After the Panama Papers and Malta Files, the third global leak to impact Malta and its low-tax jurisdiction in two years is set to unfurl in the coming days.
Dubbed The Paradise Papers, the leak was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew is one of six people who form the ICIJ’s international Data and Research Unit on this leak.
The Paradise Papers boast some 13.4 million leaked documents regarding two offshore services companies based in Bermuda and Singapore, along with 19 corporate registries (including Malta) in government-maintained jurisdictions which the ICIJ describe as “waypoints in the global shadow economy”. A whole fifth of what the ICIJ has described as the “world’s busiest secrecy jurisdictions” are represented in these databases, and that includes those in Malta.
In short, the Paradise Papers is gradually revealing how the powerful and ultra-wealthy invest vast amounts of cash in offshore tax havens… and it seems like Malta will yet again be put under the spotlight.
A network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries, the ICIJ includes Times of Malta as its partner back on the island. In fact, the Times announced this evening that they will be reporting extensively into the Paradise Papers in the coming days.
This is what we know so far…
1. Malta as a source for Azeri money
Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov is linked to over 100 Maltese companies
The Times of Malta has announced its findings will shed more light on the links between Malta and Azerbaijan, with Malta used as a location for wealthy Azeris to stash their money.
It will show how Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov, listed by Forbes as one of the richest people in the world, is linked to over 100 Maltese companies as part of his Palmali shipping group. Several other Azeris linked to Maltese shipping and maritime companies are also expected to show up.
The true nature of Malta’s relationship with Azerbaijan was first put into question when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri and then energy minister Konrad Mizzi flew to Baku in 2014 for a secret meeting with Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev.
Earlier this year, late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia reported that the three largest clients of Pilatus Bank are Azeri minister Kamaladdin Heydarov and Ilham’s son and daughter: Heydar Alive and Leyla Aliyeva.
2. The ‘Bono’ link
Bono used a Malta-based company to buy a Lithuanian shopping mall in 2007
As reported by The Guardian, the Paradise Papers reveals how Bono, frontman of legendary rock band U2, used a company based in Malta to pay for a share in a shopping centre in a small Lithuanian town a decade ago.
Bono was a co-director of the Maltese company Nude Estates, which bought the shopping centre, the Aušra, for €5.8 million in 2007, shortly after it opened. The Guardian reported Bono probably chose Malta because it offers generous tax refunds to foreign investors – allowing them to pay as little as 5% tax on their profits.
Bono’s spokeswoman told The Guardian that Malta is “a well-established holding company jurisdiction within the EU”, and that “Bono was a passive, minority investor in Nude Estates Malta Ltd, a company that was legally registered in Malta until it was voluntarily wound up in 2015”.
3. MFSA chairman’s links with Russian mining
Outgoing MFSA chairman Joe Bannister has been linked to a Russian mining venture
The Times said it will publish findings linking the Malta Financial Services Authority’s outgoing chairman Joe Bannister to a Russian mining venture – ACP Special Situations No. 2 Ltd, which is domiciled in the British Virgin Island. Bannister is listed as being part of ACP’s “management”, but said his involvement in the company pre-dates his appointment as MFSA chairman in 1999 and had been cleared by all Prime Ministers he had served under. He said he resigned his role in the company last year.
It is the latest revelation of Bannister’s offshore dealings, following his directorship of a Cayman Islands based company – which has been criticised by education minister Evarist Bartolo.
4. ‘Global power players’ with Maltese companies
The sons of Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have business interests in Malta
MaltaToday published a list of foreign power players, whose shareholding in Maltese companies has been exposed by the Paradise Papers.
These include Ukraine’s former vice prime minister Valerie Voshchevsky, the two sons of Turkey’s prime minister Binali Yildirim, Kazakhstan’s defence minister Beibut Atamkulov, former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, and Indian politician Ravindra Kishore Sinha,