Nationalist MEP David Casa has written a strongly-worded letter to the head of the United Arab Emirates’ anti-money laundering unit urging an investigation into the activities of the Dubai company 17 Black.
Mr Casa claimed that 17 Black’s owner was “clearly involved in criminal activity”.
Leaked e-mails show that €150,000 were set to be transferred every month by 17 Black and another Dubai company called Macbridge to the Panama companies owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Mr Casa said confirmation of the nature of 17 Black’s owner’s relationship with Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi would further expose the scale of the “criminal activity”. He described Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi as the masterminds behind projects that had cost taxpayers millions of euros.
Their Panama companies, opened secretly through government advisers Nexia BT, were set to earn $2 million in a single year, according to an e-mail sent by Nexia’s money-laundering reporting officer Karl Cini.
Both men deny receiving any such money.
A leaked report by Malta’s anti-money laundering agency (FIAU) said $1.6 million was wired to 17 Black in 2015. The report that found the link to 17 Black focused on the energy deals struck by Dr Mizzi when he was still energy minister.
Mr Schembri has failed to answer questions on whether he knew who owned 17 Black and Dr Mizzi said he had no idea who was behind the company.
According to the leaked FIAU report on Dr Mizzi’s activities, Maltese investigators reported that their counterparts in the United Arab Emirates were not forthcoming with any ownership information about 17 Black and Macbridge.
Mr Casa said in the letter that the existence of 17 Black surfaced only thanks to assassinated investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, almost a year after the April 2016 Panama Papers leak.
“It is therefore possible that this company continued to be used as part of the money laundering structure for the transfer of illicit funds,” he wrote.
Mr Casa told the UAE’s anti-money laundering unit that the international nature of the crimes and the possibility of a connection with Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder meant that taking action against 17 Black and its owner was crucial. He had harsh words vis-a-vis Nexia BT, which FIAU investigators said in the leaked report had withheld information from them.
Nexia BT’s managing partner Brian Tonna says his company “cooperated fully” with the FIAU.
The government’s anti-money laundering agency found that $1.4 million was transferred to 17 Black from the Azerbaijani owner of a company based in the Seychelles called Mayor Trans via an account at Latvian bank ABLV.
The bank was closed down earlier this year amid money-laundering concerns raised by the US authorities. Investigative news agency Re:Baltica reported recently that the FIAU had sought assistance from Latvian investigators about the transfers to 17 Black.
A sum of $200,000 had been transferred to 17 Black by Mario Pullicino, the local agent for the floating storage unit providing LNG to the new power station.
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