This article continues where article number 3 left off, facing the question ‘Who owns Egrant?’
I will continue to show how Brian Tonna and Karl Cini subverted a magisterial inquiry with half-truths, and outright lies. They served a prime minister who would go on to be selected as the International 2019 Person of the Year in Organised Crime and Corruption Report Project.
Start by reading this article published in the Times of Malta of 20 May under the heading “Nexia BT gets new licence despite Panama scandal”. Nexia BT – a veteran of the Panama Papers – has been given a new licence by the MFSA requiring “high standards of conduct and compliance” to audit the internal IT systems and protocols of high-risk entities like cryptocurrency exchanges.
The Forensic analysis by Harbinson Forensics, made public as part of the Egrant inquiry, identified “evidence of suspicious transactions, concealed corporate relationships and other indications of probable money-laundering activities” in data seized from Nexia BT.
Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, in his conclusions to the Egrant Inquriy, suggests to the police to investigate discrepancies in the testimony of Karl Cini which could indicate prima facie perjury. He also concludes on page 1452, point 1, that he found the prerequisites to open an inquiry on Willerby, a company owned by Brian Tonna/Nexia BT, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. This inquiry is still in the pending tray of the appointed magistrate.
The Testimony of the Directors, employees and agents of Mossack Fonseca
Jacqueline Alexander is a director of Dubro Limited, one of the two original subscribers appearing at the setting up of Egrant Inc. She is also the person who said that her signature on the Declaration of Trust, attributing ownership of Egrant to Michelle Muscat, did not belong to her.
- Responding to a question by the magistrate on the setting up of Egrant, the identity of the involved parties and the name of the ultimate beneficial owner between 4 July 2013 when the company was set up and 15 February 2017 when the company was liquidated, Jacqueline Alexander replied that she could not remember anything about Egrant Inc and its structure.
- On being shown the transcript of the declarations of trust printed on 21 April 2017, Jacqueline Alexander replied that she could not identify and recognize what is mentioned in the document as there was not even one copy of the declaration of trust which she signed.
- On being shown the assignment of subscription of two shares in Egrant Inc, she identified this as the document of transfer of the subscription shares in Egrant Inc which were issued to ‘Bearer’ on 6 July 2013. The document carried her signature together. She identified also the attached copy of the memorandum and articles of association of the company.
- On being shown the letter from ATC Administrators Inc to Brian Tonna, she recognized this as the letter in which there was written who, according to her, was the real bearer of the shares.
- On being shown the share certificate of Egrant Inc, she confirmed that this was the certificate of shares in Egrant Inc.
Conclusion of the magistrate
From the testimony of Jacqueline Alexander, therefore, it was not proven that she knew who the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant Inc was. Nor, by extension, did she know that the ultimate beneficial owner of of Egrant Inc was Michelle Muscat.
The credibility of a witness is, in my opinion, a key aspect that must be considered by a court. In this respect, I must therefore highlight the credentials of Jacqueline Alexander, who was a key witness in this inquiry.
- In June 2017 the Special Court in Panama denied her bail in a case concerning money laundering.
- On 11 September 2015, she signed power of attorney documents for Henry Maksoud, a Brazilian businessman who had been dead for a year.
- On 25 January 2017, she was named by the Toronto Star as part of an operation by Mossack Fonseca to help an Australian businessman to launder money. Mossack Fonseca incorporated a company in Chile, Servicios Andinos de Consultoria SPA which drew up a contract and invoice for $700,000. A website was designed for the company by Mossack Fonseca and a fake email chain was constructed in order to make it appear as though it was legitimate business. A second invoice of $670,000 was drawn up to make it look like Servicios Andinos de Consultoria SPA paid the company in Canada. While the paper trail show that the money arrived in Canada, the bank records tell us otherwise.
- An investigation by French journalists showed that Mossack Fonseca used to hire people to sign copies of documents using the names of other employees who were nominally responsible for thousands of companies that they could not really handle. It was impossible, for example, for Jacqueline Alexander to physically deal with the seventeen thousand offshore companies that she was involved in.
