Finance Minister Edward Scicluna told parliament ownership of companies in Panama should be investigated by the tax authorities and the government anti-money-laundering unit (FIAU).
Replying to questions from former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who asked what should happen if someone is caught with a secret Panama company, Prof. Scicluna said it was these two entities that would investigate, depending on the case.
The Finance Minister admitted in January that Panama was not cooperating with the Maltese tax authorities in their investigations into the Panama Papers leak.
He agreed this month with an EU decision to blacklist Panama as a non-cooperative jurisdiction, one year after his cabinet colleague Konrad Mizzi was caught with a secret company there, along with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri.
Investigations by the FIAU have indicated that the offshore structures were geared towards receiving kickbacks.
The Finance Minister has refused to supply parliament with information about these investigations, citing secrecy laws.
Challenged by Dr Busuttil to provide the information, which he argued was in the public interest, Prof. Scicluna rebutted that the secrecy that surrounds the FIAU’s operations was in the public interest.
Dr Mizzi, the Prime Minister and his chief of staff are appealing a court decision to open up a magisterial inquiry linked to their Panama Papers activities. Neither Dr Mizzi nor Mr Schembri had declared their offshore structures to the local tax authorities before their existence was leaked.
Leaked e-mails in the Panama Papers show the two men’s financial advisers, Nexia BT, sought to conceal Dr Mizzi’s and Mr Schembri’s ownership of the companies.
All the relevant e-mails have been handed to the police and a court expert by the German Federal Police, who offered them to local authorities.
Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar has in the past said there was no need to investigate the two men, as there was no reasonable suspicion that they had committed a crime.
Leaked FIAU reports subsequently showed the police were asked to investigate Mr Schembri over FIAU suspicions that he was involved in money laundering and other criminal activity.