Wednesday, 18 January 2017, 13:08
Last update: about 2 days ago
Nationalist Party and European People’s Party MEP David Casa professed that he is “embarrassed” of his government over its role and handling of the Panama Papers scandal.
His comments were made during a plenary session following the Prime Minister’s address at the European Parliament (EP) which outlined Malta’s programme for the current Presidency.
A number of MEPs slammed Malta’s role in the international scandal.
Panama Papers refers to the discovery that the world’s elite were using the secretive jurisdiction of Panama to conceal their wealth through the country’s particular set of laws. No portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri were discovered to hold a secret company in Panama each, sheltered by trusts in New Zealand.
While there involvement does not necessarily relate to illegalities, the majority have questioned the morality of holding office while at the same time holding financial structures that are very difficult to investigate in full.
Mr Casa said: “I should be proud of the Maltese Presidency but I am embarrassed of my government. Corruption has been rife, while top officials were caught red handed in the Panama Papers scandal.
“The Prime Minister’s closest officials planned to place millions in a secret Panama company. These officials are led by the Prime Minister. The situation is surreal and I cannot sit here and listen to your (Dr Muscat’s) speech as though everything is normal.”
Greens Party MEP Philippe Lamberts slammed the government for not including tax justice on the list of priorities.
“Unbridled tax competition between member states will only harm the tax payers. This is a practice that will feed into inequality and therefore a rise in populism and nationalism.
“Between 2012 and 2015 Malta was a tax haven, €14 billion was taken in tax revenue from other member states. I ask you to prioritise this at Council level.”
He is referring to Malta’s practice to offer a common preferential tax agreement for multinationals that allows them to pay lower corporate tax rates when registered in Malta. This brings more taxation revenue to Malta, however it takes away such revenue from the countries where multinational companies are operating and earning the bulk of their profits.
Mr Lamberts called for the speeding up of anti-money laundering legislation.
He warned of upcoming elections across Europe that can lead to a state of paralysis within the EU.
EPP MEP and member of the Panama Papers investigative committee Sven Giegold said that “Malta takes advantage of taxation laws, offering five per cent corporate tax.”
He said that this does not translate into a social or Europe – a direct critique of Dr Muscat’s claims that he wants to place the social dimension of the EU as a priority.
“Prime Minister I challenge you to change this approach,” he said, questioning whether the government will cooperate in full with the EP’s investigation into Panama Papers.
He also called on the former head of the Financial Investigation and Analysis Unit to publish the findings of its inquiry into the scandal, which never made the light of day.
In a completely different view of the matter, Independent MEP Janice Atkinson said that the “EU hates the fact that you (the PM) have made Malta into an offshore tax haven, I hope Britain follows suit. Not to worry, the EU will not get around to removing this status as it is busy destroying countries’ identities through mass migration.”
Aside from Panama Papers, the overwhelming majority of the MEPs spoke of their approval on Malta’s placing of migration as a top priority, and also called for its increased participation in solving disputes within Libya, which should mitigate the flow of migrants.
Completely ignoring the number of MEPs who spoke of tax justice and questioned Malta’s role in the Panama Papers scandal, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat responded briefly only to local MEP David Casa’s comments, calling on a healthy debate to be had at home and not in the EU sphere.
Responding to other comments made by MEPs on migration, he acknowledged what a thorny and emotional issue it is, that stirs up all the wrong sentiments. He took note of the different perspectives on the migration crisis.
“This is the battleground of the elections in our member states and will shape the future of the EU. It cannot be underestimated, but if we wait for a total solution, a perfect solution, we are condemned to go round in circles will stay in the same rut. My point today is that we may have ideological differences or no real differences at all. Some see it as a humanitarian issue, some a security one, and both may be right. In the long run we will all be dead, in the short run we will see another crisis in Spring. I am the first to hope I am wrong.
“Money alone will not do it….I disagree with building walls, but I cannot judge
“Ladies and gentlemen I am sorry to break it to you, when my navy people call me at night they do not ask whether to send them back, but ask about how to save these people from drowning.”
He said this against the backdrop of a controversy allegedly imposed by the EU which sought to send back Malian migrants that had been living in Malta for a number of years.
“Political presence of the Council within parliament will be sure because we want a genuine dialogue”