Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi announced that he will be withdrawing several libel cases relating to allegations of money laundering in connection with the Panama Papers revelations, he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mizzi, was the only European Union Minister to be named in the Panama Papers, a data leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca, in April 2016. It was revealed that the then Energy Minister had acquired an offshore Panamanian company Hearnville Inc. and had a trust, Orion Trust Limited in New Zealand.
In his late evening statement, Mizzi stated that he would be withdrawing the libels saying that the defendants would not be burdened with any costs, despite the libel suits were yet to be decided. Mizzi further said that they had already “lost their political credibility”.
Mizzi described the libel cases as “distracting” and explained that the withdrawal was an opportunity for him to focus “greater energy” on delivering projects.
Through the statement issued by the Government’s Department of Information, Mizzi said that the withdrawal of the suits came after the courts had ruled against launching a magisterial inquiry related to Panama Papers revelations. Earlier this year, Judge Giovanni Grixti had altered Magistrate Ian Farrugia’s decision to open a magisterial inquest into the revelations by the Panama Papers. Former Opposition and Partit Nazzjonalista leader Simon Busuttil had presented an application for an inquiry into possible money laundering by Government officials, and other people based on what was published in the Panama Papers in 2016.
Subsequently in a court presided over by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, a fresh request by PN MP Simon Busuttil and Head of Delegation and PN MEP David Casa was turned down. Busuttil and Casa requested a new inquiry into money laundering allegations.
Mizzi has recently denied any links to the Dubai-based company 17 Black during cross-examination of libel proceedings around allegations which stemmed from the Panama Papers. An investigation by Reuters and Times of Malta had revealed that 17 Black is owned by Yorgen Fenech, who is also the director of Electrogas.
The Tourism Minister is withdrawing the libel suits just a few weeks before Karl Cini from Nexia BT was due to testify. Cini had indicated that Mizzi’s Hearnville Inc. was a target client of 17 Black in an email.
With this latest development, the only law enforcement and judicial avenues looking into 17 Black and related matters are the police investigation according to a report by the Times of Malta and the magisterial inquiry which was described as only analyzing the company not the parties involved.
In a Facebook post Opposition MP Jason Azzopardi described Mizzi as “corrupt” after having withdrawn the libel cases Mizzi himself instituted against Busutil, Azzopardi and Beppe Fenech Adami, after they had declared that Cini will be summoned in court in the next hearing.