Rogue trader given Presidential Pardon
Trader to return his corruption proceeds
The rogue oil trader at the heart of the Enemalta oil bribery scandal was officially granted a Presidential Pardon yesterday after he agreed to a set of terms that include returning the proceeds of the corruption ring he was part of.
President George Abela signed the pardon in the evening following a meeting in which 47-year-old George Farrugia accepted the terms of the agreement in a meeting with Attorney General Peter Grech and Police Commissioner John Rizzo.
The pardon is only valid for crimes connected with the oil bribery case and is conditioned on the premise that Mr Farrugia gives the whole truth and only the truth in connection with the case both in court and in any other inquiry that could be held in connection with fuel procurement in the future.
The pardon also demands that Mr Farrugia returns all illegal proceeds from the alleged corruption and that he makes an initial payment to this effect of €250,000 within five days. If it emerges that he made more profits from crimes related to the allegations on fuel procurement such money should be passed on to the Government.
Should any of the conditions not be met, the pardon will be automatically withdrawn, as if it was never granted.
The development comes as the police prepare to make a series of arraignments in connection with the case. Several people have been arrested and interrogated since Maltatoday first broke the story alleging that petrochemist Frank Sammut took kickbacks on Enemalta oil tenders awarded to Dutch commodities firm Trafigura around 2004.
Besides Mr Sammut and Mr Farrugia, the police also arrested Enemalta’s former chairman, Tancred Tabone – who resigned from president of the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry on Friday – as well as his partners on a bunkering company called Island Bunker Oils, Cassar Ship Repair managing director Tony Cassar and Francis Portelli, of Virtu Ferries.
Both the President’s Office and the Office of the Prime Minister issued statements, breaking the news about the pardon last night, both only sticking to the facts of the case.
Earlier, the issue was squarely in the political court when Labour leader Joseph Muscat demanded that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Transport Minister Austin Gatt give a detailed explanation in regard to a set of e-mails belonging to Mr Farrugia that were revealed in The Sunday Times.
In one particular 2005 e-mail, Camille Kay, then responsible for Trafigura’s European fuel oil trade, preludes a message concerning some day-to-day oil storage issues with a seemingly unrelated question: “How did your meeting with the minister go? Any good feedback?”
In other e-mails sent to Mr Tabone, Mr Farrugia says he wanted to discuss with him meetings he had with “A.G.”. In another e-mail he refers to a meeting with “Aust”.
The minister then responsible for Enemalta, Austin Gatt, acknowledged having met Mr Farrugia as part of official business and also on a constituency level – Mr Farrugia is originally from Ħamrun – but denied anything untoward.
In an interview, Dr Muscat yesterday said the e-mails gave rise to very serious questions and demanded that the Prime Minister and Dr Gatt clear the air.
He said a clear explanation was needed on two crucial points.
The first concerned the e-mail from the Trafigura representative and the reason she was inquiring about meetings that Mr Farrugia had with Austin Gatt. The second point was about the communication with Mr Tabone, in which Mr Farrugia asks the former Enemalta chairman whether they could discuss details of a meeting he had with “A.G”.
Dr Muscat said he would not speculate who this “A.G.” was but these were matters that the Prime Minister and Dr Gatt needed to explain.
In a brief reaction, the Government said partisan speeches such as the one by Dr Muscat would not help fight corruption, adding that the Administration had fought graft with firm action, which is why it had decided to recommend a pardon in the oil procurement case. “Should Dr Muscat or anyone else have any information, it should be immediately given to the police since that was the only way to counter corruption” the Government said.
The Labour Party rebutted with a counter-statement saying that instead of taking action at the mention of a leading minister in the e-mails, the Government had chosen to attack Dr Muscat.
“Instead of hiding, Dr Gonzi needed to explain the actions of the minister who was responsible for Enemalta,” the party said.
Lawyers Siegfried Borg Cole and Franco Debono represented Mr Farrugia.