Large audit firms were regular feature at Castille, Brian Tonna says

PwC, Deloitte, Grant Thorton, KPMG, DF Advocates, RSM and Nexia BT used shared offices at Castille during Joseph Muscat's administration • Brian Tonna insists Egrant was a shelf company that belonged to him

Audit firms were a permanent fixture at Castille with dedicated offices to carry out their business, according to Brian Tonna
Audit firms were a permanent fixture at Castille with dedicated offices to carry out their business, according to Brian Tonna

Large audit firms used shared offices at Castille, where they were able to hold meetings and work together with other legal consultants, former Nexia BT owner Brian Tonna said.

On Wednesday, Tonna continued testifying in parliament about the inner workings of the Office of the Prime Minister during Joseph Muscat's premiership.

He explained to the Public Accounts Committee how legal and audit consultants shared five offices at Castille, which they could book in advance and hold meetings in. 

Consultants from PwC, Deloitte, Grant Thorton, KPMG, DF Advocates and RSM would make use of the offices, Tonna said. 

This explanation was prompted by a question from one of the committee members, who asked Tonna about his so-called "office at Castille".

To this, Tonna said that he would frequent Castille and make use of these shared offices, but he was far from a permanent fixture at OPM.

Tonna described how government would avoid awarding tenders to his audit firm due to the negative press surrounding the company. 

He explained that Nexia BT would win tenders outright, but government would find excuses to avoid finalising the contract.

"I would win a tender, and as soon as I start work on it, they would tell me that they're going to do the work in-house," he said.

Tonna gave an example of a tender he had won to carry out an internal audit with the Ministry for Education, about a year and a half ago.

"It was awarded, but when it came to signing the contract they'd say that they're doing it in-house. It was toxic."

Keith Schembri recommended Nexia BT services to Konrad Mizzi

As the meeting progressed, the topic shifted to Nexia BT's financial services as given to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi. 

Tonna explained how Keith Schembri had told Konrad Mizzi about trusts, and recommended Nexia BT to him to open up a trust himself.

He added that Nexia BT's initial advice to Keith Schembri was to open a trust locally. However, when Tonna went to open a trust with BOV, he received backlash.

"We never gave advice to open trusts and companies outside of Malta, our advice was to do it in Malta. But since the trust system was liked, we then went to do this," he said.

When prompted on Egrant, Tonna continued to assert that this Panamanian offshore was a mere shelf company belonging to himself, and its ownership was never passed on to third parties. 

He also categorically excluded that Egrant's bearer certificate was passed on to anyone else.