The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has decided that Brian Tonna and Karl Cini can “no longer be deemed as being fit and proper to hold any approved positions in entities licensed or supervised by the authority”.
Mr Tonna and Mr Cini were key figures in the Panama Papers scandal, being the accountants of former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and former Minister Konrad Mizzi, disgraced figures who were central to the ousting of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in 2019.
The decision was taken on 2nd December 2022 but was published on Tuesday 17th January (today).
This prohibition will remain in place until such time as the criminal proceedings against Mr Tonna and Mr Cini are ongoing or until judgement delivered in the criminal proceedings against them becomes res judicata.
The Authority will at that stage consider whether to vary, alter, add to or withdraw the directive after consulting such ruling.
The MFSA’s decision may be appealed before the Financial Services Tribunal within the periods as prescribed by the applicable law.
Mr Tonna was the managing partner of Nexia BT, while Mr Cini was a partner at the same firm, which was used by Mr Mizzi and Mr Schembri to set up secret companies in Panama days after the Labour Party’s historic electoral win in 2013.
They were key figures in the Panama Papers scandal that uncovered the set ups in 2016.
The companies set up by Mr Tonna and Mr Cini are alleged to have been meant to launder illicit proceeds from major national projects like the Electrogas power station, in partnership with Yorgen Fenech and his Dubai company 17 Black.
Mr Fenech is accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Nexia BT served as the local representative of Panama’s Mossack Fonseca, which has since been shuttered in the midst of a criminal investigation. It was also a major player in the Individual Investor Programme, Malta’s scheme to sell passports set up in collaboration with Henley & Partners, a firm with close ties to Cambridge Analytica, which has been accused of election tampering and has since also been closed down.
Mr Tonna has been accused of passing on a €100,000 kickback to Mr Schembri in relation to the sale of citizenship scheme. He has denied this allegation, saying that this was a loan repayment.
Nexia BT received over €2 million in direct orders from the Muscat administration between 2013 and 2017.
Mr Tonna and Mr Cini had their accountancy warrants suspended in September 2020, following a stiff reprimand delivered to the Accountancy Board by the judges leading the inquiry into whether the state could have done more to prevent the Ms Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
Mr Cini was also a central figure in the Egrant saga, a company set up at the same time as those of Mr Schembri and Mr Mizzi. While he sent Mossack Fonseca the pair’s names via email, he asked to only divulge the identity of Egrant’s ultimate beneficial owner over a call, leading to widespread speculation that the owner is someone with even more political exposure than Mr Schembri and Mr Mizzi.
The owner of Egrant was alleged to be former Prime Minister Muscat, leading to a magisterial inquiry which could not find any evidence for the company’s actual ownership.
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