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Panama Papers: Konrad Mizzi among first to be called to Brussels

He will be invited to explain his involvement in the scandal

Minister without Portfolio Konrad Mizzi will be among the first to be called to Brussels over the Panama Papers scandal, according to the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee, which is investigating the scandal.

Addressing a press conference after the first session of the committee in Brussels, chairman Werner Langen, a German MEP, said that although the list of European politicians to be called to the committee was not yet finalised, “Malta’s Minster Konrad Mizzi will surely be on it”.

Together with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Dr Mizzi was found to have opened a secret company in the tax haven of Panama associated with another financial vehicle in New Zealand.

The financial arrangements were handled by Nexia BT, which has also acted as the auditing firm of Kasco Group – Mr Schembri’s personal business operations. Nexia BT and other subsidiaries have also been given lucrative consultancy contracts by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Energy Ministry in the last three years.

According to chairman Langer, Dr Mizzi will be invited to explain his involvement in the Panama Papers scandal to the committee.

Dr Mizzi resigned as Labour deputy leader a few weeks after being elected to the post following the Panama Papers revelations.

However, he still kept his place in Cabinet even though the Prime Minister stripped him off his portfolio. However, he is still in charge of the government’s energy initiatives and has even taken part in the EU energy ministers meetings in Brussels.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also retained Mr Schembri and insisted he still has full trust in him.

It is not yet known whether Mr Schembri – a non-elected government official – will also be called to appear in front of the committee.

In a statement issued after the meeting, MEP David Casa, the head of the PN delegation in European Parliament and a member of the committee said:

“Today we heard from the journalists themselves about the way in they conducted their work and the relevance of the information that was released. This was followed by a discussion of committee members concerning how we would like to focus our work. It is clear that the committee will address two main issues – that regarding taxation - but also and in my view more crucially the issue of corruption and money laundering”.

MEP Roberta Metsola, also a full member of the committee, said "we saw today that the committee would look at how to improve the protection of whistleblowers and will emerge with proposals how to facilitate transparency and fight tax evasion and corruption".

She said that, over the next year, the committee will continue to meet to discuss how the EU could move forward on the issue.

"It is clear that this scandal will not go away and I hope that member states and any witnesses who may be called cooperate fully with the committee's line of inquiry."

The committee has a one-year mandate which expires on June 8 next year. The mandate can be prolonged twice by three months.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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