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New Information From Daphne Project Links Azeri And Energy Payments To Panama Companies

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A mysterious company in Dubai first flagged by assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had received three payments amounting to $1.6 million (€1.3 million) from an unnamed Azeri national and from the Maltese agent of the tanker providing LNG to the Delimara power station. 

When setting up the infamous Panama companies for tourism minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, audit firm Nexia BT had told Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that their companies would receive money from two Dubai companies called 17 Black and Macbridge. This information was already revealed in a leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) , which finance minister Edward Scicluna last year suggested had been “written to be leaked”. 

Emails published today by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and The Times of Malta as part of The Daphne Project show that Nexia BT had indeed named these two companies in its correspondence with Mossack Fonseca. 

The leaks also show for the first time that the FIAU had traced two payments totalling €1.1 million to 17 Black from a Seychelles company owned by an unnamed Azeri national. The €1.1 million was sent to 17 Black via ABLV, a Latvian bank that was recently closed down by the European Central Bank due to money laundering violations. The ECB acted after the United States accused ABLV of enabling transactions linked to North Korea’s weapons program, and of facilitating corruption connected to Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine.

Ablv

A further €161,000 payment was sent to 17 Black via Orion Engineering – a Maltese company owned by Mario Pullicino, who is the local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station.

In a statement, Keith Schembri said that neither he nor his companies ever conducted any transactions with either 17 Black or Macbridge. 

“Those companies were included in draft business plans for my business group as potential clients,” he said. “My companies make dozens of business plans such as these. However, it is a fact that neither 17 Black nor MacBridge ever became clients of my business group, and no transactions were ever recorded with these companies, or with me personally.”

It is as yet unknown who owns 17 Black and Macbridge, whether the latter company also received payments, and whether former EU commissioner John Dalli has any part to play in the story.

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Nexia BT Karl Cini’s email to Mossack Fonseca 

The leaked e-mails show that Nexia BT was willing to pay Mossack Fonseca $9,000 to open up accounts for Schmebri’s and Mizzi’s two Panama companies with the Winterbotham bank in the Bahamas. Karl Cini told Mossack Fonseca in an email dated December 2015 that his client’s Panama companies would be operating in several business ventures around the world – including maritime and fishing businesses in Bangladesh, tourism in Asia, infrastructure projects in African countries. Schembri and Mizzi’s Panama companies were to receive €150,000 monthly through 17 Black and Macbridge.

However, attempts to open the Bahamas account stopped in February 2016, soon after Daphne Caruana Galizia first started reporting about their Panama companies on her blog.

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