The MFSA has ordered two companies owned by Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT to “refrain” from onboarding new clients and to avoid providing existing clients with any new services. 

Tonna’s companies were on Monday slapped with an asset freeze as part of a police probe into whether he paid a €100,000 kickback on passport sales to former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. 

In a notice published on the regulator’s website, the MFSA said BT International and BT Management, which are both wholly owned by Nexia BT, must provide a detailed report on the impact of these developments on their businesses. 

The companies were also instructed to notify their clients on the developments and their impact on services. 

BT International and BT Management must seek confirmation from their clients as to whether they want to retain the two companies’ services, the MFSA directive states. 

This marks the first action against Tonna or his companies since the April 2016 Panama Papers leak revealed how Nexia BT set up secret offshore structures for top government officials. 

Schembri, Tonna, and Nexia BT’s money-laundering reporting officer Karl Cini, were all arrested by police on Monday after an inquiry into the kickbacks concluded.

Tonna and Cini were released from police custody on Tuesday evening. 

Nexia BT has since had its license to sell passports suspended and the company has reportedly started shedding staff. Tonna did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday about the reports.

Apart from a slap on the wrist in January for failing to properly carry out an audit, the Accountancy Board, which regulates the accountancy profession, has so far declined to take any action against Tonna or Cini. 

The Malta Digital Innovation Authority in March gave a Nexia BT offshoot company a new license requiring “high standards of conduct and compliance” to audit the internal IT systems and protocols of high-risk entities like cryptocurrency exchanges.

Nexia BT Technology, a Nexia BT offshoot company, was certified as meeting these standards by the Malta Digital Innovation Authority (MDIA), despite documented evidence of the parent company’s suspect offshore dealings on behalf of former government officials. 

Forensic analysis made public as part of the Egrant inquiry identified money-laundering red flags at Nexia BT in data seized from the company.

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