The Malta Independent 5 December 2020, Saturday

Alex Muscat says he didn’t see anything wrong with taking work from Nexia BT

Friday, 6 November 2020, 14:08 Last update: about 27 days ago

Alex Muscat didn’t see anything wrong with taking consultancies from Nexia BT prior to being made a Parliamentary Secretary, despite the latter having set up the offshore structures for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

Muscat at the time was the OPM’s Deputy Chief of Staff, with Keith Schembri being the chief of staff at the time. He was testifying during the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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Muscat said that he got to know that Nexia BT set up the Panama companies for Schembri and Mizzi through the media, but added that this did not change his reasoning when it came to whether to accept work from Nexia BT or not, saying that as far as he knew the accountants did nothing illegal or wrong.

He said that Karl Cini and Brian Tonna never had a desk at Castille. He did say that he saw Tonna a couple of times in the Castille waiting room.

Muscat said that he had done consultancy work with Nexia BT after the election in 2013 and was paid around €5000 for his services in 2017. He said he was not on retainer.

Both Tonna and Cini faced the public inquiry board on Wednesday, but refused to answer any of the questions put to them.

Responding to other questions, Muscat said that, while working as the Deputy Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, he used to answer to Keith Schembri, who was the Chief of Staff at the time.

He said that he knew Schembri prior to 2013, as he used to work with the PL.  He said that he wouldn’t normally accompany Schembri when the latter met with the Prime Minister.

Muscat was asked about Keith Schembri prior to him becoming the OPM Chief of Staff. Muscat said Schembri was one of the people who helped coordinate things within the PL, such as events.

Muscat said that he was not involved in the Electrogas deal, telling the board that it was handled by then Minister Konrad Mizzi and his team.

Turning to the Panama Papers revelations in 2016, he said that he was perplexed when following the media coverage, and spoke to Keith Schembri about it. “I told him what I thought of it; both him and Minister Mizzi.”

Asked what his opinion was, he said that the conversation was private, but he was critical. As the sitting continued, Muscat said that he had never spoken about the FIAU report to Keith Schembri. He also said that he was not involved in the creation of the government’s reaction to the reporting of the Panama Papers by Caruana Galizia.

Turning to Yorgen Fenech, Muscat said that he saw him in Castille ‘maybe once’, in the Prime Minister’s office waiting area. He was not sure who Fenech was meeting and said that he never met with businessmen but would mostly meet public officials in his work.

The next person to testify was Tax Commissioner Marvin Gaerty.

Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia asked him whether he is under investigation or police bail.  He replied in the negative, adding that he had an informal 10-15 minute meeting with the police about work. He said he had given them all the communications with Yorgen Fenech, in reference to Whatsapp messages regarding a Tumas Group tax issue.

Gaerty said that it was his job to meet with people over tax issues, and said that he met with Fenech and his lawyers over work issues. One such meeting took place in Portomaso, over a VAT issue.

“My job is to meet with people about tax issues. I met with him and his lawyers about work-related issues. One of these meetings took place in Portomaso. This going to the subject's office happens from time to time if many people are going to be present. The meeting was about a VAT issue.”

He said that the meeting was not over 17 Black.

He said that Fenech and his associated never made an effort to communicate with him when the 17 Black issue hit the news.

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