Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi on Saturday avoided giving an answer to the question of who owns 17 Black, the Dubai based company which, according to leaked documents, was a “target client” for his secret Panama company.
Dr Mizzi opened Hearnville Inc in Panama after Labour was elected to office in 2013.
According to a leaked e-mail sent in December 2015 by his financial adviser Karl Cini of the audit firm Nexia BT, Hearnville was to receive €150,000 in “monthly transactions”.
The Times of Malta is known for inventing stories
Meanwhile, 17 Black received payments of $1.6 million from two businessmen associated with the new Delimara power station, it has been revealed.
Asked to identify the owner of 17 Black and what type of business he was planning to conduct with the company, a visibly irritated Dr Mizzi yesterday accused the Times of Malta of “being known for inventing stories”.
Faced with evidently uncomfortable questions, he also accused Times of Malta's reporter of being rude, of hijacking a press conference and of having “the wrong attitude”.
At one point, Dr Mizzi’s public relations man, Labour activist Alex Cutajar, tried to physically shield the minister while insulting the reporter.
Dr Mizzi said he did not know who owned 17 Black and that he had nothing to do with it.
When the minister was shown a copy of the e-mail he again turned his guns on the Times of Malta.
“I have answered all the questions and issued statements on this, and this is the end of the story,” he insisted, walking away.
“I have already issued an audit and am the subject of magisterial inquiries.
“I am ready to give the necessary testimony in front of the inquiries and am sure that the truth will prevail. I am not going to reply to you,” he said as he made his exit.
Following the Panama Papers revelation that both Dr Mizzi and Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, had opened secret companies in Panama without declaring them to the Maltese tax authorities, the Daphne Project has revealed more evidence showing connections with 17 Black.
In 2015, the company received $1.6 million from two businessmen associated with the new power station. While $1.4 million was paid to 17 Black from a Seychelles company owned by an Azerbaijani national, another $200,000 was wired to 17 Black by Orion Engineering, a company owned by the local agent for the LNG tanker supplying gas to the new power station.
Dr Mizzi never replied to a set of questions sent by Times of Malta to state what business he was planning with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff through his Panama company and where the €150,000 a month, declared by his advisers to be transacted into his company, was coming from.