The Accountancy Board has suspended the warrants of Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini after their arrest on Monday.
The suspension follows an order by the Malta Financial Services Authority on Thursday to BT International and BT Management - both owned by 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.
The board which regulates the accountancy profession said on Friday that following the conclusion of Magistrate Natasha Galea's magisterial inquiry "and related developments", it appointed a disciplinary committee to look into charges brought against Tonna and Cini, Nexia BT, and its subsidiaries BTI Management Limited and Nexia BT Advisory Services Limited.
"In view of this, the board has temporarily suspended the Certified Public Accountant warrants and Practicing Certificates in Auditing of Tonna and Cini, as well as the registration of Nexia BT, BTI Management Limited and Nexia BT Advisory Services Limited," it said in a statement on its website.
It said it was doing this in respect of fundamental human rights and the rule of law.
Tonna and Cini were released from police custody on Tuesday evening.
Up until Friday, the Accountancy Board had failed to take any action against Tonna or Cini.
It has been repeatedly accused by MEP David Casa of dereliction of duty in the face of multiple reports of wrongdoing by Nexia BT.
In 2018, he had called on the board to convene a disciplinary committee to investigate Tonna and Cini'ss activities as revealed in the Panama Papers.
Earlier this year he accused the regulator of bringing the whole profession into disrepute through its inaction.
Schembri and Tonna's offshore dealings were laid bare by the Panama Papers data leak in 2016.
At the time, the attorney general had told the police that seizing Nexia BT's servers to gather evidence would be too intrusive.
The police took little tangible action after that date to continue the Panama Papers investigation.
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