Maltese MP voted out by party amid turmoil over Panama Papers’ ties
26 Jun 2020

The political career of Malta’s former deputy prime minister Konrad Mizzi lies in ruins after his ruling Labour Party (PL) colleagues voted for his expulsion over secretive offshore dealings revealed in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists-led Panama Papers investigation.

Mizzi was the star performer during the country’s March 2013 election, when the left-leaning Labour Party took power. His senior executive government roles included the energy portfolio, where he presided over several large infrastructure projects.

In 2015, Malta’s state energy company commissioned a firm called 17 Black to help with the purchase of a stake in a wind farm in Montenegro, a country on the Adriatic Coast.

It later transpired that Dubai-registered 17 Black was owned by Malta’s richest man, Yurgen Fenech.

In April 2016, the Panama Papers revealed that shortly after taking office three years earlier, Mizzi and then government chief of staff Keith Schembri, had incorporated undeclared shell companies in Panama.

Mizzi had also set up a secret offshore trust to operate one of these, Hearnville Inc.

Leaked emails and other documents subsequently linked 17 Black to deposits in the Panama companies owned by Mizzi and Schembri.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has insisted on a full inquiry into the Montenegro deal, which is believed to have reaped 17 Black a $5.2 million profit. Police are already investigating.

Mizzi has always denied any involvement with 17 Black or any personal influence in awarding the Montenegro contract. He also refused to step down before his ousting.

“I did not agree that I should resign over allegations and speculations pushed forward by the PL’s adversaries,” Mizzi wrote on his Facebook page.

He has yet to formally notify parliament but is expected to remain as an independent lawmaker.

When doorstepped about the allegations in 2016, he accused Times of Malta reporter and ICIJ member Jacob Borg of false reporting, questioning his professionalism, and branding him a “young upstart.”

“You have lied blatantly, you have fabricated a story,” he said.

In June 2017, following another election victory, the then prime minister Joseph Muscat appointed Mizzi as tourism minister, ignoring widespread calls for an inquiry into his conduct as energy minister.

In late 2019, Mizzi resigned from his position when Fenech became the prime suspect in the October 2017 car-bomb murder of journalist and anti-corruption activist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, only months after she wrote a blog piece about the mysterious 17 Black and its links to unnamed politicians.

By Douglas Dalby, ICIJ, 24 June 2020

Read more at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

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