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Nexia BT concealed true ownership of Panama companies from anti-money laundering agency

Karl Cini

A leaked report by Malta’s anti-money laundering agency shows that Nexia BT repeatedly tried to conceal the true ownership of the Panama companies owned by minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri from its investigators.

This transpired from a recently-leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) that MEP David Casa presented to a Magistrate, which concluded that Mizzi should be investigated by the police for money laundering.

The report shows that Nexia’s Cini failed to cooperate with the FIAU investigation and, instead, tried to conceal the true owners of the companies in Panama – Mizzi and Schembri.

Rather than submitting the email exchanges with Mossack Fonseca to the FIAU, Cini merely told the the agency that “all instructions and discussions with the clients were verbal”.

Cini was acting in his capacity as Nexia’s Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) and therefore he had a legal obligation to report truthful information to the FIAU. Instead, he withheld the information.

Cini was Nexia BT’s main contact person with the controversial law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers, Mossack Fonseca, when it came to the opening of secret structures for the two top government officials.

Nexia BT was specifically instructed by the FIAU to provide all correspondence on the ownership of the companies. Yet, a string of emails sent to and from Nexia partner Cini over a period of two years that show that Mizzi and Schembri were the true owners of companies were never given to the FIAU.

The email correspondence was instead obtained by the FIAU thanks to the Panama Papers leaks, which revealed email correspondence exchanged between Cini and Mossack Fonseca over the opening of Panama companies for Mizzi and Schembri.

Cini also refused to supply the FIAU with damning evidence including the notorious email dated 2 December, 2015 in which he gave the go ahead to open a bank account for the Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri.

“Go ahead to start the opening of the accounts for those 2 panama companies. tnx”, Cini had written to Mossack Fonseca’s Adrian Dixon.

Yet, this damning email was not included in the information transmitted by Cini to the FIAU following the anti-money laundering agency’s request for a copy of all exchanges relating to Mizzi and Schembri.

Several attempts were made by Cini to open bank accounts for Mizzi and Schembri. The Winterbotham Bank in the Bahamas, was one of two banks identified by Mossack Fonseca which have no restrictions in opening accounts for politically exposed persons (PEPs).

Attempts to open the Bahamas account stopped soon after Daphne Caruana Galizia first started reporting about the Panama companies on her blog.

The Panama Papers documents revealed that Mizzi and Schembri had been turned down by several banks, even in questionable jurisdictions like Dubai, Panama and other Caribbean countries, because they are Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

“The negotiations for the setting up of these bank accounts in the Bahamas, for the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and top cabinet minister, were carried out by Brian Tonna and Karl Cini of Nexia BT, who submitted – on behalf of their high profile clients – documents and papers required by The Winterbotham Merchant Bank. The documents and papers include no indication that both men are highly politically exposed as members of the government of a European Union member state,” Caruana Galizia had written in February 2016.

 

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