[WATCH] Pana MEPs: Malta’s tax regime must be more transparent

Pana committee MEPs admit Konrad Mizzi's, Keith Schembri's set-ups 'look like money laundering', say Schembri's no-show a 'scandal'

MEPs Jeppe Kofod and Werner Langen address a press conference. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
MEPs Jeppe Kofod and Werner Langen address a press conference. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

Malta’s taxation system must become more transparent and its beneficial schemes for corporations investigated further, the MEPs heading the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee have said.

“I do not want to condemn Malta or the Maltese people, and it is no longer a declared tax haven as it was 22 years ago, but the system must become more transparent,” German MEP and PANA committee chair Werner Langen said.

Danish MEP Jeppe Kofod said that Malta’s beneficial corporate taxation schemes must “be investigated further” and that the country should set up a public registry for ultimate beneficiary owners of companies.

Jeppe Kofod : Danish MEP. Photo by James Bianchi/MediaToday
Jeppe Kofod : Danish MEP. Photo by James Bianchi/MediaToday

“We looked at Malta’s taxation system as a whole, and how well European legislation has been implemented and enforced. It is clear that there is still a lot of work to do,” he said. “We have no conclusions yet, but we will digest this information and reach a conclusion later this year.”

European Greens’ MEP Sven Giegold said that the committee’s meeting with former Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit chief Manfred Galdes clearly revealed that the number of prosecutions and funds frozen due to suspicious transactions in Malta is “extremely low”.

“There is a too-large closeness between those who work in the public interest and those who work in their private interests, regardless which side of the political fence.”

The MEPs were addressing a press conference at Europe House at the end of a day-long fact-finding mission to Malta in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal that erupted last year. The committee did not just investigate the specific scandal, but also the tax evasion, tax avoidance and money laundering it revealed.

“The Panama Papers is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole offshore world out there and other law firms who offer the same services as Mossack Fonseca and we want to uncover the whole thing,” Kofod said.

‘Schembri’s no-show a scandal, set-ups look like money laundering’

The MEPs had harsh words for the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, who rejected the committee’s request for a meeting despite being implicated in the Panama Papers scandal, along with minister Konrad Mizzi.

“He said in a letter to us that he has doubts about our mandate, which for us is a scandal,” Langen said. “We were directly elected to the European Parliament, and he doesn’t want to participate. It is not possible to accept this.”

Photo : James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo : James Bianchi/MediaToday

Kofod said that the committee will evaluate Schembri’s response back home, noting that it is not the first time the committee’s requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Facing questions from the press, the MEPs refused to be drawn into the local political debate surrounding the Panama Papers.

Langen admitted that Mizzi’s and Schembri’s set-ups “look like money laundering”, but that it is still too unclear to tell.

Werner Langen : German MEP
Werner Langen : German MEP

 “Mizzi made a very clear case that his set-up was only related to family affairs but we must look at this over the entire time period and context, and we must be extremely careful before drawing any final conclusions over what it actually means.

“We don’t have documentary proof of money laundering and we need more information before drawing conclusions. We will dig deeper.

“We are not here to allocate specific blame to anyone but to come up with clear information so as to gain support from the European Parliament and send a clear message to EU member states and institutions.”

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