Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Malta PM calls snap election over offshore scandal

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat has called a snap election for 3 June following allegations his wife owns an offshore firm in Panama.

The vote will take place during Malta's EU presidency, which ends on 30 June.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The Labour leader told a crowd in Valletta on Monday (1 May) that the accusations against him and his family were baseless.

"Everybody knows about the attacks made in the past few days on me and my family. I have nothing to fear because truth is on my side and I am clean," he said.

The scandal erupted after Maltese blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed Muscat's wife Michelle held shares in Egrant Inc, a firm named in last year's massive data leak from Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm.

While it is not illegal to hold an offshore account, it can be used to hide assets from tax authorities.

Such revelations have already seen Iceland's prime minister resign from office.

Nationalist Party (PN) leader Simon Busuttil has said Muscat must also step down.

The leaked cache of papers did not show the owners of Egrant, but instead revealed links to a Malta-based auditing firm Nexia BT.

An inquiry in Malta has since been launched to find evidence tying Egrant with the prime minister and his wife.

Muscat told Maltese media that he would step down from office if the inquiry revealed any ties.

"I am confident the inquiry will not find anything, because I know there is nothing to find," he said.

Muscat's chief of staff Keith Schembri and Labour minister Konrad Mizzi held shares in other firms also managed by Mossack Fonseca through Nexia BT.

Both Schembri and Mizzi had set up the secret companies after they took office in March 2013. The two at the time had also been negotiating an energy deal with Azerbaijan.

Galizia in her blog said large sums of money had been moved between bank accounts in Azerbaijan and accounts held by Egrant Inc. and the offshore firms belonging to Schembri and Mizzi.

The shady dealings sparked large demonstrations in Malta last week with thousands reportedly taking to the streets against corruption.

A delegation of MEPs from the parliament's Panama tax inquiry committee had visited Malta earlier this year.

Schembri, along with the Nexia BT accountants who set up the offshore accounts, refused to meet them.

Far-left Portuguese MEP Miguel Viegas, who was among the deputies in the delegation, said at the time that the Panama revelations had raised serious questions about ties between Malta's political class and money-laundering.

"Members of both the conservatives and the social democrats in Malta have serious questions to answer relating to their involvement in money-laundering and tax evasion as exposed in the Panama Papers," he said.

Focus

The heated life of Malta's politics

While the smallest EU state has been commended in Brussels for its smooth presidency of the Council, domestic politics are characterised by heated polarisation with accusations and insults often being traded.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government