The Malta Independent 21 September 2019, Saturday

Tourism ministry again rejects FOI request on Konrad Mizzi’s Dubai trips

Jeremy Micallef Sunday, 25 August 2019, 10:30 Last update: about 27 days ago

The Ministry for Tourism has, once again, refused a freedom of information request filed by The Malta Independent concerning trips Minister Konrad Mizzi made to Dubai, particularly one in August 2015.

The request was refused on the grounds that it “does not satisfy the statutory requirements for right of access to official documents nor does it seek access to a document that falls within the legal definition.”

Specifically, this newspaper was referred to the “definition of ‘document’ as set out in Article 2 of Cap 496, to the right granted to ‘eligible persons’ in terms of Article 3 and to the requirements set out in Article 6.”

Apart from the above refusal, no further information was given as to why the FOI request was rejected.

The refusal to simply explain what government business the minister was on in Dubai follows repeated official requests by The Malta Independent to the tourism ministry to provide details of his Dubai trips, such as the precise dates, the reasons for the visits, the length of the visits, whether or not he had been accompanied by government officials or others and, if so, who they were, and an itemised list of the costs involved.

Mizzi acknowledged, in reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Opposition MP Simon Busuttil in Parliament last May, that he had travelled to Dubai in August 2015.  That was the same month in which financial consultants on his and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri’s Panamanian companies and New Zealand trusts, Nexia BT, were attempting to set up Dubai bank accounts.

Mizzi has always insisted that a bank account linked to his Panamanian company was never on the cards, and that Nexia BT must have been acting on its own volition.

In reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil, Mizzi acknowledged that he had been to Dubai in August 2015, as well as in February and November 2016.

Correspondence between Nexia BT’s Carl Cini and an employee of Mossack Fonseca shows them arranging for original documentation to be submitted for the opening of a bank account in Dubai.

Those emails show how Cini had told Mossack Fonseca: “My client will get them directly to the bank in original.  The important thing is that the Panama companies’ documents reach me by Thursday afternoon.” The Thursday afternoon to which Cini refers was 27 August 2015.

A subsequent freedom of information request filed by The Times of Malta had confirmed that Mizzi had in fact made such a trip, unannounced and under the radar, to Dubai on 27 August 2015.

The Malta Independent will duly be taking the rejection up with the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner.

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