Malta’s MPs were ordered to back a confidence vote against disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi and former PM’s chief of staff Keith Schembri, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne has revealed in a public inquiry.
Independent MP Marlene Farrugia had presented the confidence motion against Mizzi on 4th May 2016 amid growing allegations and revelations of money laundering linked to the Panama Papers scandal.
It was shot down despite having opposition support, with 36 votes against and 31 votes in favour. Every government MP backed Mizzi. It did not stop Farrugia, who tried to table a similar motion against Schembri. However, this was defeated with 35 government MPs voting against and 30 opposition MPs in favour.
Fearne voted in favour of Mizzi and Schembri back then.
However, he revealed they only did so on the orders of the then-government whip, Farrugia’s husband, Godfrey Farrugia, who said that it will not be a free vote.
Godfrey Farrugia has since said he regrets his decision to do so.
“I had openly said that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri had to go. There were discussions within the parliamentary group as well as with the prime minister [Joseph Muscat],” he said.
“The prime minister had told me that Mizzi would not remain a minister. As for Schembri, he told me ‘he is my person of trust and it’s up to me to decide, not cabinet’,” Fearne told the board in defence of his decision.
Mizzi and Schembri would be forced to resign more than three years later in the wake of Yorgen Fenech’s arrest in connection to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Schembri may be the only one of them being investigated in relation to the case. However, the pair’s links to major corruption deals, which could have played a part in her death, continue.
Mizzi and Schembri’s Panama companies listed 17 Black as their target client, along with the as-yet-unknown Macbridge.
17 Black is the Dubai company of Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the murder.
Earlier, Matthew Caruana Galizia hinted that Electrogas, where Fenech was a shareholder, was at risk of defaulting on a major €600 million government-guaranteed loan which could trigger a collapse in the government’s credit rating . He noted this could be a motive behind the murder.
A report by the FIAU found that 17 Black had received at least three payments – one of €161,000 from Maltese local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station and two separate payments amounting to €1.1 million from Baratzada through ABLV Bank.
ABLV was recently raised in one of Latvia’s most extensive investigations into money laundering yet.
More recently, 17 Black was found to be at the centre of a dubious deal involving the purchase of a Montenegro wind farm by Malta’s state-owned Enemalta plc.
Recent reports by Reuters and Times of Malta uncovered that the Maltese government had agreed to pay out €10.3 million for a Montenegro wind farm that had just been bought for €2.9 million two weeks prior.
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