Sources within the Office of the Prime Minister speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday have indicated that the audit commissioned into the financial affairs of Minister Konrad Mizzi will be published next month to coincide with a fact-finding mission to Malta by the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee.
The committee, named the PANA Committee, is due to visit Malta on 20 February.
The release of the audit into Dr Mizzi’s affairs has been carefully timed – 11 months after it was commissioned – in order to redden the faces of committee members and others who have hauled Dr Mizzi over the coals since the Panama Papers scandal, in which Dr Mizzi was the only serving EU minister implicated, broke last February.
Back then, Dr Mizzi said two audits had been commissioned: one by a reputable international firm and another by Malta’s tax commissioner. Questions sent by this newspaper earlier this week on the status of those audits have remained unanswered, as have all questions on the sensitive subject.
In addition to Dr Mizzi, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was also implicated in the Panama Papers. Both were exposed as having established companies in Panama and trusts in New Zealand within weeks of taking office. But so far there has been no word on an audit of Mr Schembri, although the Prime Minister has dismissed such a notion, arguing that Mr Schembri is a private businessman and should not be subject to such scrutiny.
Once the audit is published, it is expected that, as pledged, Dr Mizzi will close down his Panamanian company.
Auditor-General not called in
What is unclear is why the Auditor-General was not entrusted with an investigation when he had been entrusted with Café Premier scandal, the Michael Falzon Old Mint Street-Gaffarena debacle and the Jason Azzopardi Löwenbräu factory case.
Moreover, Dr Mizzi has, to date, refused to name the international firm commissioned to audit him, to the extent that last October he even refused to name the firm when questioned in court. Testifying in a libel case he instituted against PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami, Dr Mizzi was asked to name the company, but he simply replied by telling Dr Fenech Adami’s lawyer to “ask the Prime Minister”. He then said he did not wish to name the company because he did not want to put it under any undue pressure.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, when he had been asked the same question a week earlier, that such audits took time to complete, and added that the fact that the process was taking a long time showed that the matter was being treated seriously.
Dr Muscat had said, in October, that the audit should be completed before long and that he was sure it would be published once completed.