Fenech Adami accuses Mizzi of requesting ‘total secrecy’ from Panama company

[VIDEO] Economy minister Chris Cardona accuses Beppe Fenech Adami of 'double standards' over Gharghur villa extension, but PN deputy leader retorts that he is propagating a lie 

Economy minister Chris Cardona and PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami with Saviour Balzan on Reporter
Economy minister Chris Cardona and PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami with Saviour Balzan on Reporter

PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami accused health and energy minister Konrad Mizzi of specifically demanding total secrecy and confidentiality when setting up an offshore company in Panama. 

"When he set up his company, he had to fill up a form in which he ticked the boxes for no audit and for total secrecy and confidentiality Fenech Adami said on Monday night's edition of Reporter. "He then hid the entire company behind a concrete wall by placing it in a trust in New Zealand."

He was repeating allegations written in the blog of Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who claimed that a document evidencing such a form will soon be published.

Fenech Adami accused the government of hiding Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri - who also owns a Panamanian-registered company and a New Zealand trust - and instead sending economy minister Chris Cardona to the debate.

"They are hiding Mizzi and Schembri because the public are demanding political responsibility from them. Political responsibility dictates that ministers cannot open secret companies in Panama upon the advice of the OPM chief of staff, while at the same time conducting secret negotiations with Azerbaijan."

When asked by host Saviour Balzan whether he is alleging bribery or kickbacks from Azerbaijan, Fenech Adami responded that nobody believes Mizzi's claim that he set up the company to manage his assets - a flat in Sliema and a house in London.

Fenech Adami also accused Schembri of bribing former Allied Newspaper managing director Adrian Hillman, before quickly backtracking and warning that “serious allegations of bribery” exist.

“The Times took instant action and suspended [Hillman] as soon as the allegations were made, but the Prime Minister is still defending Keith Schembri.”

Chris Cardona, who has in recent weeks taken centre stage as a main PL spokesperson, accused the Opposition of orchestrating a smear campaign aimed at destabilizing the economy.

"While it is the Opposition's duty to be vigilant in promoting high democratic standards, Mizzi has already admitted that he had made an error of judgement when setting up a company," he said. "Besides, the company isn't secret, because it has been placed in a trust in New Zealand, a transparent country Malta with which Malta has a. Umber of bilateral agreements?

"Where is Konrad Mizzi? He is currently analyzing a report by [credit rating agency] Standard and Poor that upgraded Enemalta's credit rating."

He also called out PN executive Ann Fenech for “profiting”, when the legal firm (Fenlex) of which she is a managing partner helped a client set up a company in Panama back in 2003

Permit for Fenech Adami’s Gharghur house ‘obtained in 1981’

Chris Cardona accused his counterpart of double standards over the manner in which his Gharghur villa was extended, and converted into developable land in the controversial rationalisation scheme of 2006.

“Fenech Adami protested against a national project that is going to boost the economy, because it is partially going to be built on ODZ land,” he said, referring to Sadeen’s ‘American Institute of Malta’ project. “However, he forgot to tell the public that his own house had been built on ODZ land. People who live in the real world cannot accept such double standards.”

Referring to Fenech Adami’s house as a “palace”, Cardona recounted how former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi had in October 2008 instructed MEPA not to allow three-storey extensions on buildings that had been added to the development zone two years prior. However, only three days later, Gonzi instructed MEPA’s board secretary that he would approve individual planning control applications, one of which affected Fenech Adami’s development.

Fenech Adami had already submitted a planning application requesting clearance to build an additional storey and turret on his villa back in March 2008. MEPA issued its green light to this application two weeks after Gonzi’s letter to the board secretary.

Cardona challenged Fenech Adami to immediately publicise the invoices for the extension of his villa, and questioned whether PN leader Simon Busuttil will take any action against his right-hand man.

He added that the footprint of the PN deputy leader’s swimming pool and deck area – that maintained its ODZ status following the rationalisation scheme – significantly exceeded the maximum of 75 square metres permitted by MEPA for ODZ pools. 

“His deck area is so large that wedding receptions can be held there,” he quipped, while brushing off accusations that Labour’s media only released these news to deviate public attention from ‘Panamagate’.

“Is the Nationalist Party going to try and give us lessons on the timing of stories?” he asked. 

Fenech Adami, who has already sued One News for libel over their report on his villa, retorted that he had purchased the property as a terraced house back in 1994, and that its previous tenants has obtained a building permit in 1981.

He brandished a piece of paper that he claimed was the original permit, signed by renowned architect Richard England.

“The permit was obtained under a Labour administration, and indeed a Labour candidate is willing to vouch for me because he had actually wanted to buy the house as well,” he said. .

“I purchased the property, which was already a complete terraced house, back in 1994, 13 years after its previous tenant had obtained a permit for it under a Labour government,” he said.

Taking the PL media to task for using a drone to film his property, he argued that the rationalisation scheme did not merely affect his house but rather his entire street

“It was only logical for the street to be included in the rationalisation scheme, because it was already fully built-up before ODZ even became a legal concept [in 1992],” he said. “The land was already developed, so why keep it as ODZ?”  

He vehemently denied that Gonzi’s letter to MEPA’s board secretary was in any way intended to placate him, arguing that his property was fully in line with the 2006 local plan for central Malta.

“According to the plan, the maximum height of all buildings not located in the village core is of three floors and a semi-basement. Indeed, 25 blocks in my street are exactly the same height.

“Cardona is pathetically propagating lies that can easily be disproved, because they want to shift public attention to a topic completely unrelated to Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri.”

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