In his conclusions, the magistrate conducting the Egrant inquiry had rightly noted that the sum of a hundred suspicions does not make up a single shred of evidence.
He had also commented that the circumstantial evidence analysed could not be considered as being unequivocal and linked as in a chain consisting of a series of connected parts heading in the same direction.
That inquiry had found no documentation linking former prime minister Joseph Muscat, his wife or his family to once secret Panamanian company Egrant. It found that declarations of trust contained falsified signatures.
That was two summers ago. Developments since give rise to even more serious suspicions as well as apparent links that could be going the same way, provided, of course, they are adequately investigated.
The new calls for the Egrant inquiry to be revisited are, therefore, justified. The information that surfaced since July 2018, when the main conclusions of that inquiry were published, has raised more questions on the Egrant circumstances and protagonists.
The plot has thickened and the mystery of who is, or was, the real ultimate benefical owner is far from closed. Against this background one hopes the police are keeping an open mind on the whole issue.
It is a fact that it was Nexia BT, through Brian Tonna and Karl Cini, now facing charges of money laundering and falsifying documents in connection with a separate case, that had purchased three Panamanian shell companies in the summer of 2013: Tillgate, Hearnville and Egrant. All three were registered within the space of a week, which seems to indicate there were specific plans for all three.
The first was owned by Keith Schembri and the second by Konrad Mizzi. Tonna claimed Egrant was left on a shelf, waiting for a client, though this does not seem to make too much economic sense, which is not in line with Nexia BT’s raison d’être.
Why pay thousands of dollars to hide the ownership of a company that was supposedly awaiting a client? In fact, forensic experts noted in the course of the inquiry that the purchase of a new company from Mossack Fonseca in late 2015 for a client seemed to imply that Egrant had already been assigned a specific UBO. The experts also remarked that documents were “created” by Cini and Tonna in support of their claims that the latter was the sole owner of Egrant.
A USB device containing a subfolder marked “Egrant” had been attached to a Nexia BT laptop but no evidence could be traced as to what the folder actually contained. The whereabouts of the device itself also remained unknown. Just the above is enough to give rise to well-founded suspicions warranting further serious investigations that can lead to evidence.
As to connections, the links in the chain, it would suffice to mention other companies that were listed. Torbridge, registered in the British Virgin Islands, was owned by Chen Cheng, which Times of Malta and Reuters have just outed as being the owner of Macbridge. Together with Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black, Macbridge planned to channel millions of euros into both Tillgate and Hearnville.
Nexia BT also managed three other companies, all registered in the British Virgin Islands, linked to corruption in the purchase of printing machinery for Progress Press, a member of the Allied Group, owners of this newspaper and timesofmalta.com.
Like a jigsaw puzzle with many tiny pieces, the picture starts becoming more distinguishable with every piece that is put in place. The search for the missing Egrant piece must continue.
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