Nexia BT’s failure to disclose information on the true ownership of Panama companies owned by minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri could be punishable by up to two years in prison.
On Thursday, The Shift News revealed that the leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) that MEP David Casa presented to a Magistrate, shows that Nexia’s Karl Cini failed to cooperate with the FIAU investigation and, instead, tried to conceal the true owners of the companies in Panama.
Nexia BT have denied any wrongdoing “both from a legal and also from a conduct perspective”.
In March 2016, the FIAU demanded copies of all correspondence between Nexia BT and Mossack Fonseca, as well as emails between Nexia BT and Mizzi and Schembri.
As Nexia’s Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO), Cini had a legal obligation to report truthful information to the FIAU but rather than submitting all email exchanges, Cini merely told the anti-money laundering agency that “all instructions and discussions with the clients were verbal”.
The emails revealing the companies’ ownership were instead obtained by the FIAU thanks to the Panama Papers leaks. The email correspondence exchanged between Cini and Mossack Fonseca show that the Panama companies were opened for Mizzi and Schembri.
Chapter 188 of the Criminal Code states that “whosoever, in order to gain any advantage or benefit for himself or others, shall, in any document intended for any public authority, knowingly make a false declaration or statement, or give false information, shall, on conviction, be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine.”
The Shift News is informed that although the FIAU flagged this to the police, no action was taken against Cini and Nexia BT. Lawyers who spoke to The Shift News said that the police could have charged Cini before the completion of the report.
According to the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism (PMLFTR) legislation, MLRO’s are legally bound to cooperate with the FIAU and disclose all information when there are suspicions of money laundering or the transfer of illicit funds.
The PMLFTR law states that whoever makes “a false declaration or a false representation or who produces false documentation” shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine of over €50,000 and imprisonment.