Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said he is not taking at face value the revelation that the mysterious Dubai company 17 Black belongs to Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech, arguing that the Egrant story was rubbished by a magisterial inquiry.
“This famous company was first supposed to belong to John Dalli, then to Konrad Mizzi, then to myself, and now to someone from the private sector,” Muscat said at a political rally today. “I have no way of finding out who this company belongs to and the authorities don’t tell me what they’re investigating, but my initial conclusion from this report is that the Maltese authorities are indeed investigating these allegations, contrary to what some would have us believe.”
17 Black was named in an email as one of two eventual target clients for the Panama companies of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri. A leaked FIAU report confirmed that 17 Black had received at least three payments – one single payment of €161,000 from Mario Pullicino, the local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station and two separate payments amounting to €1.1 million from an Azeri security guard. Its bank account in Dubai was frozen last September as part of an investigation by the UAE financial and law enforcement authorities, who are examining the company’s activities following a request for assistance from the Maltese authorities.
Amid a report by The Malta Independent that ministers and MPs have urged Muscat to sack Mizzi and Schembri, the Prime Minister reminded them how a magisterial inquiry was able to find evidence to back up a claim that the Panama company Egrant belonged to his wife.
“So much has been said about me in the past that turned out to be false. While some waved false documents and box files, I had to wait over a year for a magistrate to do his work rigorously and, in the meantime, ask the public to make a decision based solely on my word.”
“I will therefore await the outcome of investigations [on 17 Black], including by magistrates who were asked to carry out inquiries by the Opposition itself. I’ll take action according to the conclusion of this investigations; I haven’t shied away from taking action in the past and I won’t shy away from taking action in the future.”
After Opposition leader Adrian Delia insisted Mizzi and Schembri should resign immediately, Muscat turned the tables and asked Delia why he hadn’t resigned after Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed last year that he had laundered money from a Soho prostitution ring.
“Before giving press conferences, he should at the very least call for an investigation into these allegations, as I had done [on Egrant].”