Malta’s Court of Auditors nominee defends minister exposed in Panama Papers

Leo Brincat [Government of Malta]

Leo Brincat, the new Maltese nominee for the European Court of Auditors, whose role is to fight corruption, has helped a cabinet minister exposed in the Panama Papers, to escape a no-confidence motion.

A five-hour parliamentary debate on a motion of no-confidence in Konrad Mizzi, a minister without portfolio, was defeated on 4 May, with 31 MPs voting in favour and 36 against.

Mizzi replaced Toni Abela as deputy leader of Labour, the party of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Abela was the government’s nominee for the European Court of Auditors, but was rejected by the European Parliament over doubts about a past affair involving cocaine. Following the rejection of Abela, the Maltese government nominated Brincat as its candidate for the European Court of Auditors.

The Court is composed of one member from each member state, who are appointed after a hearing in the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament, and a non-binding majority-vote in the Committee, as well as in the plenary of the European Parliament.

Parliament committee rejects Maltese candidate for Court of Auditors

The European Parliament’s Budgetary Committee blatantly rejected yesterday (15 March) the Maltese government’s nomination of Toni Abela for the European Court of Auditors.

Mizzi gained notoriety last month as the only EU minister named in the Panama Papers. Mizzi admitted, in collusion with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, to have opened a company in the financially secretive jurisdiction of Panama, held by a trust in New Zealand.

Sole EU minister named in Panama Papers is Malta’s Konrad Mizzi

Maltese journalists and bloggers have found that the only minister from an EU member state identified in the Panama papers of clients of tax evasion schemes is Malta’s Health and Energy Minister, Konrad Mizzi.

The opposition has been calling for Mizzi’s resignation. The Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that a decision will be made once independent audits are concluded. Following the Panama Papers revelations, Mizzi is no longer energy minister, but still holds the post of cabinet minister.

During the the five-hour debate, opposition MPs spoke about the failures of the minister, while government MPs defended the government’s achievements.

Blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote that the vote by Leo Brincat is likely to put the Maltese candidate in a difficult position when he faces a hearing in the European Parliament.

“The European Court of Auditors was set up to fight fiscal corruption in European Commission systems and to act as a check on it. It will not take kindly to Malta’s putting forward a nominee who voted to protect a government minister after he was discovered to have set up, in secret, a money-laundering structure in Panama and New Zealand.”

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