Egrant: Two Crucial Documents Remain Missing As Election Looms Closer
No wonder many voters are still undecided
With less than a week until the election, two key documents which could shed light on the Egrant mystery have failed to be published, despite the story being central to why a snap election was called in the first place.
The election was announced on May 1st, a few days after blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia published transcripts of documents which allegedly link the Prime Minister's wife Michelle Muscat to Egrant, a company incorporated in Panama at the same time as the companies set up for Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
But as early voting started on Saturday, the electorate is still in the dark because the documents which Caruana Galizia said had been scanned and uploaded to the cloud have not yet been published beyond the initial transcripts. To make matters worse, accountant Brian Tonna - who was responsible for setting up Egrant and claims he was always its only owner - has refused to publish the share register of Egrant, a document he promised several weeks ago.
The share register is a document which should contain the history of Egrant's share ownership. In Panama, this type of document is not required to be publicly registered so it could be created retroactively and we would have little way of proving its authenticity. But since Tonna has from day one avoided publishing the share register at the date of the company's dissolution, Lovin Malta has kept insisting on its publication.
Although Tonna initially cooperated with Lovin Malta's investigation - replying to many of our questions - he has since gone silent. His last email, on May 5th, said the following:
"It is disappointing that rather than question the very existence of documentation of which not even copies have been produced, you continue to suggest that my version of events, which I have documented, is false. You also continue to chase a (new) document that needs to come from the service providers and that will add little, if anything, to what I have provided to you and to others, all of which, taken together, proves that I am, and always was, the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant Inc as from when it was acquired. Two weights and two measures? One need only read your articles to answer my rhetorical question, of course. Nonetheless, I will make it available publicly as and when I receive it. Having said that, and given that you have a clear agenda and are not seeking the truth, I have no intention of continuing to reply to your questions, so please don’t bother to put any."
More than three weeks later, Tonna has failed to publish this share register and several reminders from our end have gone unanswered too.
Meanwhile, Lovin Malta has also questioned Caruana Galizia, who insists she does not have access to the documents or scans, something she had already stated in the comments section of her blog.
In her original post, Caruana Galizia had said this about the documents: "Those documents in the Pilatus Bank kitchen-safe are declarations of trust which show that shares in Egrant Inc are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for “Mrs Michelle Muscat”. The declarations of trust were provided to the bank by Brian Tonna, as a prerequisite for opening an account for Egrant Inc, for which the identity of the ultimate beneficial owner is required. Mrs Muscat’s name is also given on another document held in the bank’s safe: the account opening form for Egrant Inc. These documents have been scanned and uploaded to the cloud, for security purposes, by third parties so that they cannot be destroyed by the bank."
But when asked if her readers could expect her to publish these documents before the election, Caruana Galizia said: "I don't have access to the documents/scans. They are not in my possession."
Lovin Malta has also reached out to the Russian whistleblower who is presumably the person who actually holds the documents which she scanned while she worked at Pilatus Bank. No answer has been forthcoming.
Although a magisterial inquiry about Egrant is ongoing, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Magistrate Aaron Bugeja will go public with any findings before Saturday's vote. The magistrate has already implied that the investigation is extremely complex.
Asked whether Caruana Galizia had faith in the magisterial inquiry, she said: "My view is that the inquiring magistrate has been given a poisoned chalice. A massive money-laundering inquiry involving an entire bank and a corporate services provider like Nexia BT is not something for a duty magistrate who is there to handle inquiries about traffic accidents, workplace accidents, or suicides. He will do the best he can, but he is up against a brick wall and not helped by the fact that Superintendent Ian Abdilla of the Police Economic Crimes Unit is a hovering presence in the inquiry. He is the man who has covered up at least three Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit reports involving Keith Schembri and linked persons over the last year."
Meanwhile, the government is refusing to answer questions or interview requests by Lovin Malta and many other independent media houses, as the Prime Minister tries to steer clear from any in-depth questioning about Egrant.
This means voters basing their decision on this case will have to make a judgement call on the context in which the allegations have been made, without being sure about what the outcome of the inquiry will be. Either that, or the next four days might hold the answer everybody has been waiting for - in which case, it would be unfair to any early voters, not to mention journalists who will probably not have enough time to verify the documents. Until then, we'll just have to wait and see.