Prime Minister Joseph Muscat refused to say who owns the secret Dubai company 17 Black, which was identified in an email as one of the two main target clients for the Panama companies of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri.
After the email was published by The Daphne Project last week, Schembri confirmed that 17 Black was included as a potential client in a draft business plan for his Kasco business group – indicating that he knows who owns the company.
However, Muscat refused to even confirm whether he has asked Schembri who owns the company on the grounds that any statement of his could prejudice ongoing magisterial inquiries into government corruption.
The Prime Minister also refused to comment when asked about Schembri’s and Mizzi’s contradictory responses to the Nexia BT email – with the former confirming he set up his company for business purposes and the latter insisting it was only set up for family planning.
Nexia BT’s email to now-defunct Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca refers to both companies in the same breadth and says both companies were set up to conduct a range of business interests across the world. Nexia BT boss Brian Tonna has not denied the authenticity of the email.
However, Muscat instead challenged the journalists involved in The Daphne Project to investigate assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s famous story that his wife is the Ultimate Beneficial Owner of the Panama company Egrant.
“A year since that blatant lie was published in an attempt to destabilise the country, no one has yet substantiated even half a word of it,” he said. “I have no problem reading stories in the international press that keep the government accountable, because after all we are in public life to be accountable to the public. However, I personally hope that someone from this entire team of journalists attempts to find a grain of truth in the [Egrant story]. They won’t manage to do so because it was a bare-faced lie from beginning to end, and I look forward to the truth being public.”