Konrad Mizzi never provided former Nexia BT managing partner Brian Tonna the names of the Dubai companies 17 Black and Macbridge for these to be included as target clients for his Panama companies, parliament’s Public Accounts Committee heard this afternoon.
“It wasn’t my choice but it wasn’t Konrad Mizzi that gave me the names,” Tonna said. He refused to specify who had provided him with the names, suggesting that it was former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
The only questions Tonna refused to reply to throughout the sitting were those related to his relationship with Schembri. Tonna refused to answer these questions on the advice of his lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell who informed the committee that the relationship between the two men was currently the subject of proceedings in court.
Tonna was called to testify before the public accounts committee, about his involvement in the Electrogas project, during which he was asked about his relationship with former Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Tonna said that while he had not known Mizzi before the Labour Party came to power in 2013, he did get to know him after.
Asked about services his firm had provided Mizzi, Tonna said that some two years after the election Mizzi had gone to him to open a trust in which he wanted to hold some of his family assets.
He said he had referred him to Mossack Fonseca, who had in turn suggested a company in Panama and a Trust in New Zealand.
Tonna said that Mizzi had gone to him alone, refusing to answer whether anyone else had asked him to set up similar structures. “That I will not answer,” he replied.
Tonna said it was former Nexia BT partner Karl Cini was the one that had acted as the go between between Mossack Fonseca and Mizzi, adding however that he would be kept in the loop given that Mizzi was his client.
He was then asked about the process of opening bank accounts for the company. Tonna said that Mossack Fonseca had forwarded the names of a number of banks all of which would come back with different questions and requirements.
One of the problems, he said, was that the company’s income was intended to come from the rent of one of Mizzi’s London properties and wasn’t large enough for many banks.
He said that one of the banks they had contacted had requested a list of target companies.
Information made public in the Panama Papers leak revealed that the Dubai companies 17 Black and Macbridge were listed as the target clients for both Mizzi’s and Schembri’s Panama companies. 17 Black has since been revealed to belong to businessman and the suspected mastermind in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Yorgen Fenech. He was also one of the major shareholders in Electrogas.
The second company, Macbridge, was last month revealed to have belonged to the mother of Chen Cheng, the Chinese negotiator on a number of multi-million Euro Enemalta deals including that which saw Shanghai Electric purchase a 30% stake in Enemalta.
Tonna confirmed that the two companies had been included but chose not to reply to a question, citing ongoing proceedings, about who had given him the names, insisting once again that it wasn’t his own choice and that it hadn’t been Mizzi.
Asked about his relationship with Chen, Tonna said that he had met him about twice. He said that he had gone to his offices to open a company, but would not elaborate further on his reasons for doing so.
What do you make of Brian Tonna’s replies?