Brian Tonna, the accountant at the centre of the Egrant saga, has changed his mind about publishing a key document which nine months ago he said could prove his story unequivocally about who really owns the mysterious company in Panama.
Egrant Inc was set up in offshore Panama shortly after the Labour Party’s electoral victory in 2013, together with two other companies which were later revealed to belong to then Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist who was killed in a car bomb last October, had last April claimed Egrant’s shares were held for Michelle Muscat, the wife of the Prime Minister – an allegation the Muscats have vehemently denied.
Tonna, whose audit firm Nexia BT worked to set up all three companies, has long insisted he was always the beneficial owner of Egrant. However, he has not been able to prove this in any equivocal way.
In response to Lovin Malta’s questions last year, Tonna had promised to publish Egrant’s share register as at date of dissolution, which should contain the company’s entire shareholding history – and could therefore lend some weight to his explanations.
After several requests for the document, Mr Tonna had eventually replied as follows: “I have asked for a share register as at the date of dissolution and I will publish it as soon as I receive it. It will be identical, except for the date of course, to the one I have already published,” he said, referring to an undated share register he had originally made public.
He himself promised the document would be “further proof” of his statements so far and would confirm that Egrant never issued shares to anyone except a company solely owned by him.
However, since his response on April 28th 2017, Mr Tonna has failed to fulfil his promise to publish the document. Lovin Malta sent several emails in the past nine months to remind Mr Tonna about the share register, the vast majority of which were ignored.
Emailed again today, Mr Tonna finally responded: “As you well know, this is subject to a magisterial inquiry and all we can do now is wait for its outcome.”
When Lovin Malta pointed out the magisterial inquiry had already questioned him before he pledged to publish the document, Mr Tonna responded as follows: “All documents including the one you refer to have been obtained and submitted to magistrate. Therefore as I reiterated in my mail below we shall now wait for inquiry outcome and nothing else will be stated on this subject.”
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja has not yet given any updates on the Egrant inquiry since he began investigating on April 20th last year. Since then, a snap election was called by Dr Muscat which re-elected the Labour Party by another landslide victory.
Muscat re-appointed Schembri as his Chief of Staff and gave Konrad Mizzi the role of Tourism Minister, giving him the crucial task of bringing the national airline Air Malta back to profitability.
Caruana Galizia, who was central to the Egrant allegations which triggered an early election and who was also the first journalist to reveal the information on Schembri and Mizzi contained in Panama Papers, was assassinated in a car bomb in broad daylight outside her home in Bidnija on October 16th. So far, three well-known criminals who she never wrote about, have been charged with her murder.
Meanwhile, Maria Efimova, the Russian woman who was said to be Caruana Galizia’s main source, has since fled Malta and requested asylum in an unnamed country. She also denied being Caruana Galizia’s first source of information – a claim that was supported by the former editor of the Malta Independent Pierre Portelli, who says he gave the Magistrate documents about Egrant which did not originate from Caruana Galizia or Efimova.
Muscat has pledged to step down if an ounce of truth was found surrounding the allegations made in his family’s regard.