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MW 15 June 2016

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WWW.MALTATODAY.COM.MT WEDNESDAY EDITION €1.00 Newspaper post WEDNESDAY • 15 JUNE 2016 • ISSUE 473 • PUBLISHED EVERY WEDNESDAY AND SUNDAY EDITORIAL • PAGE 9 Tax authorities begin probe into people named in Panama Papers Tax authorities begin tax evasion and money laundering probe but refuse to say how many people are under investigation JURGEN BALZAN THE Tax Compliance Unit is investigating an unspecified number of individuals in relation to the Panama Papers leak, with the tax authorities refusing to reveal how many people are under in- vestigation for tax evasion and money laundering. The finance ministry told Mal- taToday that investigations are underway but when asked how many individuals or companies are being investigated, the spokes- person said the tax authorities are withholding further information even from the ministry itself. "The commissioner has in- formed us that under the law he is not bound to reveal information to anyone, including the ministry, about who is being investigated or how many people are under inves- tigation," the ministry said. Last month, finance minister Edward Scicluna told MaltaToday that he had instructed both the tax authorities and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) to request the data directly from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who revealed that 714 companies linked to Malta are listed on the Panama Papers database. The leaked data show compa- nies set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in offshore companies in tax havens. However, the ICIJ have so far re- fused to release the offshore data to government agencies. Tax authorities from various countries are trying to obtain the information from the consortium, however even journalists who have the information are not au- thorised to pass it on to the tax authorities. Minister without portfolio Kon- rad Mizzi, the Prime Minister's chief of staff Keith Schembri, his business associate Malcolm Scerri, former Nationalist energy minister Ninu Zammit, former Allied Newspapers managing di- rector Adrian Hillman, Redmap Construction's Pierre Sladden and Farsons chairman Louis Farrugia are among the Maltese individu- als whose name appeared in the ICIJ database. Scicluna had also said that tax authorities were mulling the idea of creating a specific tax unit to investigate whether individu- als and companies named in the Panama Papers leak are involved in money laundering and tax eva- sion. However, the ministry told Mal- taToday that there is no need for a special unit since the Tax Com- pliance Unit "is well equipped to carry out tax investigations." The TCU works hand in hand with the International Tax Unit (the com- petent authority in international tax information exchange) which has the authority to request infor- mation from other jurisdictions which are party to tax informa- tion agreements. Asked whether there has been any outcome from the investiga- tions, the ministry said cross bor- der cases require a minimum of six months to conclude. William Erbey was forced to resign chairmanship of US mortgage giant Ocwen over serious conflicts of interest related to foreclosures on homeowners MATTHEW VELLA ONE of the multi-millionaires lining up for a Maltese passport has run into trou- ble back in the United States, having to face a securities fraud lawsuit. William Charles Erbey was a billion- aire worth $2.5 billion and a regular in Forbes' list of the global rich, but his worth was drastically reduced to 'just' over $400 million when his mortgage gi- ant Ocwen Financial was found respon- sible for serious conflicts in the way it carried out its business. But far from the 'talent' that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat shills for in his international roadshows with Henley & Partners flogging off Malta's golden €650,000 passport, William Erbey is ac- cused by critics of having built an em- pire on mortgage misery, and who saves tax by sheltering his companies in the Virgin Islands, Luxembourg and the Caymans. Earlier this month, US District Judge William Dimitrouleas said Erbey would have to face a securities fraud lawsuit, af- ter the plaintiffs had successfully alleged that he and his company Home Loan Servicing Solutions had misrepresented to investors that the company had con- trols over Erbey's conflicts of interest. In 2011, Ocwen was investigated by New York's Department for Financial Services for incomplete documentation and record-keeping, falsification of evi- dence through "robo-signing" and pur- suit of foreclosures without legal stand- ing. Millionaire facing US investment fraud suit is Malta's newest citizen PAGE 5 Gaffarena tries to enforce another promise of sale on Old Mint St property SEE MORE ON PAGE 5 Edward Scicluna

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