Two directors for Malta-based investment firm XNT, recently linked to a close associate of disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi, both obtained Maltese citizenship in years during which their company faced significant controversy.
Alexey Kirienko and Anatoly Knyazev, the names of two XNT directors, both appear in the government-published list of new Maltese citizens, in 2016 and 2019 respectively. The list includes those who obtained citizenship through the controversial citizenship by investment or ‘passport buying’ scheme.
XNT Limited, the company formerly known as Exante, was revealed to be the investment firm of choice for disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi’s close associate, lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici, according to a Times of Malta report.
Investigations by The Shift dating back more than six years detail the firm’s shady past, involving charges from the United States Securities Exchange Commission, a blacklisting by the Russian Central Bank, and a money laundering compliance fine by Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.
Mifsud Bonnici was revealed to be the subject of an investigative probe after some €1.4 million were transferred to accounts he held with XNT Limited. The transfers raised questions on money laundering and tax evasion by Mizzi’s confidante, issues which have long circled his investment firm of choice.
The Shift revealed how Mifsud Bonnici was sought by Police in relation to businessman Yorgen Fenech, charged with involvement in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, following Fenech’s acquisition of weapons from the dark web using cryptocurrency. Since publication, The Shift has seen evidence showing Mifsud Bonnici was not implicated as a suspect in the matter but was a material witness who had helped in the investigation.
Malta-based investment company XNT Limited, formerly Exante, was registered in 2011 and lists Lartemisis Holdings as its parent company. Latvian Gatis Egletis, Russian-born Alexey Kirienko, and Anatoly Knyazev are listed as Lartemisis’ directors.
Lartemisis, whose three shareholding companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands, serves as a parent company to several other Maltese-registered companies, including XNT Ltd, XNT Finance Plc, Extanech Ltd, XMT Holdings Ltd, and XMT Gozo Ltd.
Kirienko and Knyazev are both listed as being of Maltese nationality. In 2018, The Shift revealed that Kirienko’s name had been published in the government’s list of new Maltese citizens for 2016, while Knyazev’s name showed up in the list of new citizens in 2019.
Just a year before Kirienko acquired Maltese citizenship, his company Exante faced charges by the US SEC linked to insider trading and millions in profits derived from an international online hacking ring.
While the SEC case against XNT/Exante was eventually dropped, nine company insiders were charged for their alleged role in the scheme.
Two months after Exante was first implicated in the US SEC case, the Malta Financial Services Authority dropped the money laundering charges it had raised against the company, claiming it was registered in Cyprus and should be regulated there.
The company had fostered political ties in Malta as far back as 2015. Directors Kirienko and Knyazev featured prominently in photos at a gala dinner with former president Marie Louise Coleiro Preca while XNT faced its US charges.
Given the company’s cryptocurrency-enabled services, in 2017, Exante featured prominently in Malta’s failed ‘Blockchain Island’ project, spearheaded by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and Minister Silvio Schembri, at the time parliamentary secretary for the digital economy.
In 2020, The Shift revealed how a senior associate of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Kristina Arbociute, had been recruited in 2016, just one month after she left her post as a compliance officer at Exante. The FIAU has defended Arbocriute’s employment.
In 2021, the Russian Central Bank blacklisted Exante’s sister company EXT Ltd. over “signs of illegal professional participation in the securities market.” Despite the network of companies’ repeated run-ins with financial regulators worldwide, XNT was allowed to continue operating in Malta.
The following year, Malta’s FIAU finally issued fines against the company following an investigation that revealed a lack of compliance with anti-money laundering regulations and due diligence deficiencies.
The €250,000 fine was overturned this year in a series of appeals before the constitutional court, which repeatedly found the FIAU’s modus operandi to be unconstitutional.
This week, The Shift reported how less than half of all fines issued by the unit last year were collected, raising concerns about its effectiveness and the Maltese government’s stated commitment to the fight against financial crime.