Spotlight on Pilatus Bank

 

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 Ministers 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 everyones 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 Galizias 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

Keith il-Kasco mhux ġemmiegħ tas-santi!

 

 

Ħadd qatt ma kellu l-illużjoni li Keith Schembri l-Kasco u Konrad Mizzi, l-Ministru bla portafoll, kienu qed jagħmlu użu mill-kumpaniji tagħhom Hearnville Inc. u  Tillgate Inc. fil-Panama biex iġemmgħu  is-santi jew id-domni.

Il-loġika u s-sens komun dejjem wasslu għal konklużjoni waħda: ħasil ta flus. Imma sissa provi qatt ma kien hemm.

Kif dejjem għidna, d-dnub ma jorqodx u jekk hemm provi xi ħin jew ieħor dawn hemm ċans tajjeb li jitfaċċaw.

Ikun ferm aħjar, jekk hemm il-provi, li dawn jagħmlu apoloġija pubblika u jmorru jistaħbew fejn ma jarahom ħadd. Illum qabel għada. Jistgħu jekk iridu jieħu magħhom ukoll lil sid l-Egrant Inc.,  it-tielet kumpanija.

Wara sena sħiħa ta ċaħdiet ilkoll nittamaw li ma ndumux ma nkunu nafu l-fatti vera.

Bi Chris Cardona : l-aqwa Kabinett fl-Ewropa

chris-cardona

Bdaqshekk x’ġara? Mgħandux dritt bħal ħaddieħor jew? 

Chris Cardona  qed jiċħad l-istorja.

Jidher li fl-aħħar verament Malta l-aqwa fl-Ewropa. L-aqwa Kabinett fl-Ewropa! Mhux unur kbir jew għall-Kabinett tal-Ministri ta Joseph Muscat li jkollhom kollega bħal Chris Cardona? Kulħadd bxortih! Wara Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona kien jonqsu l-Partit Laburista.

Leo Brincat: loyalties and lip service

epa04912519 Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and CLimate change Leo Brincat arrives for an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the conference center in Luxembourg, 04 September 2015. EU Foreign Ministers gather in Luxembourg to discuss on the ongoing refugees and migrant crises. EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

When Leo Brincat gave evidence before the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control last week he was, as anticipated, quizzed on his position regarding the Panama Papers.

Leo Brincat made himself crystal clear by stating that he would have submitted his resignation – or else suspended himself from office until such time as matters would have been clarified – had he been himself involved.

He volunteered the information that there had been a point at which he had considered resigning from Ministerial office due to the manner in which the Panama Papers scandal was handled in Malta. He added that, eventually, however, his considerations did not materialise and he did not resign as he had no desire to be a “hero for a day and end up in the (political) wilderness” thereafter.

Then came the fundamental issue: what about his vote against the motion of No Confidence in Minister Konrad Mizzi which was discussed by Malta’s House of Representatives? He emphasised that he could not vote in favour of the No Confidence motion as he was bound by the party’s Parliamentary Whip! It was a basic standard of local politics, based on the Westminister model, he emphasised.

At this point Leo Brincat made it clear to the EU Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee that he had made a very important and fundamental choice: he preferred loyalty to the party whip to loyalty to his principles: those same principles which he has been harping on for ages. When push came to shove, solidarity with Konrad Mizzi took priority over good governance. This is what irked a substantial number of MEPs and prompted them not to recommend the  approval of Leo Brincat as a member of the European Court of Auditors. Leo’s declaration means only one thing: that his statements on good governance are only lip service to which there is no real commitment.

From this point onwards, the issue became one of principle, stated Slovenian Green MEP Igor Šoltes, Vice Chairman of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control and rapporteur on the European Court of Auditors, when interviewed by the local media. How is it possible to expect appointment to the European Court of Auditors and simultaneously give a nod of approval to Konrad Mizzi? Leo’s reluctance to distance himself from Konrad’s misbehaviour was his undoing.

