The Prime Minister’s campaign website has dedicated an entire section to fact-checking and downplaying the Egrant scandal.

The allegations surrounding Panama-based Egrant Inc’s ownership are portrayed as stemming from an Opposition “hijacked by outsiders” and beleaguered by a “weak and uncharismatic leader and fraud scandals”.

Daphne Caruana Galizia and her Russian source form a “trio” with Simon Busuttil that is hell-bent on undermining Malta’s political institutions and reputation, the website tells visitors.

The Times of Malta has fact-checked some of the claims made on Dr Muscat’s website.

Claim:

Removing all traces [of a Panama company] will be pretty tough.

Fact:

A Panama company is not a normal company.

No workers lost their jobs when Minister Konrad Mizzi and the government’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, dissolved their Panamanian shell companies earlier this year.

Traces of Egrant, as well as the two other companies owned by Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri, only came out thanks to the Panama Papers leak last year.

The three companies were set up by Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT soon after the March 2013 election.

The companies were set up in a way that kept out prying eyes. There were no traces of who owned them on any publicly available documents prior to the leak.

The ownership details of all three companies were hidden behind nominees.

A nominee is a person or company that serves as the public shareholder and/or director of the company.

Claim:

No documentary evidence has been provided to date showing that Michelle Muscat is the owner of Egrant.

Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex. Photo: Matthew MirabelliPilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Fact:

Ms Caruana Galizia reproduced on her blog what she described as a transcript of the declarations of trust provided by her source at Pilatus Bank.

The transcript shows that two shares in Egrant were held by nominees on behalf of the Prime Minister’s wife.

The document transcript also shows that Dubro Limited S.A. and Aliator S.A. held one share each on behalf of Mrs Muscat.

Brian Tonna has stated, correctly, that Dubro Limited S.A. and Aliator S.A.  transferred their rights to these two shares “to the bearer” when Egrant was incorporated in July of 2013.

Unlike companies in tightly regulated jurisdictions, Panama allows for share certificates to be issued privately without having to be registered publicly.

According to financial experts, the two companies could have easily been reassigned the two shares at a later date.

Claim:

The Prime Minister took the initiative and requested a magisterial inquiry to look into the allegations.

Fact:

After dropping several hints, Ms Caruana Galizia came out with her Egrant ownership claim at around 7pm on April 20.

Dr Muscat immediately called a press conference, during which he denied all the allegations. He also announced that he would be suing Ms Caruana Galizia for libel.

At around 9pm, Pilatus Bank’s chairman was seen leaving the bank carrying two suitcases. This caused a public uproar, raising fears that evidence may have been tampered with or removed.

Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar was at a rabbit supper in Mġarr while this was taking place.

Shortly before midnight, Dr Muscat said his lawyers had requested that the police take the allegations to the duty magistrate for investigation. The police descended on Pilatus Bank the following morning.

Claim:

The Prime Minister is not being investigated.

Fact:

The inquiry is looking into claims of serious corruption involving the Prime Minister’s wife.

Ms Caruana Galizia has alleged that $1 million was paid into a bank account that was owned by Egrant.

Her source, an ex-Pilatus Bank employee, told Ms Caruana Galizia that the $1 million payment was made through a Pilatus account owned by the daughter of Azerbaijan’s President llham Aliyev.

Mrs Muscat and the Prime Minister are the two central figures in the inquiry.

Both of them have been called to testify.

jacob.borg@timesofmalta.com

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