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Nexia BT says it owns Egrant, but PN scorns it, Busuttil points to Brian Tonna contradictions

Labour says Simon Busuttil's bubble has burst

Last updated at 11.03 with Simon Busuttil reaction below - Nexia BT, the financial services company at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal, has claimed it owns the Panama company known as Egrant.

Company boss Brian Tonna told MaltaToday that Egrant never traded and never changed hands.

He said Egrant was a shelf company bought by Nexia BT in July 2013 and never had clients. He produced a document to back his ownership statement.

Several Nationalist MPs including Simon Busuttil in tweets this morning poured scorn on the claim. Labour said a bubble has burst in Dr Busuttil's face.

The Nationalist Party has long questioned the ownership of Egrant, noting that it was set up through Nexia BT at the same time as minister Konrad Mizzi and chief of staff Keith Schembri set up their own companies in Panama. 

Today's claim comes just before a European Parliament committee starts its work in Malta as park of investigations into the Panama Papers scandal.

Times of Malta reported yesterday that EP committee has asked Nexia BT to say who owns Egrant.

It asked Nexia BT to say who is the beneficial owner of Egrant and to state whether the owner is involved in politics.

MEPs also want to know why Nexia BT chose to send the details of the beneficiary owner of Egrant through a Skype call instead of through e-mails as in the case of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

The Panama committee asked Mr Tonna – the managing partner of Nexia BT – to explain his relationship with Keith Schembri and Mr Schembri’s private business, the Kasco Group.

LABOUR REACTION: BUSUTTIL IS 'BIGGEST EVER LIAR'

In a reaction the Labour Party said the announcement that Egrant always remained the property of Nexia and was never transferred to anyone  proved that Simon Busuttil was Malta's 'biggest ever political liar'. 

It said that months on insinuation, allegations and lies had burst in Dr Busuttil's face.  It was also clear that his 'policy of lies' showed his desperation in the face of the success that the country was achieving under the present government. 

The people would not go back to the PN government times, Labour said. 

BUSUTTIL: NO ONE IS BELIEVING YOU, BRIAN TONNA CONTRADICTED HIMSELF

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in a reaction said no one was believing Mr Tonna's claim.

He said that the reported statement by Mr Tonna was an insult to the people's intelligence, timed to coincide with this afternoon's PN demonstration and the Pana Committee's work in Malta tomorrow.

This was part of the usual strategy which Labour adopted whenever it was in a corner.

Dr Busuttil pointed out that Brian Tonna is the financial consultant who set up Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri's companies in Panama at the same time as Egrant was set up. Also at the same time, Mr Tonna, who has an office at the Auberge de Castille, set up his own company in the British Virgin Islands.

The e-mail from Nexia BT at the time when Egrant was set up.The e-mail from Nexia BT at the time when Egrant was set up.

It was clear that it was a lie to say that Egrant was owned by Mr Tonna. When the companies owned by Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri were set up, Mr Tonna gave the names of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri on e-mail, but had said he would communicate the owner of Egrant by Skype.

Why would Mr Tonna hide his name if Egrant was really his, and why would he set up a second company?

Furthermore the same MaltaToday journalist who wrote today's story, in April last year also spoke to Mr Tonna. At the time, Mr Tonna said Egrant was still a shelf company adding that: "We are not at liberty to divulge any client details, since we are bound by professional secrecy obligations."

That therefore meant that there was a client last year.

Had the company been Mr Tonna's he would have said so. One could not be his own client.

Dr Busuttil said he was not surprised that this was a huge lie. What hurt him was that the people were expected to believe it.

But he was confident that the people, based on the facts, would see through this.

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