Nexia BT, the accountancy firm at the centre of alleged kickbacks on the citizenship-by-investment scheme, has lost its license to operate in the Individual Investor Programme.
Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini are currently under arrest in connection with the crime. Their assets, their relatives’ assets, and the assets of Nexia BT have been frozen by court order.
According to a leaked report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Tonna transferred two €50,000 payments through Pilatus Bank to Schembri.
Schembri is facing allegations that the payments were kickbacks related to the sale of Maltese citizenship to a family of three Russian nationals.
Both men have denied any wrongdoing, with Schembri claiming that the €100,000 was the repayment of a personal loan given to Tonna while the former underwent separation proceedings.
The loan was repaid through Willerby Trading, a British Virgin Islands shell company secretly owned by Tonna. Willerby Trading is named in the court order.
The same FIAU report also raised suspicions of the loan document presented to the bank to justify the payments after finding no trace of the original loan payment by Schembri to Tonna.
The court’s decision comes just a matter of days after Times of Malta revealed Nexia BT would be hiving off much of its operations to another company.
Who is Nexia BT?
Nexia BT is a corporate and private client advisory, audit, accounting and tax firm providing a full range of services. It forms part of Nexia International, a leading firm present in over 110 countries.
Nexia BT in Malta also previously served as the Mossack Fonseca agents in the country, the Panamanian firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal.
The firm, through managing director Brian Tonna and partner Karl Cini, set up the offshore structures of Keith Schembri, Konrad Mizzi, Adrian Hillman (Allied Newspapers/Progress Press), and Cheng Chen (Shanghai Electric) among others.
According to one e-mail found in the Panama Papers, Schembri and Mizzi were set to receive payments of up to $2 million from 17 Black, the UAE company owned by Yorgen Fenech, who stands accused of conspiring to assassinate journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Having set up the Egrant account, the men are also the only two individuals who know for sure the mysterious identity of its owner.
The firm, who still has a license to operate, is subject to several on-going inquiries, including the Panama Papers scandal.
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