Swissleaks PEP list will not be published despite Joseph Muscat's pledge

Publication of Swissleaks data would be illegal, says finance minister

The HSBC private bank in Switzerland that helped clients set up secretive bank accounts
The HSBC private bank in Switzerland that helped clients set up secretive bank accounts

Three years ago, the Prime Minister promised to publish the names of politically exposed persons (PEPs) that featured in the Swissleaks list of HSBC Geneva bank account holders but Finance Minister Edward Scicluna now says publication will be illegal.

It will be in breach of the Official Secrets Act to publish the names of politically exposed persons who featured in the Swiss Leaks list, Edward Scicluna has told Parliament.

The Finance Minister’s reply means that a pledge made three years ago by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, will effectively not be kept.

The Swiss Leaks data was published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2015. It contained a list of HSBC Geneva bank account holders, including Maltese clients who held €600 million between them.

Read also: HSBC Swiss leak reveals over €600 million in Maltese cash

The list contained the names of former Nationalist Cabinet ministers Ninu Zammit and Michael Falzon, who owned undeclared accounts and benefitted from Maltese tax amnesties over the years. It also featured the names of former Enemalta chairperson Tancred Tabone, who is facing court charges over bribery in the oil scandal uncovered by MaltaToday in 2013.

When the data was revealed three years ago, Muscat had promised to publish the names of all politically exposed persons on the list. Since then, the standard reply from the government, including as recently as last March, has been that investigations by the tax authorities into Maltese account holders are still underway.

Read also: Muscat pledges to chase hidden bank accounts everywhere, not just Switzerland

However, in Parliament on Tuesday, Scicluna appears to have closed the door shut on that pledge.

Replying to a request by Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina for the PEP list to be tabled in Parliament, the Finance Minister said he was informed by the Tax Commissioner that the information “could not be given” because it would breach the Official Secrets Act.

In 2015, Muscat had said that anyone holding a secret Swiss account would have to step down, a promise that came back to haunt him a year later when the Panama Papers revelations showed how his chief of staff Keith Schembri and minister Konrad Mizzi opened companies in Panama and made several attempts in secretive jurisdictions to open bank accounts.

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