Justice Minister Owen Bonnici on Monday hit back at claims that the rule of law is failing in Malta when he replied to questions from MEPs at an exchange of views in the financial crimes committee known at Tax3,
Dr Bonnici said the government was committed to a continuous process of reform and would maintain open dialogue with the European Commission and other institutions.
In his opening remarks, Dr Bonnici also hit back at concerns about money-laundering and tax evasion in Malta.
He said €12.5 million had been recovered through the Inland Revenue Department’s Swiss Leaks investigations and five million euro from its Panama Papers investigations. The department also recovered a further four million euro in penalties.
Facing questions by firebrand MEP Ana Gomez about the “corrupt” Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, Dr Bonnici said two major inquiries had concluded there were no grounds to proceed against these people.
Mr Schembri and Dr Mizzi were revealed in the Panama Papers as having formed offshore companies that were set to receive up to $2 million from a mystery Dubai company called 17 Black.
One MEP pointed out during the committee meeting that Ms Caruana Galizia was killed a few months after first naming 17 Black on her blog.
The Justice Minister assured that the government would continue to seek the mastermind behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Swedish MEP Gunnar Hokmark expressed his exasperation at Dr Bonnici’s attempts to portray a message that there were no problems in Malta.
“In spite of all these events about golden visas, money-laundering, problems with tax evasion...don’t you think it is a problem that people under investigation can be granted government contracts. Isn’t this a problem for Malta?
“Is that your message? It makes me concerned that you are not concerned. The whole worl is looking at Malta”, Mr Hokmark said.
Dr Bonnici hit back by saying he did not believe in absolutes.He said he believed in Malta’s institutions and had provided facts about what was being done to improve them.
Reuter’s special correspondent Stephen Grey said no one had yet been indicted for Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder and one was no closer to knowing who the masterminds were.
Mr Grey said information identifying power station investor Yorgen Fenech as the owner of 17 Black had been passed on to the local police in spring 2018.
Ms Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew told the committee that his mother was killed while working full-time on investigations into Mr Schembri, Dr Mizzi, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Mr Fenech and countless others.
Mr Caruana Galizia said the power station selection committee was personally chaired by Brian Tonna, Mr Schembri’s personal accountant.
He said the Electrogas deal had been described to him in private briefings with foreign intelligence services as “completely corrupt”.
Mr Caruana Galizia said Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company Socar pocketed millions from the Electrogas deal for merely playing the role of a middle-man.
The former journalist said he was working with his mother before her death to receive a huge data leak from Electrogas by a whistleblower.
Mr Caruana Galizia said the three unemployed men who had been arrested for his mother’s murder had gambled over €500,000 in Mr Fenech’s casinos
He said government officials’ sole mission now was to cover up corruption and his mother’s death in Malta.
Mr Caruana Galizia’s called for the setting up of a Europol team to investigate Azeri corruption across Europe.
During question time, MEP David Casa said a leaked FIAU report had clearly called for a money-laundering report into Dr Mizzi.
He also questioned if there was any link between Ms Caruana Galizia’s death and the 17 Black scandal.
Watch the proceedings on video above.
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