Panama Papers | Offshore became more popular in Malta after 2000

Number-crunching the Panama Papers data: Mossack Fonseca clients favoured the British Virgin Islands for their offshore structures

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Matthew Vella
12 May 2016, 7:30am
Clockwise from left: Michael del Vecchio, who runs Bald Eagle SA, CAC Fiduciary, the flag of Niue, Mossack Fonseca, and EMD Advocates
Clockwise from left: Michael del Vecchio, who runs Bald Eagle SA, CAC Fiduciary, the flag of Niue, Mossack Fonseca, and EMD Advocates

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The Panama Papers and Offshore Leaks database hosted by the International Consortium for International Journalists revealed a total of 741 offshore entities with Malta links, 351 officers that were shareholders, directors or beneficiaries of these entities, and 49 intermediaries spread over hundreds of addresses in Malta.

So what do the numbers say? By far, the most preferable jurisdiction is the British Virgin Islands, which has hosted 462 entities which have a Malta link.

From 1980 to 1994, Panama was the main choice for offshore companies for Mossack Fonseca clients.

Then, after 1995, Niue became a firm favourite: a small, self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, whose offshore legislation was founded in 1994, the same years as the Seychelles. This was the year when Malta went onshore, and Niue adopted laws that were very similar to other international business company jurisdictions. The jurisdiction’s sole tax agreement is a tax information exchange agreement with New Zealand.

After 1996, but especially after 2000, the British Virgin Islands becomes the dominant tax jurisdiction of choice.

What’s more, offshore becomes an increasingly regular business for Maltese intermediaries: of the 741 offshore entities revealed by the ICIJ, 144 were formed between 1980 and 1999. The rest, almost 600, were created in the last 15 years, seemingly increasing with regularity with each year that passes.

Malta’s commercial towns host the bulk of intermediaries that served customers seeking offshore companies: Valletta is the heartland, and next come St Julian’s, Sliema, and Floriana.

The main companies servicing clients seeking offshore were Bald Eagle Services SA, whose Michael Del Vecchio, also works with Maltese lawyer Antonio Depasquale, a former MZPN president, in City Advisory, a BVI registered company. Del Vecchio and Depasquale – who is not connected to Bald Eagle – work together to attract clients to set up companies in Malta. Bald Eagle had 189 entities under its belt.

Next came EMD Advisory Services, which are based on the Valletta Waterfront (72), Prospera Europe, owned by EM Lanzon Invest of Estonia (67), Hamels, which is owned by Zygmunt and Paul Wilamowski of London (45), and Maltese-owned Chetcuti Cauchi.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.