Panama Papers | Mizzi and Schembri chose Swiss bank’s Panama subsidiary for bank account

Bank account for offshore Panama companies required $100,000 initial deposit and minimum $800,000 annual deposits

Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s choice for bank was the Panama subsidiary of BSI, a Swiss bank
Konrad Mizzi’s and Keith Schembri’s choice for bank was the Panama subsidiary of BSI, a Swiss bank

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s ‘tough  talk’ at the height of 2015’s Swissleaks revelations could be coming back to haunt him. A year after declaring that anyone close to him with a secret Swiss account would have to step down form office, new disclosures from the Panama Papers leaks shows.

His minister Konrad Mizzi and chief of staff Keith Schembri tried to open accounts with the Panama subsidiary of the Swiss bank BSI in December 2015, according to the Panama Papers emails published by The Times. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has described the news as “revolting”.

Keith Schembri is now expected to face a motion of no confidence filed by former Labour MP Marlene Farrugia.

The two men needed bank accounts for the Panama companies opened by Mossack Fonseca, to be housed in offshore trusts they opened in New Zealand.

Their auditors, Nexia BT, inquired with Mossack Fonseca about opening the BSI account, which demanded a $1 million balance. In their reply, Mossack said that BSI Panama would accept an initial deposit of $100,000 and that the account would be closed by the bank if significantly less than $800,000 went into the account throughout the year.

Nexia partner Karl Cini gave the go-ahead to Mossack Fonseca to open the bank accounts for “those two Panama companies” in December 2015.

But that same month, the BSI subsidiary was sold to a Colombian bank. “Rules are changing and we were told that if the clients are not applying to [sic] immigration visas in Panama they won’t open the account,” Mossack Fonseca wrote back.

“I am double checking about this, so it is not negative at all. But, at the same time, on Friday last week I called two other banks and asked them for opening bank accounts for PEPs. They want me to send the info about the clients in order to run a quick pre-check and let us know if they will be in a position of opening the bank account. If you authorise me, I could send the info they are requesting. But, talking with Juan Carlos today, he told me that for this quick pre-check, the banks will need the info he asks in the e-mail below.”

Back in 2015, Muscat said in the wake of the Swissleaks revelations that the news of HSBC’s Banque Privée Geneva did not worry him. “It should be those on the list who have to be scared. I have nothing to fear.”

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