparency and to clear his name in the eyes of the public, he would be issuing a full investigation into Pilatus Bank, he said that, “there are authorities who decide themselves to inquire or investigate. I categorically deny the allegations made against my family.” Dr Muscat said that if we start interfering with Malta’s financial services, the public will be negatively impacted, and not Joseph Muscat.”
The institution responsible for investigating financial crimes is the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit. In addition, the Malta Police Force also has an economic crime’s unit.
Dr Muscat said that the Panama Papers scandal as revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) proves that the claims alleged by Mrs Caruana Galizia are a complete fabrication. He argued that the ICIJ did not shy away from naming other state leaders, such was the case of the Icelandic Prime Minister who had to resign, therefore if the claim was indeed true, the ICIJ would not have shied away from publishing it one year ago, when the scandal broke.
He then said that he is disappointed too with the situation because such allegations act as a deterrent for today’s youth to enter politics.
“I will fight the political fight with the truth, not with fabricated lies”.
He said the truth will all come out in a court of law, and it will expose how this is the “biggest political lie in Malta’s history”.
Mrs Caruana Galizia’s allegations about the Prime Minister and Michelle Muscat
Mrs Caruana Galizia alleged that in a safe at Pilatus Bank, “docu- ments are held pertaining to Russian clients of the bank, and to Maltese PEPs, including John Dalli, consultant to Prime Minister Muscat, and Keith Schembri… both of whom have accounts in the bank in their own personal names”.
She also alleged that in a safe in the kitchen at the bank, there are documents which prove that Egrant Inc’s shares are held by Mossack Fonseca [the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal], as a nominee for Michelle Muscat. She claims that in another two documents, the declarations of trust and the account opening form, also prove that Mrs Muscat is the ultimate beneficial owner.
Police Commissioner should have sealed Pilatus Bank in the presence of a magistrate Busuttil
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar should have sealed Pilatus Bank in the presence of a magistrate, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said in a statement on Net TV last night.
In light of new allegations made by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia regarding claims that Mrs Muscat is the owner of Egrant, Dr Busuttil said the police commissioner should have at least started an investigation and not leave evidence unsecured.
He said: “I am holding the Police Commissioner personally responsible and insist that the other respective authorities do their job in the interest of our nation.”
Dr Busuttil said that the nation has been betrayed and the least the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat could have done was to call for an independent inquiry to carry out an investigation into these allegations.
Dr Busuttil said that “the sole responsibility is that of the Prime Minister and not mine because it was him who got us in this situation.” He insisted that the people should join forces and reunite against “the most corrupt government in the country’s history” and give the people back their country.
Chairman of Green party Alternattiva Demokratika Arnold Cassola, in reaction, demanded that Mrs Caruana Galizia should publish any documents since “Maltese democratic values are at stake”.
Leader of the newly-formed Partit Demokratiku Marlene Farrugia took to social media to say that “in the light of the serious allegations that were made against the family of the Prime Minister, and involve the Panamanian company Egrant, I ask the police to immediately launch an investigation, including an investigation into the other two companies that were opened at the same time [one belonging to Minister Mizzi and the other to Mr Schembri].
Earlier yesterday NexiaBT Managing Director Brain Tonna had categorically denied that US$1.017 million from an offshore company in Dubai whose ultimate beneficial owner is Ms Leyla Aliyeva, the daughter of the Azerbaijani President, was transferred to Egrant Inc through Pilatus Bank. He said that, as already relayed in public, Egrant Inc is a shelf company and it never traded, had or has any bank accounts.
Also yesterday, Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri filed two more libel suits, in addition to the two filed earlier this week, against the blogger for alleging that “large sums of money” had been transferred to Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc, their Panamanian companies which are said to be in the process of liquidation. Mr Schembri said his Panamanian company never held any bank accounts. Dr Mizzi issued his own statement to the same effect.