LAST UPDATED 4.34pm - Nationalist MEP David Casa has raised the prospect of a new magisterial inquiry into evidence that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri may have taken kickbacks off the Enemalta privatisation deal.
In an interview, Mr Casa said he was seriously considering handing over a leaked report by the FIAU, the anti-money laundering agency, to an inquiring magistrate in order for justice to be done.
Inquiries are already under way over FIAU evidence of money laundering involving Mr Schembri, over Panama companies owned by him and Mr Mizzi, among others, as well as over a claim that the Panama-registered company Egrant is owned by the Prime Minister’s wife.
FIAU: Report not finalised
In a reaction, the FIAU said the report referred to by Mr Casa was not a finalized report.
"The existence of a reference number is in no way evidence or even indicative that the report referred to by MEP Casa is finalized. Every intelligence record of the FIAU is assigned with a reference number irrespective of the status or outcome of an analysis/investigation," it said.
It said that any analysis/investigation that it carries out requires time, often months, especially where it involves international cooperation.
"The FIAU has always performed its functions and duties scrupulously without any political interference and has never refrained from carrying out any analysis/investigation when it felt that this was called for, and this irrespective of who the subject of the analysis/investigation was. Moreover, the FIAU’s structures, policies and procedures which emanate full internal transparency dictate that decisions are taken collectively and not only by key/individual personnel," the unit said.
It also warned that the disclosure of any information or document illegally obtained from it constitutes a criminal offence and will not only damage the FIAU and its ability to cooperate with foreign counterparts as a trusted partner, but will also prejudice any ongoing investigations.
"Using the FIAU for purposes of political expediency is very much a double-edged sword causing harm to the country in general and exposing FIAU officials to unnecessary safety and security risks," it said.
Casa replies: Report has been concluded
In reply, Mr Casa said he could not care less about threats of legal action against him. "I will continue to do my job no matter the cost."
He also insisted the FIAU report is conclusive.
"It requests the police to proceed against Konrad Mizzi. That the FIAU buried this for almost a year is scandalous and is testament to their political capture. They have been reduced to a government mouthpiece," he said.
THE INTERVIEW IN FULL
What is keeping you from publishing the “damning” FIAU report on Konrad Mizzi which is in your possession?
This is a 128-page document that is being scrutinised by experts in the field of money laundering. We are following paper trails, looking into visits made by Konrad Mizzi and usage of credit cards. The conclusion from it is that he must be investigated by the police. It cannot be published now as it is still being analysed. Once this happens, it will surely be the most damning report on Dr Mizzi.
What is the report exactly about?
It is mainly on Dr Mizzi’s dealings and the partial privatisation of Enemalta and new power station contract.
Are you referring to the claims made a year ago by Daphne Caruana Galizia involving a Dubai-registered company by the name of 17 Black, which was allegedly set up to transfer kickbacks to then Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri?
Any idea when this report will be published?
It will probably happen in a few weeks’ time.
What other options are you pondering?
I am not excluding the possibility of presenting the FIAU report in court in a bid to launch a magisterial inquiry. Furthermore, I might also consider publishing the entire document and tabling it in the European Parliament.
Is this report the same document part of which was leaked in the final few days of last year’s general election campaign? At the time the government had said it was not a conclusive one but a “work in progress”.
This is not a working document and the proof of this is its registration number [shown to this newspaper on the front page of the report dated March 22, 2017, albeit in soft copy form]. This report was concluded, contrary to what the government, FIAU and the MFSA are saying.
Is this the final version of the draft report leaked last year?
Yes, and I reiterate its conclusion is that the police should launch an investigation on Dr Mizzi.
What if no action is taken by the police?
At this stage, it is not just me, the Nationalist Party, civil society or the media who are calling for an investigation, but the European Parliament and all political groups including the Socialists. Following its recent fact-finding mission to Malta on the rule of law, the MEP delegation, in which the Socialist Party was the only political group to have two representatives, asked the Prime Minister to remove Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri and bring them to justice. It is of concern that the Prime Minister is ignoring these calls. I am convinced that when this FIAU report is published, he will have no choice but to remove them both.
