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Transport Malta e-mails passed on to Electrogas by minister himself

Spokesman said there were no 'ethical concerns'

Konrad Mizzi handed over internal Transport Malta correspondence on the power station project to Electrogas businessman Yorgen Fenech, according to leaked e-mails.

The Electrogas electronic mail, dated February 2016, shows that a Transport Malta official had pointed out internally that the regulator was not in a position to participate in any public hearings about the project because it did not have the required information and could only comment once confident all was in order.

The official said the project seemed “rather delayed”, adding more work had to be done on the safety assessment on the floating storage unit (FSU) providing LNG to the power station.

In an internal e-mail, Transport Malta chairman and CEO James Piscopo was informed that Bumi Armada, the company contracted to operate the FSU, had no personnel on the ground yet.

The internal correspondence outlining the transport watchdog’s concerns reached Mr Fenech, Tumas Group’s CEO, a day after it was sent to Mr Piscopo.

“This is what is being conveyed internally at TM," Mr Fenech subsequently wrote in an e-mail to Electrogas commercial director Catherine Halpin.

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Tumas Group is part of the GEM local consortium formed with the Gasan Group and CP Holdings for the power station project. The other stakeholders in the project are Azerbaijan’s Socar and German company Siemens.

The internal Transport Malta e-mails were forwarded by Mr Piscopo to Dr Mizzi, then energy minister, who transferred them to Mr Fenech. The leaked Electrogas files indicate that Mr Fenech would often contact Dr Mizzi to smooth over problems encountered with the local authorities or with Enemalta.

Mr Fenech would often contact Dr Mizzi to smooth over problems encountered with the local authorities or with Enemalta

In response to the internal Transport Malta correspondence, Ms Halpin said Electrogas needed to regroup and only reply “when we have a plan and know what we are doing. Problem is that we are running out of time,” she wrote.

At the time, the power station was meant to operate by June 2016, having missed the original March 2015 deadline the government promised prior to the 2013 general election.

Mr Fenech, an Electrogas director, wrote in the same e-mail thread containing the Transport Malta exchanges that he needed a “very, very good story”.

“Probably best to bring up a very strong technical constraint. Then I will handle it. It is going to be a very, very rough time until that ship comes here,” Mr Fenech said in the e-mail.

He urged Ms Halpin to come up with a “solid, solid technical obstruction”.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, a spokesman for Dr Mizzi said that the e-mails referred to technical issues that needed to be addressed by Electrogas.

“These were officially forwarded by Transport Malta to Dr Mizzi who, at the time, was responsible for energy. In turn, he forwarded them to Electrogas so the technical issues could be addressed. There are no ethical concerns about the forwarding of Transport Malta’s e-mail,” the spokesman said.

I would have been irresponsible not to bring this to the attention of the responsible minister

Mr Piscopo also played down any concerns about forwarding the internal e-mail.

He said his e-mail to Dr Mizzi was to alert him of technical issues the project might have been facing at that particular point in time.

“I was acting on information given to me by the Harbour Master, which information I felt I was duty bound to share with the appropriate minister in order to avoid problems that might hinder the progress of a project that was considered of national importance,” Mr Piscopo said.

“To the contrary, I would have been irresponsible not to bring this to the attention of the responsible minister and just keep the information to myself doing nothing about it,” he added.

The Times of Malta reported earlier this month that the Occupational Health & Safety Authority is investigating e-mails sent by Mr Fenech describing one of their officials as a “friendly figure” who could help Electrogas.

Mr Fenech also said an unnamed minister spoke to the OHSA to “calm the situation” after the safety watchdog found shortcomings during the construction of the power station.

One outage of the Electrogas power station last year even saw Prime Minister Joseph Muscat calling up Mr Fenech for an explanation, according to other leaked e-mails.

In another internal Electrogas e-mail thread, Mr Fenech said he got a request to help out “a foundation by the PM’s wife”.

Mr Fenech asked Ms Halpin to keep the foundation in mind “for next year [2018]”.

Asked about his relationship with Dr Mizzi and Dr Muscat, Mr Fenech said the nature of his relationship with any government official was “professional, based on mutual respect and courtesy in line with my role and responsibilities”. As a director of both GEM and Electrogas, Mr Fenech said it was understandable that he would be the first point of contact if and when any local authority wished to contact the company on high-level matters.

Considering the national importance of this large-scale project and that Electrogas Malta was commissioned to provide power to its client, Enemalta, communication between the parties was obviously important, Mr Fenech remarked. He dismissed any “speculation” about the power station deal having been sealed before the March 2013 election.

“We unreservedly confirm that no member of GEM has ever had any discussion regarding the LNG to power the project with any member, candidate or official of the Labour Party prior to the 2013 general election,” he said.

Attached files

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