Inquiry concluded, nation awaits full publication

Inquiry upon which Muscat staked his career is now with Attorney General

‘The biggest lie in Maltese political history’ - so claimed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in his 21 April 2017 press conference after announcing he had requested a magisterial investigation on the Egrant allegation published by Daphne Caruana Galizia
‘The biggest lie in Maltese political history’ - so claimed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in his 21 April 2017 press conference after announcing he had requested a magisterial investigation on the Egrant allegation published by Daphne Caruana Galizia

The magistrate investigating claims that the Prime Minister’s wife is the owner of a secret offshore company in Panama, has concluded his inquiry and handed his findings to the Attorney General.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja finalised his inquiry on Friday evening, 15 months after launching the inquiry following a complaint by the lawyers of Joseph Muscat to the Commissioner of Police.

A press conference could be expected today for the presentation of the findings of the inquiry, upon which Joseph Muscat had staked his political career, having dubbed the Egrant allegation “the biggest lie in Maltese political history”.

The Attorney General’s office confirmed that it received the report and that it was analysing the “voluminous” report.

The inquiry was based on allegations by the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who claimed that Michelle Muscat was the owner of Egrant, a secret Panamanian offshore company unearthed in the Panama Papers as having been set up by Nexia BT, the auditors who set up Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi’s offshore companies.

When the company’s name first broke in 2016, Egrant was seen as the third, mysterious company formed alongside Konrad Mizzi’s Hearnville Inc. and Keith Schembri’s Tillgate; and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s decision not to sack his energy minister and chief-of-staff, let alone the lack of a police investigation into the Panama Papers affair, turned him into the convenient suspect.

Muscat had always brushed aside the allegations, but matters came to a head when Caruana Galizia, the Malta Independent columnist, published one allegation after the other detailing money transfers from the Azerbaijani first family to an account supposedly held in the name of Michelle Muscat – whom she claimed is the beneficial owner of Egrant.

The proof, she claimed, was a declaration of trust – a document provided by auditors Nexia BT to Pilatus Bank showing Muscat as the UBO of Egrant – that was removed from a safe inside the Whitehall Mansions offices of the bank in March 2016.

Former PN leader Simon Busuttil (pictured) gambled huge on Egrant, stating he had no doubt that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle were the owners of the mysterious offshore company, weaponising the allegations by the late Daphne Caruana Galizia into his central political plank. But while Muscat staked his career on the findings of the Egrant inquiry, Busuttil shied away from the same challenge
Former PN leader Simon Busuttil (pictured) gambled huge on Egrant, stating he had no doubt that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle were the owners of the mysterious offshore company, weaponising the allegations by the late Daphne Caruana Galizia into his central political plank. But while Muscat staked his career on the findings of the Egrant inquiry, Busuttil shied away from the same challenge

Caruana Galizia’s bombshell promised to finally answer a mystery on that scandal, why Muscat had retained his two close allies.

She had claimed that the declaration of trust had been “scanned and uploaded to the cloud” but she only reproduced the text of the alleged document and then refused to testify in the magisterial inquiry investigating the allegations. When she finally made her way to the court to speak to the inquiring magistrate, as did the Russian whistleblower Maria Efimova – who claimed she had seen the document when she worked at Pilatus Bank – no mention was ever made of whether the document truly existed.

Pierre Portelli, the former Malta Independent director who is now head of the Nationalist Party’s media, claims to have seen it.

A magisterial inquiry was launched on a formal complaint to the police filed by Joseph Muscat, who demanded he be investigated.

When that inquiry kicked off, the much-reviled Pilatus Bank said it had given the magistrate access to its CCTV system and IT platform, the suggestion being that any evidence of a $1 million transaction paid to Michelle Muscat from the Aliyev family would have been revealed there and then. Muscat has always insisted any such transaction would be recorded by correspondent banks which processed the international payments.

Magisterial inquiries

Five magisterial inquiries were underway investigating allegations of government corruption following the ICIJ’s explosive leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2016: the inquiry into alleged links between Panama-registered company Egrant and the Prime Minister being held by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, Magistrate Doreen Clarke’s inquiry into the FIAU leak of compliance reports about Pilatus Bank, then Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera’s inquiry into the leak of a preliminary FIAU report on Pilatus Bank to the then Commissioner of Police Michael Cassar in April 2016, Magistrate Galea Sciberras’ inquiry into Keith Schembri and Brian Tonna of Nexia BT and Magistrate Josette Demicoli’s inquiry into allegations of money laundering by Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman through Pilatus Bank.

Reactions to the conclusion of the Egrant Inquiry

In a statement yesterday, the prime minister noted the announcement by the Attorney General that the inquiry into allegations about him and his wife is now concluded and passed over to the Office of the Attorney General.

The prime minister asked for the inquiry to be published as soon as he concluded his internal review, and said that he would give his reactions immediately upon publication.

The Nationalist Party also issued a statement noting the magistrate’s conclusion.

“The PN expects that the inquiry’s conclusion are published in complete transparency,” the statement read, saying they would comment further when it is published.

On Twitter, Nationalist MP and former Opposition leader, Simon Busuttil, said that it is of public interest that the inquiry is published in full.

Maria Efimova also took to Twitter to comment, saying that the prime minister seems to already have a comment prepared. Efimova was the whistleblower who told Daphne Caruana Galizia that she had seen documents while working at Pilatus bank that show how the Panama company Egrant belonged to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s wife, Michelle.

Infrastructure minister Ian Borg said on Facebook that he remained four-square behind Muscat, whom he described as a courageous man who cherishes truth and integrity. Borg said he hoped “the day had come to prove, black on white, the truth that Muscat had always insisted upon.”

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