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Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini cashed in on taxpayer-funded scam

  • The government announced an investment of €5 million that would increase to €75 million, but it was instead funded by taxpayers while the public got nothing in return.
  • Nexia BT and others appear to have made millions with promotion, again funded by taxpayers, that included the endorsement of Konrad Mizzi and Michelle Muscat on an international platform.
  • Energy Minister Joe Mizzi helped, telling parliament that he went to visit the promoters’ “data centres in India” a full two months before the foundation stone was even laid. 
  • It was just another project on Muscat’s roadmap to corruption, where bedfellows profited handsomely while taxpayers got the wrong end of the stick.

Updated: Adds statement received from Enemalta plc.

They came from nowhere.

An Indian and his lawyer partners with a company set up online in the US State of Delaware, without a data centre, infrastructure, funds, a track record or even a proper website.

Their luck seems to have changed dramatically with an introduction to Malta including the ever-generous Malta Enterprise and Enemalta. By September 2017, against a backdrop of increasing unease about the political situation in Malta, the company, Streamcast Technologies, Inc., had secured a lucrative deal.

The deal was deceptively described as a €5 million investment by Streamcast Technologies that could increase to €75 million. The catch was that the data centre still had to be built, and according to the deal secured, this would be done by Enemalta, the State utility, from taxpayer money. It would then be leased to the company.

Deals of this type would typically require a guarantee, which is where the ever generous (with taxpayer funds) yet notoriously secretive Malta Enterprise would come in.

In November 2017, Enemalta announced that it had signed a deal with Streamcast Technologies. The problem was no one had ever heard of them.

Then Enemalta Executive Chairman, Frederick Azzopardi, had described the deal as “marking a new era of growth for [Enemalta] and [Streamcast]”.

Manufacturing hype

A Maltese PR agency was engaged to brand the company and, in the agency’s own words, “manage the public[’s] perception”.  It was needed, because the public was about to be taken for a ride.

A holding company was set up in Ireland, Streamcast Technologies Holdings Ltd, a shell company in the UK and others in Malta and India.

Nexia BT, embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal, created a company called Capital Knight Limited in Malta owned initially by one partner, Oliver Said. Ownership of this company then changed to Brian Tonna, Karl Cini and Manuel Castagna, along with Said.

This company initially lay dormant.

By April 2018, and the launch of the data centre built by Enemalta and funded by taxpayers, the public relations agency kicked into action.

Public relations efforts went into overdrive to sell the Streamcast deal to the public.

Streamcast’s newly launched website boasted that Streamcast had offices in the USA (a Delaware shell company), the UK (a company ordered online), Europe (the Malta companies and data centre built by Enemalta), the Middle East (a partner is based in Dubai) and India (the other shell companies).

The State Broadcaster, TVM, gushingly described Streamcast as “among the major international companies which provide high level video streaming services to millions of clients in different continents”.

Except, when The Shift checked with IT experts in India, nobody had ever heard of it.

Bizarrely, One News even ran a news clip where contractors and sub-contractors that built the data centre were described as “investors” or “directors”, without anyone checking who they actually were. The Labour Party’s propaganda station was undeterred, asking these so-called “investors” whether it was Malta’s “economic success” that brought them to the country.

One News carried a news item where contractors paid to build the Enemalta data centre were referred to as “investors”.

Other news outlets reproduced the press releases sent to them. Each news item carried by an independent news outlet inspired, in turn, other news outlets (including some outside Malta) to pick up the news and spread it far and wide.

The PR agency would later boast that their services resulted in over “4,000 square centimetres” of newspaper coverage. Their goal had been achieved. But amid this barrage of over-flattering PR, the founders of Streamcast, now armed with a data centre gifted to them, moved on to raise capital.

By June, 2018, Streamcast Technologies Holdings Ltd in Ireland saw new investors including four trucking company owners from Kent, a Dubai angel investor company and another from New Jersey.

Capital Knight Ltd, Nexia BT’s company, also acquired just over 400,000 shares (for the princely sum of $4.41) or 0.22% of the holding company.

Company filings in Ireland show a Maltese company, Capital Knight Ltd, subscribed for shares in Streamcast’s Irish holding company. The Maltese company is owned by Nexia BT partners Brian Tonna, Karl Cini, Manuel Castagna and Oliver Said.

