A major investigation into a financially crippled and unreliable Electrogas project by Daphne Caruana Galizia was interrupted by her assassination, her son, Matthew, had told a court.
In today’s sitting, Caruana Galizia exhibited a series of leaked email exchanges amongst Electrogas shareholders and stakeholders. Main suspect Yorgen Fenech is a major shareholder in the project, and Caruana Galizia told the court that he believed the leak was the motive behind the murder.
Emails show that Electrogas was facing major problems when it came to financing the project – with concerns over an extension of a €360 million state guarantee on a €450 million loan running high. The guarantee was meant to expire in August 2017 but was eventually extended to December 2017, two months after the murder.
Caruana Galizia had come into possession of the major leak from Electrogas at the start of 2017. Soon after she revealed that Electorgas was in dire financial straits, with the company failing to pay creditors or salaries to employees. Electrogas took notice, with commercial director Catherine Halpin discussing the issue in internal emails, confirming the article’s veracity.
In one email, Halpin even told Fenech that investors were anxious that the banks were getting nervous, while another was not interested in financing the deal. The emails also indicate Fenech’s power in the media landscape, with Halpin revealing that Fenech spoke with both Malta Today and the Malta Independent to ensure similar stories were not published.
Enemalta was also seriously concerned with the project – especially following three incidents of electricity interruptions when consumption was high.
“There is no evidence of reliability at the facility, in its construction or operations. Enemalta is not prepared to use Electrogas as a source of power because it was unreliable and put Malta’s security of supply at risk,” an email from then-Enemalta chairman Frederick Azzopardi sent to both the Prime Minister and Electrogas read.
Ultimately, Caruana Galizia said emails made it clear that Fenech was central to operations at Electrogas.
“Everything went through him. Shareholders feared him and didn’t want to anger him. They depended on him to pull political strings. Every time the company needed a favour from Konrad Mizzi or Joseph Muscat they went to Fenech, who then went to Konrad Mizzi or Joseph Muscat,” Caruana Galizia said.
One email shows that SOCAR representative Turab Musayev and Fenech had met with Mizzi and David Galea several times to discuss the extension.
However, on the day of the assassination, Fenech went silent. Attempts to reach Fenech went cold until figures from Portomaso reached out to Electrogas to inform them that he was not feeling well.
Through 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia had made several references to 17 Black, Fenech’s Dubai-based company, in her articles. Fenech was not known to be the owner at the time. However, the company was already linked to the Panama Papers scandal.
“She knew companies had been incorporated in UAE, but at that point we saw everything coming together. I had started working on the Panama Papers and she was working in Malta. We saw everything coming together: the shell companies, Electrogas,” Caruana Galizia said.
Emails show that Fenech was even planning to replicate the project in Bangladesh, Caruana Galizia said, confirming an article published by Lovin Malta. Fenech was eager to enter the project because his partner became a minister in the country. He was planning to pursue the project alone, without the other shareholders.
Fenech even informed Keith Schembri and then-PN Head of Media Pierre Portelli about the plan.
Caruana Galizia’s work on the leak would eventually inform the Daphne Project – that has written extensively on the issue.
Fenech was eventually arrested for his role in the murder in November 2019. 17 Black has since been linked to other corruption allegations, including an Enemalta purchase of a Montenegro windfarm.
The case continues on Tuesday 2nd February at 10am.
What do you think of this latest development? Comment below