PARIS: A group of European newspapers combing through more than 150,000 documents from tax haven Malta began publishing their findings Friday, French online news site Mediapart said.
Information from the so-called “Malta Files” will be released over the next two weeks, Mediapart said, just before the country is due to vote in snap elections.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat recently bowed to pressure over his family being embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal and has called elections on June 3.
The months-long “Malta Files” investigation into tax evasion, money laundering and corruption has mobilised 49 journalists in 16 countries, according to Mediapart.
The journalists have a list of people and entities linked to 53,247 companies registered in Malta, Mediapart said.
According to Der Spiegel, several German groups have companies registered on the island.
German authorities last week said they had opened a probe involving up to 2,000 companies registered in Malta on suspicion of tax fraud, after receiving an anonymous tip.
Last week’s allegations of a data leak showing offshore companies in Mala were “wrong on various counts”, said Edward Scicluna, Malta’s finance minister on Twitter on May 10.
“We’ve got nothing to hide,” he also said, quoted in Malta Today online this week.
“We have nothing to add to what we have already said,” a spokesman for Malta’s finance ministry told AFP Friday.
Malta, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has drawn criticism from some of its European partners for pushing to slow reforms against fraud and tax evasion.
Among the 13 news outlets participating in the investigation are Belgium’s Le Soir, German daily Der Spiegel, Italian magazine L’Espresso and Spanish daily El Mundo.
Some French business leaders have registered yachts on the island to benefit from lower taxes and social charges, reducing the costs of crews on the vessels, according to Mediapart.
L’Espresso reported that Italian nationals owned “by far” the largest amount of companies on Malta, around 8,000.