OLAF has opened investigation into EU leaders in Panama Papers scandal

The EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF is investigating several European politicians and high-ranking civil servants for tax evasion, using information leaked in the Panama Papers scandal

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Matthew Vella
9 June 2017, 7:56am
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler
OLAF chief Giovanni Kessler
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating several European politicians and high-ranking civil servants for tax evasion, using information leaked in the Panama Papers scandal according to French newspaper La Tribune.

OLAF found it to contain no fewer than 17 leading European political and administrative personalities.

But according to German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche, the organisation has so far opened six investigations. “Other investigations may follow,” the paper said.

It is unclear whether the OLAF investigation is also concentrating on Maltese tourism minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, both of whom were found to have opened secret Panama companies connected to New Zealand trusts.

OLAF actually only investigates cases of embezzlement of EU funds.

With the exception of Dutch former Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, the names of those under investigation or otherwise linked to the scandal are not known.

OLAF’s Director-General Giovanni Kessler said he was pleased that “so few cases” had been raised and added that, as far as he knew, “no EU member state had carried out any such checks”.

Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit made its own preliminary reports to the Commissioner of Police, flagging the possibility of a connection between the Panama companies and a Dubai company receiving funds from the Armada LNG tanker’s owners. But the selective allegations were taken from an unfinished FIAU report, and the Maltese contractors of the LNG tanker have denied allegations of paying kickbacks.  

In June 2016 the European Parliament created a committee of inquiry into the Panama Papers, chaired by German Christian Democrat MEP Werner Langen (EPP). In February, the committee visited Malta where they spoke to Konrad Mizzi.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will address a plenary of the European Parliament on Wednesday that will debate the rule of law in Malta following the Panama Papers fallout.

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.