Update 2 | Mizzi says Panama-Gasol link ‘fictitious and malicious’

Mizzi trustees in New Zealand took ownership of Panama company Hearnville on same day of Gasol share transfer • newspaper questions timing but minister refuses interview on subject

Energy and health minister is under pressure over the formation of an offshore company in Panama
Energy and health minister is under pressure over the formation of an offshore company in Panama

Energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi has refused to be interviewed by the Malta Independent over new information the newspaper claims it has over the incorporation of his offshore company in Panama.

Mizzi is under pressure over the formation of the company Hearnville Inc, which is owned by the New Zealand firm Orion Trustees on his behalf, to manage his offshore trust in New Zealand, whose beneficiaries are his family.

The newspaper sought to question Mizzi over the timing of the transfer of Hearnville from ATC Administrators Inc. of Panama – which acquired the company on his behalf – to Orion Trust, the trustees of his Rotorua Trust on 22 July 2015.

But Mizzi has said that the allegations are baseless and that the two occurrences were completely unrelated, saying the newspaper was invited readers to infer wrongdoing.

The newspaper says that on that same day, Gasol plc – one of the shareholders in the ElectroGas consortium, which is building Malta’s 200MW natural gas plant – sold its 30% share over to the consortium’s other partners, GEM Holdings, SOCAR of Azerbaijan, and Siemens.

Gasol plc, which was for a short time listed on the London Stock Exchange, had been at the time controlled by a Seychelles-based company, African Gas Development Corporation Ltd. Gasol transferred its shareholding in the Electrogas consortium to the remaining three partners on 22 July 2015, a share transfer document shows.

Hearnville was passed on to Orion Trust, on behalf of Mizzi, on 22 July 2015.

Mizzi reaction

Mizzi said the report was “fictitious and malicious” by combining two distinct occurrences that were unrelated, to make readers infer wrongdoing without making direct allegations.

“The absolute lack of evidence or attempt to verify or otherwise substantiate its contrived assertions shows the bad faith of the newspaper and its method of pursuing the story,” Mizzi said.

He said the bad faith was immediately apparent when it sought a recorded interview to present documented evidence. “The sole aim of the paper was to ambush [me] and conceitedly attempt to apportion guilt by association. This is nothing short of gutter journalism which serves no purpose in furthering the public interest.”

Mizzi said that if the newspaper was convinced of the evidence, it should make the facts public. “The Malta Independent had no interest in seeking the truth but simply to sensationalize unrelated and distinct events through a forced and artificial connection.”

Mizzi also said that PN leader Simon Busittil had piggy-backed on the report, accusing him of acting in tandem with the newspaper’s columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“I welcome legitimate, accurate and fair criticism and inquiry and respect the media’s right to freedom of expression and the freedom of the media more generally. However, free speech is only informative if accurate. It is not in the public interest for the public to be misled.”

Mizzi has subjected himself to a full tax audit on his offshore structures.

PN sets store by BVI 'link'

In a statement issued Sunday, Mizzi referred to reports carried in PN organ Il-Mument reporting that the investment partners of Vitals Global Healthcare, the company that will run three former state hospitals, had their parent company registered in the British Virgin Islands – the newspaper drew a link with the fact that the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri has admitted owning a BVI-registered company.

BVI has over a million companies in its registry.

“The PN is trying to attack foreign direct investment which will see a €200 million investment in the Gozo General Hospital and St Luke’s Hospital which will improve people’s lives and create jobs. The latest attack is a clear indication that a possible future PN administration is a threat to investment and further economic growth,” Mizzi said.

“The PPP with Vitals Global Healthcare will transform Gozo General Hospital into a modern general hospital with an adjoining geriatrics and rehabilitation centre and a world class medical school operated by Bart’s. The PPP will also add beds and transition Karen Grech into a geriatrics hospital and also create a new rehabilitation centre and dermatology centre at St Luke’s Hospital. These will be complemented by a medical centre focused on medical tourism.”

Mizzi said the government has committed itself to publish these contracts. 

 

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