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Panama Papers: Two more banks approached for Mizzi and Schembri

Minister, chief of staff say Australian paper 'confusing facts'

Mossack Fonseca approached two further banks on behalf of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

Mossack Fonseca approached two further banks on behalf of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

Update with Mizzi, Schembri reactions

Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca approached two further banks on behalf of Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and Prime Ministerial chief of staff Keith Schembri, the Australian Financial Review has claimed. 

The two banks were approached in December after unsuccessful attempts to open bank accounts with six other banks in the Caribbean, Dubai and Miami.  

According to the AFR, a Mossack Fonseca lawyer wrote to Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri's financial advisor on December 15, saying that BSI bank would refuse their account unless they were applying for Panamanian immigration visas. 

Mossack Fonseca first approached a Dubai bank, but were rebuffed after the bank expressed concerns that the two men were Politically Exposed Persons. The law firm then turned to another six banks, the AFR claims: FPB Bank and BSI Bank in Panama, Bank of Saint Lucia International (BOSIL), Winterbotham Trust in the Bahamas, and the Miami branch of Brazil's Itaú Bank and Brickell Bank. They also talked to Cidel Financial Group. 

The law firm then turned to BSI bank, but were told that Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri would have to apply for immigration visas for Panama to open a bank account. 

This did not seem to discourage Mossack Fonseca. According to the AFR, on December 15 Mossack Fonseca lawyer Luis Quiel emailed financial advisor Karl Cini, telling him the issues was "not negative at all. But, at the same time, on Friday last week I called two other banks and asked them for opening bank accounts for PEPs [Politically Exposed Persons]."

The AFR is one of the media partners selected by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to delve through the leaked Panama Papers. 

Both Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri have denied any wrongdoing, with Mr Schembri having accused the AFR of "absurd" claims and threatening legal action. 

The government is today facing a motion of no confidence over the Panama Papers revelations. 

Mizzi, Schembri react

In a statement, Mr Schembri accused AFR journalist Neil Chenoweth of "contriving a scenario to try to give colour to his mistaken claims."

The documentation released by the AFR, Mr Schembri said, confirmed "beyond doubt" that the journalist was making false links by attributing emails between Nexia BT and Mossack Fonseca to himself.

"Mr Neil Chenoweth (AFR author) seems to believe that Nexia BT only have two clients," Mr Schembri's statement concluded. 

On the other hand, Dr Mizzi said that various e-mail communications were falsely attributed to him when they clearly pertain to other clients of Nexia BT.

In a curt comment laced with suspicion, Dr Mizzi said: "It is interesting to note that the story was uploaded at what is certainly not prime time in Australia."

More to follow

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