Leo Brincat was considered as being technically qualified for the post of member of the European Court of Auditors but his public behaviour relative to the Panama Papers left much to be desired: it rendered him ethically unqualified.

Most of the information on Malta and the Panama Papers scandal is freely available online. In this day and age, MEPs and their staff, like anyone else, can easily look up all the information they need in an instant. They do not need any prodding by David Casa, Roberta Metsola, Therese Commodini Cachia or anyone else!

The facts are damning enough. Leo Brincat, unfortunately, came across as an ambivalent person who speaks in favour of good governance yet through his vote simultaneously gives support to its negation. Konrad Mizzi’s behaviour,, sanctioned in parliament by the vote of Leo Brincat and his colleagues on the government benches, signifies that the Parliamentary Labour Party in Malta does not care about good governance. Leo Brincat’s failure is quite representative of the Labour Parliamentary group’s behaviour in Malta, as they have all contributed to this mess – the effects of which are yet to come.

In fairness, I must also point out that the press had, at a point in time picked up information about a rowdy Labour Party Parliamentary Group meeting during which Leo Brincat and a number of other MPs (including a number of Ministers ) had argued for Konrad Mizzi’s resignation or removal. It is indeed unfortunate that Joseph Muscat did not feel sufficiently pressured to remove Konrad Mizzi from Cabinet, as that meeting was only followed up with cosmetic changes in Konrad Mizzi’s Cabinet responsibilities.

It is useless to try and shift the blame onto Joseph Muscat and his cronies. While Joseph Muscat is ultimately responsible, this does not exonerate Leo Brincat and each individual member of the Labour Party Parliamentary group; each one of them too must shoulder responsibilities for  failure to act in removing Konrad Mizzi from public office.

At the end of the day there is just one lesson: loyalty to your conscience is not up for bartering.

Leo Brincat u l-morsa tal-iskandlu tal-Panama

Leo Brincat 050916

Bħal diversi minnkom segwejt lill-Leo Brincat jiġi eżaminat mill-Kumitat Parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew dwar il-Kontroll tal-Budget qabel ma jinħatar bħala membru tal-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Awdituri.

Leo qal li Konrad Mizzi messu irriżenja. Qal ukoll li hu ħassu f’morsa u kien qed jikkunsidra li jirriżenja fil-ġranet ta’ qabel il-mozzjoni ta’ sfiduċja.

Dan fakkarni li f’dawk il-ġranet kien hawn diversi rapporti dwar diversi membri tal-Kabinett li tkellmu b’ċerta qawwa waqt il-laqgħat tal-Grupp Parlamentari Laburista u lkoll insistew li Konrad Mizzi kellu jirriżenja.

Issa li m’għadux membru tal-Kabinett Leo stqarr fil-pubbliku dak li kien magħruf li qal wara l-bibien magħluqa.

Għamlu tajjeb il-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej li insistew għal tweġibiet dwar l-iskandlu tal-Panama. L-istorja ċertament ma tieqafx hawn għax fil-ġimgħat li ġejjin trid tibda l-inkjesta fid-dettall dwar l-istess skandlu. Għad irridu naraw kif din l-inkjesta ser tiżviluppa u b’mod partikolari kif ser iġibu ruħhom dawk il-Maltin li ser ikunu mitlubin jidhru quddiem il-kumitat parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew li ser imexxi l-inkjesta.

Min ħaseb li l-istorja raqdet sejjer żmerċ. Għad irridu nisimgħu ħafna iktar. U min żbalja għad irid iħallas. Jekk mhux illum ikollu jħallas għada.

Id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Leo Brincat illum għandha sinifikat simboliku. Seta kellha sinifikat ħafna ikbar kieku kellu l-kuraġġ tal-konvinzjonijiet tiegħu.

L-Avukat Ġenerali għandu l-obbligu illi jispjega x’inhu għaddej

FIAU

 

Ir-riżenja ta’ Manfred Galdes li kien qed imexxi l-Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) bħala Direttur hi nkwetanti għax tfisser li persuna oħra indipendenti li kienet inkarigata biex tissorvelja l-governanza fiskali irriżenjat.

