Panama Papers | Three Maltese MEPs nominated for committee of inquiry

Panama Papers inquiry committee could summon Konrad Mizzi, sole EU minister to have been found to have opened offshore company while in office

MEPs Alfred Sant, Roberta Metsola, and David Casa are nominated to sit on the Panama Papers committee
MEPs Alfred Sant, Roberta Metsola, and David Casa are nominated to sit on the Panama Papers committee

Three Maltese MEPs have been nominated to sit on a European Parliament committee that will hold an inquiry into the Panama Papers.

Alfred Sant, head of the Labour Party EP delegation, is being nominated by the S&D Group. Nationalist MEPs David Casa and Roberta Metsola have been nominated by the European People’s Party.

Casa will be appointed by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) together with Roberta Metsola as a representative of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). 

The inquiry committee will “investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, its powers, numerical strength and term of office.”

The committee will consist of 65 MEPs and it will have a year to draw up a report. Its first meeting is expected before the summer break, and on 23 June the European Parliament will decide which MEPs will sit on the committee.

On 3 April 2016, the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) uncovered 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a global law firm based in Panama, also known as the “Panama Papers” scandal.

The records apparently show that Mossack Fonseca created more than 214,000 offshore entities in 21 jurisdictions considered as tax havens connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories. In Malta, government minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri were found to have opened offshore companies in Panama while in office.

One of the MEPs who will sit on the new Panama Papers committee in the European Parliament said the committee is gearing up for an inquiry into the creation of letterbox companies in Malta and how they are used by European businesses to minimise tax payments back home.

Sven Giegold, a German MEP for the Green Party, is adamant that the 65-member committee carry out a serious inquiry into the way beneficial owners are allowed to hide their identities, before summoning people like minister Konrad Mizzi – the only EU minister to have set up a Panama offshore company through Mossack Fonseca to hide his beneficial ownership while in office – to answer to the inquiry.

 “For me the study of documents is important before actually summoning individuals, because I’ve seen a lot of parliamentary hearings that have been toothless,” Giegold told MaltaToday.

 “You can only have a tough hearing if you have gathered all the knowledge beforehand. For me a parliamentary inquiry is not a show where you invite the most prominent witness just to get maximum media effect. But to establish the effects of wrongdoing. So this is the second step, but of course, Mizzi should consider preparing for an invitation.”

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