In the sun-kissed Mediterranean island of Malta, where azure waters lap against ancient shores and a bustling financial sector pulses at its core, a tale of intrigue and controversy unfolds. At the center of this narrative lies XNT Limited, formerly known as Exante, a Malta-based investment firm shrouded in a veil of suspicion and linked to a web of political connections and financial irregularities. Recent revelations about two of its directors obtaining Maltese citizenship have once again cast a spotlight on the company’s shadowy history.

Alexey Kirienko and Anatoly Knyazev, both directors of XNT, obtained Maltese citizenship in 2016 and 2019 respectively. These years coincided with significant controversies surrounding the company. XNT, the preferred investment firm of former Maltese Minister Konrad Mizzi’s close associate, lawyer Aron Mifsud Bonnici, has been under scrutiny for its questionable practices. Both names surfaced in the government’s list of new Maltese citizens in 2016 and 2019, respectively, through the contentious citizenship by investment scheme.

XNT Limited’s shadowy past is a labyrinth of legal entanglements and regulatory rebukes. The company, formerly Exante, emerged as the investment vehicle of choice for Aron Mifsud Bonnici, a close associate of disgraced former Minister Konrad Mizzi. Mifsud Bonnici’s association with XNT raised eyebrows after substantial sums, approximately €1.4 million, were funneled into accounts he held with the company, sparking concerns of money laundering and tax evasion. The saga deepens with a backdrop of international scrutiny. XNT/Exante faced charges by the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), involving insider trading and alleged profits derived from an international online hacking ring. Although the SEC case against the company was eventually dropped, the ordeal left a stain on its reputation.

Closer to home, the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) dropped money laundering charges against Exante, contending that the company should be regulated in Cyprus, where it was registered. Despite regulatory interventions, XNT continued to operate in Malta, bolstered by its political connections. The company’s political ties, evidenced by its association with prominent Maltese figures, including former President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, played a role in its resilience.

XNT’s involvement in Malta’s ill-fated ‘Blockchain Island’ project further cemented its place in the country’s financial landscape. Spearheaded by Muscat and Minister Silvio Schembri, the project aimed to establish Malta as a global leader in blockchain technology. However, it failed to live up to its promise, and XNT’s role in it only added to the company’s notoriety.

Malta-based investment company XNT Limited, formerly Exante, was registered in 2011 and lists Lartemisis Holdings as its parent company. Latvian Gatis Egletis, Russian-born Alexey Kirienko, and Anatoly Knyazev are listed as Lartemisis’ directors.

Lartemisis, whose three shareholding companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands, serves as a parent company to several other Maltese-registered companies, including XNT Ltd, XNT Finance Plc, Extanech Ltd, XMT Holdings Ltd, and XMT Gozo Ltd.

A map of Exante’s local network of companies (marked in black), along with specific colours for completely offshore shareholding companies (orange) and local companies with offshore shareholders (green).
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The intertwining of XNT with Malta’s political elite is a cause for concern. Directors Kirienko and Knyazev were photographed at events alongside former President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The company’s involvement in Malta’s ambitious yet ill-fated ‘Blockchain Island’ project further underscores its political entanglements.

Exante’s Executive Director, Anatoliy Knyazev, and Exante’s CEO, Alexey Kirienko, were guests of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat a few weeks after the general election of 2017.
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The plot thickens with revelations of regulatory lapses. A senior associate of Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), Kristina Arbociute, was recruited shortly after leaving her post as a compliance officer at Exante. The FIAU’s defense of Arbociute’s employment raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

International regulatory bodies also cast a shadow over XNT’s operations. The Russian Central Bank blacklisted Exante’s sister company over alleged involvement in the securities market. Despite repeated run-ins with financial regulators worldwide, XNT continued to operate with impunity in Malta.
However, cracks in the facade began to appear when Malta’s FIAU imposed fines on XNT for non-compliance with anti-money laundering regulations and due diligence deficiencies. The subsequent overturning of the €250,000 fine by the constitutional court underscores the challenges faced in holding such entities accountable.

This story highlights the risks inherent in opaque financial dealings and the perils of unchecked political influence. As Malta navigates its path forward, grappling with the fallout from past indiscretions, the need for transparency and accountability in its financial sector becomes ever more pressing. Only by shedding light on the shadowy nexus of power and privilege can Malta hope to reclaim its reputation as a beacon of integrity in the global financial landscape.