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Panama companies started being set up 5 days after Malta election - reports

Keith Schembri denies allegations

A Malta advisory firm began setting up Panama companies for senior members of Malta's Labour Party five days after the election, the Australian Financial Review reported this morning quoting leaked Mossack Fonseca documents.

The publication reports that that the Panama Papers documents show that a wider group of Maltese business figures who are regarded as allies of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat used offshore companies.

They include an invoice for close to $1 million that Maltese businessman Pierre Sladden assigned to a British Virgin Islands company, Blue Sea Portfolio Ltd, last November.

PM chief of staff Keith Schembri this morning denied the allegations (read his statement below).

The records are among 11.5 million documents leaked in a global media investigation led by the International Consortium of Journalists.

The saga in Malta began with an email on March 14, 2013, from Karl Cini, a partner at Maltese financial adviser Nexia, to Mossack Fonseca's Panama office, five days after Labour won the election.

Mossack Fonseca didn't reply to Mr Cini's first email and he tried again on March 21.

The records are among 11.5 million documents leaked in a global media investigation

"When you can please send me details for setting up a Panama company and possibly a trust," he wrote.

The ultimate beneficial owner for the Panama company and trust "will be an individual and I will speak to Luis on Skype to give him more details", Mr Cini wrote.

He then turned to three companies in the British Virgin Islands that Mossack Fonseca managed.

"From now on I need to be the person of contact for these companies," Mr Cini wrote.

Next he turned to three companies in the British Virgin Islands that Mossack Fonseca managed, according to the report published this morning.

"From now on I need to be the person of contact for these companies," Mr Cini wrote.

On January 24, 2011, an American financial intermediary, Michael Del Vecchio, had set up a British Virgin Islands company for Mr Schembri called Colson Services Ltd.

Mr Del Vecchio had also set up Selson Holding Corporation for Malcolm Scerri, who runs Mr Schembri's Kasco group.

On May 10, 2011, Adrian Hillman, the then managing director of Allied Newspapers Ltd also got a BVI company, Lestor Holdings Group Ltd, from Mr Del Vecchio.

"These were all long-term account clients of Nexia BT—and now Nexia was cutting out the middleman, so to speak. Exit Del Vecchio," the Australian Financial Review said.

And there would need to be some changes. "I need for each company a [nominee] director and a nominee shareholder is appointed," Cini wrote.

This would remove Mr Schembri's and Mr Hillman's name from the records, making them even harder to find, the AFR reported.

Mr Cini also needed a new British Virgin Islands' company, Blue Sea Portfolio.

Read the full report here.

Keith Schembri denies allegations

Mr Schembri said he acquiredTillgate Inc on July 2 solely for the purposes of its settlement into the New Zealand Trust, Haast Trust, and was intended solely for estate planning.

"Beyond this, I have no knowledge of any prior company activities save the fact that the company has never traded to date.

"The fact that you fail to mention and refer to such facts , documentation and evidence shows the malicious intent of the author, who clearly is attempting to present a false state of affairs through a collage of unrelated facts."

Mr Schembri said it was inconceivable that a journal would allow comments attempting to link unmentioned “business figures” to the government without any substantiation or the faint attempt to corroborate it in fact.

"The tone, scope and elaborate insinuations coupled with the deceit with which facts are treated are intended solely to tarnish my reputation and attribute to me intentions or actions which are not based on the truth."

Mr Schembri said he welcomed legitimate, accurate and fair criticism and the right of freedom of expression and the freedom of the media but only if the information iswas correct and corroborated as it was not in the public’s interest to be misled.

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