The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has issued two directives on Wednesday against two companies owned by Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT, a spokesperson for the Authority told The Shift.
BTI Management Limited and BT International Limited are being slapped with enforcement action by the Authority saying that the companies are “not in a position to continue servicing clients whilst adhering to the applicable legal requirements.”
The decision by the MFSA on both companies was imposed on 23 September, the spokesperson said. The move follows a court order that froze assets of Brian Tonna and his partners, their families and associated companies.
The directive by the MFSA bars the company from “onboarding new clients” and from providing existing clients with any new or additional services “until the MFSA has obtained the necessary information and assurances on the impact that the recent developments may have”.
It also directs the company to issue a notification to clients on the recent developments and their impact on their services and to seek confirmation whether they wish to retain the services provided by BTI Management and BT International Limited.
The Authority explained that Nexia BT does not fall under the MFSA but is included in the list of approved auditors.
“The inclusion of an auditor in the Approved Auditors’ list requires the holding by the auditor concerned of a practising certificate from the Accountancy Board,” the MFSA said.
The Shift has recently revealed that Nexia BT had its licence to sell passports suspended. The company used to provide citizenship through BT International Limited.
According to the official IIP website, BT International Limited licence was suspended on 22 September, a day after the court ordered the asset freeze.
The action by the MFSA occurs following years of allegations surrounding Nexia BT and criticism that no action had been taken against the company that set up offshore companies in Panama for former Minister Konrad Mizzi and Joseph Muscat’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
Schembri was arrested following the court order issued on Monday. He was held for some 20 hours and released on police bail.
The court order followed the conclusion of a magisterial inquiry into kickbacks from Tonna to Schembri through passport sales.
The inquiry was launched in 2017 and Tonna’s companies have faced no previous action by the MFSA even at a time of increased scrutiny on companies in the lead up to the Moneyval assessment.
The penalties for companies have surged in the run-up to the assessment, increasing to a record €2.5 million in recent months.