Verna de Nelson is a director of Aliator S.A., the second one of the two original subscribers appearing on the setting up of Egrant Inc. When she was interviewed on 16 October 2017, Verna de Nelson said that she did not have any information with respect to Egrant Inc., because the file for this company was stored in the office and she did not have a copy of it. Also, once the issues went back a few years, she would not remember any details.
She did however identify the other documents that were shown her.
Conclusion of the magistrate
From the testimony of Verna de Nelson, it was not proven that she knows who the beneficiary of Egrant Inc is, and neither that she knows whether the UBO of Egrant Inc was Michelle Muscat.
As regards Verna de Nelson, I did not find any negative publicity. She seems to be one of the preferred nominee directors and she services 6,400 companies.
Juergen Mossack, partner of Mossack Fonseca together with Ramon Fonseca, are the subjects of a probe in New York involving the Federal Bureau of Investigations. They were arrested in February 2017 and initially denied bail, but were released in April 2017. According to the Panama Papers, they set up more than 214,000 shell companies around the world, some of which were found to have been used for illegal purposes including fraud and tax evasion. In March 2018, the firm announced that it was shutting down.
Juergen Mossack gave power of attorney to an employee, Hilda Joanna Soto, to exhibit documents relative to Egrant Inc. On the setting up of the company, Brian Tonna was given the option to choose the type of certificates he wanted for the company: either bearer shares or registered shares. Brian Tonna chose registered shares. However, he gave instructions to Mossack Fonseca to register his name as shareholder, however under a nominee provided by Mossack Fonseca. Brian Tonna ordered the issue of one share and the issue of one share certificate for this share. Brian Tonna also opted not to have company documents notarized.
The Directors of Egrant Inc
It is pertinent to highlight that from the records of the public registry in Panama, it results that no changes were made to the board from the registration date on 4 July 2013 to the date of liquidation on 15 February 2017.
Ricardo Samaniego was asked by the magistrate (page 1045 A.1.5.1) about various issues concerning the company, particularly the identity of the owners from the registration date to the liquidation date. Ricardo Samaniego replied that, although he was a director of Egrant Inc, he had no idea who the owners were, and neither whether the company had carried out any transactions. Ricardo Samaniego therefore, did not confirm what appeared in the Egrant documents, that is, that the owner was Brian Tonna.
Asked whether he knew anything about ATC Administrators, and whether that firm had any shares in Egrant Inc., he answered that he knew nothing about this company.
Yadira de Boutard (page 1047 A.1.5,2) says that she was a signatory in her capacity as a director of Egrant Inc. However, she had no information whatsoever on the company, including who the owners were and as to whether the company carried out any transactions.
Asked from whom she used to receive instructions about Egrant Inc., she replied that she used to sign documents which the messenger used to get to her desk. They used to get her the documents just for her signature.
Asked to give information about anything she may know about ATC Administrators Inc and whether this company had any shares or participation in Egrant Inc, she replied that she knew nothing about this.
On being shown documents by the magistrate, she commented that she could not remember them, although she supposed that if there was her signature on any of them, she could have received them for signature as she does with any documents referred to her. She added that she would not have any information, as her role was just to sign and no information was given to her.
Hercibelle Gonzales (page 1048 A1.5.3) said that she could not answer any questions as she knew nothing about Egrant Inc including who were the owners or other issues.
Asked from whom she used to receive instructions about Egrant Inc, she replied that she did not know.
Asked to give any information she may know about ATC Administrators and whether this company had any shares or participation in Egrant Inc, she replied that she knows nothing about this, as she was only involved as an internal communicator in the human relations department.
Yenny Martinez/Leticia Montoya – the replies were no different to the above.
Conclusion of the Magistrate on the directors of Egrant
None of the directors knew who the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant Inc was and who was responsible for issuing instructions about the company. From their testimony, it is clear that, except for signing documents, they did not have the least involvement in the running of the company. None of them knew how to answer basic questions. These persons were there to act as directors or officers just in name. None of them knew who to take instructions from, to sign documents or to act in their declared capacity.
