Maltese PM says name cleared in Panama Papers probe


Valletta (AFP)

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Sunday a year-long inquiry into allegations of financial wrongdoing linked to the Panama Papers scandal had cleared him.

Muscat called a snap election last year -- which he won comfortably -- after he and his entourage, including his wife Michelle, were accused of owning a company mentioned in the papers.

"Today, justice has been served," a visibly emotional Muscat told a press conference.

He said a judicial investigation running to 1,500 pages showed former opposition leader "Simon Busuttil has thrived on a lie in a bid to win power."

And Muscat said that "the only honourable thing for (Busuttil) to do is resign from all his positions, including as MP."

The year-long probe was conducted by judge Aaron Bugeja and its conclusions were published a day after the report had been passed on to the attorney general.

The inquiry also did not find any evidence that Muscat, his wife, his close aide Keith Schembri, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, or former European Commissioner John Dalli were involved in money laundering or suspicious financial transactions involving holders of bank accounts in Azerbaijan via Pilatus Bank.

The allegations had been made on the blog of slain investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed by a car bomb last year.

After winning the election, Muscat had promised to resign if the probe showed there was an "ounce of truth" in the allegations.

Malta's financial services watchdog froze the assets of Pilatus Bank and removed the bank's chairman Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad in March, three months after three people were charged in connection with Caruana Galizia's death.