The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri do not respond to questions on fresh allegations

Sunday, 30 October 2016, 10:30 Last update: about 7 years ago

Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri have not responded to questions on fresh allegations raised by the Opposition. 

The allegations surround the proximity of the dates on which the Vitals Global Healthcare hospital privatisation agreements were signed and Panama Papers correspondence dated just a few days later giving the go ahead to open bank accounts for their Panama companies.

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Following last week’s publication of redacted copies of the hospital privatisation contracts, the Opposition’s media and politicians have once again placed Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri in their crosshairs. They point out how the agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare had been signed on 30 November 2015 while just two days later, on 2 December 2015, Karl Cini from Nexia BT on their behalf sent a letter to an overseas bank to proceed with opening bank accounts for their Panamanian companies.

According to a 27 November internal email from Mossack Fonseca, “I called BSI Panama and the initial deposit can be $100K.” According to the emails, the customer needed to put $1 million into the account over the course of the year, or, failing that, $800,000, but if the amount to be deposited was significantly below that threshold, the bank would close the account.

Mr Cini, in his reply on 2 December 2015 said, “Go ahead to start the opening of the accounts for those 2 panama companies.”

This, it transpires, was just two days after the government signed the Service Concession Agreement and the Health Services Delivery Agreement with Vitals Global Healthcare on 30 November 2015.

Emails sent to Mr Cini following that read: “We were told by one of our contacts that the BSI Bank was recently sold to a Colombian bank. Rules are changing and we were told that if the clients are not applying for immigration Visas in Panama they won’t open the account.”

The emails never revealed whether the bank account was actually opened or not, but both Mr Schembri and Minister Mizzi had previously said that no account had ever been opened.

According to the Opposition, Vitals Healthcare Ltd - a Malta-registered company - is owned by Bluestone Investments Malta Ltd, which, in turn, is owned by Bluestone Situation 4 Ltd, which is registered as an offshore company in the financially secretive jurisdiction of British Virgin Islands.

Emails dating as far back as August and September 2015 detailed the intention for bank accounts to be opened for the Panamanian companies owned by Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri, but a number of banks are documented to have refused opening accounts.

Mizzi and Schembri do not comment

Emails sent to both Minister Mizzi and Mr Schembri asking them to explain the few days’ difference between the hospital contracts’ signing and the 2 December go ahead to open bank accounts, as well as to give them the opportunity to defend themselves against allegations being made by the Opposition, have not been answered.

 

Just another coincidence?

Last March this newsroom had revealed how Dr Mizzi’s Panamanian company had been transferred to his New Zealand trust on 22 July 2015 – the very same day that Gasol, the former lead partner in the Delimara power station consortium – had sold its entire shareholding for an estimated millions of euros, after having invested just €2,500 in the Electrogas consortium.

As in the case of Vitals Global Healthcare, Gasol’s majority shareholder is also located in a secretive financial jurisdiction – the Seychelles. 

This newspaper had also revealed that in the case of Gasol’s parent company and majority owner, African Gas Development Corporation Limited, is registered at and controlled out of the offices of none other than Mossack Fonseca in the Seychelles.

Mossack Fonseca had also opened a Malta offshoot in May 2013 under Brian Tonna of Nexia BT. And it was Nexia BT that had, in turn, “advised” then Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi to take on his Panamanian company. Brian Tonna, Nexia BT Director, had told this newsroom at the time that “our holding of shares in Mossack Fonseca Malta Limited is purely on a fiduciary basis”.

At the time Dr Mizzi had sent a right of reply to that story, rather than accepting an interview as was requested back then, saying that these two events (the transfer of the Panama company and Gasol selling its shares) were unrelated. A statement sent to this newsroom by Dr Mizzi said that, “There is absolutely no relation or connection between the establishment of Dr Mizzi’s declared trust and related structures and the sale of Gasol shares to the other shareholders of Electrogas Malta”.

Minister Mizzi also reiterated in his statement that he “…has also subjected himself to a full tax audit which shall show that all allegations levelled at him over the past weeks are baseless”.

That audit, however, has still not been published some nine months down the line from when it was first supposedly commissioned.

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