The Members of the European Parliament are expected to agree on a strong statement raising concerns about money-laundering and tax practices in Malta, it will also raise questions on the independence of its police and judiciary, whose investigation of the assassination of a journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an outspoken critic of the ruling political circles, is under scrutiny.
The Maltese MEPs from Socialist & Democrats group – Alfred SANT, Miriam DALLI, and Marlene MIZZI – gave a press-conference and distributed their amendments to the draft of the resolution.
MEPs consider the references to Panama Papers are “totally unrelated” to the Rule of Law, reminding that the prime minister Joseph Muscat had confirmed Maltese tax system competitiveness, and conformity with the rules of the European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
They also point at “selective manner” in which the Media Pluralism Monitor report is quoted shows, according to Maltese MEPs, the “systematic manner”, in which Malta is being “attacked”.
The MEPs offer clarifications on associated Daphne Caruana Galizia information source, who fled the country shortly after prime minister asked for an inquiry to be held against the allegations levelled against him and his family. Named as “Russian woman,” in MEPs notes, and as Maria Efimova, married to a Greek national, by Maltese bloggers, the person is framed as a whistleblower in the European Parliament report. As an employer of a private bank ‘Pilatus’, Ms Efimova claimed she saw the papers, confirming the ownership of an offshore company ‘Egrant’ by Michelle Muscat, the spouse of the prime minister.
The MEPs point out that the “Russian woman” faced two separate criminal proceedings, which started well before the allegations pertaining to Egrant company name surfaced in media, Efimova was sued for fraud and misappropriation of funds.
The Maltese government has called in for help of foreign investigators, including Dutch forensic experts, the FBI and the Europol.
Concluding amending the draft, the MEPs suggested the position of the European Parliament is dominated by the European People’s Party “partisan agenda”: the developments on rule of law have been “positive”, Maltese representatives say, and strengthened last years by ruling party, in contrast to 25 years of stagnation under Partit Nazzjonalista leadership.
Image: the European Parliament president Antonio Tajani attributing name of Daphne Caruana Galizia to press centre auditorium in Strasbourg.