The Malta Independent 22 September 2021, Wednesday

Keith Schembri should resign for questioning PANA committee’s mandate – Socialist MEP Ana Gomes

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 24 February 2017, 12:19 Last update: about 6 years ago

OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri should resign for calling into question the PANA committee’s mandate and using it as an excuse for not appearing before the committee, Socialist MEP and vice-chair of the PANA committee Ana Gomes told The Malta Independent.

The European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion, known as PANA, held a string of meetings in Malta on Monday, interviewing, among others, Minister Konrad Mizzi following revelations that he had opened a company in the secretive jurisdiction of Panama.

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Both Minister Mizzi and Mr Schembri were found to have companies in the secretive jurisdiction of Panama, and trusts in New Zealand.

OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri, however, declined to meet the committee face to face citing a number of reasons, one of which particularly irked the committee.

Mr Schembri, in his letter, wrote “As noted by the opinion released by the Legal Service to the Council of the European Union, it is uncertain whether the Committee enjoys a mandate and has sound legal standing to carry out its inquiry. That being said, and without prejudice thereto, looking at the terms of reference of the Committee tasked to inquire about the adoption and implementation of anti-money laundering and taxation Union law, I fail to identify the reason for the personalisation of the Committee's work. To my knowledge, this was not the approach that the Committee took in its visit to the United Kingdom last week, and I suspect it does not serve the Committee to treat equal partners differently. Such attitude seems to be driven by reasons extraneous to the scope of inquiry and therefore I feel that my attendance would set a dangerous precedent.

MEP Ana Gomes told this newsroom; “How can he question the delegation’s mandate, which is solid and was established by the European Parliament. This alone is reason enough for him to be dismissed by the Prime Minister, unless there is something more complicated that is being hidden,” the MEP said.

The S&D MEP has criticised both Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri after her visit to Malta, indicating that they should both be removed from their posts. On Minister Konrad Mizzi, she told this newsroom that had she had the opportunity to meet him after their meeting, she would have asked him: “why don’t you resign to stop embarrassing your government?”

MEP Gomes was not the only one to criticise Mr Schembri’s letter, denying the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with the PANA Committee. In fact, the Chair of the committee himself had some words to say on the issue during the press conference following the PANA committee meeting.

PANA Committee Chairman Werner Langen  was outraged that Mr Schembri’s reply was hand delivered to him on the day the meeting was meant to be held, when the request was sent last January. He was also outraged that the committee’s mandate was questioned. We have a mandate given by the majority of MEPs in the European Parliament,” he said.

Schembri fails to provide answers

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