AS IT HAPPENS: The Egrant Mystery

Yesterday evening, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia dropped the bomb everybody had been waiting for; saying who owns the mysterious third Panama company, Egrant.  Last year, the infamous Panama Papers scandal revealed that government star minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri both owned shell companies in Panama.  Aside from those companies however, there was another company, titled Egrant, the owner of which was unknown because his or her name had been communicated via Skype, hence leaving no paper trail.

Fast forward a year, Daphne Caruana Galizia (who was also the first to reveal the involvement of Mizzi and Schembri in the Panama Papers Scandal) out of nowhere proclaimed that she knew who owned Egrant and that she would release the name of the said owner very soon.  Sure enough, last night she stayed true to her promise.  Here’s how things have gone down, as a whole country watches on in disbelief.

20th April, 6:59pm:

In a post on her blog Running Commentary, Daphne Caruana Galizia reveals that she has gotten hold of documents out of a safe in the kitchens of Pilatus Bank, based in Ta’ Xbiex, that show that the Ultimate Beneficiary Owner of Egrant is Mrs. Michelle Muscat, the wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

She states that Egrant had received a “loan” transfer of just over 1 million dollars from an account held in Dubai that was owned by the daughter of Azerbaijan’s dictator Ilham Aliyev, Leyla Aliyeva.

20th April, 8:00pm:

In a live broadcast, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat vehemently denies the allegations put forward by Mrs. Caruana Galizia, calling the situation “The biggest political lie ever told in this country”.

Minutes Later:

The Prime Minister emerges from Castille to a barrage of journalists and questions; but does not stop to answer any of them; instead going straight to his car.

20th April, 9:10pm:

NET Television contact the Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar live on air and ask him for comments on the case.  Mr. Cutajar repeatedly states that he “has no comments to make” and bids the presenters goodnight.

20th April, 9:30pm:

Leader of the Opposition Simon Busutill calls a press conference where he expresses his shock and dismay at events, stating that the Prime Minister has “lost all moral authority” to lead the country.  He also laments on the lack of response from the Police Force and states that the least that Prime Minister Muscat could have done was call an independent inquiry; but that he hasn’t done even this.

Minutes Later:

NET TV Journalist Darren Carabott, who is camped out in front of Pilatus Bank in Ta’ Xbiex, catches two people emerging from the bank’s side entrance with two suitcases in hand and taking a long route round to avoid the camera.  Carabott catches up with the two people, a man and a woman; who both eventually deny that they form any part of Pilatus Bank.  Both get into their rental car, with both suitcases, and drive off.

It is later discovered that the man was none other than the owner of the bank, Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad and the bank’s risk manager Antonella Gauci.

The website of Pilatus Bank is meanwhile shut down and no longer accessible to the public.

20th April, 10:30pm:

NET Journalist Mario Frendo tracks Police Comissioner Lawrence Cutajar to an establishment in Mgarr, where he is partaking in a ‘fenkata’.  He again refuses to make any comment on the case, before leaving the establishment.

20th April, 11:00pm:

Michelle Muscat, in a comment on NET Television, calls the allegation that she owns Egrant, an “obscene lie” before echoing the Prime Minister’s previous statement and appealing for calm and serenity.

20th April, 11:04pm:

Daphne Caruana Galizia makes further allegations; stating that $400,000 had been transferred from the account of Negadin Sadr, the sister of the Pilatus Bank owner Seyed Ali Sadr, to a certain Michelle Buttigieg.  Mrs. Buttigieg is the business partner of Mrs. Michelle Muscat in the fashion industry and holds the position of “Malta’s Tourism Representative” in the United States.

20th April, 11:45pm:

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat orders an independent magisterial inquiry into the allegations levelled against his wife.

21st April, 3:56am:

A chartered Bombarier Challenger 850 with the registration 9H-ILZ takes off from Luqa Airport and lands in Baku, Azerbaijan.  The owners of the plane, Vistajet, confirmed that the aircraft was flying to Baku, but said that it was empty and carrying no passengers or cargo on board.

21st April, 9:32am:

Led by duty magistrate Aaron Bugeja, the Malta Police Force raids the premises of Pilatus Bank.

April 21st, 10:32am:

Pilatus Bank release a statement denying all allegations levelled against it and denying that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat or any of his family members were ever clients of the bank.  They also deny allegations that two members of staff left the bank with suitcases full of documents and welcomed the calling of an inquiry by the Prime Minister.

April 21st, 11:09am:

Leader of the Opposition Simon Busuttil calls a press conference where he stated that Malta is in “an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis” and called for Labour MPs to sack Joseph Muscat.  He also called a national protest on Sunday afternoon.

April 21st, 11:20am:

Prime Minster Joseph Muscat also calls a press conference where he once again denies all the allegations levelled against him and challenges Simon Busuttil to a live television debate on Xarabank tonight (Friday) on TVM.

April 21st, 12:05pm:

Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil accepts Joseph Muscat’s invitation for a live TV debate; the first between the two leaders in three years.

April 21st, 1:26pm:

Updates on the flight that left Malta to Baku at 4am; upon arrival in Azerbaijan, it re-fueled and left to Dubai.

April 21st, 1:40pm:

Pilatus Bank owner Seyed Ali Sadr and Pilatus Bank risk manager Antoniella Gauci, who were both caught on camera leaving the bank late last night with two suitcases in hand, have been spotted at the Intercontinental Hotel in St. Julians implying that they indeed were not on the flight to Baku; as some had thought was the case.

Credit: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s personal blog; Running Commentary

April 21st, 2:23pm:

Pilatus Bank Chairman Seyed Ali Sadr refuses to comment on his bank’s involvement in anything related to this case, both in terms of Joseph and Michelle Muscat, and in terms of the Aliyev ruling family of Azerbaijan.  He tells journalists present to refer to the press statement released by the bank earlier this morning and that the bank did not wish to comment about clients it may or may not have.  This is despite the fact that within the afore-mentioned press statement, they commented on the Muscats.

April 21st, 4:00pm:

Michelle Muscat emerges from the hotel she is staying in and is confronted by Mario Frendo and a NET TV Crew. When asked what her relationship with Leyla Aliyeva is, her only reply to Frendo was “keep lying”.  NET also reported that when Mrs. Muscat learnt that there was a NET TV Crew at the door, panic ensued and Kurt Farrugia, the Prime Minister’s Head of Communications, was subsequently called over.

April 21st, 5:08pm:

Times of Malta journalist Jacob Borg meanwhile tracked down Minister without Portfolio Konrad Mizzi.  He was met with a frosty reception however with Mizzi not answering any questions about his involvement in the Panama Papers Scandal.  Borg was then manhandled and shoved away by Mizzi’s staff.  The video of this near-assault can be found here.

April 21st, 8:17pm:

With just a couple of hours before the much awaited debate between Joseph Muscat and Simon Busutill, Daphne Caruana Galizia has published extracts from two declarations of trust that show Mrs. Michelle Muscat to be the owner of the shell company Egrant.  These can be found on her blog, here.

STAY TUNED TO THE YUPPIE HERE AS WE CONTINUE TO UPDATE THIS STORY AS THINGS HAPPEN

Albert Galea

Co-Founder of The Yuppie back in 2017 and a History graduate.

Albert Galea

Co-Founder of The Yuppie back in 2017 and a History graduate.