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Updated: Gatt denies discussing oil procurement tenders with Hamrun businessman

Updated - Adds MaltaToday reaction - Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt this afternoon said he was categorically denying reports claiming that he had met a businessman, George Farrugia "in a bid to ensure the lucrative sale of oil to Enemalta".

"I categorically and without any reservations, absolutely deny that anything of the sort ever happened or that any conversations I ever had with anyone at all - let alone George Farrugia - ever even remotely touched on the subject," Dr Gatt said with reference to a story that was published on Malta Today.

"If Malta Today has even a shred of proof in this regard I expect them to give it to the Commissioner of Police so he could investigate me. If they do not have such proof then I expect them to retract it immediately," the minister said.

In a statement, the minister said that George Farrugia and his four or five brothers are more popularly known as the owners of John's Garage and are a prominent family from Ħamrun.

"Any politician worth his salt, and that includes all Labour politicians, and contesting the first district will have met George and his brothers a number of times and talked about one hundred and one things with them.

"What I can vouch for and can swear to is that in my long political carreer as Minister I have never, ever talked with anyone, in any sector I have been responsible for, about tenders - let alone the tenders being mentioned. I have always refused to even entertain a conversation about any tenders and any complaints I have, over the years, received over the handling of tenders I have always had a stock reply - go to the Police, the Corruption Commission or the Ombudsman."

Dr Gatt said he would be seeking legal advice as to whether the claim of Malta Today was libellous and if it is he would be more than happy to sue.

MALTATODAY REACTION

In a reaction, Saviour Balzan, MaltaToday editor said:

“The emails MaltaToday has in its possession show that businessman George Farrugia met with minister Austin Gatt, but MaltaToday has not, in any way, inferred that Gatt was aware of or involved in any illicit deals in relation to fuel oil procurement to Enemalta.

“MaltaToday’s report does not suggest that the minister was involved in any illicit behaviour.

“The fact remains that George Farrugia lobbied with both Enemalta and politicians. The fact that MaltaToday uncovered this lobby and its vested interests should be applauded and not castigated. Until now we have been extremely careful in our choice of words and the presentation of documentation, but it is not up to us to investigate and do the work of the police.”

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