Malta in the web of Maugeri

Malta’s financial and police authorities have so far shown no sense of urgency to investigate thoroughly the role played by Maltese institutions, companies and individuals in the Salvatore Maugeri Foundation scandal.

In Milan, inquiring magistrates working on the case have discovered that out of €15 million funneled out of Italy to Malta, only €3 million were used for buying patents in nanotechnology as had been declared publicly. The other €12 million were in fake contracts, as a means to get money out of Italy illegally.

Twelve days ago, the Committee of experts on the evaluation of anti-money laundering measures and the financing of terrorism, the Council of Europe said that Malta has most of the right laws in place but they are not being enforced sufficiently and effectively.

This report came out in the same days that Malta was being mentioned in the Maugeri scandal. Malta's reputation as a financial services centre is suffering because of the ease with which locally-based companies SIB Ltd and SIB Laboratories Ltd, the Bank of Valletta, the University of Malta and the Malta Enterprise have been used by the Salvatore Maugeri Foundation officials being investigated for getting at least €70 million out of Italy to overseas accounts in several countries, including Malta.

There are strong indications that Malta has been used as part of a complex web involving commercial companies, banks, universities, research institutes and persons with powerful political connections not only to launder money for tax evasion purposes but also to carry out trade away from the public eye by private and public companies based in India, Italy, Malta, Russia and Iran. The Maugeri officials under investigation have admitted that they engage well-connected persons to "open doors for them". In the case of Malta they engaged Dr David Gonzi, the son of the Prime Minister as company secretary of SIB Ltd since the middle of last year.

Inquiring magistrates in Milan have found that €15 million were passed through the Bank of Valletta by Periplo SA to SIB Laboratories Ltd based in Malta. In its financial statements for the period between 22 August 2008 and 31 December 2009 SIB Laboratories Ltd says about Periplo SA: "Disclosure has not been made in these financial statements of the identity of the company's controlling party as required by IAS24 party disclosure. Management has explained that they do not have the appropriate level of authorisation to disclose the identity of the controlling party."  Reports about the scandal have been referring to Malta as a country where money laundering can take place with impunity. Surely that undermines Malta's reputation as a financial services centre and steps must be taken to enforce the necessary laws to ensure that Malta is not used for money laundering."

Dr David Gonzi's resignation from his post of company secretary of SIB Ltd raises serious questions, even though he has tried to play down the importance of his post and the work he has done for the company since July 2011. The post of company secretary carries lot of responsibilities with it where money laundering, VAT and the obligations of the company to operate legally are concerned.

SIB Limited's annual return as at 31 December 2009 Company shows 100% shareholding in Periplo Srl of Milan and SIB Laboratories registered in Malta. Italian investigators have discovered that Periplo was used by Maugeri officials to pass on €15 million to SIB Laboratories Ltd via the Bank of Valletta.

In July 2011, Mario Barthet resigned as director and was replaced by Peralta Custodian Ltd and Dr James Scerri Worley was replaced as Secretary by Dr David Gonzi.

SIB Limited's annual return dated September 2011 shows Peralta Custodian Ltd and Gianfranco Parricchi as Directors and Dr David Gonzi as Company Secretary.

This week, the University of Malta said it had only received €11,771 from SIB Laboratories Ltd and insisted that it had entered into agreements with SIB and the Maugeri Foundation in good faith and after conducting its own enquiries concerning the other parties involved, which did not reveal anything irregular. The University said it only learned of potential problems through the press and has since suspended its agreements with the two entities, pending further investigations by the competent authorities.

Malta Enterprise said on Wednesday that SIB Laboratories Ltd had uploaded its old logo in the useful links page on the company's website "without the Corporation's consent and thus is no indication of any relationship between the companies and Malta Enterprise".

Parliament was told on Wednesday that the police have so far not been asked by the Italian authorities in this investigation. Why do they have to wait for requests from Italy to take the initiative and investigate the local involvement of individuals in this Maugeri scandal?

The Bank of Valletta has remained totally silent on this case so far. Why?

The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, flanked by the Malta Financial Services Authority, should have already started investigating the involvement of Maltese individuals, private companies and public institutions in this Maugeri scandal. Why have they not done so?

Evarist Bartolo is shadow minister for education.