The Malta Independent 13 November 2018, Tuesday

Konrad Mizzi named in ICIJ Panama Papers investigation exposing global array of crime, corruption

Sunday, 3 April 2016, 20:11 Last update: about 4 years ago

Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi is among a long list of politicians from around the world that are included in a massive leak of documents that exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists report this evening.

The documents reveal how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies and provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world, an article on the ICIJ website reveals.

The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

They show how Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax. Mossack Fonseca is a Panama-based law firm whose services include incorporating companies in offshore jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands. It administers offshore firms for a yearly fee. Other services include wealth management.

These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organisations, the ICIJ reports.

The files expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.

They also include at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

One of those companies supplied fuel for the aircraft that the Syrian government used to bomb and kill thousands of its own citizens, U.S. authorities have charged.

The leaked data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015. It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world — providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues, teh report says.

Most of the services the offshore industry provides are legal if used by the law abiding. But the documents show that banks, law firms and other offshore players have often failed to follow legal requirements that they make sure their clients are not involved in criminal enterprises, tax dodging or political corruption. In some instances, the files show, offshore middlemen have protected themselves and their clients by concealing suspect transactions or manipulating official records.

The documents make it clear that major banks are big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens. The files list nearly 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who want keep their finances under wraps, including thousands created by international giants UBS and HSBC.

Konrad Mizzi has been at the centre of a political controversy for the past weeks, after it was revealed that he had opened a secret company in Panama held by a New Zealand Trust. The Opposition has been calling for his resignation ever since, together with that of the chief of staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri, who also opened a company in Panama, a country that was blacklisted by the European Union.

Two weeks ago, The Malta Independent had reported that Dr Mizzi’s Panamanian company and New Zealand trust were both set up on the same day that former Delimara power station consortium partner Gasol had cashed in its shares for tens of millions of euros. Dr Mizzi had then gone into what can kindly be described as hysterics with this newspaper when we requested an interview with him on the subject of new information we had related to his company in Panama.

On Konrad Mizzi, the site says as follows:

"Konrad Mizzi is the minister of energy and health of the Republic of Malta. He was elected to Parliament in 2013 and became the deputy leader of Malta’s ruling Labour Party in February 2016. Given Mizzi’s quick rise, one pundit called the minister “one of the most successful politicians in recent history.” Later in February, following media reports, Mizzi announced he would close an offshore company in Panama owned by a New Zealand trust he had created. Mizzi said he had declared the company and said he was closing it in the interest of transparency. Malta's main opposition party has called for an investigation.

"In July 2013, four months after Mizzi joined the Maltese government, an accounting firm in Malta bought several Panamanian companies from Mossack Fonseca, including Hearnville Inc. In June 2015, Mizzi established a trust in New Zealand that is the shareholder of Hearnville. The beneficiaries of this trust are his wife — Malta's consul in Shanghai — and two children. In June 2015 Mizzi told Mossack Fonseca he would use Hearnville as a management consultancy and brokerage firm. On this last point, Mizzi said that he filled out a "standard category wording that was included in a template form which was part of the company acquisition process." 

"A law firm representing Mizzi said the Panama company Hearnville Inc. was acquired "to hold a London property" owned with his wife. The company, which the law firm said has no assets nor bank accounts, was owned by a family trust under an arrangement recommended by professional advisers. The trust was registered in New Zealand, where the law firm noted trustees "are obliged to declare relevant information to the New Zealand tax authorities, who in turn will share this information with the Maltese tax authorities. The firm also said Mizzi "declared his interest in the Company and the Trust in his 2015 Ministerial Declaration of Assets at the first available opportunity." Mizzi has asked Malta's tax authorities to audit his financial affairs and has said that he will close Hearnville once it is complete."

The New Zealand document creating Dr Mizzi's trust can be seen here.

The full report released by the ICIJ can be seen here.

In reaction, the Opposition Leader, in a tweet, called for the resignation of Joseph Muscat as Prime Minister.

 

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