Panama is not cooperating with the Maltese tax authorities in their investigations into the Panama Papers leak, according to Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.

Prof. Scicluna made his comments to Malta Today.

Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty told this paper last year 55 cases would be investigated for possible tax evasion.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry confirmed reports Prof. Scicluna noted that the Panamanian authorities had refused to extend their assistance.

The spokesman also said that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists had also refused to cooperate with the Maltese authorities.

Questions were raised on the effectiveness of such audits, given the notorious lack of cooperation from the Panamanian authorities with the international community

This means that the authorities are unable to access leaked e-mails from Mossack Fonseca.

E-mail exchanges that were among the 11.5 million leaked files belonging to law firm Mossack Fonseca showed that the Minister Within the Office of the Prime Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, had opened secret companies in Panama. The two have engaged a private company to carry out an audit on their financial affairs in a bid to exonerate themselves of any wrongdoing.

Questions were raised on the effectiveness of such audits, given the notorious lack of cooperation by the Panamanian authorities with the international community.

Dr Mizzi said this week the findings of the audit were expected to be published soon. Earlier this week, the minister dodged questions on how he planned to fund almost $1 million in deposits for a Panama bank account that his financial advisers tried to open.

Dr Mizzi’s Panamanian company was sheltered by a trust in New Zealand.

Sources said that the local tax authorities had found their New Zealand counterparts to be far more cooperative than the Panamanian ones.

A report prepared by audit firm KPMG last year for the government of New Zealand made it clear that the automatic sharing of information about foreign trusts, such as that held by Dr Mizzi, was “limited”.

The report said that the regime in New Zealand relied on a foreign tax authority being aware of the foreign trust and asking for further information from Inland Revenue.

“It is reliance on this which may allow the foreign trust regime to be misused,” the report noted.

The leaked e-mails show that both Dr Mizzi and Mr  Schembri wanted to avoid alerting banks in Malta about their New Zealand trusts. They also failed to notify the local tax authorities about their trust set-up, though they were required to by law.

jacob.borgi@timesofmalta.com

Former energy minister Konrad Mizzi had not notified Maltese authorities about his trust set-up. Photo: Steve Zammit Lupi