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MW 22 February 2017

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2 maltatoday, WEDNESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2017 News Giegold: Tonna's claims of Egrant ownership unclear CONTINUES FROM PAGE 1 This is Malta, however, and the polar- ized debate on Konrad Mizzi's and Keith Schembri's ownership of two Panama companies, acquired together with a third company by their auditors Nexia, and whose mysterious ownership courts con- troversy is split into two camps: those who suspect "corruption" and a plan to put undeclared earn- ings into the secret companies, and those who want to rally be- hind the government in the ab- sence of concrete proof. Egrant, the third company set up at the same time as Mizzi's and Schembri's Hearnville and Tillgate, was also in the PANA committee's crosshairs. Nexia BT's Brian Tonna did not attend the hearing, and instead sent his answers in writing. Giegold says Tonna's claims that he is the own- er of Egrant does not answer the fact that he remains the nominal shareholder with just 1%, while the remainder of the company could be owned by someone else holding the shares. "Tonna says he is the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant, but the indications are that there were other intentions for the company." AD chairperson Arnold Cassola also says that Egrant's directors are the same Mossack Fonseca personnel implicated in football- ing ace Lionel Messi's tax avoid- ance set-up, saying this puts paid Brian Tonna's attempt to use the names of people Ricardo Sam- aniego to certify Egrant as being Tonna's company. At the heart of Panamagate however lies a big question mark on independent institutions, like the police, carrying out their job. MEPs are none the wiser as to why a politically exposed person with a Panama set-up was not the subject of a police investigation. "Edward Scicluna [finance min- ister] said he 'under the impres- sion' that the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit was investigating the Panama Papers," Giegold said of the FIAU, which collects suspi- cious transaction reports (STRs) from financial services practition- ers and passes them on to the po- lice. The former FIAU director Man- fred Galdes – who resigned soon after the Panama Papers broke – told the PANA committee that the unit had forwarded 29 reports to the police, although no prosecu- tion had yet resulted on these re- ports. When asked whether MEPs asked Galdes whether he was ac- tually investigating the Panama Papers – for an FIAU report pre- sented to the police and then ig- nored would be doubly criminal – Giegold said that such a direct question was not put to him. "We took it as a given. We did not think the FIAU's work on the Panama Papers has been in dispute." Galdes was said to have declined from answering direct questions, citing professional secrecy as FIAU director, where he sat on a board that is headed by the Attor- ney General. Giegold was also surprised that EMD, the financial services prac- titioners found with the highest number of Mossack Fonseca cli- ents, had never filed one single STR to the FIAU on their Panama clients. "I think this is a rather poor show, because what else could merit an STR if not setting up a company in Panama?" mvella@mediatoday.com.mt BirdLife: No scientific justification for spring hunting season BIRDLIFE Malta has said there is no scientific justification for a spring hunting season for 2017 af- ter the government said this year's season will open only for Quail since there is a moratorium on hunting for Turtle Doves. The Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Ani- mal Rights took on board all rec- ommendations made by the Ornis Committee on 1 February, with the season to be open between Saturday 25 March and Friday 14 April, between two hours before sunrise and noon. The national hunting bag limit has been set at 5,000 Quail and hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of five Quails and the seasonal bag limit of ten Quails per hunter. BirdLife said there was no justifi- cation for a spring hunting season as studies commissioned and paid for by the government itself show that in autumn there is a sufficient passage of Quails during the first two months of the hunting season. "Over and above this, the conser- vation value that birds migrating north to their breeding grounds should not be killed remains at the forefront of this position. "It is a pity that once again po- litical promises have been given priority over these scientific facts and important conservation value which both prove why a spring hunting season for Quail is not justified." BirdLife Malta's vote during the Ornis meeting was the only one against a spring hunting season for 2017. The Federation for Hunt- ing and Conservation (FKNK), the Environment and Resources Au- thority (ERA), and the two inde- pendent government-chosen rep- resentatives along with the Ornis Committee Chairman all voted in favour. Helena Dalli announces bill to legalise gay marriages TIM DIACONO A bill is being drafted that would legalise gay marriage in Malta, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli has announced. Addressing a conference or- ganised by Drachma, an NGO representing LGBTIQ Chris- tians, Dalli said that the bill would be entitled the 'Marriage Equality Bill' and will be pre- sented to Cabinet before eventu- ally being tabled in Parliament. A spokesperson for Dalli told MaltaToday that the bill would not be a cosmetic change in no- menclature from the current civil unions, but would also in- clude "various changes". He de- clined to comment further. If it is enacted, it would mean that Malta will be the 23rd country in the world and the 13th in Europe to legalise gay marriage. The last time gay marriage was mooted in a public debate was on 4 March, 2016, when Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he was in favour of gay marriage and believed it was time for a debate on the matter, during a party activity to mark Woman's Day. The Nationalist Party had then accused Muscat of using the issue to deviate public atten- tion from the Panama Papers, which had then just broke a week earlier. Opposition leader Simon Bu- suttil had then also said he would support the "change of name" to marriages but accused Muscat of creating a "non-issue" to deviate public attention from the Panama Papers scandal. Malta is currently ranked first in the International Lesbian- Gay Association's 'Rainbow Eu- rope' league for LGBTIQ rights, ahead of the United Kingdom and Belgium. Helena Dalli

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