3.30pm Update with Keith Schembri's reaction
An offshore company opened for a man involved in the sale of the State energy provider, was “a text book case of suspected money laundering” which merited investigation, Shadow Justice Minister Jason Azzopardi said today.
He was referring to media reports that auditors Nexia BT had set up an offshore structure for Cheng Chen, a representative of Shanghai Electric, which had purchased Enemalta for €320 million. Mr Chen had been involved in negotiations between the Chinese State-owned energy firm and the Maltese government.
According to the Panama Papers, Mr Chen’s offshore set-up in the British Virgin Islands was opened in May of 2013, just a few weeks before similar structures were set up for then Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.
“This stinks. It stinks of a pre electoral deal and cannot be ignored,” he said.
Mr Azzopardi said this was “a coincidence too far” and merited investigation from the authorities.
The Attorney General and the police, he said, were empowered to investigate such suspicions and were legally obliged to do so.
Dr Azzopardi said the authorities’ first step should be for Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri’s assets to be frozen pending an investigation.
He added that the silence from the government was equally damning.
“It has been more than 24 hours since these reports first surfaced and the government is yet to do anything about it. We haven’t had a denial, not even a reaction,” Dr Azzopardi said.
He was joined by shadow energy minister Marthese Portelli, who asked why the contracts for the Enemalta sale had still not been published.
'Dirty lies' - Government
In a reaction, the Government said it would be suing for libel.
Calling the allegations "dirty lies" aimed at "spoiling the biggest energy investment our country has ever seen," the Government statement accused Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil of relying on "lies being circulated" to try and ruin its good work.
A similar statement by Minister Konrad Mizzi called the PN's claims "outrageous" and "an outright lie."
He said he would be suing Dr Busuttil, Dr Azzopardi and Ms Portelli for libel.
"The only corruption relating to Enemalta is the oil scandal which occurred under the previous administration, which persisted with the use of oil. Notwithstanding clear recommendations to shift from oil to gas the Nationalist administration invested in a new oil fired plant," the minister's statement read.
PN crossed the line of all decency - Keith Schembri
In another statement in the afternoon, government chief of staff Keith Schembri also said he would be filing libel proceedings.
"Today the Nationalist Party has crossed the line of all decency falling well short of the responsibilities expected from a serious Opposition party in a modern democracy.
"Simon Busuttil is desperately attacking all investments that this government has brought for the benefit of all. However, this government shall remain steadfast in its mission of changing Malta for the better, for the benefit of all," he said.