Monday

24th Sep 2018

Malta's PM cleared of Panama Papers wrongdoing

  • Malta's PM has been cleared of any wrongdoing in Panama Paper case (Photo: PES Communications)

Malta's attorney general on Sunday (22 July) cleared prime minister Joseph Muscat of any wrongdoing over allegations he had benefitted from a secret offshore company.

The 15-month probe was launched following reports by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered last October, that Muscat's wife had owned a shell company known as Egrant set up by Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

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Muscat on Sunday in a six-page statement said the inquiry did not uncover any evidence of corruption or money laundering from Azerbaijan through Pilatus Bank accounts.

He said it also exonerated similar claims against his wife, close aide Keith Schembri, tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, as well as former European commissioner for health, John Dalli.

"Not one of the allegations that were made involving my wife Michelle, myself, my family, or persons close to us were found to be true," he said.

The claims against Muscat's entourage were made in part by Pilatus bank employee Maria Efimova and then reported on by Caruana Galizia. Malta had last year issued arrest warrants for Efimova.

Muscat had maintained his innocence throughout, noting he would resign if an "ounce of truth" was found in the allegations. He had also last year in June called a snap election over the turmoil, which he won.

He said, quoting the report, that documents had been falsified and that the inquiry was unable to reconcile versions put forward by Efimova and Caruana Galizia.

Muscat now wants former opposition leader Simon Busuttil to "resign from every position he occupies both in Malta and abroad" for having backed the corruption claims.

Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP who was part of a European parliament corruption probe into Malta last December, said that while he was never convinced by Efimova's accusations, a long list of issues remain unanswered.

"Indeed it would be crucial to know who falsified the documents. However, this inquiry does not respond to the key questions of the EP's rule of law report on Malta," he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, others in Malta's opposition party are shedding doubt on the report, with one MP noting a close coordination between of the timing of the statements issued by Muscat and the attorney general.

Another opposition MP said crucial evidence had also been lost when Pilatus chairman Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad was filmed leaving at night with large suitcases shortly after Caruana Galizia had published her report.

But the inquiry, according to Muscat, says allegations that Hasheminejad was leaving with evidence had also been unfounded. Hasheminejad is facing criminal prosecution in the United States.

Caruana Galizia's son, Paul, on Twitter criticised those calling for Busuttil to resign for calling the investigation, but not for the resignations of Schembri or Mizzi.

Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair

US authorities have arrested the chair of the Maltese-registered Pilatus Bank for tax evasion. The bank facilitated political corruption in Malta but its whistleblower is now facing jail in Malta and fears for her life.

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