Konrad Mizzi’s private audit into his secretive financial set-up does not replace a proper investigation, a member of the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee has told this newspaper.

Speaking after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had addressed the European Parliament last Wednesday, Sven Giegold said the only audit or investigation that counted was that carried out by the government’s anti-money-laundering agency, the FIAU. (The agency has not published the results of the investigation, as it is prohibited by law from doing so).

The MEP, who forms part of the Green Party, said that normally a state should not accept a private audit firm to replace a proper investigation.

Both Mr Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, last year hired an international audit firm to review their Panama set-up.

Dr Muscat has placed much emphasis on the audit by assuring it would reveal “all the facts”.

However, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna recently admitted that Panama was not even cooperating with the local tax authorities in their own Panama Papers investigations. This throws into doubt how a private audit firm can realistically penetrate Panama’s cast iron secrecy.

Mr Giegold questioned why the government was not going with the FIAU’s report. “Why do they need an audit? It looks as if, if one result is not liked, then you order another one,” he said.

It looks as if, if one result is not liked then you order another one

Manfred Galdes resigned as head of the FIAU last year, shortly after carrying out an investigation into the scandal.

The MEP said that the scandal, which has been dragging on for almost a year, risked undermining Malta’s EU presidency.

Hardly any action has been taken against the two men by Dr Muscat since the scandal was revealed. Dr Mizzi had his energy and health portfolios removed in April but remains highly active in the energy sector as Minister Without Portfolio.

He will even chair the EU’s Energy Council during Malta’s presidency. Mr Giegold said the pressure from the Panama Papers Committee was unlikely to go away quickly.

It was “hypocritical” of Dr Muscat, he said, to make a pro-European speech to the European Parliament yet ignore the committee’s calls for cooperation.

Both Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri have yet to confirm whether they will agree to testify before the committee, which is investigating alleged breaches of money laundering and tax evasion rules across the EU.

Although the committee cannot force anyone to cooperate, non-cooperation would do further harm to Malta, Mr Giegold said.

He said the Panama Papers had once again put the focus on Malta.

“There is more attention on Malta about the lack of effective anti-money-laundering policies and unfair tax practice. Non-cooperation with the European Parliament would add to that reputational damage.”

Asked by this newspaper if allowing Dr Mizzi to chair the Energy Council was wise, Mr Giegold said that until the minister was cleared through the publication of the FIAU report, harm was being done.

“I will continue working on this. I will not give up on this; I am quite stubborn when it comes to financial crimes,” Mr Giegold said.


Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us