Nexia BT’s licence to sell passports suspended

Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT licence to sell passports has been “suspended” and the firm is no longer listed among the agents licensed by the IIP programme.

The firm held licence no IIP 003 under BT International Limited with Karl Cini listed as the contact person. The number no longer appears on the official list.

BT International Limited is owned by Nexia BT.

Although no statement was released to the media, the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency said on the official site that it “has suspended the licence of BT International Limited, holders of licence IIP 003, until further notice”.

Tonna and Cini are among the names listed in a court order issued on Monday by Judge Edwina Grima for the freezing of their assets, as well as former chief of staff Keith Schembri, their family members and related companies.

According to the official site, BT International Limited’s licence was suspended on 22 September, a day after a court ordered the freezing of assets.

Nexia BT and Schembri are the focus of a recent magisterial inquiry looking into alleged kickbacks through the sales of passports. Schembri was arrested on Tuesday and held for police interrogation for some 20 hours before being released on bail on Tuesday night.

The provision of citizenship services still appears on Nexia BT’s website.

Replying to questions by The Shift, Tonna confirmed that audit, local accountancy and advisory functions will be combined with a company called Reanda Malta. Yet in comments made to The Times of Malta, Reanda is denying this.

“The other business units of Nexia BT will continue to function as at present,” Tonna said in his reply to The Shift sent before the IIP licence was suspended on Tuesday.

Nexia BT was also reprimanded by the Accountancy Board on 24 January for “failing to carry out a statutory audit” according to law.

And while the MFSA and FIAU have increased scrutiny and penalties for companies in the lead up to the Moneyval assessment, Nexia BT appears to have remained untouched.

An excerpt from the Egrant inquiry report.

Tonna denied the change in the company’s functions is a result of the findings of the inquiry.

The inquiry had been requested by former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil following findings published by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was then assassinated on 16 October 2017.

The Attorney General decided to halt the publication of the findings of the inquiry. Schembri’s lawyers are demanding full publication as necessary for their client’s defence, yet there are doubts on the legal grounds for the request.

The court also completed the freezing action on Schembri yesterday with a second so-called “attachment order”, this time targeting more of his family members, including his daughter, and additional companies, including Tillgate Inc, the Panama shell company that was allegedly set to receive injections of funds from 17 Black, owned by the suspected mastermind of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination Yorgen Fenech.

                           
                               

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