17 Black: ‘Yorgen Fenech boasted about pre-election power station deal’ - MP
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17 Black: ‘Yorgen Fenech boasted about pre-election power station deal’ - MP

Labour denies that deal was planned before 2013 election

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi during the April 2017 inauguration of the new power station.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi during the April 2017 inauguration of the new power station.

Updated 3.20pm with Labour reaction - Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech had made it known both publicly and privately that the power station contract was a done deal for him, according to Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Dr Aquilina said the whole deal was planned months before the 2013 election.

"Mr Fenech used to boast that he was pushing for this project, he met with people to show them what he was doing. Mr Fenech showed it was a done deal,” he said.

Mr Fenech was revealed as the owner of 17 Black, a Dubai company which according to leaked e-mails was to pay up to $2 million into the Panama companies owned by the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.

Dr Aquilina described Mr Fenech as the project's factotum, a trouble-shooter who used to intervene personally to "pull people's strings".

Times of Malta has previously reported how Dr Mizzi leaked internal Transport Malta correspondence containing misgivings about the project to Mr Fenech.

Dr Aquilina delved into the shareholding structure of Electrogas, the power station company that brought together local and foreign shareholders, including Azerbaijan's state energy company Socar and German company Siemens.

The MP noted how Mr Fenech had interests in Electrogas both through Tumas Energy Limited and another company called New Energy Supply Limited, of which he is the sole shareholder.

Authorities in a serious country would investigate all facets, he said.

Dr Aquilina said this double shareholding in the project naturally raised the question if the 8% shareholding in the project held by New Energy Supply Limited was a front for someone else.

He questioned if the shares in this company were meant as some sort of commission for the power station project.

Dr Aquilina said the local authorities had to investigate how the shares in Electrogas were divided and why Mr Fenech had a financial stake in both Tumas Energy Limited and New Energy Supply Limited.

He said authorities in a serious country would investigate all facets of the deal, including Socar’s role in the project, seeing that it was not actually a gas supplier.

The Daphne Project reported in April how Socar’s role as an LNG broker for the project was making it millions, to the detriment of Maltese taxpayers.

The MP recalled how Dr Mizzi’s and Mr Schembri’s ownership of these Panama companies was only revealed thanks to the Panama Papers leak.

He said revelations by Times of Malta and Reuters closed the circle from where the two government officials were going to source the Panama funds from.

Dr Aquilina said 17 Black was a company that, until a few years ago, did not even exist.

It suddenly received $1.6 million from an Azerbaijani national and the local agent for the LNG tanker supplying gas to the power station project.

‘PM can ditch Schembri and Mizzi or sink with them’

The MP said there was proof that 17 Black was being used to receive and send money linked to that same project.

Turning his focus to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, he said Dr Muscat's paralysis in the face of these facts raised suspicions that he was involved.

Dr Aquilina said the Prime Minister had a golden opportunity to ditch Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri after his resounding victory at the 2017 polls.

Watch: I have confidence in Keith Schembri - Muscat

Instead, Dr Mizzi was again appointed minister and Mr Schembri retained his role as chief of staff.

"There is something that ties this trio together, they cannot get rid of each other. Joseph Muscat is his own hostage, a hostage of the situation he himself created," Dr Aquilina said.

The MP insisted that Dr Muscat had to take responsibility for appointing Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri.

“If he appointed them as part of the plan, then his position is no longer tenable”.

He said the Prime Minister was now at a crossroad - he could either fire the two men or go down with them.

Watch: 'Keith Schembri is not being investigated - I am stating facts' - Muscat

Labour denies claims

In a reaction, the Labour Party denied that there was an agreement with any person or company regarding the power station before the 2013 election.

It said the contract was awarded after a competitive process on the basis of the plans which had been made public. Several companies had submitted bids and the evaluation process took months.  

The party pointed out that the project was evaluated by the European Commission which confirmed that the government had followed the law and regulations.

The party claimed Dr Aquilina had 'invented' his claims.  

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