Update 2 | Mizzi publishes ‘evidence’ to counter falsehood claims over New Zealand trust

Minister Konrad Mizzi's spokesperson says discrepancy between questionnaires sent by Nexia BT to Mossack Fonseca and by Mossack Fonseca to New Zealand accountants could be due to misinterpretation on behalf of Panamanian law firm 

Minister Konrad Mizzi has published a document as “evidence” against a newspaper report that claimed that he didn’t list “estate planning” as the reason for setting up his New Zealand trust.

The Times of Malta report claims that a due diligence questionnaire submitted by Mizzi’s financial advisors Nexia BT had left the box on the sheet marked “estate planning generally” unticked.

The trusts’ objectives were listed as “asset protection”, “confidentiality and privacy” and “family succession planning”, while Nexia reportedly also ticked boxes marked “do not audit” and “do not prepare accounts”.

The questionnaire, reportedly sourced from the Panama Papers, is marked with the logo of Bentley’s Chartered Accountants, a New Zealand accounting firm that owns the trustee company Orion Trust – that manages Mizzi’s trust.  

Mizzi published evidence that Nexia had ticked “estate planning generally” as an objective its questionnaire that it had sent to Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

A spokesperson for Mizzi told MaltaToday that his hypothesis was that Mossack Fonseca could have interpreted Mizzi’s properties in Malta and London as falling under “asset protection” rather than “estate planning generally”.

Therefore, the questionnaire it sent to Bentley’s would have had “estate planning generally” unticked, without Mizzi having green-lighted it.

The two questionnaires also differ in another regard. While the one reportedly sent by Nexia BT to Mossack Fonseca lists the Panamanian firm itself as a trustee, the one sent by Mossack Fonseca to Bentley’s lists Orion as a trustee.

“Orion Trust hadn’t entered the scene when Nexia had filled that questionnaire on behalf of Mizzi, and the rest was managed by Mossack Fonseca,” Mizzi’s spokesperson said.

The 'evidence' published by minister Konrad Mizzi
The 'evidence' published by minister Konrad Mizzi
The documentation published by the Times
The documentation published by the Times
The documentation published by the Times
The documentation published by the Times

Mizzi this morning sued the Times for libel and accused the paper of “systematically attacking him”.

A signed document by Orion Trust declares that they are the trustees
A signed document by Orion Trust declares that they are the trustees

He said that the Nexia BT questionnaire is proof that the Times of Malta lied when it had stated that the unticked box was found in a due diligence questionnaire submitted by Nexia.

“I have reiterated consistently in the past weeks that the Rotorua Trust and related structure was solely intended as a family trust for assets and investments and whose beneficiaries are my wife and my children,” he said. “The prospective investments include the leveraging of the existing house in London and future investments which will seek to attain a reasonable return for the beneficiaries.”

“The Times of Malta chose to create confusion by misquoting and falsely attributing authorship of documents found in the Panama Papers. This latest lie cannot be merely dismissed as amateurish journalism, but must be considered as part of a wider coordinated attack across multiple channels aimed at character assassination.”

The Nationalist Party also jumped into the fray, arguing that the Times’ story was proof that Mizzi had lied when he said that he had opened the trust to manage his assets.   

“It is now clear that the Prime Minister is an accomplice to Mizzi and [OPM chief of staff] Keith Schembri, as he had defended them and repeated their lies,” the PN said in a statement. “Their barefaced lies have now exceeded all limits, and they have now become a threat to democracy.”

Mizzi this morning argued that the Times’ story is “another attempt to invent new angles, which clearly do not exist”.

“It is evident that this will continue and in light of the coordinated attack across multiple channels aimed at character assassination,” he said. “Different sources and websites will continue to rehash flawed and untrue stories.

“It is comical that over the past weeks so many contradictory and false motivations were presented for the trust set-up which included inexistent commissions, monies from Azerbaijan, millions allegedly earned before entering politics, benefits from GASOL share transfer, alleged commissions from the agreement with Shanghai Electric Power among many others.

 “This strategy demonstrates that a character assassination campaign directed at myself is being pursued by various quarters, including the Nationalist Party, so as to dampen the results being obtained by this Government in various fields.

 “This seems to be the only way left for the PN after that the Government has achieved excellent results in many sectors such as energy, health, civil liberties and employment.

 “I am committed to work harder than ever to accelerate delivery of projects and initiatives for the benefit of all.”

Konrad Mizzi was stripped off his energy and health portfolios after revelations in the Panama Papers that he and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri owns offshore Panamanian-registered company.

However, he maintained his Cabinet position and is now a “minister within the Office of the Prime Minister”, entrusted with “special projects” such as the completion of the LNG power station.   

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