Dangerous liaisons: Malta Financial Services Authority’s next CEO with disgraced accountant Brian Tonna

joseph cuschieri - brian tonna
Joseph Cuschieri and Brian Tonna having lunch at a restaurant in Portomoso.

The man selected by the Office of the Prime Minister to take on the role of CEO of the Malta Financial Services was photographed having lunch with disgraced accountant Brian Tonna of Nexia BT, who set up the Panama company structures for top government officials exposed in the Panama Papers.

Joseph Cuschieri, an accountant who has been heading the Malta Gaming Authority since Labour was returned to power in 2013, has been selected by the Office of the Prime Minster to serve as the new CEO of the Malta Financial Services Authority, The Sunday Times of Malta reported today.

Following the news, readers submitted photos to The Shift News showing the close relationship between the two. At the time the photo was taken at a restaurant at Portomaso, St Julian’s, in December, Tonna and his business partner Karl Cini had already faced disciplinary proceeding by the Malta Institute of Accountants to have their membership revoked.

MIA President Franco Azzopardi had told The Malta Independent: “We have been watching the allegations that have surfaced since the Panama Papers… action from the MIA council has been triggered so the disciplinary procedure process has started and it will take its due course for their membership to be revoked”.

Both Tonna and Cini informed MIA they were resigning a few months later. Tonna had an office at Castille while setting up secret offshore companies for top government officials and other individuals involved in shady government deals.

Nexia BT, the auditors who set up offshore companies with Mossack Fonseca in Panama for Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, had also incorporated offshore companies for the likes of Cheng Chen – a Chinese engineer employed with Shangai Power Electric, the Chinese State-owned firm that acquired a 33% stake in Enemalta.

Cuschieri headed the Malta Gaming Authority at a time when controversy over mafia links to gaming companies on the island. The MFSA law does not contemplate the post of a CEO so the government is amending it specifically to create the position, long earmarked for Cuschieri, according to The Sunday Times of Malta.

According to an amendment in the MFSA law, which still needs to be approved by Parliament, the new CEO must be selected by the board of governors of the financial regulator, which is meant to be independent.

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