Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this afternoon could not say exactly what role Brian Tonna of Nexia BT has within the government. Mr Tonna advised Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi and Dr Muscat’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri to acquire a company in Panama.
He said that this question was already answered in response to a Parliamentary Question, and that he could not say off the top of his head.
Asked about when he found out about Mr Schembri’s trust in New Zealand and company in Panama, Dr Muscat said that he had known that his chief of staff had international financial structures, but that he was informed about the Panamanian company “when the issue was raised by the media”.
Pressed about the details of Mr Schembri’s financial structure in Panama as well as the trust, Dr Muscat said that he does not enter into “personal business” of such structures, and added that it is well known that Mr Schembri was a successful businessman before entering into politics.
Dr Muscat was asked to clarify comments he made on Thursday. At one point Dr Muscat said that Dr Mizzi “has paid” the fine for breaking the tax law and then said that he “will be” paying the fine. Dr Mizzi had admitted he had broken the law by not informing the Commissioner for Inland Revenue about the financial structures he had set up – the law stipulates that he had 30 days to do so.
Asked about whether Dr Mizzi has in actual fact paid this fine, in light of the procedures involved such as the Commissioner filing a police report and an investigation taking place, Dr Muscat replied:
“I checked the transcript of what I said yesterday and I checked the procedure in full. Dr Mizzi has now filed (a submission) in order to conform to the situation – the fine is still to be determined.”
The Malta Independent this morning broke the story that Economist and Director of E-Cubed consultants, Gordon Cordina and his staff have left the offices of Nexia BT in order to distance themselves from the current scandal.
Questions were raised as to why Dr Cordina chose to do this if it was true that no wrongdoing had occurred, with Dr Muscat responding that “it’s his business.”
Due to Mr Tonna’s position within Nexia BT, and the fact that he provides services for the government, Dr Muscat was asked whether the government would still be using their services.
He deviated from giving a point blank response, and said that “we use the services of any company that is registered in Malta...including the big four and all companies.
If there are any reasons as to why this company should not be allowed to operate in this country then we would not use them. While it is operating in this country everybody has the right to use their services. We have no deal of exclusivity with anybody”
Turning to whether any other Ministers, MEPs or Parliamentary Secretaries had similar financial structures like that of Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri, he said that when asked, all referred back to their declaration of assets.