Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

Malta denies secrecy in 'Paradise Papers' leak

  • Malta's finance minister says names of Maltese entities named in latest 'Paradise Papers' leaks are not hidden from the public (Photo: European Union)

Malta's government says the country has nothing to hide after being named among a long list of offshore entities in the latest leak from an international consortium of journalists.

Its finance minister Edward Scicluna told reporters in Brussels on Monday (6 November) that all the names associated with Malta in the so-called 'Paradise Papers' were listed on a public register.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"There was no secrecy whatsoever," he said, while noting the push for greater transparency is needed to fight tax evasion.

Speaking ahead of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting, Scicluna said many of the laws that had been agreed on at the EU level have simply yet to be implemented.

"It takes time to implement changes, companies need to know ahead that changes are there and they need to act accordingly," he said.

The comments come in the wake of the funeral of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb last month.

Galizia had been probing high-level corruption and was an outspoken critic of the Valetta government.

She accused the wife of Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat of having a secret bank account. She alleged the government had been profiting on the side from a Maltese passport sale scheme.

Caruana Galizia's son, who helped uncover a previous leak of tax avoidance called the Panama Papers, described the country as a "mafia state" following revelations that Muscat's chief of staff had set up offshore firms.

Malta is a low-tax jurisdiction, where profits earned by companies is taxed at just five percent. It has been reluctant in EU efforts to publish a 'black list' of tax havens.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday (7 November), Scicluna said the Maltese EU presidency earlier this year was first trying to engage affected and cooperative jurisdictions, rather than threaten countries with sanctions.

"Replies have come in or still coming in before the coming deadline later this month, so we need to agree as to how to proceed accordingly. Malta is part of this exercise by the code of conduct as we have been all along," he said.

Malta is also one of the few EU states that refuses to endorse an EU-level public prosecutor, charged with probing fraud.

The latest cache of leaks over the weekend show how a Malta-based firm was used by U2 frontman Bono to buy shares of a Lithuanian shopping centre.

Libyan oil

But Malta has also appeared in other probes.

Earlier this year, a UN security council panel on Libyan sanctions cited front companies in Malta used to shuffle assets from the fourth son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The same panel had also noted tanker shipments of suspected stolen fuel ferrying back and forth from Libya and Malta.

Greek authorities found that a Nigerian company had subcontracted one of the suspected tankers, which belonged to Petro Plus Limited based in Malta.

"Petro Plus Limited has been involved on several occasions in fuel smuggling," noted the UN report.

Meanwhile, the EU commission views the Paradise Papers as an opportunity to speed up tax-avoidance reforms.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the euro, told reporters that the revelations behind the leaks will pile on greater pressure to fight the evasion.

"It puts renewed emphasis on the work which the European Commission is doing to fight tax avoidance," he told reporters.

Dombrovskis demanded EU states engage to complete EU-level reforms, including an overhaul of the EU's anti-money laundering directive.

National governments, such as those in Germany and the UK, have balked at tax transparency proposals that would expose the identities of people behind trusts and shell firms.

Dombrovskis noted further work needs to be done on public country-by-country reporting, on digital taxation and other areas. "After all, it is all member states which are losing their tax revenue," he said.

Member states have broadly revolted against greater transparency on the schemes, arguing the disclosures would violate privacy and data protection laws.

But the disclosures and leaks have fed into a growing public anger amid reports of how a wealthy elite colludes with offshore law firms to then shuffle money away from national budgets.

This article was updated on 7 November, 2017 at 12.02 to reflect comments made by Malta's finance minister Edward Scicluna

EU states obstructing tax transparency

EU states are blocking efforts to make their tax regimes more transparent, amid new revelations how politicians and world leaders avoid paying tax.

Media bosses demand EU push Malta on journalist killing

In a letter to commissioner Timmermans, the directors of eight media groups ask the EU executive to use "all powers" to push the investigation into the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

EU commission wants 'credible' tax haven blacklist

The EU's finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters that he wants a credible EU blacklist of tax havens following the latest media tax avoidance revelations of the wealthy elite in the Paradise Papers.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us