The Malta Independent 17 July 2018, Tuesday

Panama Papers: Police see 'no necessary reasonable suspicion' to carry out individual investigation

Rachel Attard and Gabriel Schembri Wednesday, 8 June 2016, 14:25 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Maltese Police Force will not be carrying out further individual investigation related to the Panama Papers as it feels that, on the basis of the information obtained by the local authorities, there isn’t the necessary reasonable suspicion to the level required by law that a crime has been committed.

After six weeks of not replying to a number of questions sent by this newspaper, the Police has finally said that it will still be “assessing all information collected on all individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers, and take all appropriate actions necessary if and when the need arises”.

However, even when specifically asked if they approached Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri for questioning, the Police failed to specify if such interrogation ever took place.

A number of Maltese citizens have been named in the list of hundreds of people from all over the globe who are involved in what is being dubbed as the biggest scandal of the century, the Panama Leaks. The data leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and  the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, mentions two particular Maltese politically exposed persons (PEPs); Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.

The story that Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri have offshore companies in Panama emerged back in February on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog. The Malta Independent became an official partner in the Panama Papers in April 2016.

The scandal blazed the trail for national protests against corruption and a cosmetic reshuffle by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. After more details about the offshore accounts by Mizzi and Schembri surfaced, Dr Joseph Muscat decided to keep Keith Schembri as his Chief of Staff and Minister Konrad Mizzi to be stripped of his Energy and Health portfolio. Dr Mizzi would still be responsible for energy projects, including the new power station. The minister stepped down from his post as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, vacating a seat for three contenders – Owen Bonnici, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi and Chris Cardona.

In its replies to this newsroom the Police Force has categorically denied that it has been subject to any political pressure in any of its investigations and activities, and outrightly refutes any insinuation to that effect.

This statement from the police comes as the Nationalist Party alleged that the police force is facing political pressure not to investigate the scandal.

According to the information provided by the Police will only monitor the situation by keeping contact with the local authorities and various local and foreign institutions and entities.

“Naturally we are not in a position to divulge any specific information we have received, or discuss any individual matter”, the Police said in their belated statement.

The Police offered their replies to the questions sent six weeks ago, only after a story in The Malta Independent on Sunday in which it was revealed that the Police Force failed to start off an investigation on the multiple and multifaceted leads emerging from the Panama Papers leaks, nor was there any impetus within the force to do so.

Much of the information emanating from the Panama Papers is publicly available through a simple search on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which could easily put the authorities on the trail of potential Maltese tax evaders and money launderers, while the full leaks from the Mossack Fonseca email server – comprising over 11.5 million documents in all are available to the project’s media partners.

The Malta Independent is an official partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and gained full access to the entire set of the Panama Papers.

Prior to this first reply by the Police, after multiple requests for answering questions sent by this newspaper, the only comment the police had made with any reference to the Panama Papers was back in March, when the force confirmed that they had not launched an investigation, as had been called for by the Opposition, into any of the contracts in which former Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi and Office of the Prime Minister Chief of Staff Keith Schembri had played a part in.

This lack of initiative by the local police force contrasts sharply with actions taken by other country leaders. Only days after the leaks, the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davio Gunnlaugsson stepped down making him the first major casualty of the Panama Papers. His involvement in the Panama Papers scandal fumed angry demonstrations.

Locally, the scandal shook the current administration with votes of no confidence in the government, tabled by the Opposition, and two motions requesting the removal of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri presented by Independent MP Marlene Farrugia. However, the government defeated the motions with a unanimous vote by government MPs. Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri also hit back at the media by filing multiple libels in a quest to quash freedom of the press, including against The Malta Independent.

On 20 May, this newspaper revealed yet more information on the scandal. It emerged that Keith Schembri is a shareholder in the Cypriot company allegedly used by Pierre Sladden to move €900,000 to his BVI Company. The Malta Independent revealedthis following investigation carried out in Malta and Cyprus.

Mr Sladden continues to deny details emerging from the Panama Papers, however he did not produce any documents to contradict these revelations. 

 

 

 

 

  • don't miss