In recent days you also stepped up your pressure on the European Central Bank to suspend the licence of Pilatus Bank. What role did this bank have in Dr Mizzi’s alleged shady dealings which are mentioned in this FIAU report?
I cannot divulge details at this stage. However, Pilatus Bank had an important role as in other cases. There are already FIAU reports mentioning this bank in a money laundering probe involving Brian Tonna of Nexia BT and Mr Schembri on the sale of passports, another case involving former Allied Newspapers managing director Adrian Hillman and Mr Schembri, as well the kickbacks given to Cheng Chen as part of the power station privatisation. There is also evidence which shows that Pilatus Bank has links with politically exposed persons from Azerbaijan. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that Pilatus Bank was used solely as a money laundering machine. There is already plenty of evidence, over and above that presented last week to the European Central Bank.
What is the fresh ‘evidence’ you have submitted?
At this stage I cannot divulge it. The source bound me to present it to the ECB first. We are also mulling whether to present it in court and request a magisterial inquiry. I do not exclude either that at some stage it will be divulged. Though Pilatus Bank is a small financial institution the ECB has substantial powers at its disposal.
I might also consider publishing the entire document and tabling it in the European Parliament
But the revocation of a banking licence by the ECB has never been done.
True. That decision rests on the shoulders of the financial watchdog of the respective country. Nonetheless, I expect the ECB to act, also in the wake of the European Parliament’s fact-finding mission report which was also sent to this institution. The ECB can also pile pressure on the MFSA to take action. Let us not forget that through its licence, Pilatus Bank is also operating in the UK. In this respect I am already in contact with British agencies in order to verify its dealings over there.
In your latest request you are claiming that the alleged money laundering operations were not the result of negligence or lax controls by Pilatus Bank but part of a premeditated plan. These are very grave accusations…
This is not just me saying that. In recent days Shift News spoke to a money laundering expert who also reached the same conclusion. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is burdening himself with the responsibility of keeping the bank’s licence active.
But the “expert” you are citing has remained anonymous, meaning that his credibility is questionable.
Keeping in mind all the aforementioned cases, and the latest evidence, there is one plausible conclusion.
Has there been any reaction from Pilatus Bank, considering that the same bank is seeking damages in foreign jurisdictions against local media houses with the final objective of subjecting them to exorbitant legal fees which could drive them out of business – known in brief as SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation)?
There are those who silence journalists by assassinating them as happened with Daphne Caruana Galizia while others like Pilatus Bank threaten to seek damages before US courts. I am also taking action on this front and have written to the European Commission. I have the backing of all EP political groups and will wait for the Commission’s feedback on the MEPs’ fact-finding mission report. If the Commission fails to take action the EP has already decided to draft a new anti-SLAPP legislation, which is within our right.
We are not only seeking to safeguard the Maltese media but the entire sector across the EU. Such a threat has already materialised in the UK from offshore legal service provider Appleby.
On a personal level, the only contact with Pilatus Bank was during the MEPs’ visit, when they failed to leave a good impression as highlighted in the mission report.
Don’t you think that your participation in the EP’s fact-finding mission constituted a blatant conflict of interest, as you had every opportunity to influence its conclusions to score political points?
I was chosen by the European People’s Party on the strength of my knowledge of the issue and after having flagged certain concerns in the European Parliament well before the decision to send this delegation. I also wanted to be part of the delegation so as to keep the issue of the rule of law and Malta’s tax regime separate. Labour MEPs have lost this battle as they failed to persuade their own political group that Malta is not a tax haven, and the recent vote in which Malta avoided being labelled as a tax haven by the narrowest of margins is testament to this.
We must defend our financial services sector. Our tax regime was approved by the EU prior to Malta’s accession. Unfortunately, the cases involving the Prime Minister, Mr Schembri, Dr Mizzi and Pilatus Bank are casting a shadow and these two issues are being mixed up.
