“Investigations kicked-off as Panama Papers information was published on Daphne’s blog”

Sarah Cassar Dymond

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Public Inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia continued today. The Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty and the former Planning Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg testified.

Highlights from today’s court sitting:

  • Former PA CEO confirms he met with Yorgen Fenech to discuss certain projects
  • Johann Buttigieg confirms Fenech invited him to a party in Żebbuġ
  • Inland Revenue Commissioner confirms he immediately started investigating the Panama Papers as information was published on Daphne’s blog
  • Marvin Gaerty confirms he used to follow Daphne’s blog for the latest information
  • He confirms that after the Moneyval report the way they work has improved
11:45 Thank you for following.
Amy Borg
11:44 Today's court sitting ends here.
Amy Borg
11:43 Today week Adrian Said, from Projects Malta, will be asked to give his testimony.
Amy Borg
11:42 On Friday former Police Chief and Police Inspector Antanovic are expected to testify.
Amy Borg
11:42 Johann Buttigieg's testimony ends here.
Amy Borg
11:41 Buttigieg also mentioned that Yorgen Fenech was also interested in buying Manoel Island.
Amy Borg
11:40 Buttigieg said he dined with Fenech once to discuss certain projects and he was also invited to a party at Fenech's residence in Zebbug.
Amy Borg
11:39 He said Fenech wanted to build a hotel as land reclamation was being proposed.
Amy Borg
11:37 Buttigieg said that he first met Fenech back in 2013.
Amy Borg
11:36 Comodini Cachia asked Buttigieg if he knows Yorgen Fenech and if he ever met him.
Amy Borg
11:35 His role was to conduct a Public Prescription Service, said Buttigieg who was later unsatisfied with Wright's work and therefore terminated his employment.
Amy Borg
11:33 Nicholas Wright was given a direct order by the PA. Comodini Cachia asked what was Wright's role within the PA.

She also mentioned how the person was also involved in the organisation of the Labour Party's events.
Amy Borg
11:33 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is asking questions.
Amy Borg
11:29 FAR policy included all Malta and Gozo explained Buttigieg who also said that it also included that they could have also opted again for public consultation.

His reply was in reference to high-rise projects in Imriehel.
Amy Borg
11:28 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking questions.
Amy Borg
11:25 The board mentions that there have been cases where illegal structures were built and were later sanctioned by the PA against a fee.
Amy Borg
11:24 He stated that if a permit is not in accordance with policies then a permit should not have been granted.
Amy Borg
11:22 The board also asks if the country's system facilitates the idea of ignoring PA permits and policies.

Buttigieg said that this is a mentality, a culture within the Maltese society which dates back to the 80s.
Amy Borg
11:20 The inquiry board is asking technical questions on PA policies.
Amy Borg
11:19 Buttigieg said that this pressure was more present when projects on ODZ lands are proposed.
Amy Borg
11:15 The former PA chief executive said that the pressure by the developers on the PA board is equal to that exerted by NGOs.
Amy Borg
11:10 Buttigieg explained that the policy was revised as prior to 2013 there were many high-rise projects which created a public outcry. He mentioned the Portomaso project and other projects in Gozo as an example.

Buttigieg continued to explain that the reviewed policy included that only in the following areas high-rise building are to be permitted;

Imriehel (Excluded from the policy after public consultation)
Sliema
San Giljan
Gzira
Bugibba
Qawra
Amy Borg
11:09 The board is asking questions on the high-rise policy.
Amy Borg
11:07 Buttigieg said that Musumeci was involved in the separation of MEPA which then resulted in the Planning Authority, PA and the Environmental Resources Authority, ERA.
Amy Borg
11:06 The board also mentions Robert Musumeci and asks Buttigieg about Musumeci's role.
Amy Borg
11:05 He also mentioned other Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries who were also responsible for the Planning Authority.
Amy Borg
11:03 He also mentioned that before the PA fell under the remit of Minister Ian Borg the authority was under the responsibility of the then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Amy Borg
11:03 The board asks if he had served a government consultant.

