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Update 4: Evidence in oil procurement case - Tancred Tabone suggested Swiss account for commissions

George Farrugia knew about commissions - Tabone denied involvement in commissions in police confrontation with Sammut

Tancred Tabone and Frank Sammut (right)

Tancred Tabone and Frank Sammut (right)

Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Cassar told a court this afternoon how Tim Waters, an official in oil trading company Trafigura who was in charge of supplies to Malta, had a meeting in London with Frank Sammut during an international fair, and an agreement was reached for him to help Trafigura to submit the best offers to Enemalta.

Mr Cassar was giving evidence at the opening of the compilation of evidence against former Enemalta chairman Tancred Tabone and his former consultant Frank Sammut, who are accused of corruption and money laundering in the oil procurement process.

Mr Cassar said a Swiss bank account was specifically opened for $80,000 in commissions received in eight payments. The funds were divided between Mr Sammut and Mr Tabone.

In a subsequent police statement, Mr Sammut said he also received a further €159,000 in an account in the Royal Bank of Scotland, which he also split with Mr Tabone.

Mr Sammut used to give a copy of the invoices to Mr Tabone.

Mr Tabone would be paid in cash and some times through money transfers.

Mr Sammut had told the police that it was Mr Tabone who had suggested that the money from the commissions should be channelled to a Swiss bank account. Mr Sammut had also described how he would inform Trafigura of what Enemalta wanted.

Sammut would then ensure that the Oil Procurement Committee accepted the Trafigura tender offers, even if the product did not fully match specifications.

Mr Sammut said he received some commissions even after leaving Enemalta (in 2004), but had not received any payments recently.

Mr Sammut was a consultant to Mr Tabone while he was chairman of Enemalta (until 2005) and previously served as CEO of MOBC, Enemalta's bunkering subsidiary. He was appointed to the oil procurement committee in 2004 and gave advice on oil procurement by the corporation and also by Air Malta.

Mr Cassar said Mr Sammut was removed by Mr Tabone on instructions from Austin Gatt. The former chairman had voiced objections, saying the corporation would lose his expertise.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Assistant Commissioner Cassar said that in his statements to the police, Mr Sammut admitted that as consultant to Mr Tabone and as CEO of MOBC he had had a conflict of interest as he was a silent partner in IBOL (Island Bunker Oils Ltd) an oil trading and bunkering company in which Anthony Cassar and Francis Portelli (charged separately with corrupting Mr Tabone and Mr Sammut) were the active partners.

He also told the police that George Farrugia, the local agent of Trafigura (who was granted a presidential pardon for information on this case) had known about the commissions. He had told Mr Farrugia that Mr Tabone was also involved.

Mr Farrugia was involved in the commissions, which were known as consultancy fees.

TANCRED TABONE DENIED CLAIMS

With regard to police questioning of Tancred Tabone, AC Cassar said that in his first statement, on Janaury 24, Mr Tabone confirmed that he was chairman of Enemalta and later of MOBC. There was no management structure at the time but he was involved in the most important decision making. The Oil Procurement Committee had lacked technical expertise. He had known Frank Sammut from MOBC and he was appointed as an adviser.

When Mr Sammut's post in MOBC was terminated, he was given a Lm40,000 golden handshake. Mr Tabone said that the minister asked for the resignation of Sammut as adviser as it was ridiculous how he was paid off on early retirement and then engaged as a consultant.

Mr Tabone denied ever being in business with Frank Sammut.

About allegations of corruption, he said he was shocked and surprised because Mr Sammut was his consultant. He said that he was never offered money and never received any money.

A confrontation was held between with Tabone and Sammut. Mr Sammut found no problem in repeating his claims against Mr Tabone about splitting consultancy fees. Mr Tabone denied the allegations.

Asked if he received any bank transfers, he said that he had loaned Mr Sammut some money to buy land next to his house. Asked how much, he said he could not remember. He said it was to be paid back to his Swiss bank account. Asked what balance there was, he could not remember.

He said that the money in the account was used to go on holidays.

At one point Mr Tabone he was taken to hospital complaining of a stomach problem.

The police carried out a search of his house and his office at Forestals Mriehel and seized some documents and two hard drives.

POLICE QUESTION FRANCIS PORTELLI

Mr Cassar said that Francis Portelli of Virtu’ Group told the police how Mr Tabone and Mr Sammut were partners in IBOL along with him and Tony Cassar, but their role was kept hidden because of their posts in Enemalta.

Following a confrontation between the shareholders in 2005, Sammut   was asked to resign on suspicion of wrongdoing. Agreement was reached on compensation for his shares.

Mr Portelli had told the police that he did not know of the commissions from Enemalta oil procurement to Sammut and Tabone. The police however found documents and invoices related to the case during a search in one of Mr Portelli’s offices.

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