Egrant | Simon Busuttil and Pierre Portelli unlikely to face criminal action

Former PN leader and Independent director who gave magistrate fabricated copies of declaration of trust were not mentioned by name in the unpublished part of the inquiry in which the magistrate suggested what further action should be taken

PN head of media Pierre Portelli
PN head of media Pierre Portelli

The former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil and the PN’s new head of media, Pierre Portelli, have not been indicated directly by name in the Egrant inquiry for further criminal investigation, MaltaToday is informed.

Busuttil can still be called in for questioning by the police over certain findings highlighted by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, sources close to the inquiry said.

The former Malta Independent head of content Portelli, who is the current Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia’s right-hand man, finds himself in the same water as Busuttil.

Sources said the pair were not mentioned by name in the unpublished part of the inquiry in which the magistrate suggested what further action should be taken, and against whom.

Although the magistrate made indirect reference to them, there is room for legal interpretation as to whether criminal action is warranted against Busuttil and Portelli, the sources said. “Simon Busuttil and Pierre Portelli could be called in for questioning by the police but it is unlikely grounds will be found for the police to proceed any further,” the sources said.

Portelli was the only witness to provide Magistrate Aaron Bugeja with print-outs of the alleged declarations of trust which the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia said showed that the secret Panamanian company Egrant Inc. belonged to Michelle Muscat, the Prime Minister’s wife.

A 15-month-long inquiry established that the documents were forged and the signatures falsified. The inquiry also found no evidence to link Egrant to the Prime Minister and his wife.

Portelli has insisted it was his duty to take the documents to the magistrate once they landed on his lap. At the time, Portelli had also interviewed the former Pilatus Bank employee Maria Efimova, who was the source for Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Efimova later told MEPs that she was not Caruana Galizia’s primary source.

Portelli has not revealed who the source of the documents was.

But the sources said the inquiry has pointed a strong accusing finger towards the former police inspector Jonathan Ferris, who was later sacked from the FIAU after the June 2017 election, and Maria Efimova, calling for them to be investigated by the police.

On Sunday, Ferris, a former investigator at the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, was reported to have told the magistrate that during the course of one of the police investigations on a Ponzi scheme that embroiled John Dalli, the former EU commissioner would have told him that Egrant belonged to the Labour Party. Ferris on Sunday told MaltaToday he does not recall the details of this claim, while Dalli has denied knowing anything about Egrant.

[Editorial note: it was stated in the Wednesday print edition that Ferris made reference to the $1 million transaction during the inquiry. His lawyers have denied this].

The Egrant inquiry found no evidence of an alleged $1 million transaction allegedly made from the Pilatus Bank account of one of the companies belonging to the daughters of Azerbaijan’s president, to Egrant Inc.

In the 50-page conclusions to the 1,500 page inquiry verbale that have been published so far, Russian national Maria Efimova is indicated as having given Bugeja four different versions on the $1 million transaction.

Two of the versions were in complete contrast, with Efimova first telling the magistrate that she had not seen documentation pertaining to the transaction and later saying she had seen payment instructions.

The inquiry revealed that no company by the name Egrant had a bank account at Pilatus. No link was established between the Muscats and Egrant, and no transactions took place between accounts belonging to Azeri politically exposed persons and the Prime Minister, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

Right of reply

In today's MaltaToday edition you state thus under the article Egrant Inquiry: "Ferris, a former analyst at the FIAU, is understood to have told the Magistrate that he had seen the  $1 million transaction that was supposed to have been transferred to Egrant Inc from an Azerbaijan owned company"

This is simply not true at all. Jonathan Ferris did not state thus neither to the Magistrate nor to anyone else. He could not have stated thus as he was never privy to such information. Your reading of the report is clearly wrong or the information fed to you manipulated by your 'sources' in accordance with their agenda.

Dr Jason Azzopardi and Dr Andrew Borg Cardona, lawyers for Jonathan Ferris

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