The magistrate investigating claims that the Prime Minister’s wife is the owner of a secret offshore company in Panama, has concluded his inquiry and handed his findings to the Attorney General.
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja finalised his inquiry on Friday evening, 15 months after launching the inquiry following a complaint by the lawyers of Joseph Muscat to the Commissioner of Police.
The Prime Minister in a statement said that he took note of the announcement by the Attorney General that the inquiry into allegations about him and his wife is now concluded and passed over to the Office of the Attorney General. The Prime Minister also takes note of the fact that the Attorney General is analysing the inquiry.
According to the Maltese legal system, it is the Attorney General who decides whether an inquiry can be published or not. The Prime Minister asked for the inquiry to be published.
The Prime Minister said he will give his reaction immediately upon publication.
Former PN Leader Simon Busuttil said “it is in the public interest that the Egrant inquiry report is published, published immediately and published in full.”
Maria Efimova also took to Twitter to comment, saying that the prime minister seems to already have a comment prepared. Efimova was the whistleblower who told Daphne Caruana Galizia that she had seen documents while working at Pilatus bank that show how the Panama company Egrant belonged to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle. (Malta Today)
On April 20th 2017, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has asked the inquiring magistrate to investigate allegations that secret Panama company Egrant is owned by his wife Michelle. “This is the biggest political lie ever told in this country,” he told a swiftly-called news conference about the claims published by Daphne Caruana Galizia on her blog. In front of the Maltese public, I swear, I categorically deny I had, or have, any type of undeclared account or company in Malta or overseas. We never signed any type of document which transfers shares of a company. I have never signed, never been offered to sign…”
In a subsequent statement sent through the Department of Information, the Prime Minister said he had asked his lawyers to contact the police commissioner and ask him to “inform a duty magistrate tonight to investigate allegations published by Daphne Caruana Galizia…preserve all evidence and give instructions to the Attorney General and police commissioner to take all necessary steps.” The statement came after a man and woman carrying suitcases were seen leaving the premises of Pilatus Bank – where Ms Caruana Galizia alleged that documents proving her claims were being stored – late at night.
Times of Malta had reported Dr Muscat challenged Ms Caruana Galizia to publish proof backing her claims and insisted that any such documentation would have to be authenticated. He said that both he and his wife would be taking legal action against Ms Caruana Galizia and the Nationalist Party media, with lawyers asking for libel cases to be heard with urgency.
Back then, in a televised address to the nation, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said the Prime Minister had lost all moral authority to lead the country. The allegations made, he said, were the most grievous and the people were angry and felt deceived. “The country does not deserve this and it cannot remain in such a situation. The least I would have expected today was for the Prime Minister to appoint an independent inquiry to carry out a serious investigation on the allegations made.
“Instead he said the responsibility is mine. The responsibility is the Prime Minister’s because Joseph Muscat put himself in this situation when he kept (Minister) Dr (Konrad) Mizzi and (chief of staff) Mr (Keith) Schembri with him at Castille. Because of this no one can believe him,” Dr Busuttil said. He said that the country did not deserve a Prime Minister who had a black cloud of corruption shadowing him and he expected the authorities to take steps to ensure that justice and law reigned in Malta.
“I would have expected the police commissioner to open an investigation and seal Pilatus Bank in presence of a magistrate to see that evidence is elevated.
“Instead this is being lost. I am holding the Police Commissioner personally responsible and I am insisting with all other authorities to do what they have to do in the national interest.
In a blog post, Ms Caruana Galizia said that shares in Egrant Inc are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for “Mrs Michelle Muscat”.
She said that a safe in the kitchen at the offices of Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex contains certain files and particular documents marked for extreme secrecy.
The safe, which used to be in the bank CEO’s office, was for some reason moved to the kitchen, Ms Caruana Galizia wrote.She said that the safe contains documents pertaining to Russian clients of the bank, and to Maltese politically exposed persons, including former minister John Dalli and Mr Schembri, both of whom had accounts with the bank in their own personal names.
Mr Schembri, she said, used his account regularly and his statements showed highly suspicious transactions involving people in Azerbaijan. This account was separate to the one held in the name of his once-secret Panama company, Tillgate Inc.
The safe, Ms Caruana Galizia claimed, also contained the documents that answered who owned Egrant Inc, the third company Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna set up in Panama, “for somebody so important that the name had to be given over Skype, rather than in an email as it was for Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri”.
Mrs Muscat’s name was also given on another document held in the bank’s safe: the account opening form for Egrant Inc, she claimed, adding that the documents had been scanned and uploaded to the cloud, for security purposes.
Back in 2017 The Malta Independent reported that speculation has been rife on why no terms of reference have been made known for the magisterial inquiry into allegations made by journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on the true beneficiary of Egrant Inc, a company named in the Panama Papers scandal.In a magisterial inquiry, unlike investigations launched under the Inquiries Act, a duty magistrate receives a request put forward by the police or a private citizen, following a report, information or complaints received.
When asked by The Malta Independent on Sunday¸ the police confirmed that, “This is a magisterial inquiry ‘in genere’ under Article 546, Chapter 9 [the Criminal Code] of the laws of Malta, and [the inquiry] was launched through a report sent to the magistrate by the executive police, which report forms part of the magisterial inquiry itself.
“I would like to inform you that this inquiry does not fall under the Inquiries Act.”
Investigations launched through the Inquiries Act limit the scope of a public official’s activities, and have specific terms of reference. A magisterial inquiry however has a far broader scope due to not being tied down by terms of reference or tied to investigating a public official. It must investigate anything related to the ‘fact’ that is being described in a report sent to the magistrate, allowing for a much broader and more comprehensive investigation.
Photo Times of Malta. Dispatch prepared on bases of various media reports on Malta Independent, Malta Independent on Sunday, Malta Today and Times of Malta.