Updated 3.45pm, adds filing of application by Repubblika
Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil will argue in court on Friday that the ‘institutional paralysis’ over the Panama Papers scandal breached EU laws, the Times of Malta is informed.
In a 77-page application calling for a magisterial inquiry into allegations emerging from the leaked documents, Dr Busuttil argues that the failure by various institutions to act against the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi breached the EU’s anti-money laundering directive and treaties as well as Maltese laws.
Dr Busuttil says the country’s institutions “flagrantly and consistently” failed to act against the two top government officials over a three-year period after the Panama Papers leak revealed they opened secretive offshore structures.
He questions the use of bearer shares to further obscure the ownership of the Panama companies opened by Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi as well as the mystery Panama company Egrant.
Using such shares was a classic layering technique used in money-laundering to guarantee the company’s owner absolute secrecy, Dr Busuttil argues in the application.
The use of bearer shares means the only evidence linking a person to the company is the physical share certificate. Nexia BT, the financial advisory firm that set up the three companies, negated the use of such shares.
Flagrantly and consistentlyfailed to act
This is the second time Dr Busuttil will be petitioning the courts to open an inquiry into the Panama Papers leaks.
Acknowledging that his previous attempt was quashed on the strength of an appeal filed by the Prime Minister, Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi, among others, Dr Busuttil notes that his new application highlights facts that were not in the public domain in July 2017 when the first request for an inquiry was presented to the courts. The application says that Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti, who had decreed against opening an inquiry, did not have access to an e-mail linking 17 Black, owned by power station investor Yorgen Fenech, to Mr Schembri’s and Dr Mizzi’s Panama companies.
The demands for a new inquiry also refer to findings by the Auditor General that bidders in the government’s multi-million euro power station project were not treated equally.
Nexia BT is also in Dr Busuttil’s crosshairs. In his court application, he submits it was clear that managing partner Brian Tonna and its money-laundering reporting officer, Karl Cini, had misled the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and failed to pass on Panama Papers correspondence.
Dr Busuttil says that German journalist Bastian Obermayer, who received the Panama Papers leak, is willing to vouch for the authenticity of the e-mails that outed Mr Schembri’s and Dr Mizzi’s plans to receive payments of up to $2 million from 17 Black.
The application is signed by fellow Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi.
Repubblika files similar application
A similar application was later by Repubblika on Friday.
In its application, Repubblika listed a series of legal provisions they alleged were breached by Mr and Dr Mizzi to hide or to try to hide proceeds from crime and corruption.
“As a civil society organisation that is committed to promoting good governance, the protection of the rule of law and the fight against corruption, we feel it is our mission as Repubblika to insist institutions do their job,” Repubblika said.
In this case, they argued, the police failed, the Attorney General failed, the FIAU failed and in some decisions that have been made, the judiciary also failed.
Every day that passed the Prime Minister also failed because when he harboured crooks, he made himself one. “Those who harbour crooks are just as crooked. This is a flagrant breach of our values and of European democratic values that uphold the rule of law.”
Repubblika also saluted the late Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed 17 months ago fighting for the rule of law and against corruption and illegality. “Our duty is to ensure that her fight does not die with her.”