Updated 11.20 am with Opposition leader's reaction

Tillgate Inc, the Panama trading company set up by Keith Schembri, estimated it would receive about $50,000 a month from “consultancy and management services”, documents in the Panama Papers show.

According to documents sent last August by Karl Cini, a partner at Nexia BT, to open a bank account at FPB Bank in Panama for Mr Schembri’s company, two international wire transfers were planned every month worth an estimated $50,000.

Keith SchembriKeith Schembri

Mr Cini also indicated that the same Panama bank account would also be used to withdraw $25,000 each month, but no details were given about such withdrawals.

In the ‘prospective client profile’ form, Mr Cini described Mr Schembri as an advisor at the Office of the Prime Minster of Malta, with an estimated monthly income of $10,000.

The source of the money is described as “savings from dividends earned from family business”, involved in the importation of paper and paper-related products.

Mr Cini indicated in the submitted form that Mr Schembri’s Panama company was a new set-up which had no assets at the time the bank account application was being filed.

The source of the money is described as savings from dividends earned from family business

“The main source of income will be in the form of consultancy services to various entities around the world,” he wrote.

“It is envisaged that the company will start operating immediately,” he added.

As to the purpose of the FPB Bank account applied for, Mr Cini said Mr Schembri’s company “will issue regular invoices which require the funds to be deposited in a bank account. It is envisaged that most of these funds would remain in the same bank account unless transferred to the Trust (Haast Trust) in the form of dividends”.

Mr Schembri is the beneficiary of the Haast Trust, opened in New Zealand.

The Panama Papers were made available to the Times of Malta through an investigative partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. Among the documents accompanying the Panama bank form, Mr Cini attached a copy of Mr Schembri’s diplomatic passport and a ‘source of funds and wealth declaration form’ bearing the signature of Mr Schembri.

In the form, Mr Schembri reiterated that Tillgate Inc would be engaged in management consultancy and brokerage with monies originating from personal assets and business trade.

When Mr Schembri was asked to explain the amount of funds his company’s prospective bank account in Panama was said to receive every month in consultancy and brokerage fees, he said he knew nothing about the document sent to FPB Bank on his behalf. “I am unaware of the document you are referring to and have no knowledge of its contents or existence, therefore I cannot reply to the specifics,” he said.

“What I can confirm is that I never opened any bank accounts, never signed any bank opening forms and never gave any authorisations for the opening of accounts. The service provider was solely making enquiries to this effect,” he said.

In September 2015, Mr Cini was informed that FPB Bank decided not to proceed with opening the bank account for Mr Schembri’s company.

According to Mossack Fonseca in Panama, the principal reason was that Mr Schembri was a politically exposed person.

The Times of Malta asked Mr Schembri whether he was also unaware of the ‘source of funds/wealth declaration form’ accompanying his application for the opening of an account at FPB Bank and which included his signature.

He replied: “Yes, I am aware of the form in question. Same form was attached and formed part of a due diligence questionnaire wherein the objectives of the trust into which the company (Tillgate) was settled were clearly indicated and included ‘estate planning generally’, ‘preservation of family assets’ and ‘family succession planning’.”

In view of Mr Schembri’s replies, this newspaper asked Nexia BT’s Karl Cini whether he had sent the documents to Panama without his client’s consent. He said: “As you are aware, we are bound to keep our clients’ affairs confidential. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to respond to any of your queries regarding this company.”

Opposition leader reacts

In a tweet, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil asked how long must this sorry charade go on until the Prime Minister did what was right and sacked Mr Schembri.

Story shows MPs were forced to vote approve motion - Farrugia

In a reaction on Facebook, independent MP Marlene Farrugia, who had her motion for the appointment of a parliamentary committee to investigate Mr Schembri in view of his involvement in the Panama Papers defeated earlier this week, said the story showed what the Labour Parliamentary group were forced to approve the motion.

She noted that while the Labour government did not find the money for a home for problematic children aged 13 to 16, it had found the cash for the inner crowd, including MP Luciano Busuttil and others.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com