Thousands march to demand Maltese premier resign after Panama Papers

Thousands of people took to the streets in Malta on Sunday, calling on the prime minister to resign in the wake of the Panama Papers data leak that implicated two senior members of government. 

"Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has lost the moral authority to lead the country and should resign before more damage was done," opposition leader Simon Busuttil told protestors who gathered in Valletta.

Malta's opposition party has called for a motion of no confidence for the Muscat's failure to sack Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi and his chief of staff Keith Schembri, who were named in the Panama Papers affair.

The leak of 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which details how money was funnelled to shell companies in tax havens, has called into question the finances of numerous politicians, sports stars and celebrities from across 80 countries.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung first reported the existence of the 214,000 shell companies last Sunday, along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a number of other newspapers.

The ICIJ report named Mizzi and Schembri among the Mossack Fonseca clients.

Busuttil has questioned whether there is a connection between Mizzi's Panama holdings and the sale of Malta's energy provider to a Chinese company, a new gas plant awarded to the ElectroGas consortium, and the privatisation of two hospitals, among others.

"What will the other European prime ministers think of Muscat when he tries to defend Malta's financial services sector?" the opposition leader asked Sunday's crowd of protesters.

Busuttil said Malta had been taken into a dark alley of corruption, preferential treatment, discrimination, abuse of power and attacks on those who dared disagree with the government. 

"All these scandals had one common link - Joseph Muscat," he said.

Earlier on Sunday, Muscat said he will take the "necessary" decision about the Panama scandal but only once an internal probe is completed. 

Mizzi, the only sitting member of a European Union government named in the Panama Papers, has admitted that the choice of Panama was "an error of judgement" and has offered to close his Panama company in the interest of transparency.

Also on Sunday, the Australian Financial Review reported that a Malta advisory firm began setting up Panama companies for senior members of Malta's Labour Party five days after it won the general election in 2013.

Last update: Sun, 10/04/2016 - 23:31

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