Apart from this, the EP delegation had two Socialist MEPs, and the EPP just one. Claims that I might have influenced other MEPs are farfetched as the delegation met all stakeholders and everyone was free to make their own judgements.
Don’t you think your presence played into the hands of the PL’s claim that this delegation was biased and intent to tarnish Malta’s reputation?
Such arguments presume that other MEPs are my puppets which is obviously not true. I would be betraying the country if I had kept my mouth shut rather than flag what is going on. Who is harming Malta’s reputation? Is it me who is conveying the message to the European Parliament or these criminals whom the Prime Minister is defending at all costs? It is the Prime Minister, Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri who are betraying Malta.
What is going to happen with the EP’s report on the rule of law?
The findings will be on the agenda of the EP’s Civil Liberties Committee scheduled for next Thursday. It is not excluded that the report will be debated at plenary level and its recommendations become the subject of a resolution.
Furthermore, the report was also sent to the European Commission and the ECB. It is a pity that it has not yet been debated in the Maltese Parliament. I urge the government and Opposition to hold such a debate. So far the only mention was in an adjournment speech by former PN leader Simon Busuttil. There are 13 recommendations in all, but ultimately it is up to the Maltese authorities to decide whether to take them on board or not.
How hopeful are you that the European Commission will be taking action, possibly invoking Article 7 which could mean the suspension of Malta’s voting rights?
I firmly believe such a measure should not be resorted to. This is why I have been urging the Prime Minister to make the necessary changes and be transparent. An MP in the Scottish Parliament will be tabling a resolution on Ms Caruana Galizia’s killing following the Prime Minister’s unconvincing performance in a recent BBC interview. Malta’s credibility has suffered a blow. The Commission has no other choice other than heed the EP’s advice.
What kind of action are you advocating?
I reiterate my objection to triggering Article 7 which is very dangerous as this might lead to Malta’s suspension in the EU. There are other measures like opening a dialogue with the Maltese government in a bid to address certain issues.
The harm done by the Prime Minister, Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri is so big other Member States are getting the impression Malta is rotten to the core, which is not the case
What level of backing do you receive from the PN leadership? Is the party backing your call to debate the EP report in Parliament?
I have the absolute backing but cannot divulge certain information to party officials both on the FIAU report as well as the Pilatus Bank issue. Nonetheless, I was given complete freedom to work. It is also encouraging to see the backing received from civil society and the media.
During the PN leadership campaign Adrian Delia had faced money laundering claims from Ms Caruana Galizia. Despite refuting such allegations, some are of the opinion that this dented the PN’s credibility on issues of good governance. Do you subscribe to such view?
No. It is up to Dr Delia to deal with issues like his tax arrears. I was given complete freedom in my quest to fight corruption. Dr Delia has no accounts at Pilatus Bank. On the other hand I found total cooperation from the entire leadership as well as MPs like Jason Azzopardi who tabled an anti-SLAPP Bill presented recently in the Maltese Parliament. To date the Labour Party has not yet pledged its support for this Bill. I fail to understand the Prime Minister’s procrastination on this matter as this is indirectly protecting Pilatus Bank.
Will you be contesting next year’s EP election?
I have every intention to, but the party is yet to finalise the list of candidates. For the time being, I am focusing on the fight against corruption.
Recent experience suggests that mounting a campaign against corruption might not yield positive results, as was in the PN’s case at the last general election?
I do not believe people are uninterested in corruption-related issues. Recently I was buoyed by the numerous messages of solidarity from those who have good governance at heart. In the last election, the electorate did not realise the seriousness of the problem we are now facing. If we do not fight corruption the financial services industry will suffer. If the recent tax haven vote had to be taken again we would undoubtedly lose.
The harm done by the Prime Minister, Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri is so big, that other Member States are getting the impression that Malta is rotten to the core, which is not the case. No wonder that European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici labelled Malta a fiscal black hole. It is in everybody’s interest that I step up the fight against corruption. Nonetheless, if it turns out that I will not be elected, I want to bow out fighting for a good cause and so have no regrets at all.