Buttigieg said no.
Amy Borg
11:01 He said that he had been employed with the PA since 1994 and had occupied various positions. He stepped down as PA CEO last year.
Amy Borg
11:01 Johann Buttigieg takes the witness stand.
Amy Borg
11:01 The board re-enters the courtroom.
Amy Borg
11:00 We are back in session.
Amy Borg
10:55 Buttigieg has entered the courtroom.
Amy Borg
10:54 The board of inquiry has suspended the sitting for 5 minutes.
Amy Borg
10:53 He stepped down from this role in 2019 and was then appointed as MTA's Chief Executive Officer.
Amy Borg
10:52 Buttigieg was the former CEO of the Planning Authority.
Amy Borg
10:52 Next to take the witness stand is Johann Buttigieg.
Amy Borg
10:49 Marvin Gaerty's testimony ends here for today.
Amy Borg
10:48 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia said that by Friday she can compile and present the court with a list of people mentioned in the Panama Papers or were related to.
Amy Borg
10:43 Comodini Cachia also explained the board that the witness is now requesting a formal direction by the inquiry board if there should be a go-ahead to disclose certain information including names.
Amy Borg
10:41 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia explained the board that from what Gaerty said the board on which he was appointed was presented with financials by certain consortia before the RFP was drafted.
Amy Borg
10:40 He then said that he only viewed certain financials and was not involved in awarding the contract.
Amy Borg
10:39 He also says he does not really recall what his actual role was.

Lawyer Comodini Cachia said that "no one recalls his role when it comes to the contract being awarded to Electrogas."
Amy Borg
10:38 Gaerty said that he only attended twice and had only a minor role to draft the RFP/Financials of the project.
Amy Borg
10:37 He confirms that he was also appointed on the board to analyse the Enemalta project on the new power station which was eventually awarded to the Electrogas consortium.
Amy Borg
10:36 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is again asking questions.
Amy Borg
10:35 Lawyer Azzopardi asked the witness to clarify the date he was appointed in his current position.

Marvin Gaerty was appointed in September 2013.
Amy Borg
10:35 After the Moneyval report, things started to change said Gaerty.
Amy Borg
10:32 Gaerty re-explained that the policy has always been that if a person did not declare €5 million and if a person did not declare € 1 million, the department had to make sure that the tax, fine/s and accumulated interests, are paid.
Amy Borg
10:30 Marvin Gaerty was evasive in his reply.

"I hope you do have this kind of power," noted Lawyer Azzopardi.

The witness then said that yes but depends on the information they have in hand.
Amy Borg
10:26 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi asked if the department has the power to order a "raid" if there are serious allegations/proof of money laundering or tax evasion.
Amy Borg
10:24 He also said that they only used to communicate if a form of illegal cooperation was identified in investigations.
Amy Borg
10:24 The witness said that a relationship did not really exist up until a few years ago.
Amy Borg
10:23 What is the relationship between the tax department and the Accountancy board? asked Lawyer Azzopardi.
Amy Borg
10:22 Lawyer Azzopardi asked Marvin Gaerty if he feels comfortable working under the current policies and what does he suggest to improve things.
Amy Borg
10:21 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi is now asking questions.
Amy Borg
10:21 The inquiry board said that the direct question can be asked during another sitting.
Amy Borg
10:20 The witness said that he cannot answer the question.
Amy Borg
10:18 Lawyer Comodini Cachia asked if Nexia BT run by Brian Tonna and Karl Cini was ever reported to the accountancy board.
Amy Borg
10:16 The witness has been asked on which audit report does the department rely on.

Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia said that this question refers to the audit report that Konrad Mizzi claimed was conducted.
Amy Borg
10:14 Lawyer Comodini Cachia asked if the department has any power to execute on allegations of kickbacks, Panama Papers, Swiss leaks and so on.
Amy Borg
10:13 He also confirmed that after the Moneyval report things have improved.
Amy Borg
10:10 Comodini Cachia asked the witness if the department felt the need to change the policy on tax evasion and money laundering as the Panama Papers were revealed.

The witness said that the department did not see the need to do so as there were other scandals in the past linked to tax evasion and money laundering and no policy had ever changed.
Amy Borg
10:09 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia is now asking questions.
Amy Borg
10:07 He confirmed that it is extremely hard for the department to conduct the necessary investigations if the other systems are not in place o make it hard for the department to operate efficiently.
Amy Borg
10:03 He also said that the Moneyval report was "so right".
Amy Borg
10:00 "Efficiency wise and financially wise the reality is that if there is no register where people who evade tax are listed, no criminal procedures against them can be could be taken" explained Gaerty.
Amy Borg
09:57 He said that during the past year the Inland Revenue Department, the Police and the FIAU have been working closely together and improvements have been made.

The witness also said that the situation was not the same in 2016 – when the Panama Papers scandal was revealed.
Amy Borg
09:56 "When the person regularizes itself with the Tax Departments that it makes it difficult to accuse the person of money laundering." – Marvin Gaerty.
Amy Borg
09:55 When it comes to tax evasion the policy has always been for the person to regularize itself and no criminal procedures come into effect.
Amy Borg
09:51 The witness said that whenever a person is to be investigated on money laundering or fraud the person is provided with a notification of inquiry and as part of the process the person is asked to present documents.
Amy Borg
09:49 Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia said that it would be interesting if the Prime Minister would grant him permission to not testify behind closed doors.

As the Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty, under article 4, can disclose certain information only of the Prime Minister grants him the permission.
Amy Borg
09:48 Marvin Gaerty requested to continue testifying behind closed doors as he cannot disclose certain information in front of the media.
Amy Borg
09:47 He said that as a Tax Authority he had also contacted the ICIJ – International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Amy Borg
09:45 Gaerty also said that he used to regularly follow Daphne Caruana Galizia's blog as it used to be updated all the time with information on the Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
09:45 He said that he used to follow local media to keep himself updated.
Amy Borg
09:45 He also said that he acted immediately.
Amy Borg
09:43 Marvin Gaerty said that he gave instructions that the necessary investigations should be carried out on all allegations and therefore to investigate all the PEPs mentioned in the Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
09:43 The board of inquiry has now mentioned the Panama Papers.
Amy Borg
09:39 The board is asking Gaerty about his working relationship with the Ministry of Finance.

Marvin Gaerty explained that the relationship ship is strictly professional and the department consults only with the Ministry in terms of policies, financial legal aspects and when the Ministry plans budgets.
Amy Borg
09:39 He is an Accountant by profession. He also explained that his role falls under the Ministry of Finance.
Amy Borg
09:38 He said that he has been employed within the Tax department for the past 20 years.
Amy Borg
09:37 Gaerty is the Inland Revenue Commissioner.
Amy Borg
09:36 Marvin Gaerty takes the witness stand.
Amy Borg
09:36 The board of inquiry is led by Judge Emeritus Michael Mallia, accompanied by former Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and judge Abigail Lofaro.
Amy Borg
09:35 The inquiry board has entered the courtroom.
Amy Borg
09:32 Last week Finance Minister Edward Scicluna testified.

Scicluna said that he was one of the Ministers who demanded Keith Schembri’s resignation and that Konrad Mizzi lacked transparency in his work.
Amy Borg
09:32 Inland Revenue Commissioner Marvin Gaerty and former Planning Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg are expected to testify today.
Amy Borg
09:30 Today's court sitting is expected to start in a few minutes.
Amy Borg
09:29 We are live from courtroom 20.
Amy Borg
09:28 Good morning and welcome to this live blog.
Amy Borg