[WATCH] Muscat meets Azerbaijani minister, denies fresh Panama allegations

Joseph Muscat denies allegations that Azerbaijani bank account had been used to transfer large sums of money to Panama companies 

Joseph Muscat meets Azerbaijan's foreign affairs minister
Joseph Muscat meets Azerbaijan's foreign affairs minister
Joseph Muscat meets Azerbaijan's foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov. Photo: Chris Mangion
Joseph Muscat meets Azerbaijan's foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov. Photo: Chris Mangion

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has officially denied allegations that large sums of money have been transferred from an Azerbaijani bank account to the three offshore Panama companies that were set up by Nexia BT.

Asked by MaltaToday ahead of a meeting at Castille with a delegation from Azerbaijan to react to the allegations, published on the blog of Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Muscat curtly responded twice: “I deny the allegations”.

Muscat was speaking ahead of a meeting with Azerbaijan’s foreign affairs minister Elmar Mammadyarov who is in Malta for a three-day visit. He was accompanied by Elshad Nassirov, the vice-president of SOCAR – Azerbaijan’ state oil and gas company and one of the partners in the consortium constructing Malta’s LNG power station.

Muscat was accompanied to the meeting by foreign affairs minister George Vella.

Muscat said that he wanted to use the occasion to reaffirm Malta’s strong bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, “despite local criticism”.

In his capacity as head of the country currently at the helm of the EU presidency, he also pledged the EU’s commitment to forging a new comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan to replace the 1996 cooperation deal.

Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan wants to cooperate further with the EU on “political and security” issues and brushed off criticism at his country.

“If we get criticised, it's a sure sign that we're working, they don't criticise those who don't work."

Mammadyarov’s visit comes as Daphne Caruana Galizia has pledged to publish proof this week that a bank account of a company owned by politically exposed people in Azerbaijan was used to transfer large sums of money to offshore Panama companies owned by minister Konrad Mizzi, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, and a third company Egrant.

Caruana Galizia has also claimed she has discovered who owns the mysterious Egrant, which Nexia BT boss Brian Tonna has claimed ownership of.

The Nationalist Party has in recent days strongly hinted its conviction that Egrant belongs to Joseph Muscat. In a statement issued today as a reaction to a Labour press conference, the PN said that “the only threat to the country is called Dr Egrant”.

Both Mizzi and Schembri have sued Caruana Galizia for libel over her allegations.

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