Konrad Mizzi instructed accountants to backdate New Zealand trust documents
While Panama Papers revealed his offshore companies, Konrad Mizzi was giving instructions to backdate changes to his New Zealand holdings
Konrad Mizzi instructed New Zealand accountants to backdate documents after the Panama Papers exposed his offshore interests in 2016, The Australian Financial Review reported.
Last month, The Shift News reported that a Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) investigation showed that Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri’s companies – Hearnville Inc. and Tillgate Inc. – were worth much more than €92, as Mizzi had repeatedly claimed. They were worth US$10,000 (€9,200 as per exchange rate in 2016).
Following this revelation, The Australian Financial Review said emails quoted in the leaked draft report show that while it was putting questions in late March 2016 to then New Zealand prime minister John Key about offshore trusts set up by Mizzi and Schembri, “Mizzi was giving instructions to backdate changes to his New Zealand holdings.”
The Australian Financial Review (AFR) added that “Mizzi had claimed in Malta in March 2016 that his Panama company was never used and had assets of only €92 ($146), but in reality the company had issued $US10,000 in shares to his New Zealand trust, reflecting a much greater scale of operation, until the records were backdated.”
The Panama Papers revealed trusts had been set up seven months earlier by Mizzi and Schembri.
“The latest revelations demonstrate how easy it is to alter trust documents, even after the changes. At a political level it is particularly sensitive because it was a senior cabinet minister in Malta seeking to alter records in New Zealand,” The Australian Financial Review said.
Malta’s anti-money laundering agency flagged concerns on documents perceived as forged that were related to Mizzi and Schembri’s offshore companies.
AFR’s Neil Chenoweth reported that this is the first indication that records of New Zealand trusts were altered by clients, in a structure that Maltese investigators suspected could be used to channel funds from Azerbaijan to the Seychelles, to Dubai, to Panama and finally to Malta via New Zealand trusts. Mizzi and Schembri have denied this.
The recently-leaked report by the FIAU was handed to a magistrate by PN MEP David Casa. It found that Nexia BT – the financial intermediaries who opened companies in Panama for Mizzi and Schembri – may have backdated documents to cover their tracks following the Panama Papers leak in April 2016.
The Panama Papers showed that Nexia BT set up two Panama companies that were transferred to Mizzi and Schembri in 2015, each with one share with a nominal value of $US100.
In July 2015 Mossack Fonseca settled two trusts in New Zealand for the two men, Rotorua Trust and the Haast Trust, which would be overseen by Bentley New Zealand’s trustee company, Orion Trust (New Zealand) Ltd.
The FIAU report refers specifically to a share certificate and a board meeting declaration drawn up and backdated to 21 July, 2015 to replace a previous one.
“The ease with which documentation was amended and backdated is considered to be suspicious,” according to the leaked report by Malta’s anti-money laundering agency. It is a “highly irregular” practice referred to as ‘backdating’.
The FIAU report also refers to an engagement letter dated 5 May, 2015 between Nexia BT and Mizzi.
“This document may have been fabricated to coincide and substantiate requests and claims made following the revelations of the Panama Papers,” according to the FIAU, which adds that Mizzi had actually been using the services of Nexia BT for well over two years prior to the engagement letter.