Alternattiva Demokratika ma taċċettax bħala veritiera l-ispjegazzjoni illi Manfred Galdes irriżenja biex jieħu impieg mas-settur privat kif ġie suġġerit mill-Ministru tal-Finanzi. Irriżenja probabbilment għax qed jara l-istituzzjonijiet nazzjonali madwaru jikkollassaw b’diversi jsiru għaġina f’idejn il-Gvern. Ovvjament jekk ser jitlaq mill-impieg mal-FIAU, dan x’imkien irid jaħdem biex jgħajjex lill-familja tiegħu. Fi ftit kliem mar fis-settur privat għax iddeċieda li jirreżenja mill-FIAU.

F’April li għadda l-Ministru tal-Finanzi kien ħabbar illi l-FIAU li tagħha Manfred Galdes kien Direttur kienet qed tivestiga l-istejjer dwar ħasil ta’ flus fil-Panama u dan b’referenza għal rapport fil-media dwar il-Kap tas-Segretarjat tal-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru Keith Schembri (l-Kasco) u l-Ministru Konrad Mizzi. Minkejja li hemm indikazzjonijiet li din l-investigazzjoni ġiet konkluża m’hemmx ċertezza dwar dan avolja l-aħħar riżenja tal-Kummissarju tal-Pulizija Michael Cassar hi assoċjata wkoll ma’ din il-materja.

F’dan il-kuntest is-skiet tal-Avukat Ġenerali, li huwa wkoll ic-Chairman tal-Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit hu nkwetanti. F’dan il-mument delikat l-Avukat Ġenerali għandu l-obbligu illi jispjega x’inhu għaddej.

Ċapċipa għal Konrad

Konrad Mizzi Parlament

Il-bieraħ waqt laqgħa ta’ djalogu pubbliku f’Kastilja, Konrad Mizzi Ministru bla portafol fl-uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru, ngħata ċapċipa kbira. Standing ovation qalet it-Times.

Kif tista’ tagħti ċapċipa ta’ approvazzjoni lil min ma żammx kelmtu? Lil min jiddeletta bis-segretezza u bil-ħabi? Lil min mhux biss ma jara xejn ħażin li jiftaħ kumpanija fil-Panama talli jevita ukoll li jwieġeb mistoqsijiet dwarha.

L-aqwa li Gvern li jisma’!

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu għalfejn noqgħodu niskantaw bil-medjokrità fil-politika Maltija?

 

Il-parabboli ta’ Varist

Evarist-Bartolo.irrabjat

It-tradizzjoni politika Ewropeja, li f’kull partit politiku jkun hemm mhux biss min jaħseb b’moħħu imma, iktar minn hekk li jkun hemm min jitkellem ċar fil-pubbliku, għad ma rabbietx l-egħruq fil-fond f’pajjiżna. Kieku dan seħħ, il-ħajja politika f’Malta forsi hi ftit aħjar.

Minflok politiċi li jitkellmu ċar, għandna l-parabboli ta’ Varist li waqt li l-opinjoni pubblika qed tiffoka fuq il-Panama jippreferi jikkritika l-imġieba tal-Professur Bannister inkella  li jitkellem dwar xi stedina għal fenkata f’razzett fin-nofsinnhar tal-pajjiż. Messaġġ għal min irid jifhmu, imma ferm il-bogħod minn dak mistenni minnu.

Jiena nitkellem ma membri parlamentari miż-żewġ naħat tal-kamra. Wieħed minnhom, min-naħa tal-Gvern, riċentement qalli li Marlene Farrugia għaġġlet meta rriżenjat għax kieku stenniet ftit kienet issib appoġġ mhux żgħir mill-backbench.

Iva, wara l-istorja faċli tgħid x’seta ġara, kieku …………… nitkellmu ċar u mhux bil-parabboli.

