Updated | Muscat stands by Mizzi: 'Declaration of assets will be tabled in parliament'

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says news of Konrad Mizzi’s family trust fund in New Zealand, Panama company is ‘shocking’

Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi
Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has seen a copy of the draft declaration of assets which Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi is set to table in parliament, after he confirmed the setting up of a family trust fund set up in New Zealand and a company in Panama.

“I have seen the draft and the trust fund was set up in the past months,” Muscat said, adding that Mizzi will be declaring everything in parliament.

The Prime Minister was addressing parliament after Opposition leader Simon Busuttil stood up, demanding an explanation from Muscat on the “shocking news”.

Busuttil also said that it was shocking that Mizzi had a company registered in Panama, “a country synonymous with tax evasion and money laundering”.

“This company and this trust fund were registered after he became minister … because trust for this government means a bag of money in New Zealand,” he said, adding that Mizzi was set to become Labour's deputy leader tomorrow.

Busuttil said he expected Muscat to deliver a ministerial statement, to which the Prime Minister retorted that he would make a statement on the corruption that went on in Gozo during the works-for-votes case.

Muscat also challenged Busuttil to repeat the allegations that Mizzi "was hiding big money" in Panama outside parliament, to which Busuttil replied he was "only asking".

Later, opposition whip David Agius asked the Speaker to investigate economy minister Chris Cardona after he allegedly offended the opposition on his way out of the Chamber. According to Agius, Cardona called the opposition "imbarazz".

In a reaction issued through his ministry, the Energy Minister said Busuttil should repeat the “irresponsible and misleading” allegations outside parliament in order to start “shouldering responsibility and face the consequences” of his own declarations.

“Busuttil conveniently opted to use his parliamentary privilege to tarnish the Minister’s reputation by referring to sack-loads of cash and dirt and attribute them to Konrad Mizzi,” the ministry said.

In a brief reaction, the PN simply said: “When in a hole, stop digging.”

MaltaToday today confirmed the existence of a family trust which Mizzi registered in New Zealand.

Mizzi, who handles both energy and health portfolios as minister, said that in 2014 he and his wife Sai Mizzi sought advice on asset management and last year opened a trust.

“This will protect our assets and will ensure we realise a fair rate of return. Our assets will be managed by a professional set-up and trustees. My wife and I will not be personally involved in managing this set-up and the beneficiaries of the trust are myself, my wife and my children.”

Mizzi said the trust was still a shell structure with no assets or funds in it.

“The trust is regulated and registered in New Zealand, a stable parliamentary democracy that is one of the world’s most well-governed nations, having ranked in the top tier of indexes on the strength of its democratic institutions, government transparency and lack of corruption.”

Mizzi said that the trust currently owns a shell company that has never been used. “This may be used in the future to hold my existing property and possibly investments. Currently the trust does not have any bank accounts. The trust was set up for long-term family asset management and inheritance.”

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