The law firm Mossack Fonseca refused a request by Nexia BT to state outright that no declarations of trust for the Panama company Egrant had been issued in the name of the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat, new leaked e-mails show (see copies on pdf below).
In a two-month long e-mail chain which started two days after assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia linked Ms Muscat to Egrant, Nexia BT demanded documentation from Mossack Fonseca to disprove the allegation.
Ms Caruana Galizia uploaded a blogpost in April 2017 containing a transcript of two trust declarations dated August 2015, allegedly issued by the Mossack Fonseca related companies Dubro and Aliator. According to the transcripts, these two companies held the shares in Egrant for Ms Muscat, a claim that both she and the Prime Minister deny. Ms Caruana Galizia also claimed Egrant received $1 million in a single payment from a company owned by the Azerbaijani ruler’s daughter, apart from several other large payments.
No further evidence corroborating the allegations has surfaced since.
The allegations are the subject of an ongoing magisterial inquiry.
Both trust declarations were allegedly signed by Mossack Fonseca employee Jacqueline Alexander.
REVEALED: NOT EVEN #MossackFonseca, closed down for #corruption and criminal activity, was prepared to deny that #Egrant belonged to @JosephMuscat_JM’s wife.— Simon Busuttil (@SimonBusuttil) June 24, 2018
If it was false, why was it so difficult to deny it?
It’s very telling, isn’t it? https://t.co/M3bIm2yRWg
Following the Panama Papers leak last year, German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung has obtained a further 443GB of data from the Panama law firm. The new leak was shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which organised a global collaboration, including this newspaper, to pore over the new files.
In the first e-mail to Mossack Fonseca, dated April 23, 2017, Nexia BT’s Karl Cini asked for an official statement by Ms Alexander, stating that no declarations of trust had been issued or signed by her on behalf of Dubro and Aliator in August 2015.
Dubro and Aliator were the original subscribers to Egrant’s shares when it was set up on July 8, 2013. A certificate found in the Panama Papers shows the two companies resigned their rights to these two shares immediately after Egrant’s formation, passing them on to “the bearer”.
A share certificate provided to Nexia BT shows one share was passed on to the nominee company called ATC Administrators.
ATC Administrators held this share on behalf of Nexia BT’s managing partner Brian Tonna, documents show.
Mr Cini told Mossack Fonseca that the statement by Ms Alexander was needed “urgently”. After several reminders, Mossack Fonseca got back to Mr Cini on May 8, assuring him that his request was being seen to.
On May 18, with the general election looming in Malta, Mossack Fonseca drafted internally a statement saying that no declarations of trust had been issued or signed in August 2015 for Egrant.
The following day, Mossack Fonseca lawyer Josette Roquebert edited out the part stating that no declaration of trust was issued in Ms Muscat’s favour.
Ms Roquebert said in the internal e-mail that it would be better to state Mossack Fonseca did not have any further information about Egrant, without going into specifics.
New leaked documents have shown the law firm was unable to identify the beneficial owners of 75 per cent of the active companies it administered in Panama.
The law firm would have relied on Nexia BT to notify it of any changes to Egrant’s ownership.
Mossack Fonseca said in the declaration sent to Nexia BT that there were no additional documents in its possession referring to the transfer of assignment of these shares after Egrant was set up in 2013.
When Nexia BT was sent the draft declaration the following day, Mr Cini again insisted that Ms Alexander state she had not signed any declaration of trust in favour of Ms Muscat.
“Be advised that unfortunately the subscribers are not allowed to directly certified [sic] that no declaration of trust have been signed in favour of Ms Michele [sic] Muscat, that’s why we have prepared the below document for your approval, certifying in general that no further documents were signed after 8th July, 2013,” Mossack Fonseca wrote back.
In reply, Mr Cini said he could not understand how the subscribers [Jacqueline Alexander] could not confirm that no additional declaration of trust had been signed.
“If there would be such signed declaration I would assume that this would be kept on file.
“The declaration as it is worded below is of no use to me as I already have a document confirming that the subscriber shares were transferred to bearer,” Mr Cini said.
The leaked e-mails also show Nexia BT was provided with a statement from ATC Administrators, as well as a reminder that Nexia BT owed them $10,000 for the company’s nominee services for Egrant.
This statement said Mr Tonna had never registered any transfer in the beneficial ownership of Egrant.
Replying to questions by The Sunday Times of Malta, Mr Cini said Nexia BT had received the necessary confirmation from both Mossack Fonseca and ATC Administrators about Egrant’s ownership.
This, he said, certified that ATC Administrators had always been the sole shareholders of Egrant, and that the beneficial interest and ownership of such share, up until Egrant’s dissolution, remained vested in favour of Brian Tonna, and that no transfer of Egrant’s beneficial ownership was ever registered by Mr Tonna.
“All relevant documentation has been passed on to the relevant authorities as part of the ongoing inquiry, in respect of which we have cooperated fully and remain committed to do so. In the meantime, I trust that you agree that the aforesaid declarations clearly certify Egrant was not owned by Michelle Muscat,” Mr Cini said.
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