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MW 14 June 2017

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maltatoday, WEDNESDAY, 14 JUNE 2017 5 MATTHEW VELLA THE Nationalist Party took issue with claims by finance minister Edward Scicluna that he suspected Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit officers wrote reports on al- leged money laundering sus- picions with an intent that they be leaked to the press. Scicluna's comment was made in the light of three re- ports by the FIAU's former director, Manfred Galdes, filed with the Commissioner of Police dealing with bank- ing practices inside Pilatus Bank, as well as monies re- ceived by Keith Schembri, the prime minister's chief of staff. Scicluna said that the FIAU, whose board is chaired by the Attorney General, had to ex- plain how damning reports probing alleged kickbacks were leaked. "What is money laundering? What was ig- nored? I want to know wheth- er they [the authors of the re- port] were really apolitical. [I want to know] whether there are characters on whichever side who turned their heads away," Scicluna said ahead of a meeting in Strasbourg where MEPs will debate the rule of law in Malta. The PN said Scicluna's com- ments were "very worrying". "Instead of seeing what criminal steps would be tak- en on the FIAU reports, Sci- cluna seems intent on taking issue with who leaked these reports. The PN condemns these comments and de- mands that he give a full ac- count of how many investi- gations are taking place and to publish their conclusions at the earliest possible," the party said. "Labour's electoral victory does not mean the law is not equal for everyone. No elec- tion cancels out the reasona- ble suspicion the FIAU found that Schembri was involved in a crime of bribery and money laundering. The same goes for Konrad Mizzi. Scicluna's duty is not to threaten those who worked on these investi- gations, but to ensure the law is equal for all." The FIAU carried out a com- pliance visit at Pilatus Bank, after which its executive di- rector penned three prelimi- nary reports to the Commis- sioner of Police dealing with an alleged €100,000 payment from Nexia BT partner Brian Tonna to Keith Schembri, as well as some €650,000 in pay- ments paid by Schembri to former Allied Group man- ager Adrian Hillman through the use of offshore compa- nies. Excerpts from a third report, as yet unfinished, suggest that the owners of the LNG tanker paid money into a Dubai company that could have been connected to Schembri's and Mizzi's off- shore Panama companies. Scicluna said that the FIAU had to explain why certain "characters" had been men- tioned in their reports and not others. "Were these re- ports written to be leaked? I'm just asking questions. For the sake of the rule of law one has to rest assured that we can have a strong institution." Prof. Scicluna said the claims would also be exam- ined by Money val [Com- mittee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism at the Council of Europe], and the Financial Sector Assessment Programme, FSAP. News Muscat today faces grilling by MEPs on Panama Papers, Malta's rule of law TIM DIACONO JUST over a week after he was re- confirmed as Malta's prime min- ister, Joseph Muscat will today appear before MEPs in Stras- bourg to answer questions on the Panama Papers and Malta's rule of law. The Labour leader, re-elected for a second term with a 35,000 vote majority, is said to be rel- ishing the opportunity to face MEPs after telling supporters at a victory rally on Saturday that he would be travelling to Stras- bourg as the "shield" of his coun- try. "Some people in this coun- try did their utmost to tarnish Malta's reputation, but they soon realised that the public had re- jected that tactic," he said. "I will be Malta's shield." The plenary debate in Stras- bourg, proposed by the EPP and the Green Party, was originally scheduled to be held last month but was postponed to today af- ternoon amid fears that the tim- ing could have interfered with Malta's snap election. The European People's Party – home to the PN – had requested a debate titled "Situation in Mal- ta: the need for the rule of law", following the trend of recent EP debates on the political situa- tions in Hungary and Poland. Meanwhile, the European Greens had called for a debate specifically focusing on the Mal- tese aspect of the Panama Papers – which revealed that minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri had owned offshore companies. Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes confirmed with MaltaToday that Muscat would also face ques- tions about Malta's tax regime – which critics warn facilitates corporate tax avoidance. Indeed, the MEPs heading the European Parliament's Panama Papers committee had called for Malta's taxation system to become more transparent, for the country to set up a public registry for ultimate beneficiary owners of companies, and for its beneficial corporate taxation schemes to be investigated fur- ther. The European Green Party went a step further, warning that Malta's taxation system goes against the basic principles of tax justice and that it essentially amounts to robbing other Eu- ropean member states of public funds. The debate could also provide an early insight into how the Na- tionalist Party plans to address and tackle government corrup- tion in the wake of its landslide defeat at the polls. In the last legislature, PN MEPs Roberta Metsola, David Casa and Therese Comodini Cachia threw no punches when condemning government corruption on a Eu- ropean level. However, Joseph Muscat frequently told support- ers during his election campaign that their speeches amounted to "speaking against Malta" as part of an underhanded strategy by the PN to regain power. After Labour's victory, Muscat said that Wednesday's session would provide a "test" for the PN to show that it had learnt from its pre-electoral mistakes. "Everyone will be evaluating what you say during that debate to see if you learned anything," he said. "We will see whether the PN has learned that, no matter the differences between us, we are all Maltese, we are all Malta." Attempts by MaltaToday to contact the PN MEPs to ask them what they are expecting from Wednesday's debate were not successful at the time of writing. PN condemns Scicluna's FIAU comments: 'elections don't cancel out illegalities'

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