[WATCH] Muscat agrees with banning use of offshore for Maltese citizens

‘We would have to examine the effects of such a measure on the financial services industry’ – Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses the press during a visit to James Caterers factory
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses the press during a visit to James Caterers factory
‘We would have to examine the effects of such a measure on the financial services industry’ – Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said he agrees with the political thrust of comments by education minister Evarist Bartolo, who said Maltese citizens should be barred from opening offshore companies or bank accounts in secretive jurisdictions that do not have tax exchange information agreements.

“I personally agree with Evarist Bartolo… but we would have to examine the effects of such a measure on the financial services industry,” Muscat said. “It’s not a measure that we’re going to rush through.”

Muscat played down a suggestion by MaltaToday that his claim in London of having taking “tough decisions”, where he addressed the London conference against corruption convened by UK prime minister David Cameron, had been empty words.

“They were not empty words. I did take action. Konrad Mizzi resigned from deputy leader and I stripped him of his portfolio, so I took action in his regard,” Muscat said of his minister, who set up an offshore company in Panama in 2015.

“Empty words are those uttered by [PN leader] Simon Busuttil who didn’t speak about corruption under the previous administration, didn’t speak about the divorce issue and abstained on a vote to introduce civil unions.”  

Muscat was speaking to the press after a visit to a new food production factory in Bulebel being developed by James Caterers, in a €16 million investment that is expected to generate around 40 new jobs.

He noted that only three EU countries were present at the London corruption summit, and that some of Malta’s main competitors in the financial services - who he chose not to name - refused to make any concrete commitments.

“I will not take action that risks damaging the financial services industry and endangering thousands of jobs, while our competitors stay put, simply for the sake of appearing holier than thou,” he said. 

He accused the Nationalist Party of “hypocrisy” for defending intermediaries close to the party whose firms had helped beneficiaries set up offshore companies.

Such intermediates – whose firms were named in the Panama Papers leaks-  include PN MP Francis Zammit Dimech and PN executive president Ann Fenech.

“These intermediaries helped people open companies in Panama, and if Busuttil considers it wrong for a person to hold an offshore company then it will follow that the person who helped him also committed wrongdoing. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and if Busuttil wants to be credible then he must take decisions. It will be interesting to find out whether any of the ultimate beneficiaries had donated money to the PN in the past or loaned the party money through the corrupt Cedoli scheme.”

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