The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Egrant – why the report needs to be published in full

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 24 July 2018, 09:34 Last update: about 2 years ago

The publication of the conclusions of the Egrant magisterial inquiry on Sunday has cleared the Prime Minister’s name and that of his wife from any links to holding a secret company in Panama. But the public has seen only 50 of the 1,500 pages of the report and, as expected, there have been calls for the whole document to be made public.

Muscat has the whole report, having been the person who called for the inquiry after revelations made by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and his political counterpart Adrian Delia has written to the Attorney General to be given a copy, arguing that the Nationalist Party is at a disadvantage. The Labour Party, in reply, said that Delia should understand that this is not a political game and that the Muscat family was subject to an inquiry that ultimately concluded that documents presented against them were false.

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But there are more reasons, apart from Delia’s, for which the document should be made available in full. For one thing, the revelations about the Muscats’ connections with Panama – now denied in the inquiry conclusions – led to the snap election last year, making the Egrant inquiry a matter of national interest. As such, nothing less than full transparency and full publication is acceptable.

The AG has thus far just published the conclusions which did not find evidence that the third Panama company belonged to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat or his wife Michelle, or that the PM’s wife had received a $1.07 million payment into a Dubai account. We speak of a third company because the owners of the other two have been known for quite a while - Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The inquiry, which spanned over 15 months, was conducted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, and it is up to the AG to decide whether to publish it in full or not. So far he has refused.

The full report needs to be published in order for the public to also be able to look at all the evidence presented, to fully understand what led to the inquiry conclusions in order for there not to be any lingering doubts.

The resulting conclusions by the magistrate have also opened up fresh questions, such as why someone would forge documents linking Michelle Muscat to Egrant, while leaving some old ones unanswered, such as who the real owner behind Egrant is. The publication of the full report could, perhaps, help shed some light on these matters, or point people in the right direction.

On the falsification of documents, the conclusion document released by the Attorney General yesterday reads that forensic accountants Harbinson Forensics said:  “We have not found any digital versions of the Declarations of Trust you have been given which allegedly show that shares in Egrant Inc are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for Michelle Muscat. We understand that these were allegedly provided to Pilatus by Brian Tonna when it is alleged he opened a bank account for Egrant Inc. Their absence from the data sets of Nexia BT, Pilatus Bank and the Panama Papers would suggest that the Declarations of Trust you have been given were not created in either Pilatus or Nexia BT or by Mossack Fonseca.”

The full report itself might contain more information on the matter, which would be pertinent for public knowledge.

OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri (above) was found to have an account with Pilatus Bank, and so was former EU Commissioner John Dalli.

On Keith Schembri the inquiry report established that he held two accounts with Pilatus, and that his Know Your Client forms were detailed. It was found that Schembri did not regularly use the accounts, and that there were few transactions. It notes that the statements do not show transactions with Azeri nationals. It finds that transactions with Willerby Trading Inc (a BVI company owned by Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna) were found, but stressed that this is subject of a separate magisterial inquiry. The full inquiry might show information as to who else Keith Schembri had transactions with.

On Dalli, the report stated that the account was already closed by the time of the inquiry, and that the documents did not find any major activity, or that Dalli had any transactions with Azeri nationals.

On the allegation that Pilatus Bank former Chairman Ali Sadr left with evidence on the night when the inquiry was first called, on 20 April 2017, the Magistrate highlights that internal CCTV footage showed that the Ali Sadr entering the office at 12.45pm after landing in Malta just an hour before. The footage showed him in the office all day until 9.15pm that night.  It showed him entering the bank with his suitcase, entering the board room and removing some papers and an Ipad from it.

The report read that the same documents, phone and Ipad were placed back in the suit case before he left, in addition to one document that an employee had left for him, which he had barely paid attention to until placing it in his case. While the report reads that this shows that the allegations that Ali Sadr performed clandestine activity leaving with many documents was disproved, it does not state what the paper handed to him by the employee was. This, perhaps, could possibly be answered in the full report.

But the main reason that the publication of the report in full is necessary is to do away with more speculation, more conspiracy theories and more suggestions as to what it really contains. We would all be wiser if the report is published in full.

 

 

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