Gasan Group chairman Joe Gasan has highlighted murder suspect Yorgen Fenech’s interest in taking an active role in ElectroGas as a major pull factor which convinced him to back the power station project too.
“The project interested me for two reasons,” Gasan said, when testifying at the public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination this morning.
“Yorgen Fenech was an intelligent guy and he was willing to work full-time towards this project to make it happen. I had just handed the executive function of the Gasan Group to my son Mark and we didn’t want to get too involved in it.”
Gasan had fond words for Fenech, saying that although he had never worked with him, he knew him as a “bright, young boy” and that people at his school described him as a “top student”.
“He was a clever young boy who clearly wanted to do more, and his father offered him the opportunity.”
The second major pull factor that attracted Gasan to the power station project was George Fenech’s confirmation that former PwC partner John Zarb had been engaged to conduct a feasibility study on the project.
Gasan recounted how George Fenech had declared his interest in the Labour Party’s pre-electoral plans to build a LNG power station at the end of a February 2013 meeting.
He told Gasan that fellow businessman Paul Apap Bologna, who had unsuccessfully pitched a LNG power station idea to the PN government in 2007/08, was also on board. Gasan said he was non-committal.
After the PL won the election the following month and issued a request for proposals for the construction of a power station, Fenech approached Gasan again and Gasan agreed to invest under two conditions – their investment would be limited to €5 million and they wouldn’t have an executive role.
Gasan recounted how Yorgen Fenech had strongly denied being the owner of the Dubai company 17 Black when this ownership was revealed by the Daphne Project in 2018, going to the point of traveling to the UK with his uncle to speak to a “very expensive” legal firm and discuss suing.
However, this legal action never materialised, and instead Fenech went off the radar. Gasan said he tried to discuss the 17 Black issue at GEM Holdings but Fenech’s prolonged absence meant board meetings couldn’t reach a quorum until Ray Fenech, Michael Apap Bologna and Joe Gasan himself were added to the board in September 2019.
A few weeks later, Fenech was arrested in connection with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, triggering a political crisis that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Homicide inspector Kurt Zahra said last August that police are working on assumption that the murder was motivated by a desire to suppress the journalist publishing stories related to ElectroGas.
Gasan said it was this testimony by the police inspector that prompted his business group to issue a public statement confirming its intention to exit the ElectroGas deal.
“That was too much. We faced personal attacks and said we don’t know of this link, but if there was then we don’t want to be involved so we’re looking at exiting if we can,” he said.
“It’s not easy but we’re looking into it. We also confirmed we’ll never profit on this deal, so if we do sell our shares and make a €1 million profit, we won’t keep the profit ourselves.”