The Malta Independent 9 March 2021, Tuesday

Mizzi took possession of Panama company a day before LNG kickback funds were transferred

David Lindsay Thursday, 1 June 2017, 09:25 Last update: about 5 years ago

Minister Konrad Mizzi took possession of his Panamanian company just one day before an undisclosed amount of funds were transferred into a Dubai company that a Financial Intelligence Analysis report states was used primarily to transfer kickbacks from the LNG tanker deal into bank accounts held by companies belonging to Dr Mizzi and Keith Schembri.

Dr Mizzi’s company, Hearnville Inc, was transferred into his New Zealand Trust on 22 July 2015, as documentary evidence and statements by Dr Mizzi himself show.  The next day, 23 July 2015, an FIAU report leaked to this newspaper confirms that money was transferred to the Dubai company, 17 Black, whose function was to transfer money to the Panama companies belonging to Dr Mizzi and another Panamanian company owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.


According to the FIAU’s investigations, Dr Mizzi also travelled to Dubai to open a bank account and to present the documentation for that purpose to the bank in person.

The FIAU report states that during the stage when arrangements for an account to be opened for Dr Mizzi’s Hearnville Inc., “Dr Konrad Mizzi personally travelled to Dubai in order to present the bank with the relevant documentation”.

Although Dr Mizzi repeatedly claimed that he never gave the go-ahead for the opening of a bank account, the FIAU, however, discovered that he travelled to Dubai specifically for this purpose.

The extracts from the FIAU report in this newsroom’s possession do not give a date for the trip in question but a Freedom of Information request filed by The Times of Malta and reported last Sunday shows that he made such a trip, unannounced and under the radar, to Dubai on 27 August 2015 – after funds had been transferred to 17 Black and presumably awaiting transfer into the account of Dr Mizzi, and possibly also that of Mr Schembri.

The date of the trip tallies with emails leaked through the Panama Papers, copies of which are held by The Times as well as The Malta Independent in our capacities as ICIJ Panama Papers partners. One of those emails shows that Nexia BT had asked Mossack Fonseca to send over all the documents necessary to open up bank accounts for Dr Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s Panamanian companies in Dubai.

“My client will get them directly to the bank in original,” an email from Nexia BT to Mossack Fonseca said, in reference to the documentation that the FIAU also said in its report that Dr Mizzi presented personally to the bank.

That email was sent just two days before Dr Mizzi’s flight to Dubai and Nexia BT had given the minister’s date of departure as the deadline for receipt of the documentation.  A number of reminders had been sent to Mossack Fonseca in the meantime requesting the documents necessary for open in a bank account in Dubai until the day before Dr Mizzi’s departure, when Mossack Fonseca confirmed it would be sending the documents by courier. 

Concerned that the documents would not arrive on time, Nexia BT requested Mossack Fonseca to instead send scanned copies of the documents, which included, according to the Panama Papers leaked emails, certificates of incorporation, memorandum and articles of association, share certificates, power of attorney documents, ultimate beneficial ownership details and passport copies of all shareholders and directors, as well as the authorised signatories’ CVs.


Mizzi company shares transferred on 22 July

The shares of Dr Mizzi’s Hearnville Inc had been transferred from Panamanian company ATC Administrators on 22 July 2015.

Dr Mizzi had explained to this newspaper in March 2016 that, “ [Hearnville Inc.] was transferred into the trust on 22 July, when the shares were transferred to Orion Trust as the trustees of Rotorua Trust”.  Mr Mizzi went on to explain how on 21 July 2015, the day before company was transferred from ATC Administrators to Dr Mizzi’s trust there had been a board meeting to transfer the shares.


The 17 Black set up

The FIAU investigation found that the Dubai-registered 17 Black was created for the purpose of transferring money to Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri through their respective Panama companies Hearnville Inc and Tillgate Inc.

Last Friday The Malta independent revealed how the FIAU report confirmed the transfer of money from a company connected to Armada Floating Gas Services Malta, owners of the LNG tanker berthed in Marsaxlokk, to 17 Black, and categorically stated that “a transaction was carried out successfully on 23 July 2015.”

Extracts of the report seen by this newsroom shows how FIAU investigations revealed two attempts to transfer money to 17 Black from Orion Engineering group, a company registered at the same address and having the same involved parties as Armada Floating Gas Services Malta Ltd.

Although Dr Mizzi repeatedly claimed that he never gave the go-ahead for the opening of a bank account, the FIAU discovered that he travelled to Dubai for this purpose. Dr Mizzi in fact travelled to Dubai so as to present documentation to the bank in person.

The unit also confirmed attempts to open a bank account when Dr Mizzi granted a power of attorney in which he gave absolute discretionary powers to Karl Cini and Brian Tonna of Nexia BT to carry out any actions necessary with the set up of the Trust structure which included the Panama company and related bank account. This includes the authorisation to sign all the necessary documents.


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