 

Imma dan ma ġarax b’kumbinazzjoni għax tajjeb li niftakru li Joseph Muscat ħaseb minn kmieni biex jassigura ruħu li jkun jista’ joħnoq id-dissens fil-grupp parlamentari biex jipprova jevita dak li ġralu Lawrence Gonzi.

Id-daqs kbir tal-Kabinett (l-ikbar fl-istorja) kif ukoll l-inkarigi lil prattikament il-backbench kollu (min Chairman hawn u min konsulent hemm) huma fost il-miżuri intenzjonati minn kmieni biex id-dissens ikun regolat. Pero minkejja dan, il-grupp parlamentari laburista xorta kellu diskussjoni imqanqla dwar il-Panama Papers. Kien hemm min, bil-bibien magħluqin ħass li seta jkun kritiku ta’ kif saru l-affarijiet u diversi talbu r-riżenji ta’ Konrad u Keith. Il-kuraġġ tal-ftit instema imma ma kienx biżżejjed. Kellhom il-kuraġġ imma illimitaw ruħhom għall-kritika interna, li hi neċessarja ukoll.

S’issa d-dissens fil-Partit Laburista hu limitat għall-kritika interna u għall-parabboli ta’ Varist. Żewġ passi l-quddiem imma mhux biżżejjed biex tinkiseb lura l-kredibilità.

 

Parlament li jġiegħlek tirremetti

vomit

Smajt partijiet mid-dibattitu Parlamentari tal-lum dwar Keith Schembri l-Kasco. Nistqarr li qlajt l-istonku nisma’ lil Simon Busuttil u lil Joseph Muscat jitkellmu. Jekk ngħid li rriduċew lil Parlament għat-tejatrin tar-raħal inkun qed ninsulenta lit-tejatrin tar-raħal!

Bil-lingwaġġ li kontinwament juża’ Simon Busuttil (u oħrajn) iwassal mesaġġ li qed jitkellem dwar korruzzjoni ppruvata meta jaf li dan hu ferm il-bogħod mir-realtà. Ir-realtà hi ftit differenti: li hemm attività ta’ diversi persuni li qed jagħmlu użu mis-segretezza tal-qasam finanzjarju f’pajjiżi oħra (Panama u British Virgin Islands, per eżempju). Li dawn is-servizzi jintużaw minn persuni fil-politika (Konrad Mizzi) u minn persuni madwar il-politiċi (bħal Keith Schembri) jqanqal suspetti gravi dwar korruzzjoni. Suspetti jibqgħu suspetti. Imma l-politiku serju jaġixxi minnufih fuq suspetti ta’ din il-gravità. Il-fatt li Joseph Muscat ma aġixxiex turi li bla l-iċken dubju m’huwiex bniedem serju u ma jixraqlux li jmexxi dan il-pajjiż.

Dan hu l-argument kollu li jiġġustifika l-mozzjoni ta’ Marlene Farrugia.

Il-bqija, fl-opinjoni tiegħi kien kollu ħela ta’ ħin.

Imma sfortunatament il-Parlament Malti mhuwiex interessat f’diskussjoni serja. La l-Gvern u l-anqas l-Opposizzjoni.

Alternanza tal-poter u tal-ħmieg

Same Shit

 

Waqt il-manifestazzjoni tas-soċjetà ċivili, iktar kmieni illum, uħud ħadu għalihom bil-poster tal-Moviment Graffiti : Same Shit, Different Government.

Alternanza tal-poter bejn PN u PL twassal ukoll l-alternanza tal-ħmieġ. Jekk tivvota bħas-soltu ikollok l-istess riżultati. Ġieli tinduna bihom mill-ewwel u ġieli tieħu ftit taż-żmien. Imma fir-realtà ma hemmx x’tagħżel bejniethom.

Id-differenza qegħda biss fl-attenzjoni ta’ kif jagħmlu l-affarijiet.

PNPL : m’hemmx x’tagħżel bejniethom.

PNPL Pezza Wahda_1200x1200px