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[WATCH] Mizzi will retain Panama company, says wife Sai will not have consul’s contract renewed

Energy minister Konrad Mizzi uncontested in PL deputy leadership election, elected with 96.6% of vote, held amidst revelations that Mizzi's family trust owns shares in a Panamanian-registered company

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
25 February 2016, 7:00pm
Last updated on 25 February 2016, 9:38pm
In the media spotlight: Konrad Mizzi. Photo: Ray Attard
In the media spotlight: Konrad Mizzi. Photo: Ray Attard
 
Konrad Mizzi to retain Panamanian company
Labour delegates have elected, as expected, energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi as the party’s new deputy leader for party affairs.

704 delegates voted out of 739 eligible ones - a turnout at 95.26%, of whom 672 voted for Mizzi. There were 696 valid votes.

The vote comes amidst controversy at revelations that Mizzi has registered a family trust in New Zealand, that owns shares in a company in Panama, widely regarded as a tax haven.

Mizzi also announced after his elected that his wife Sai Mizzi Liang, controversially appointed a Malta Enterprise envoy in Shanghai, will not have €13,000 a month contract renewed. "I'm not just a minister now, my role has changed. We decided it is for the best," Mizzi said.

Mizzi is facing growing pressure following revelations that his family had registered a trust in New Zealand, which also owns shares in a Panamanian-registered company.

But tonight he refused to explain why he had chosen Panama, a notorious tax haven, to house a company held by a trust in New Zealand. "I have worked hard for my money and it is mine to choose where to place. I will pay tax on income and I will declare my assets," Mizzi said.

Mizzi also revealed that he was the settlor of the New Zealand trust, while his wife Sai and children were the beneficiaries. "I chose New Zealand for its transparency, and for the protection of our estate."

 
Konrad Mizzi defends use of Panama company
Mizzi said the Panama company has never been used and has no assets or liabilities. He said the trust will eventually be populated with the family's assets.

This pre-established shell company, which has never traded, was acquired off-the-shelf in 2015 from the service provider,” the minister said, suggesting that the company existed before 2015 but had since changed names or ownership – a practice employed by tax specialists who purchase dormant companies to be used by potential clients.

Joseph Muscat has brushed off concerns, arguing that Mizzi will be declaring his trust in Parliament at the first opportunity.

However, questions will be asked as to why Mizzi chose to register his company in Panama, when Malta already offers a top-tier regulatory environment for trusts and holding companies. The Central American country was blacklisted by the European Commission as a tax haven last year over its lack of support for anti-tax evasion and fraud efforts.

“Our citizens can no longer tolerate that certain companies, often the most prosperous, avoid fair tax contributions and that certain tax regimes encourage them on this part,” Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said of the 30 blacklisted tax havens.

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami told a press conference today that the case "stinks" and that it's "unethical and unacceptable for a serving minister to create a trust and open a company in Panama. 

“Mizzi must tell us when this company was set up, because as new details emerge they are placing serious doubts on both Joseph Muscat and Mizzi. We must know whether this company was created after he was made minister,” Fenech Adami said.

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday
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