in

Schembri and Mizzi instructions to Nexia BT ‘not documented’

Nexia BT's Brian Tonna and Karl Cini with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Photo: DOI / Omar Camilleri

Nexia BT told Malta’s anti-money laundering agency that no written correspondence existed with their clients, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, despite the long process in setting up the Panama companies.

Karl Cini informed the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) on 20 April 2016 that “all instructions and discussions with the clients were verbal. With the exception of documents that required the Client’s signature, no correspondence exists on this matter.”

FIAU investigators deemed it suspicious that throughout the long saga to open a company in Panama and the efforts to open a bank account, requiring feedback from the clients on multiple occasions, not once were instructions provided by Mizzi and Schembri in writing, according to the recently leaked FIAU report.

An expert in the sector that spoke to The Shift News stated: “It is highly irregular for there to be no written correspondence in matters such as these. It is clear that efforts were made not to leave a paper trail and it further exposes the complicity of Nexia BT in what has now been clearly exposed as a money laundering exercise”.

Several news reports in the months following the Labour Party’s election had questioned why Brian Tonna, who owns Nexia BT, had a desk at the Prime Minister’s Office. The question now is whether the reason for that was to facilitate face to face communication and avoid any documentary evidence of instructions to open the Panama companies.

The lack of written correspondence was questioned by the FIAU, which concluded that police action should be taken against Mizzi. The report that is in MEP David Casa’s possession has been given to the Maltese judiciary.

It was only the fortuitous revelations by the Panama Papers that exposed the two top officials in Joseph Muscat’s government as owning secret structures in Panama and New Zealand. And the question of whether the third company, Egrant, was owned by the Prime Minister’s wife is still the subject of a criminal magisterial inquiry.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat officially inaugurated Brian Tonna’s (left) Nexia BT offices in June 2013. Photo: DOI / Omar Camilleri

Soon after the leaks, the authorities in Panama arrested the owners of the firm Mossack Fonseca on accusations that the law firm was a potential criminal organisation that concealed and removed evidence related to illegal activity. Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT represented Mossack Fonseca in Malta.

No action was ever taken against Mizzi and Schembri who are still prominent members of Joseph Muscat’s Government. And no action was taken against Nexia BT by law enforcement authorities.

Nexia BT auditors Tonna and Cini resigned from the Malta Institute of Accountants due to the disciplinary proceedings that were initiated against them after their involvement in the Panama Papers scandal.

In July 2017, a year after the first revelations on which no police action was taken, former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil took the matter to court asking for a criminal investigation to be launched.

The Prime Minister and six others implicated in the affairs are still opposing the start of an investigation in court. The others implicated are: Schembri, Mizzi, Tonna and Cini as well as Malcolm Scerri and Adrian Hillman, the former Managing Director of Allied Newspapers which owns The Times of Malta.

The case is currently stuck in the Constitutional Court where Busuttil is seeking to have Judge Antonio Mizzi removed from the Panama inquiry on the grounds that he is married to a Labour Member of the European Parliament, Marlene Mizzi.

Violence a result of government-fostered impunity, not dissent

Juncker backs creation of UN Special Representative for Safety of Journalists