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UPDATED: 17 Black inquiry ordered by magistrate

Simon Busuttil and David Casa
Former PN leader Simon Busuttil and PN MEP David Casa

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale has upheld a request made by former PN leader Simon Busuttil and PN MEP David Casa for an inquiry into revelations that $1.6 million was wired to a ‘target client’ of Panama companies owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

The magistrate concluded that four people – Schembri and Mizzi, as well as Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini – have to a case to answer on allegations of bribery, attempted money laundering and false declarations to public authorities.

Nexia BT was representing Mossack Fonseca in Malta and was tasked with setting up the secret companies for Mizzi and Schembri, as well as Egrant which has been linked to the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat.

The case will be added to an existing one, currently stalled by appeals by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and all accused. The court ruled against the appeal and judge Antonio Mizzi was assigned to the case.

Mizzi is the husband of Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi – he refused to recuse himself despite objections. The case is now stalled until a decision is taken on whether he should be removed.

Busuttil told The Shift News: “Magistrate Depasquale is now the second magistrate to confirm that Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Brian Tonna and Karl Cini should be investigated over their dealings. The first one was Magistrate Ian Farrugia last July. I fully respect Magistrate Depasquale’s preference to keep the investigation in one single inquiry, even if this is still stuck in the Constitutional Court over my request for Judge Antonio Mizzi to abstain from deciding this politically sensitive case”.

A newly discovered set of emails in the Panama Papers shows that the offshore firms of Mizzi and Schembri were planning to have two Dubai firms, called 17 Black and Macbridge, become “main target clients” — meaning they planned to do business with them.

The team behind the Daphne Project found that the two Dubai companies received unexplained payments of US$ 1.6 million from an offshore company in the Seychelles. The transactions were flagged by the US financial intelligence unit as suspicious of money laundering.

While Mizzi claimed all along that the firms were not planning to do any business, Schembri had earlier confirmed that 17 Black and MacBridge were discussed as potential clients of the firms.

Cini had said the companies would generate around $2 million a year, according to The Times of Malta.

Busuttil and Casa said in their application that the revelations were a “clear example” of money laundering and corruption and must be investigated by the courts.

Casa said: “Two magistrates have now found sufficient evidence of Mizzi, Schembri and Nexia BT being involved in very serious crimes. They continue to hold their posts. And the criminal activities they are involved in are likely to be ongoing”.

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