Konrad Mizzi’s “92 euros” makes it to German national newspaper

Published: October 22, 2016 at 12:25am

Konrad Mizzi’s fabled “92 euros”, with which he claims to have “populated” his secret Panama company so far, have gone into the headline of a piece in the German national newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. A translation follows.


Malta’s scandal-ridden government will take over the EU presidency next January.

By Oliver Meiler, Rome – 18 October

The star tenor is already booked. Joseph Calleja is to sing when Malta, his home country, presides over the presidency of the European Union from January for half a year. Little Malta has been part of the Union since 2004 and has never held the presidency yet. One wants to shine, and the government wants to prevent unpleasant tones. It will not be easy.

Since it became known eight months ago that two prominent members of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s cabinet have set up companies in Panama and trusts in New Zealand, whose existence they have illegally concealed, there is a shadow on the government. This shadow could haunt them up to the European stage.

At the centre of this are Muscat’s cabinet chief Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, who is now being referred to in Malta as the “No Portfolio Minister”. Mizzi, as Minister of Energy and Health, was the government’s number two, as well as deputy leader of the Labour Party, when the revelations from the Panama Papers undermined his credibility. More controversially still, Mizzi and Schembri set up their companies in 2013, very shortly after they took office. Both have acknowledged that they did not inform the authorities. But they see this failure as being of little importance. Besides, Mizzi said his company was “empty” – or nearly so: there were only 92 euros.

There was a lot of anger among the population, and the demands from the Opposition for their resignations were so loud that Muscat was forced to trim the responsibilities of his most important companion, Mizzi, at least in appearance. The Prime Minister took over the energy portfolio, which has not prevented Mizzi from remaining responsible for that department in fact. Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, has retained his position.

Over the past week, the farce was once again particularly obvious. It wasn’t Muscat, but Konrad Mizzi, who went before Parliament to answer urgent questions from other MPs on the government’s energy transactions. The Opposition Nationalists left the chamber in protest and returned only when Mizzi had stopped speaking.

Now the pressing question is: who from Malta is going to be invited to the three energy summits at ministerial level which will be held during Malta’s EU presidency – Muscat or Mizzi? And if it is Mizzi, does Malta not risk having journalists ask embarrassing questions about his offshore companies?

There is also the matter of the European Parliament, where a committee is examining the cases of European politicians referred to in the Panama Papers. On the list of those who are soon to be invited to speak before the committee is the No Portfolio Minister from Malta.

Some of the distrust that Mizzi and Muscat face at home is because the Minister’s financial assets have not yet been investigated. When pressure on the government was at its greatest, the Prime Minister promised an audit by an independent international auditor. But up until today, the name of the audit firm remains unknown. And nothing indicates that the investigation will be completed soon.

Recently, Mizzi was asked in court, during a case he instigated himself, about this audit. He responded, annoyed, “These are questions you should ask the Prime Minister”. When journalists then confronted Muscat about this, Muscat said: “It is a reputable company, a leader in the field”. Any further questions were useless. As long as the investigation is still going on, Muscat said, he will not reveal the name. Only when the investigation is concluded will he reveal all. This is how things are done, he said.

The Times of Malta thinks that the Prime Minister is handling the affair miserably. “Muscat has damaged the reputation of his government,” the newspaper said in a leading article, “and with it also the reputation of Parliament and that of the whole country”. But there is no immediate political disadvantage, because the Labour Party’s majority in parliament is stable. So Muscat continues to operate, covering up for his close confidantes and, as many Maltese believe, for himself. However, there is no evidence that he could be the “third man” in the scandal.

A few days ago, the head of the Maltese government said that the aim is to prove that Schembri and Mizzi are telling the truth and their Panama companies do not hold any funds. For this, banks would have to be searched all over the world. And that could take time.