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Panama Papers committee wants to speak to Nationalist MPs Tonio Fenech, Beppe Fenech Adami

Nationalist MPs say they will be available to answer questions

Updated at 12.30pm with MEPs statement

The Panama Papers committee of the European Parliament  wants to speak to Nationalist MPs Tonio Fenech and Beppe Fenech Adami, the Times of Malta has learnt.

Although widely known as the Panama Papers committee, it has a wider remit, which includes investigating alleged breaches of money- laundering, tax-avoidance and tax-evasion rules across the EU. The committee will pay a fact-finding visit to Malta next month.

Last year, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ordered an inquiry after MaltaToday reported a police investigation was halted when Dr Fenech Adami’s name cropped up.

Dr Fenech Adami was a non-executive director of Baltimore Fiduciary Services. Baltimore nominally held the shares of another company, CapitalOne, which, in 2013, was investigated by the Dutch and local authorities over money-laundering allegations.

Dr Fenech Adami has said he did not even know the police were investigating the company.

Mr Fenech, a former finance minister, also hit the headlines as director of Falcon Funds. MaltaToday reported last week that the fund was being investigated by the Swedish Economic Crime Authority over allegations by the Swedish Pensions Authority (SPA) that it was unable to repay €247 million in savings to 22,000 investors.

As widely expected, the Minister Within the Office of the Prime Minister, Konrad Mizzi, and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, have been invited to testify. The two men have in the past refused to say whether they would appear before the committee. Last year, they were found to have opened secret Panama companies.

Also on the list of invitees is former Nationalist minister Ninu Zammit. According to data in the Swiss Leaks, Mr Zammit held $3.2 million in a secret Swiss account during his time as minister. Mr Zammit repatriated the funds under a government tax amnesty in 2014.

The Panama Papers committee has also sent an invite to Mary Ellen Mercieca, a secretary in the former rural affairs ministry.

Ms Mercieca was shown in the Panama Papers to hold a company in the British Virgin Islands opened by Nexia BT.

'We will be available to answer all questions put to us' - Nationalist MPs

In a statement this morning, Dr Fenech Adami and Mr Fenech said that although they had not yet been informed that they were to be called to give evidence, if they were, they would be available to answer all the questions put to them.

They said that, without doubt, no question to them could be on secret companies in Panama because these did not exist.

The two MPs said it was evident that the request for them to be interviewed was made by the Labour Party’s MEPs who were made to do so because of the state of panic the Castille clique was in.

Dr Fenech Adami and Mr Fenech reaffirmed their position that if the proposal for them to appear as witnesses in front of the committee was accepted they would do this to explain in Malta and abroad how three individuals in Malta opened secret companies in Panama for graft amounting to €1 million a year.

Two of the individuals, they said, were Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. The people expected the Prime Minister to say who was the owner of the third company.

No decision on who is to be invited to speak to the committee taken yet - PN MEPs

In a statement early in the afternoon, Nationalst MPs said no decision had been taken with regard to any person who might be invited to speak to the Committee.

Labour, they said, was lobbying to include Mr Fenech and Dr Fenech Adami in the list of invitees.

"These efforts constitute nothing more than a feeble attempt to distract attention from Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri...

"It is typical of this government’s scorched earth policy of defending Minister Konrad Mizzi at all costs, by trying to create a situation where everyone involved in politics in Malta is as bad as him. They are not."

 

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