Blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia this morning claimed to have discovered “who owns the third company in Panama, Egrant Inc” – but she’s keeping everyone in suspense.
“The full story will be reported next week, because several people who are unreachable over the Easter weekend have still to be contacted for comment,” she wrote.
Speculation has mounted for more than a year over who Egrant’s owner, after two other companies were discovered as part of Panama Papers belonging to Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief Of Staff Keith Schembri.
In a blog post uploaded this morning and entitled ‘Egrant Inc: Hiding in plain sight’, Caruana Galizia wrote: “Easter is not a good time for the Prime Minister, his chief of staff and Konrad Mizzi. By yet another series of serendipitous flukes, this website has discovered who owns the third company in Panama, Egrant Inc – which was, incidentally, put into dissolution a few days ago, indicating that another company may have been set up to replace it.”
She accompanied the post with a clue: a photo of the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat and Leyla Aliyeva, the first daughter of the President of Azerbaijan.
Caruana Galizia also claimed she had information on several movements of “very large sums of money” from the bank account of a company owned by politically exposed persons (PEPs) in Azerbaijan to bank accounts held by Egrant Inc, Hearnville Inc, and Tillgate Inc – the companies owned by Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.
A Maltese bank, set up after 2013, was used to move the money, she said, implying later that the bank was Pilatus Bank, based in Ta’ Xbiex and registered in 2014, which Konrad Mizzi had visited several times last year, according to Caruana Galizia.
Earlier this week, the blogger’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia was celebrated for being part of the Pulitzer-winning team which uncovered Panama Papers. Much of the information relevant to Malta was investigated and broken through Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog.
Keith Schembri to sue on Monday
Meanwhile, the government has reacted immediately with a statement by Keith Schembri who said that he would be suing Caruana Galizia for libel on Monday over “fabricated allegations” she continued to make in his regard.
He said he would also ask the court to hear the case with urgency.
“The internal strife in the Nationalist Party is going to open a new season of lies and fake news. I am determined not to allow more lies and fabrication about me,” he concluded.
This would be the first time Schembri would have sued Caruana Galizia about the Panama scandal.
I have news for the lying DCG: You will face another libel next week and you have no way out.
— Keith Schembri (@keithaschembri) April 15, 2017
Konrad Mizzi will also sue
Meanwhile, Konrad Mizzi has also said he would file libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia. This is his statement in full:
“Minister Konrad Mizzi denies the allegations made today by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. Caruana Galizia alleged that “very large sums of money” were moved to bank accounts held by Heanville Inc and other companies. Caruana Galizia further alleged that in September 2015, Minister Mizzi visited Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex.
These allegations are false, and Minister Mizzi rejects the assertions in the strongest terms possible. No sum of money was ever transferred to Hearnville Inc. Indeed, Hearnville Inc. never had any bank account. Furthermore, Minister Mizzi never visited Pilatus Bank. Additionally, no funds from or related to Azerbaijan were ever transferred in any way to Minister Mizzi or any member of his family.
Daphne Caruana Galizia is lying outright.
Minister Mizzi had requested trustees to commission an independent audit of the New Zealand family trust and of Hearnville Inc. The trustees have engaged Crowe Horwath, one of the largest public audit and accounting firms in the world, and the audit has established that the financial statements of the structure were presented fairly, in all material respects and in accordance with accounting policies. The auditors have confirmed that the evidence they obtained was sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for their audit opinion. This confirmed that the structure is solely intended as a family trust and that no bank accounts were held by the trust and company.
Minister Mizzi will be instituting libel proceedings against Caruana Galizia in connection with the slanderous allegations made by the blogger. He will further request that the Court hear the case with urgency.”
Caruana Galizia blatantly lies about me. Will initiate libel proceedings. pic.twitter.com/WWLce4kyRg
— Konrad Mizzi (@KonradMizzi) April 15, 2017