The Egrant Inc. story has been in the news for the past year: it has been developing for over the four years since the 2013 general elections, when it was set up together with other companies.
First we had Konrad Mizzi with his company Hearnville Inc. Then we had Keith Schembri with his company, Tillgate Inc. The matter became public when the Panama Papers were disclosed. Millions of hitherto secret documents about companies set up by public and private individuals all around the globe were made public.
The core of the issue is not the setting up of the companies but the objectives for which they were set up. Secret companies are normally set up for the concealment of financial and other assets in order to avoid the taxman or to conceal the fruits of corruption.
The owners of two of the companies are already known. One of them is Minister Konrad Mizzi while the other is the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Their identity was disclosed over 12 months ago, when it was declared that their Panama companies had not yet been put to use. When the Panama Papers were published it became known that correspondence with several banks had been exchanged relative to the opening of bank accounts for the said companies. Requests and commitments were spotlighted but Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri disclaimed any association with this correspondence and commitments identified. No one believed them then.
The polemic went on and the focus shifted towards the third company: Egrant Inc. Who was its ultimate beneficial owner?
We should remember that the Panama Papers did not shed any light on the identity of the owner or owners of Egrant Inc. because this information was never communicated in a written manner: it was communicated over Skype. The message conveyed was immediately clear that in all probability some big-head was involved and that he or she was more important than Konrad Mizzi or Keith Schembri. There was no room for imagination as the possible names were limited in number with the actual names being on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
On Thursday, a new chapter was opened. Daphne Caruana Galizia, on her blog, referred to documents that she said were in the safe of Pilatus Bank. These documents identified Michelle Muscat as the ultimate beneficial owner of the company Egrant Inc. It was also stated that this company received money transfers from Azerbaijan, including the sum of $1.017 million on the instructions of the daughter of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
The level of detail described by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blogpost indicates very clearly that this was based on the contents of bank documents. On Friday evening, additional information relating to a certificate of trust was published. This information, the validity of which was contested by Joseph Muscat, states that the company Dubro Limited S.A. and Aliator S.A. hold shares in the company Egrant Inc. on behalf of Mrs Michelle Muscat. But the documents from which this information is being extracted are still unpublished. I do not know why this is so. It is necessary that these documents, fundamental to the issue under consideration, see the light of day. This is essential because the information published is being contested.
The information published is serious stuff. It may be the reason why Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri were not dismissed from office last year when the Panama Papers were published.
Pilatus Bank, Nexia BT, Joseph and Michelle Muscat have denied the published information. Many are convinced on the veracity of the story, but being morally convinced is not sufficient. Proof only results from authentic documentation but certainly not from demonstrations. It is for this reason that the full disclosure of all the documentation on which the published information is based is an essential prerequisite.
published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 23 April 2017