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Oil firm asked rogue trader about meeting with minister

Verbatim text of an e-mail sent from George Farrugia to Total Trading SA official Olivier de Richemont.

Verbatim text of an e-mail sent from George Farrugia to Total Trading SA official Olivier de Richemont.

Leaked e-mails cast new light on the interest of international oil companies in the political contacts of rogue oil trader George Farrugia, The Sunday Times can reveal.

Any politician worth his salt contesting the first district would have met George and his brothers

In a 2005 e-mail being published today, Camille Kay, then responsible for Trafigura’s European fuel oil trade, asks: “How did your meeting with the minister go? Any good feedback?”

The reply from Mr Farrugia is unavailable but the message appears to form part of cache of correspondence which was recovered from Mr Farrugia’s computer when he managed the family-run oil trading company Powerplan – a subsidiary of the John’s Group.

Mr Farrugia is one of the men at the centre of a criminal investigation into alleged kickbacks being taken in the procurement of fuel for the State energy company, Enemalta.

On Friday, the Government recommended that he be granted a pardon for his part in the scandal, providing he gives evidence against other suspects – who include former corporation chairman Tancred Tabone and former director Frank Sammut.

The recommendation will now be forwarded to the President who will formally issue the pardon.

Austin Gatt, who was responsible for Enemalta during the period the allegations relate to, has denied he had any knowledge of wrongdoing while he was minister and said that he had never discussed oil tenders with Mr Farrugia.

The Sunday Times is also in possession of other e-mails from Mr Farrugia to and from Mr Tabone and also to Total Trading SA official Olivier de Richemont.

In a 2005 message to Mr de Richemont, Mr Farrugia said: “We have to send them confirmation about this. Re payments. Did not receive anything yet. Re the big one. I need it desperatly (sic) as cannot do what I need to do. Please do it or I will be in deep S. Thanks for your understanding and give me a reason to tell you you are too nice.”

In the correspondence with Mr Tabone, Mr Farrugia appears to refer to Dr Gatt.

In a 2003 e-mail, in which Mr Farrugia congratulated Mr Tabone on his appointment as Enemalta chairman, he wrote: “I am writing for confirmation of a meeting with one of the top managers of Total in Paris. When you have some time I would like to meet you or possibly for lunch to give you the details of my meeting with A.G. and on some issues you should consider to do at EnMa.”

Dr Gatt has acknowledged meeting Mr Farrugia but rejected that there was anything untoward in his liaisons and pointed out, among other things, that he was even a constituent on his district.

“Any politician worth his salt, and that includes Labour politicians, and contesting the first district would have met George and his brothers a number of times and talked about 101 things with them,” Dr Gatt had said.

When asked for a reaction to the e-mails yesterday, Dr Gatt reiterated that when he met Mr Farrugia he had never discussed the business of tenders for Enemalta’s oil or had any conversation with him that remotely touched on such subjects.

“The minister repeats once again that his denial in the first paragraph is categorical and if anyone has even a shred of proof that he discussed Enemalta oil tenders with anyone – let alone George Farrugia – then that proof should be immediately given to the Commissioner of Police,” a spokesman for Dr Gatt said.

The spokesman said that Dr Gatt had also met Mr Farrugia – in the presence of a number of his partners and ministry officials – regarding a storage project they were developing and which the ministry was involved in from a maritime point of view.

“The e-mails you refer to do not imply anything contrary to what the minister said and none of them even remotely refer(s) to Enemalta oil tenders. In fact, one of them does not even refer to the minister at all seeing that ‘A.G.’ could be anyone, another one actually refers to Mediterranean Oil Bunkering Corporation storage facilities in which George Farrugia was active as well, and the third one merely states that Tancred Tabone, then chairman of Enemalta, will be meeting the minister, which he did regularly.”

Besides Mr Farrugia, police have interrogated intensely Mr Sammut, the petrochemist who was originally named by Malta Today in connection with allegations of kickbacks on Enemalta’s oil procurement.

However, the police have also questioned Mr Tabone, who had appointed Mr Sammut his consultant. The former chairman last week resigned as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Questions sent to Trafigura remained unanswered at the time of writing, while Mr Farrugia, through his lawyer Franco Debono, declined to comment when contacted.

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