Nexia told Mizzi emails on 17 Black and Macbridge ‘had nothing to do with him’

Minister implicated in Panama Papers tells court in libel case that he only found out about mystery companies 17 Black and Macbridge from the media

Konrad Mizzi said he had been assured by Nexia BT that emails referring to his offshore company Hearnville Inc had nothing to do with him
Konrad Mizzi said he had been assured by Nexia BT that emails referring to his offshore company Hearnville Inc had nothing to do with him

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi has told a court that auditors Nexia BT told him the offshore companies 17 Black and Macbridge had “nothing to do with me”.

Mizzi was grilled on the witness stand by lawyer Peter Fenech, defence counsel to the estate of the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in a libel case the minister had filed against her.

The Dubai companies 17 Black and Macbridge were recognised as target clients of Mizzi’s offshore company in Panama, Hearnville Inc., according to leaked emails from his auditors Nexia BT. The leaked documents had shown Hearnville had been described as the intended recipient of €150,000 a month from Macbridge alone. Even more recently, the ownership of 17 Black has been reported to be Electrogas shareholder and Tumas group magnate Yorgen Fenech.

Mizzi said that the first time he saw the names of the companies 17 Black and Macbridge was on the journalist’s blog before the 2017 elections. He had asked Nexia BT about the companies and was told “not to worry” by Brian Tonna. “’Don’t worry. Nothing to do with you’” Tonna had told me,” Mizzi said.

Fenech then asked Mizzi how a professional financial advisor could have implicated him in such an email without his authorisation, with Mizzi saying that the email was “confusing”.

“It refers to different things. Nexia assured me that I had no involvement, direct or indirect, with those companies. I reaffirm that I got to know of the email in the media. No one had spoken to me about it.”

He insisted that there were never plans for him to receive the amount of money being stated. “It’s useless asking me about an email I did not write myself. I was assured that I had no relations with those companies.”

Fenech pressed on, asking Mizzi whether he knew who the owners of 17 Black and Macbridge were. At this point, Mizzi’s lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici objected, describing the line of questioning as “a fishing expedition with large trawlers”. Fenech replied, saying that the minister had set up his offshore company five days after the 2013 general election.

But Mizzi insisted that he had personally acquired the company Hearnville in June 2015, and not in 2013 as had been stated.

Fenech reminded Mizzi that the code of ethics for MPs prohibited ministers from doing private work. “Why did you open the company?” the lawyer asked.

Mizzi reiterated that his Panama company was acquired for a trust he opened in New Zealand, Roturua Trust, which was intended for a family investment, insisted that it was Nexia that advised him to open a trust in New Zealand rather than in Malta.

Mifsud Bonnici then told the court that the source of the Panama Papers documents was dubious, and not permissible in court, as per procedural law. The magistrate said that Nexia BT’s Karl Cini will be summoned to confirm the authenticity of the documents.

The case continues on 7 March when Karl Cini will be asked to testify about the documents.

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