Then, public relations efforts went into overdrive.

Streamcast boasted that it was building its first data centre in India, “Asia’s largest” with an investment of over €250 million with another over-hyped event in July 2018 to mark the laying of the foundation stone.

Curiously, despite this being in their own words Streamcast’s first data centre in India, Energy Minister Joe Mizzi declared in response to a parliamentary question that he went to visit “Streamcast’s data centres in India” in May 2018 – two full months before the foundation stone for their first data centre was even laid. 

Two months after Energy Minister Joe Mizzi purportedly led a delegation to Streamcast’s data centres in India (according to a reply to a PQ), Streamcast laid the foundation stone for its first data centre in India…

The hype did not end there. In August 2018, then Minister Konrad Mizzi, along with one of the original founders – Nimish Pandya – went on a marketing trip to Mumbai. With the help of the public relations agency and the “support” of the Maltese government, this morphed into the Streamcast Malta India Film Awards.

A football sponsorship deal was announced, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with a State-run telecoms company in Mumbai.  Conveniently placed rumours of an IPO (Initial Public Offering – when a company lists its shares on a stock exchange) by Streamcast started appearing in minor press outlets building up to an advertorial in Bloomberg.

December 2018 saw the launch of the Malta India Film Awards, a glitzy affair attended by Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle Muscat, among others. Cini and Said from Nexia BT even delivered a 30-minute speech about incentives in Malta.

Streamcast Group together with then Minister Konrad Mizzi’s Tourism Ministry organised the “Malta India Film Awards” to showcase Streamcast further. Nexia BT got a speaking slot on “incentives in Malta”.

The pay-off and exit

The public relations overdrive and sweetheart deal by Enemalta and Malta Enterprise appears to have paid off, in cash.

In February 2019, an Indian company, Iris Mediaworks Ltd (now renamed Jump Networks), announced that it had bought Streamcast Group for just under €2 million. Separately, another company, Rolta India, would also announce that it had acquired other parts of Streamcast.

The investors, including Nexia BT’s Capital Knight Ltd cashed out, profiting from a scam in which they had used taxpayer money to fund, build and hype up.

Then, the manufactured hype fell silent.

Asked in parliament about Streamcast, Energy Minister Joe Mizzi said in October 2019 that the “normal due diligence” by Malta Enterprise was conducted, but any other details including how much and who paid for what was “commercially sensitive” information.

Capital Knight Ltd is now in liquidation, as is the Irish company and the UK company. Rolta India, which announced that it had acquired parts of Streamcast, was declared insolvent in November, 2019 – though it appears to have earned some breathing space. Joseph Muscat has been forced to resign in disgrace amid a sea of scandal and links to the assassination of a journalist who had already exposed too much on a number of other deals.

Public announcements in India show Streamcast Group was sold off in pieces to two other companies, Iris and Rolta.

Streamcast’s lush website, previously a hive of news about this new “major player”, has not been updated since December 2018, still graced with a grinning Engelbert Grech on its front page with a quote from Konrad Mizzi – also forced to resign from his ministerial role although still a member of parliament:

This fantastic initiative of Streamcast Studiosis only the beginning of a new growth dimension for the Indian film industry in Malta and vice-versa.

It seems, it was just another project on Muscat’s roadmap to corruption, where bedfellows profited handsomely while taxpayers got the wrong end of the stick.

Update: In a statement received from L-Orizzont’s ex-Editor now working as Enemalta’s Communications Manager, Enemalta plc denied any claims of wrongdoing adding that it “has not invested any money in the project”, and that the building of the data centre “was completely the responsibility of Streamcast Technologies, Inc.” Enemalta plc added that its role was limited to “the leasing of a small part of its property for the use of the data centre, which lease was done through the appropriate legal channels with the required authorisations.” Enemalta plc further added that it “provided electricity supply to the data centre as in the case of any other commercial consumer in Malta.” 

Editorial Note: These are two Enemalta videos of the signing of a “lease of a small part of its property” and “supplying with electricity as with any other commercial consumer” that raise questions on the completeness of the statement:

Attorney General Peter Grech (left) and former Judge at the European Court of Human Rights Vincent De Gaetano.

The Attorney General replies on Egrant inquiry criticism

If this is normal