Panama Papers | Edward Scicluna unaware of hotel group’s BVI holding

Finance minister Edward Scicluna was a non-executive director of a hotel group that has been revealed to have a shareholding in an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Edward Scicluna has denied being aware of any offshore company used by a hotel group of which he was a non-executive director
Edward Scicluna has denied being aware of any offshore company used by a hotel group of which he was a non-executive director

Finance minister Edward Scicluna was a non-executive director of a hotel group that has been revealed to have a shareholding in an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The data published by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists from the Mossack Fonseca clients’ database shows that Evergreen Travel was registered in the British Virgin Islands on 6 July, 2001, via the intermediary services of another tax haven’s main trust company, the First Names Group.

While First Names appears as the nominee shareholder of Evergreen Travel, it is Hotel San Antonio plc that appears as the sole Maltese shareholder in the offshore company.

Scicluna, who made his entry in politics when he was elected as a Labour MEP in 2009, before becoming finance minister in 2013, was appointed on the board of the Hotel Mercure, now San Antonio, as an outside director in mid-2000.

Scicluna said his appointment resulted from a regulatory requirement in connection with the hotel’s pending public bond issue.

“The hotel at that time already had in place a franchise agreement with Accor and a time-share operation with local and foreign partners. I was never involved in the time-share operation and that could explain why I was not aware of the BVI account,” Scicluna told MaltaToday yesterday.

“My job as director was to ensure, as in fact I did, that all incomes from all operations, including time-share, were consolidated in the accounts of the San Antonio, audited, taxed accordingly and made public.”

Scicluna stayed on as director up until his appointment as finance minister in March 2013. That year he was paid €873 for his role.
San Antonio hotel’s former owner, Tony Zahra, who today is president of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, referred MaltaToday’s questions to the DB Group, which now owns the hotel. Zahra’s organisation exited San Antonio some three years ago.

“Hotel San Antonio Ltd has no accounts in Panama or any links whatsoever to it,” a spokesman for the company said. “And it never did. Evergreen Travel Ltd is a foreign company with shareholding wholly-owned by Hotel San Antonio Ltd and the financials of Evergreen Travel Ltd are fully consolidated in Hotel San Antonio Ltd according to law.

“The only reason for this set up is to ensure that timeshare buyers have their rights safeguarded and hypothecated in favour of a trustee. This is a requirement and a normal practice in the timeshare industry.”

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