Egrant | Forged signatures point to conspiracy

The inquiry failed to turn up the declarations of trust allegedly showing Michelle Muscat to be the UBO of Egrant Inc.

Pilatus Bank in Ta' Xbiex where the alleged declarations of trust linking Egrant to Michelle Muscat were supposed to have been deposited
Pilatus Bank in Ta' Xbiex where the alleged declarations of trust linking Egrant to Michelle Muscat were supposed to have been deposited

On 20 April 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia claimed on her blog that within a safe at Pilatus Bank were declarations of trust that clearly established that the ultimate beneficial owner of secret Panama company Egrant was Michelle Muscat – wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

The safe, she said, was situated in the bank’s kitchen, after a stint in the CEO’s office. She claimed that the documents had been scanned to the cloud by third parties so that they could not be destroyed by the bank.

The following day, Caruana Galizia uploaded to her blog, text which she claimed to have been taken from two declarations of trust which showed that shares in Egrant Inc were held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for “Mrs Michelle Muscat”. She did not upload a photo, scan or screenshot of the documents but, rather, text that had allegedly been copied from the originals and pasted on her blog.

The text showed that there were at least two shares in Egrant Inc, and that two companies called Dubro Limited S.A. and Aliator S.A. were the nominees in the name of “Ms Michelle Muscat nee Tanti”.

Excerpt of the blog put up by Daphne Caruana Galizia in which she reproduced what was supposed to be the text of the declarations of trust for Egrant
Excerpt of the blog put up by Daphne Caruana Galizia in which she reproduced what was supposed to be the text of the declarations of trust for Egrant

Both documents included the text “The declaration of trust is dated 20 August 2015 and is signed by Jacqueline Alexander as director of Dubro Limited S.A.”

Following Caruana Galizia’s revelations, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil took up the claims as his own battle cry, making it the main focus of the PN’s electoral strategy. He even organised a public protest the following Sunday, calling on the Prime Minister to immediately resign.

Then The Malta Independent director of content, Pierre Portelli, claimed to have seen the documents and he even presented them to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja when called to testify during the inquiry.

During his inquiry, Magistrate Bugeja established that Pilatus Bank confirmed there was a filing cabinet – which many referred to as a safe – inside the bank’s kitchen for some time and that they had been told that sensitive documents were kept inside. But the inquiry failed to turn up the declarations of trust allegedly showing Michelle Muscat to be the UBO of Egrant Inc.

Moreover, the magistrate appointed forensic expert Elisabeth Briggs of Key Forensic Services to examine the documents provided by Portelli.

Coventry-based Key Forensic Services is one of the leading forensic service providers in the UK offering a full range of forensic services to the criminal justice system, defence solicitors/lawyers and private sector companies. Briggs has been employed with KFS for the past 10 years.

Briggs examined the documents twice and concluded that the signature of Jacqueline Alexander on the documents provided did not match Alexander’s signature.

“These declarations of trust are therefore fake documents, forged by parties who are as yet unknown,” the magistrate wrote in the conclusions on the inquiry.

Forensic accountants Harbinson Forensics wrote to the magistrate: “We have not found any digital versions of the Declarations of Trust you have been given which allegedly show that shares in Egrant Inc. are held by Mossack Fonseca nominees for “Mrs Michelle Muscat”. We understand that these were allegedly provided to Pilatus by Brian Tonna when it is alleged he opened a bank account for Egrant Inc. Their absence from the data sets of Nexia BT, Pilatus Bank and the Panama Papers would suggest that the Declarations of Trust you have been given were not created in either Pilatus or Nexia BT or by Mossack Fonseca.”

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