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Businessman wants pardon for evidence on oil scandal

A businessman at the heart of the Enemalta oil procurement scandal has requested a pardon in return for which he will give evidence against others believed to be implicated in the case, The Sunday Times has learnt.

Neither the Government nor the police would confirm or deny the information, but sources confirmed oil dealer George Farrugia told the Police Commissioner on Friday he was willing to turn State witness.

If his request is accepted, he will be granted a Presidential pardon in return for evidence which helps the prosecution.

The decision falls on the shoulders of the Justice Minister Chris Said who, possibly after consulting the Attorney General, will forward the recommendation to Cabinet before it goes to the President.

Mr Farrugia’s move followed a declaration on Friday by the Prime Minister that he was willing to use his powers to recommend a pardon to anybody who had information that could help the prosecution.

The Office of the Prime Minister did not confirm the request for a pardon but a spokesman said: “The Prime Minister confirms that the Government is prepared to grant an amnesty to those who are willing to testify under oath in court so that the full truth is revealed.”

The 47-year-old businessman was catapulted to the centre of the scandal last week when Malta Today published correspondence purporting to show he had been working with international oil traders to infiltrate Enemalta’s management.

Oil businessman wants pardon

The newspaper also published a copy of a document which appears to be an invoice allegedly issued by Mr Farrugia to the Dutch oil commodities giant Trafigura, which was practically a carbon copy of the one issued to the same company by Frank Sammut, the petrochemist first named in connection with the scandal.

The development comes as the police made significant strides in their investigation, which now appears to be following two avenues.

Several more people were interviewed last week, including Ray Stafrace, the former Chief Financial Officer of Transport Malta and now director of procurement, who audited the accounts of companies belonging to Mr Sammut, Mr Farrugia and Naeem Ahmed, the Trafigura official.

The police also spoke to members of the Farrugia family, involved in the John’s Garage business.

George Farrugia originally ran the company’s oil dealing subsidiary Powerplan. But he eventually left in 2010 following a row with his brothers, in which they alleged that he was siphoning money from the company.

That year, Powerplan instituted a civil case against Mr Farrugia claiming damages of some €7 million. The issue was settled out of court for €1.2million, sources told The Sunday Times.

But investigations are following a separate avenue, concerning the corporation’s former oil bunkering subsidiary (MOBC) and a company which later took a significant share of its business, Island Bunkering Oil Ltd.

Founded by Cassar Shipping managing director Anthony Cassar, the company came to include as shareholders Francis Portelli, of Virtu Ferries, and former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone. Mr Sammut also worked as a consultant for the company.

The company has been at the centre of rumours concerning its alleged favoured position vis-a-vis Enemalta for years but there was never any substance to the claims.

Now, the police are trawling through its history and in particular the role of Mr Sammut and Mr Tabone in relation to the Enemalta corporation.

Mr Farrugia is being represented by Franco Debono.

Two roads to exemption

The President has the power to grant a pardon to anyone connected to or convicted of a crime according to the Constitutional of Malta.

The pardon can either be free of conditions of it may list conditions that could, for example, include that the person pardoned has to testify in court, constitutional lawyer Ian Refalo explained.

The request for the pardon first goes to the Justice Minister and is then referred to Cabinet that advises the President whether or not he should grant a pardon.

Legally speaking, the Attorney General does not need to be consulted in this decision. However, in practice the AG was usually consulted, Prof. Refalo said.

Lawyer Emmanuel Mallia, who is also a Labour candidate, pointed out that the law setting up the Permanent Commission Against Corruption (Chapter 326) provided the Attorney General with the power to grant an exemption from criminal proceedings.

This was done by issuing a certificate in writing exempting any person from criminal proceedings on condition they gave evidence before the commission or the law courts.

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