The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Updated: Panamanian companies predate Ann Fenech’s Fenlex directorship, beneficiary not a PEP;

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 10 March 2016, 10:15 Last update: about 7 years ago

Nationalist Party Executive Council President Ann Fenech was appointed as a director of Fenlex Corporate Services Ltd in 2005, after the two companies that Fenlex registered in Panama on behalf of a client were registered, this newsroom has learnt.

Documents from the Malta Financial Services Authority Registry of Companies show that Dr Fenech was appointed as a director of Fenlex on 28 April, 2005. The two companies linked to Fenlex in Panama are Timber Trading Capital Inc, incorporated in 2003 and Union Private Ltd, formed in 2004.  Dr Fenech said that Fenlex has not incorporated any companies in Panama since she became Director in 2005.

The government has been targeting Dr Fenech and the fact that the company of which she is a director had registered two companies in Panama in retaliation to the Panamagate scandal, in which Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri have both been found to personally own companies in Panama, a known tax haven.

Dr Fenech has argued that she does not hold, and never held, a company in Panama. In fact, she has initiated a number of libel proceedings, including one against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Labour president Daniel Micallef, over the Panama allegations levelled against her, stressing that she never had a company in Panama.

She has, however, previously said that 13 years ago, Fenlex, the company of which she is a director, had provided professional services to a client in order to register a company in Panama on the client’s behalf. Fenlex no longer offers company registrations in Panama, she said.

This newsroom also contacted Fenlex CEO Karl Diacono, asking whether Fenlex has anything to do with companies in Panama. He said when contacted, “Fenlex, as a service provider licensed by the MFSA, is currently providing to one Panamanian entity, Timber Trading, incorporated in 2003, directorship services and this is being done on behalf of its client”.

As for the second company mentioned in the press, Union Private Ltd, he added, “Union Private Inc was incorporated in 2004 and Fenlex also offered directorship services with respect to this company. This company only operated till 2005. Fenlex has not provided any services to this entity since.”

He emphasised that, “The last company we incorporated in Panama dates back to 2004. The only Panamanian company still in operation was incorporated in 2003.”

Asked about alleged ties with Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm which, according to reports, has been employed as a choice firm for the creation of offshore companies by more than one Maltese legal and financial services firm, Dr Diacono stated that there are no ties between Fenlex and Mossack Fonseca.

“As is our custom and duty towards providing value added services to our clients, when we require the assistance of foreign service providers we request more than one quotation.  We then let the client choose which foreign service provider to use. Our relationship with Mossack Fonseca is strictly related to Timber Trading wherein Mossack Fonseca provide registered agent services, simply acting as a contact point with the Panamanian registry of companies. Under Panamanian law, the registered agent has to be Panamanian. Mossack Fonseca does not offer any directorship services to Timber Trading”.

Panamanian company’s ultimate owner ‘not a politically exposed person’

Asked whether Fenlex is able to reveal who the owners of the Panama company are, he said, We have strict fiduciary duties and obligations towards our clients and our MFSA licenses depend on this. Applicable laws restrict us from divulging the identity of the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO). What we can say is that the UBO is not a politically exposed person. None of the directors, officers or shareholders of Fenlex and related entities are a UBO of any Panamanian entity.

With regard to the above, Dr Diacono said that cognisant of the company’s fiduciary obligations at law towards their clients, before answering these questions, they obtained the consent of the UBO.

Dr Ann Fenech also commented on Minister Mizzi’s Panamanian company: “The point of departure here is that a minister of state in a democracy must at all times ensure that he is open to scrutiny. Consequently, it is simply out of order for a minister of state to create a trust in New Zealand which, in turn, owns a company in Panama that is blacklisted and not open to scrutiny.

“The fact that Fenlex, as a service provider licensed to offer fiduciary services to clients, in 2003, when I was not even a director of Fenlex, assisted a client with a company in Panama when Panama was not blacklisted most certainly does not stop me and should not stop me from saying that what the minister did is wrong.  I do not have a company in Panama – it is the minister of state who does.

“It is ludicrous for Labour to even suggest that the assets of a client are the assets of a director of a company providing fiduciary services and even more ludicrous for Labour to suggest that a service provider with fiduciary duties towards his client should divulge the identity of the UBO. What Minister Mizzi is requesting goes against applicable fiduciary rules and is illegal.”

PL statement

The PL released a statement, stating that Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil has remained silent on the Ann Fenech case.

Despite what Fenlex told this newsroom, that "Applicable laws restrict us from divulging the identity of the Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO)," and stating that the UBO is not a politically exposed person, the PL said - "Dr Busuttil and Dr Fenech herself have yet to say who is behind Timber Trading Capital Inc and Union Private Ltd, who were offered services by Ann Fenech's company".

"While Dr Busuttil is speaking about others, till today, he has not said who is behind these two companies, has not said a word about his PL Deputy Leader (Beppe Fenech Adami) who did not answer questions related to his businesses. He has also not spoken a word about PN MP Claudio Grech, whose testimony before the public accounts committee was called into question by e-mails published by the press".

 

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