The role of ATC Administrators Inc as shareholders of one issued share by Egrant Inc
Leticia Montoya (page 1056 A.1.6.1) was one of the two persons signing the acknowledgement and declaration on behalf of ATC, endorsing that the beneficial interest in, and ownership of the one share, were exclusively vested in Brian Tonna.
When she was asked whether she knew about the letter from Brian Tonna dated 19 January 2017, and whether she had appeared personally on the public registry act relative to the liquidation of Egrant Inc (and if not, who had appeared on her behalf), she replied that she had not seen the document or recall that it had come into her hands. However, she said that it would have been done by someone responsible for the preparation of such documents as part of routine. She does not know who the person was.
Asked whether she had any information on Egrant Inc, including who the owners were, she replied that she had no information about it.
Leticia Montoya was involved in 11,000 companies.
As regards the documents shown to her, she recognised all the documents, however when she was a document which was signed, she stated that the document showed someone as the beneficiary of the company and has a share certificate of a number of shares. She said the signature could be hers, “but not in original form”.
Shown another document, she said it was the first time she was seeing it. She said that document is signed by the client, and must have been issued in case there was the need for some clarification.
Yvette Rogers (Page 1058 A.1.6.2), the other signatory on the document of ATC Administrators Inc, was asked whether she had any information about Egrant Inc including who were the owners. She replied that she had no information about Egrant.
Asked from whom she used to receive instructions about Egrant Inc, she replied that she was not even a director of this company.
In fact, there is no title under her name or that of Leticia Montoya, as to their authorized capacity under which they were signing, except that they were signing “for and on behalf of ATC Administrators Inc”. She concluded her testimony by saying that she used to receive instructions from her clients, although in this case, she did not know who her client was.
It is important to note that Yvette Rogers is also being investigated, together with Jacqueline Alexander, Yakeline Perez, George Allen, Carmen Wong and Imogene Wilson, by Panama’s Second Prosecutor’s Office against Organised Crime.
Luis Quiel (Page 1028 A.18.104.22.168.) testified on 26 September 2017 and said the document liquidating Egrant Inc was registered in the Public Registry, and therefore considered to be valid. He also said that he did not remember the name of the person who gave him the instructions to place Egrant Inc in liquidation, however, in any case, the client had to be and was Nexia BT which are an office of accountants in Malta. Luis Quiel also said that the declaration dated 9 August 2013, sent by the beneficial owner was a valid certification, and corroborates effectively the information filed in the archives of Mossack Fonseca. Although this document was a copy, Luis Quiel confirmed that the signature was his.
Conclusions of the Magistrate on the testimony of the representatives of ATC Administrators Inc.
Inconclusive. Not even the representatives of ATC Administrators Inc, whose signature appears on the documents issued by Egrant Inc, were able to reply appropriately for the most important requisites of the inquiry. They testified they had no information as to who was the UBO of Egrant Inc or whether any financial transactions could have been done by Egrant Inc.
And all this, when the documents showed that Brian Tonna was the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant Inc.
It is significant in this respect, that Luis Quiel states that the letter sent by ATC Administrators Inc to Brian Tonna, dated 8 August 2013, in which the real owner of the shares is identified, is a valid certification. This effectively corroborates the information which was residing in the archives of Mossack Fonseca.
Although merely from a copy copy, Luis Quiel confirmed definitively that the signature on the document was his. Therefore, Luis Quiel, the lawyer directly involved in various operations between Mossack Fonseca, BTI Management and Karl Cini, confirms what Brian Tonna and Karl Cini said about the fact that Brian Tonna was the ultimate owner of Egrant Inc.
While I am sure that you will agree that this is clearly a very messy inquiry and a compendium of half-truths and outright lies, I must pose one key question which the magistrate seems to have not asked Luis Quiel:
‘Did Karl Cini, as he promised you, actually give you the name of the UBO of Egrant Inc, over Skype, and if yes, can you inform us what name he gave you, and also the exact date, time and telephone number used by him and yourself for this confidential conversation?’
The more I read this inquiry, the less I’m convinced of the inquiring magistrate’s good faith. He stopped short of asking the questions that could have led him to Michelle Muscat. Instead he asked questions that led him to her husband and rapid promotion to judgeship a few months after he signed off on this sham.