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MALTATODAY 13 March 2022

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15 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 13 MARCH 2022 NEWS Before we continue; what is a casual elec- tion? Malta's electoral law allows candidates to contest two electoral districts. If a candidate who contests two districts is elected from both, they will have to give up one district. A casual election takes place on the vacated district between un- elected candidates on that district. Back to the election of women. How are the 'extra' female seats awarded? The unelected women candidates left standing at the last count will be auto- matically declared elect. This is similar to the manner by which the 2007 propor- tional representation mechanism works. And if the 40% threshold is still not reached? The Electoral Commission will draw up a rank order for each party of women candidates that would have been elimi- nated. The ranking will be based on the amount of votes each candidate would have received before being eliminated, calculated as a percentage of the district quota. The rest of the extra seats are filled by working down the list. But what if there are no more women can- didates to fill the extra seats? If no more women candidates are avail- able to fill the extra seats, the political parties can opt for co-option to make up the difference. What happens if after the 12 extra seats are awarded women MPs still do not make up at least 40% of parliamentary representation? No further adjust- ments will be done. The law caps the extra seats at 12 to avoid having the number of parlia- mentary seats ex- plode unreasonably. And what about gen- der-neutral candi- dates? The law also makes provisions for these people. Any candi- date, who officially adopts the X gender marker will be con- sidered as being part of the under-represented sex and so eli- gible for the extra seats. One last question. What is a co-option? A co-option happens when a vacated parliamentary seat cannot be filled by a casual election or any other mechanism dictated at law. The party that has to fill the seat proposes the name of anyone it wants and parliament votes to co-opt that person into the House. This is the way that several MPs in the outgoing parliament were elected, including Op- position leader Bernard Grech and min- isters Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana. NICOLE MEILAK A financial trust company was fined €12,500 for failing to submit a suspi- cious transaction report against its client, a Miami-based Venezuelan businessman with links to tax evasion and Venezuelan money laundering. Malta's FIAU reprimanded a trust company for offering registered ad- dress services to a company owned by Isaac Moises Sultan Cohen, a Ven- ezuelan businessman with reported ties to politicians and drug traffick- ers. The company had been offering their services to Cohen since 2017, up until December last year when it notified the financial services regula- tor that it will no longer be offering the service to his company Monrey Holding Ltd. According to the FIAU notice, a compliance review revealed the company had been made aware of an adverse media article in 2017 at the time of client onboarding. But the company claimed it did not have enough information to submit a re- port because the press reports were based on allegations, with no further developments for several years. FIAU officials however said the company should have remained vig- ilant about the relationship it was establishing with Monrey Holdings, while monitoring any similar and suspicious information. As the compliance review contin- ued, FIAU officials came across more adverse media articles published throughout the business relation- ship, from November 2020 and Au- gust 2021. "Following these additional two articles, the company had sufficient grounds to suspect that the benefi- cial owner was not a person of good standing. He could be connected directly or indirectly to ML both through his ties with a former Minis- ter of a non-European country. Fur- thermore, the BO had failed to pay the relevant tax on $27 million worth of art." While the FIAU notice does not refer to the specific media articles, and does not mention Sultan Cohen by name, the two articles in question correspond to publications in the Wall Street Journal and Armando- Info that both mention Isaan Sultan Cohen. According to the Wall Street Jour- nal, Cohen was the art purchaser be- hind a tax fraud scandal involving So- theby's and a company in the British Virgin Islands called Porsal Equities. In 2020, New York's attorney gen- eral sued Sotheby's for helping a ma- jor collector avoid paying sales tax on $27 million worth of art collected over a five-year period. The collector used an offshore art-buying company – Porsal Equities – to buy artworks tax-free and place them in his New York and Florida homes. The artworks purchased include a $5.7 million Jean-Michel Basqui- at and a $1.4 million Anish Kapoor sculpture. The Wall Street Journal identified Cohen as the collector behind Porsal, describing him as a Venezuelan ship- ping executive known for collecting Latin American and contemporary art. The second media article was part of the Open Lux project coordinated by the OCCRP. ArmandoInfo pub- lished the damning exposé, revealing Cohen's ties to money laundering and corruption. The project revealed Cohen used two offshore companies to venture into luxury real estate, buying up an entire building in Ma- drid and a two-bedroom penthouse in one of the most exclusive areas of South Florida. In the Madrid property Cohen pur- chased, Spanish authorities seized some apartments belonging to for- mer Venezuelan energy deputy min- ister Nervis Villalobos, who was in- vestigated for using irregular funds to buy the property. In Andorra, police prosecuted Villalobos for moving €124 million through a dozen depos- its as part of a corruption scheme in- volving the Venezuelan state-owned fuel company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela). Cohen was also reported to have served as a sham director for a com- pany owned by Venezuelan housing minister Diosdado Cabello, who was sanctioned in May 2018 by the Unit- ed States on accusations of money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities. The FIAU committee pointed all of this out in their administrative no- tice. "Yet, despite the level of publicly available information for the Subject Person to have grounds to suspect that money laundering, tax evasion and possible BO concealment had or could have taken place, the Subject Person still failed to submit an SAR or STR to the FIAU." Trust company fined for services to Venezuela tax fraudster in $27m art fraud In 2020, New York's attorney general sued Sotheby's for helping a major collector avoid paying sales tax on $27 million worth of art collected over a five-year period. The collector, Isaac Sultan Cohen, used an offshore art-buying company – Porsal Equities – to buy artworks tax-free and place them in his New York and Florida homes

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