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PN president Ann Fenech: legal firm’s Panama connection, no bearing on me
6 March 2016, 8:00am
MaltaToday relied on a database containing over 1 million names dumped online by British coder Danniel O’Huiginn, whose project helped call attention to offshore money that uses Panama to hide ownership and money trails. The database was procured by O’Huiginn after hacking the publicly available Panama online registry of companies.
One firm listed as the director of a Panama company whose agent is also listed as Mossack Fonseca, is Fenlex Corporate Services Ltd – the legal firm of whose partner is Ann Fenech, the PN’s executive committee president.
Fenech yesterday told this newspaper she had no knowledge of the company Timber Trading Capital Inc., which was incorporated in 2003 with Fenlex, Tonio Fenech (not the MP) and Karl Diacono as directors; the agent for the company was Mossack Fonseca. Another company formed in Panama in 2004 with Fenlex, Karl Diacono and John Borg Olivier as directors, was Union Private Ltd Inc.
Fenech expressed surprise at the existence of the two companies.
Although there is no smoking gun of irregularity, the interest in Panama and how Maltese firms use it to hide beneficial owners and their activities, and to minimise their tax ,is peaking.
Earlier this week, Fenech lambasted energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, who admitted owning offshore companies in Panama which are now politically embarrassing Joseph Muscat.
“Panama was not blacklisted in 2003,” Fenech replied when MaltaToday asked her whether her legal firm’s connection to the Central American microstate’s tax jurisdiction could hamstring her criticism.
But Fenech said the existence of these two companies in the Panama registry, did not weaken her statements.
“You are asking me about something I did not even know about because I simply do not do this work. Fenlex is a trust and fiduciary services provider, managed and administered separately from the firm licensed by the Malta Financial Services Authority and provides such services to non-residents.
“I have now checked with the CEO of Fenlex and he informs me that Fenlex is a director of only one company registered in Panama in 2003 – that is a very long time ago and Panama was not blacklisted then. So the answer is simple – I have no problem whatsoever still stating that a minister of state should not set up a company which is beyond scrutiny after having become a minister.”
Even Konrad Mizzi’s handlers, Nexia BT, made use of Mossack Fonseca’s services to register a company for him in Panama – Hearnville – which ostensibly served to hide his ultimate beneficiary status.
Instead, the company was 100% owned by Orion Trust Ltd, of New Zealand, an accountancy firm that ran his own offshore trust in New Zealand.
The classic financial set-up has been under fire as the minister was accused of having planned to minimise his tax exposure on his assets, or even hide his beneficiary status for any money paid into the company’s bank account.
The revelations have galvanized the Nationalist Party, which will today organise a protest outside Castille Square, right beneath the office of the Prime Minister.
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