Updated, Adds details -  - Minister Konrad Mizzi was this evening overwhelmingly elected Labour Party deputy leader for party affairs, winning 96.5 per cent of the vote in a ballot in which he was the only candidate. 

The Labour Party said turnout was 95.2% of the delegates eligible to vote - or 704.

As vote-sorting started, the party said there were three abstentions and five invalid votes.

The last one-horse race for the post of deputy leader of the Labour Party was the most recent one, in December 2012 when Louis Grech replaced Anglu Farrugia.

In that vote, Mr Grech won 97 per cent of the valid votes cast, with a total of 724 votes approving his candidature. Out of 789 party delegates eligible to vote, 749 voted but six votes were invalid. Sixteen voted against and three abstained.
The party said 36 voters said they could not make it because they were sick or abroad.

Voting in today's election started in the morning and closed at 8.30pm. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat cast his vote in the morning and Dr Mizzi himself voted at 7pm.

Dr Mizzi succeeds Toni Abela, who has been nominated to the European Court of Auditors.

Speaking after the result, Dr Mizzi said he was humbled. Delegates could have easily stayed home but they came out in droves to support him, he said. 

He said his priorities would be on strengthening the party media, working with the party grassroots on their participation in the structures of the party, ensuring that Labour local councils delivered on their promises and preparing an electoral programme for a new Labour victory. 

NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR

Questioned about his financial dealings in Panama and New Zealand, Dr Mizzi said he did not even know the name of the company in Panama handling his affairs.

Asked who was the beneficial owner, he said the company was owned by a trust in New Zealand and he is the settlor of the trust. The beneficiaries are his wife and two children.

Asked whether he was comfortable being associated with a tax haven as is Panama, he said, “I am not associated with a tax haven, the trust is based in New Zealand.”

The Energy Minister said he chose to base the trust and company in different jurisdictions on the advice of his financial planners.

“They advised that Panama would be a good place to hold the assets. The assets would be the property in England and potentially the one I have in Malta.”

Dr Mizzi said the Panamanian shell company was taken over by the trust
in the summer of 2015.

He slammed allegations that he was hiding foreign bank accounts.

“The Panamanian company has no assets or liabilities. Allegations that I have accounts apart from those declared are false. The trust was set up in New Zealand and its only asset is a shell company in Panama – which has no assets. I will in time populate it with assets on the basis of advice I receive.”

The energy minister adamantly declared that he has nothing to apologize  for.

“As long as I provide full disclosure I have nothing to apologize for. It is my money which I worked for; it is my property which I worked for. We have every right as a family to decide where we locate it as long as I abide by the law and pay taxes.”

According to the party statute, party delegates  have to cast a secret ballot even if there is only one candidate. Dr Mizzi has to obtain 50 per cent plus one of votes cast to be confirmed deputy leader.  

The election comes in the midst of revelations that Dr Mizzi has a trust in New Zealand and a company in Panama to manage his assets. 

In spite of the revelations, he has retained the support of Dr Muscat who said he had no problem with the revelations and that both the trust and the company were listed in Dr Mizzi’s draft declaration of assets to be tabled in Parliament soon.

Voting for the election started at 9am at the party's headquarters in Ħamrun and at the Victoria PL club and continues until 6pm in Gozo and 8.30pm in Malta.

Video: Steve Zammit Lupi

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